Tag Archive: Transformative Practice

When I was 9 years old, our class had to do the presidential fitness tests or whatever the eff they were. My scores were at the bottom of the class. I was a pretty chubby kid which was much rarer in those days. I had excellent coordination and eye hand coordination. But my fat weighed me down. For the next 6 years my weight was a big bummer. The message I received from my parents and many of my peers was that there was something wrong with me. I was fat and lazy: that was the message. It was some kind of moral failing. Either I was too weak to change or I chose to be fat for some twisted reason. So, I wondered: why  can’t I lose this weight? I surely would like not to be fat and not to be the object of so much derision. On the other hand, I really liked eating lots of candy and junk food. Of course my friends and siblings all did too, but they weren’t fat. No fair! Okay maybe I did enjoy such food excessively. But, anyway, I couldn’t lose the weight in spite of all kinds of diets and exercise.

When I was 14, I started playing High School basketball. I began to lose the weight. Basketball really introduced me to intense daily practice. The practice itself transformed my body. It also strengthened my will. With that new found willpower, I started exercising more, playing both tennis and basketball, and I ate less. Within a year I was quite skinny. This was my first experience of how powerful daily practice was. Regular physical exercise has been a part of my life ever since. I learned that physical practice is how you take care of your physical body. Here we see the first “spoke” of The Wheel.

When I was 22, the Summer after I graduated from college, my father committed suicide. This blew me into a major existential crisis. Your 20’s are already a kind of mild to extreme existential crisis: you’re trying to find out who you are and what kind of work you want to do in this world and what kind of relationships you want to be in. Physical exercise certainly helped ground me a bit and keep me relatively healthy and not clinically depressed, but it wasn’t enough. “What is the meaning of life? What really matters?” I took psychedelics several times with the attitude of the seeker. The states of consciousness I experienced confirmed my intuition that consciousness and reality is much bigger and wilder than conventional, ordinary, consensual “reality.” But, those states passed, leaving just a pale memory. I read a Zen book (“The Three Pillars of Zen”). Kapleau Roshi said you had to diligently practice meditation to really get Zen, to embody it. What this meant to me was that I had to meditate in order to really get the meaning of life. I started meditating. I had lost faith in materialism. Meditation seemed the best way to see for myself if there is anything that really matters once you get beneath all the superficial layers.

Meditation did not answer my questions in an intellectual or logical or conceptual way. But, it did have immediate practical benefits and cumulative benefits that kept me practicing. On a day that I meditated, I felt more centered, more grounded, more courageous, and somehow more authentic. Over the years, I became increasingly centered. At the same time I became more open and sensitive. 20 years later as I write this, I’ve come to understand that meditation is wonderful way to practice wholeness. It is a powerful way to be intentional about including all or our experience, all of the aspects of who we are, in our consciousness. In other words, it is a way to practice being more awake to our whole selves. This kind of Wholeness meditation is the meta practice of The Wheel. Here we practice including all the aspects we will work with: physicality, vitality, emotionality, and creativity.

To Be Continued.

Next, I get divorced!


“What ails thee?”

Nora asked Luke the same question that Parsifal asked the Grail King. This  was the question that broke a spell that had plagued the land, and won Parsifal The Holy Grail.

Luke didn’t know what ailed him, but something did. He was out of shape. He felt tired all the time.  He had friends and a girlfriend; but, his relationships were not very satisfying. He didn’t enjoy his job very much. He felt adrift and lost.

One day he saw a message pinned up at a local cafe. It advertised yoga classes. Luke had heard yoga was good for you; reading the ad he had a flash of knowing that rarely happened. He attended a class the next day. This is where he met Nora; she owned the studio.

Nora was very unassuming and humble, and seemed truly happy and relaxed. She was quite a bit older than Luke. Still, he fell in love with her. He went to her class nearly every day the studio was open. He asked her if yoga was what had made her so beautiful, happy and centered, so loving and so lovable. She said that yoga definitely helped but that there was more. She told him that he wouldn’t believe her if she told him the secret. He begged her to tell him, but she would smile gently and tell him that he wouldn’t believe her and he was probably better off just doing yoga. Then at some point he would be ready. Over the course of that year, he kept asking her to tell him the secret.

Finally she said, “I will send you to the wise man who sent me on my journey. Perhaps he will help you.”

Luke visited the wise man at his little home in the hills. The jolly little man invited Luke into his kitchen and prepared him some green tea.

Luke sipped his tea and said, “My yoga teacher sent me to you. She said that you could help me to be happy, beautiful, and loving like her.”

The old man considered luke thoughtfully for a few moments and said, “I have a magic potion that if you drink it, it will enhance all of your actions and experiences. You will become physically fit and beautiful. You will be full of vital energy and be vibrantly healthy. You will be loving and lovable. Your relationships will be deeply satisfying. You will fulfill your unique destiny and will generously give your gifts to the world. You will live a rich and full life that is full of love and happiness. Would you like to drink of this potion?”

Stunned Luke stammered, “Yes. Please.”

“The potion must be earned.”

“What must I do?”

“I will give you five exercises that for you to do every day. They will prepare and cleanse you, so that you can imbibe of the potion. If your body and mind are not properly conditioned, you may become very sick. Come back in a year and I will see if you are ready.”

Luke became afraid, afraid that the tasks would be too difficult or dangerous. Despondently he asked, “What are the tasks?”

“Every day, for 1 minute, exercise your body in any way you like. For one minute move and breathe, paying attention to being alive. For one minute, feel what you are feeling; for one minute . . . what kind of art would you like to do?”

“I’ve always wanted to learn to play the guitar . . .”

For one minute a day play the guitar. And finally, every day for one minute, sit and love.”

“Um, that’s just five minutes a day.”

“Yes, exactly.”

“ So, one minute each: exercising, paying attention to being alive, feeling my feelings, playing guitar, and loving?”

“Yep, you can do the exercises anywhere at anytime. Just do them every day. They will prepare you for the potion.”

And so Luke began to do these daily tasks. After a month or so they became a routine that was surprisingly easy. He couldn’t believe that this was all he had to do to earn the Potion.

A year passed, and he went to see the wise man. “Very good, you are doing the exercises every day, I can see. Keep it up.”

“But, am I ready for the potion?”

The Wise Man laughed, though not in an unkind way. “Oh my friend, you have a way to go. It will take some years. But you are making progress! Keep at it.

Luke sighed. He was beginning to suspect that the man might be a charlatan. But the Wise man and his yoga teacher were genuinely beautiful, wonderful, loving people. They knew something. And, he had come to really enjoy the daily exercises. Over time he was gradually spending more and more time doing them, just because he enjoyed them. After a year was doing each kind of exercise 20 minutes a day. After two years it was longer and these practices had evolved. He was in the best shape he had ever been in; he felt much more lively than he had been since he had been a child. He felt more kind and generous and people seemed to like him more. He had learned to play the guitar and had written some songs. They weren’t particularly great, but he was proud of them and was enjoying becoming a musician. So, even if there wasn’t really a potion, he decided he would keep at the exercises.

And so it went. Every year Luke would go to see the Wise man. They would chat about Luke’s life and the progress he was making. The Wise man was always jolly and encouraging. “It won’t be long now!” he would cry.

And after several years, Luke knew it was all some kind of divine joke that his yoga teacher and the wise man had played on him. It was obvious that what the wise man had promised the potion would give him, he was already receiving by doing the exercises.

The next time he went to see the wise man, they smiled at each other wordlessly. There were tears in both of their eyes.

“I see, finally you are ready.”

And so the wise man brought out a ten-year old bottle of Bordeaux.

“I put this in the cellar the first time you came to see me. It should be perfect now.”

They laughed and embraced and shared a wonderful bottle of wine.

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