A Jump to the Sun

My heart felt like it would explode. Energy filled my torso as I jolted upright and sprang to my feet. With arms raised, I bent backwards to open my heart to the sun. I felt power shoot out of my chest that would cause it to ache for a week. Kung-Fu shouts flew out of my mouth in rapid-fire bursts….

I was in the midst of a ritual among a circle of sixty apprentices in Teotihuacan, Mexico at the base of the great Pyramid. It was my first “power journey” with Toltec shaman, don Miguel Ruiz. Along with another apprentice, he had asked me to go into the center. Those on the perimeter were to send “heart energy” to the two of us in the middle, who were then to redirect the power up to the heavens. I was honored, but still anxious as I moved into the center, Would I be able to do the right thing? And then we began. In this climactic ritual, we were to “jump to the sun.”

As unknown powers much greater than myself took over, I became a flesh and bone conduit for energy between heaven and earth, and surrendered to a single thought: “This isn’t love, sweet, smooth and gentle. This is the power of love. The most powerful force in the universe. Connecting electron to proton, man to woman, heaven to earth. It is our very essence….”

Peace and Lightness of Being

After the ritual, nothing was ever quite the same. All seemed dreamlike, impermanent, and…supremely funny. Years of anxiety, ordeals and disappointments vanished, and I laughed, as an indescribable euphoria filled me. For the first time, I found myself naturally living in the moment.

It would take years to assimilate the depth of this extraordinary ritual, but the seeds of self-mastery had been planted. As they blossomed in time, I found, to my surprise, a profound inner peace and lightness of being that was unassailable. Gone was the grim determination to succeed, to reach goals, to “be enlightened.”

And in my daily life as an artist and filmmaker, I had been given new eyes. The most common objects looked vibrant and luminous, revealing as much feeling as form, and I could truly appreciate the magic and mystery of everyday life. And when friends remarked that I was so much more happy and peaceful, I knew it was true. Encouraged by don Miguel, I began to teach the shamanic practices, and found it deeply gratifying to help others through this wisdom tradition and see them move towards the light.

As time passed, don Miguel, now the bestselling author of The Four Agreements, summarized for me the full meaning of this ritual at the Pyramid. As he leafed through a portfolio of the twenty-four photo/painting collages at the core of this book, he stopped short at the one entitled A Jump to the Sun, and laughed in recognition, “Ah, this is where you became a master.” With a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he added, “If it could happen to you, believe me, it could happen to anyone!”

This book commemorates
and offers blessings to each of us on our
own journey into light.
Divine Alchemy from Lived Experiences

This project had percolated in me for many years. The trials of my life had caused such a depth of despair that I had beencompelled to adopt a spiritual perspective or die. The last step of despair is the first step of wisdom. Eventually, treasures emerged that proved many times greater than all those trials put together. I could even thank adversity, seeing in it the ever-present potential for “divine alchemy”––the transmutation of misfortune into wisdom, base emotions into gold.

My grandfathers loomed large in these stories––one a consultant to the Empress Dowager of China, the other a powerful Mayor of Canton––and reveal the collision of two cultures––Chinese and American, East and West. They describe a life journey: from the violence of childhood and foster homes…to otherworldly visions on the slopes of the Himalayas and the Pyramids of Meso-America. Whether harrowing, mundane or miraculous, these tales are lived experiences. And above all, in the telling, they each yield pearls of wisdom, moments of beauty, or revelation of the archetypal mysteries in us all.

Mytho-poetic images

As a painter and a filmmaker, I had always “thought in pictures.” And so it was that a close friend and collaborator encouraged me to begin telling my story through images. The twenty-four watercolor/photo collages at the heart of this book, are designed to capture each chapter’s emotionally charged, psychological epicenter. Their creation took more than a year. The process of this art-making allowed me to relive salient moments of my life, and perceive in them a mythic dimension relevant to us all. These mytho-poetic landscapes––one-frame movies––served as a visual reference point for each chapter’s satellites of tales that revolve around them.

After all is said and done, the most significant stories recited here are the ones that have come from journeys within. These fill the pages that follow and, hopefully, will remind us all that we live in an ocean of love. Through clarity of intent, we can each harness this wisdom to find personal freedom and inner peace. With this book, I commemorate and offer blessings to each of us on our own journeys into light.