Where do you stand today, in this phase of your life?
There’s an old grainy photo of about seven of us, taken on a disposable camera, as we chomp into some freshly grilled corn.
We’re on the beach of Ipanema. That famous, double-peaked mountain—Dois Irmões—looms behind us. The sun is setting.
The Casa Amorata Experience is coming to an end. After years of keeping my attraction to women largely in the dark, I’ve approached, pestered, fawned after, unwittingly lost, and gregariously celebrated dozens of Brazilian girls of all shapes and forms. Some celebrated me in return.
What happens next is such a radical shift in my love-life that I can’t focus on anything but this Ars Amorata Journey. Will I, too, become the greatest lover a woman has ever known? Can I, also, make my every waking hour a monument to this message; to my curiosity about women and men?
The questions of our lives…
At one time, my only dream was to live amidst the sumptuous beauty of Brazil, and pass my days in paradise. Five months after that grilled-corn, sun-set afternoon, I threw everything I’d built away and flew to Romania—on sheer visceral necessity—and on a baseless, outside chance I might become part of the team. Spending my last ron and reais, I snuck myself into the Conference (I wasn’t allowed to speak as I wasn’t one of the Elite). But the rest, as they say, is history.
But that Brazilian story I once pined for… where did it go? I’d polished my Portuguese to perfection; was employed as a bilingual consultant. I’d translated a website full of articles; a beautiful girl confessed she loved me before I left. I materialised the aim of my entire twenties, and it became vapour in a flash. They’ve sung about boulevards of broken dreams—but what happens to those that get flushed away whole? Not dwelling on this question too much, I got on with my first Amorati assignment: leading the Way of Approaching.
I returned to Rio some four years later, but it didn’t mean much anymore. Passing sunset on Arpoador, looking at the same Ipanema sand we once frolicked and laughed upon, I felt not wonder and possibility, only the disembodied jitter of displacement.
When we later ran the Vision Quest, I remember sitting at the top of the mountain with one of the participants. He was gaunt from four days’ fasting, and sat under a bramble looking rather open. We talked about what his passage meant to him, and he told me that while it sounded cool to become a man, he was mourning the loss of childhood. ‘There’s so much good stuff there,’ he confided. ‘It’s painful to say goodbye to. I don’t think I’m ready to step into this full sense of responsibility.
‘What does this passage mean to you, then?’ I inquired. ‘You don’t have to cross over a line that I define. It’s for you to decide what you cross out of, and what you cross into, as you do this. Maybe there are some habits you should leave behind; maybe there are values you should step more into at this time.
This young man stared the death of his old story in the face. Realising his greatest values for the coming years were relationship, community and authenticity—not a shift into some rugged, heartless masculinity that the term ‘rite of passage’ conjured for him—he built a new intermediary phase of his life based on his values. Over the next four years, he built his friendships and his community. The new dream came to him on the fly.
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What place do your old visions have in your life now?
The next stories are the Mastery stories, which you all know too well. A year after my gamble on Bucharest, my work became a full apprenticeship at AA. It was poorly paid (none of us had much cash at the time), but I was willing to do any secretarial work needed to get this message I loved to the next level. But a year into my Bucharest sojourn, I left under a cloud.
What I didn’t tell you during Mastery was how unsupported I felt at this time. Internally, I was dying—with an identity built on seduction (how can I be really good at it?), the more I tried to seduce women in a bid to catch up to the experience of others around me, the more—guess what?!—they stayed the hell away. I ran into a deep collapse, leaving town without a penny, and hitchhiking to Berlin with a Turkish lorry driver (I slept in the bunk-bed behind the driver’s cabin, it took that long to arrive). But in this confluence of restless questions (how does sub-communication work? How does this fit in with psychology? How can I get the deepest understanding on this topic; be the best possible coach?!), I started my infamous walkabout time, on which all of Mastery was based.
Questions of the soul, and questions of the ego…
By the time I returned to Bucharest, some eighteen months later, I had passed through the hands of numerous experts, twenty countries, a year-long leadership training, and every kinky, tantric experience you could name. I had discovered love, discovered shadow, and discerned the exquisite contours of that simple, mutual using that men and women do of each other’s bodies to keep the ghosts of aloneness at bay. We returned to Bucharest—a team I had built—to deliver a nine-day retreat to some thirteen participants. No longer the apprentice, I was a leader, making more cash and sharing edgier themes (I thought) than the core members of Ars Amorata themselves. Phoenix from the ash of my Romanian meltdown! I saw the matrix of love and seduction, and blustered about it in new ways!
Slowly, the team I’d built around me disappeared, and nothing seemed to happen without a push. I lived the best-designed life here on earth, and my head went on with its coaching work. Like a gas-depleted car, my body… and the questions that fuelled it… conked out.
One time, I was assisting a powerful spiritual teacher I’d done quite some work with. In confidence, I told her about a void that had opened in my heart, that I was struggling for a lack of purpose, and I didn’t know what to do. For men with a blueprint like mine, having something to create—a vision—is existential, is happiness. The pain of purposeless, the lack of clarity (and not being able to accept that lack), stings worse than going without sex. Is it the same for you?
Anyway, this spiritual teacher mocked me, incredulous that I’d worry about having a personal purpose, belittling me that I’d long to do anything other than align my work with her. Suffice to say, I didn’t hang around. I wasn’t enlightened, but it seemed to me that a leader ought to facilitate others to find their intrinsic motivation, rather than cajole them into working for their own.
And so, I slid into the cocoon. A protracted phase of—how can I describe it?—a distant meaninglessness which was also clarity; a settling into little, little things…
All-the-while knowing there was a next thing, yet not knowing how to express it.
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What stops you: awareness, skill, clarity, courage, inner conflict?
Last April I was ill for six days. With what, we don’t know. Adelya didn’t contract it, and the hospitals were no use. We brought a Vedic healer round to the house (we live in a Hindu country, so why not?), and so I munched a half kilo of herbs, stood at the bottom of the garden in my underpants while buckets of water tipped over my head, and was told to keep my mind still while everyone around sang me mantras. It actually felt good, and I healed quickly. But I noticed, curiously, after my mind and body had fully reset, that it was as if the question … and the base of motivation of my thirties … had now fallen entirely.
Help the Amorati? Tell the same tired stories about discovery, sex and love? It was vulnerable to start admitting this, but my feet felt slipping on shifting shards of ice: one foot crackling over the moribund ‘coach’ identity I’d built over that tiresome past decade… and the other one skidding atop a new adventure, a fresher yearning, that carried no guarantee at all. While my mind carried on its coaching work as normal, the energetic question that sustained my life-force had shifted to something new, and my overworking brain was not yet quick enough to figure what was up.
Around that time, I downloaded a copy of Tropic of Cancer—that Henry Miller book from the early 30’s in Paris that was banned for thirty years. The censor board said it was pornographic until, in 1961, consensus agreed it was actually literature of the highest form. Funny how time shifts perspective. Anyhow, I couldn’t remain seated listening to Ian McShane’s reading of it. I paced around the kitchen until midnight, realising the power words had to awaken my passion, my urgency, my viscera.
A similar sort of breakthrough happened some months later when I bought, low-and-behold, a TV. I spent the rainy season nights watching classics in the dark, fully open, in a receptive state of understanding, hungry for aesthetic treasures, peeled for hidden meaning. My girlfriend thought I was numbing from the responsibilities of life, but, for me, I was chasing vapour. Aesthetic breakthrough, wonder, rapture, the timeless agony I felt at the climax of La Dolce Vita or 2046, where the blue truth of my life reflected back before my face, and I’d remain astounded for days, these films—their beauty—altering the way I made sense of myself, and my life, and the very meaning of it, from that moment on. The power of beauty, the power of beauty: I now sat from a different angle in the discourse on beauty. Could I—no—would it possible for me to—no—what if, let’s say, what if, I could create such a masterpiece—something as exalted, so high—as the art that had so affected me, before I die?
And the new story blasted through—all these years in the wilderness, conjoined by a thread and making sense—the new driving story: will I create something masterful and sublime in this world, before I die? And can I at least live beautifully in the attempt?
When I sit in these questions, I seem to get up early in the morning; seem to set up a one-hour phone call and go on for three-and-a-half. Life force! Maybe this story will also die before me. But for now, at least, I am caught-up, captured… by a new question, a new story… a devotion… to give my whole life to now.
Ooh, the throb in my veins.
Do you feel a version of this?
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What would be a dream legacy for you to leave—not just in some final finished artefact, but the way you spent your days in its giving?
These are mainly stories about me, but they’re also stories about you.
I bet you’ve lived, more than once, a story and a question. And I bet you’ve had phases that were once vital to your life, which have now died.
I also bet you’re living vibrant, energising questions right now. But I bet you don’t quite articulate them as best you could—let alone embody them wholly.
The point of living our Legacy is to follow our true fire, and attempt to get it within grasp. To capture the beauty we’ve known—at least for a minute—and pass on that flame to the next.
Recently, I heard it said that people will always be drawn to stories because, ultimately, we all seek answers to three questions in our lives:
— Will I find hope?
— Will I find transformation?
— Will I find transcendence?
Your whole life is a story for others.
You are looking for transcendence. But does such transcendence lay in giving others simple hope?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that we seem to be fuelled by a motor, a question that animates our days and brings the best of us alive. Zan called it passion; Campbell, bliss. Jung his personal myth.
Whether you are starting to live a new fundamental question… or you’re watching the dying of the last without hearing the whisper of the new… it helps to walk such a path in good company.
This changing of questions, this courage to walk our true destiny, is the founding principle of Legacy.
Are you ready to step aboard, for a year’s worth of exploration, materials, challenge, and guidance… to unlock your deepest question, your most inspired energy… so you can embody more of the innate beauty you know… and disseminate it, via your very living, to the world?
What do you want? How do you long to give yourself to this life?
If these are good starting points for your current question,
There are just a few days remaining in which to apply. And I hope to see you there.
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