From 2015 to 2018, I immersed myself in an informal process of narrative inquiry and auto-ethnography. The outcomes were the following books:
"Wild Zen: An Inner Roadmap to Humanity", which charts an archetypal journey beyond violence, conflict, stress, trauma, and adversity. I interview 14 people in this book and weave my own stories around theirs'. This book was influenced by my first career path in humanitarian practice and yoga teaching.
"Wild Zen Journeys", which is an archetypal toolkit for Wild Zen. It is a creative book of lessons with space for the reader to journal on their archetypal patterns.
"Cherry Blossom Dojo: The Way of Inner Strength", which maps my journey from a life-long karate practitioner to judo competitor, self-defence instructor and finally, Positive Psychology Practitioner. This story is inspired by the 20 Guiding Principles of Karate of Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate.
"Inner Sensei" was the book that stopped me in my tracks. It translates loosely from Japanese as inner teacher and was meant to be the sister book to Cherry Blossom Dojo. I wrote and rewrote this book 3 times. In the midst of the third version, my life was ruptured, I moved countries, and I began a very new way of life.
Suddenly, all my previous writing confidence crumbled. What had seemed important at the time had now been flipped upside down. A third series of books, Zen Leadership and Zen Rituals, were already in draft. The vision had been so clear, guiding me for so long. Now, my efforts felt like dust, choking me.
This phase of my life coincided with training as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, a long-held dream, and completing a Masters degree in Exercise and Sport Psychology. The world of academia further crushed me. Did my life experience really count for anything in the scientific world of psychology?
I decided to un-publish my books on Kindle and take time to reflect. Writing Cherry Blossom Dojo had led to profound changes in my life, all for the better, but did I have the wisdom within me to write Inner Sensei? Was I ready to turn away from all the outer teachers and instead, look for the teacher within myself?
So I put away my writing pens and focused on teaching self-defence. Not long after, I began teaching Positive Psychology and running the operational wing of an educational non-profit, the Positive Psychology Guild. This is where I am today, learning how to be a better teacher, and how to lead an organisation.
The journey within continues to unfold. My confidence to write has returned but the spirit and script is changed. Academia has forced me to question myself and challenged me to cultivate a stronger knowledge base. It has been a humbling but rewarding journey, one that I'm grateful for despite the difficulty.
I hope to return to writing my books one day. Perhaps I may even re-write my first books and complete my Zen series. Or maybe I will start afresh. It is hard to tell but being a personal endeavor rather than a commercial one, there is no time pressure, for the audience in many ways was always just myself.
This is ultimately the challenge with works of personal inquiry. The question we may be left with might well be, is this story really all about me, and why does this story I've mined even matter? Taking time to self-reflect is essential for personal development, but going beyond the self is a part of becoming whole.