I synthesized 40 years of study into a simple tangible practice to heal your mind, body, and heart.
It was born out of countless hours of study that incorporates a cross-discipline of perspectives and healing practices including classical music, acupuncture, oriental medicine, Daoist Tai Chi/Qi Gong, Shaolin Kungfu/Wushu, body work, Western science, and quantum physics. What they all have in common is absolute precision and learning to discipline your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimum performance, health, and goals.
In much of my journey, while it did encompass going to some of the top schools in the world, there is a component of knowledge that isn’t in books and that is passed down through generations of great masters. Master BP Chan, a well-known Tai Chi and Qi Gong teacher in New York City, was one such master. One day, he looked straight into my eyes and said, “Never call me Master Chan. I’m not dead yet! While I’m here, I too am still learning … I’ll be a master after I’m dead.” He is now a master. Like Master Chan, my learning from teachers has been a life-long journey.
Where my journey began
As a child, I wanted to be a healer from around the age of three. My grandfather had a stroke before I was born. One side of his body wasn’t working, and I did not understand what was wrong with him. I only knew I wanted to help heal him and others like him. As I grew up, this need to heal stayed with me well into my adulthood.
My journey of learning to heal began with music. It may sound like an odd place to begin, and at that time, I don’t think I knew it was part of my healing journey. But music was something that captured my attention when I was young and, to my surprise, people said I had talent. Learning to play and being taught by world-class musicians served as an unshakable foundation in precision.
As a double bass player, I had to learn the discipline of extreme precision: in rhythm, intonation, quality of sound, and intention. I had the great fortune to play with some of the best musicians in the world. The double bass is a piece of wood, the largest bowed string instrument in a symphony orchestra, with some metal wires on it called strings. With discipline, over time, I learned to create beautiful music from this wood and metal strings. I needed to focus my mind, to develop intentions to make my body and fingers play in harmony with each other to create a harmonious sound, not only internally, but with a large collection of accomplished musicians.
You must learn to listen and actively pursue your intentions at the same time. In music, you listen with your ears, as you create muscle memory and exact precision to obtain your desired results. This journey was arduous and exciting because I got to study at some of the most extraordinary institutions. Below is a snapshot of my education and performance:
· New York-Julliard Pre-College: In high school I received a scholarship to study with Homer Mensch, one of the most influential bass players of his time. Mr. Mensch is known as the guy who played the original Jaws theme in the movie.
· London, England: I earned music degrees from both the Royal Academy of Music (LRAM) and Royal College of Music (ARCM).
· Banff, Canada/London, England/Hagerstown, Maryland: I spent three years working with Stuart Knussen, the former Chairman of the Board of Directors and Principal Bass of the London Symphony Orchestra. After three months of study, he asked me to study with him every day in Banff. At that time, I was among five musicians from around the world that were chosen to study with Stuart. I was only 19 years old.
My lessons with Stuart in London were several hours long, where every note was fully scrutinized. Many conductors called Stuart “the world’s greatest double bass player.” His best friend, Barry Tuckwell, the world’s greatest French horn player, and former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the London Symphony Orchestra, started the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. Barry and Stuart made me the Principal Double Bass while Stuart
played as my assistant. I was only 22 years old. Why was Stuart, my teacher, my assistant?
Taken from the old-school way of teaching, the master would become the student. One day he turned to me and said, “I wish I could play like you. You will leave here, play Principal of an orchestra like Houston for five years, then go on to play in the Chicago or Boston Symphonies.” If you’re not familiar with the career path of a classical musician, these symphonies are among the best. Stuart realized I had a bright future as a musician, but he also saw another future for me. He was a very intuitive man and one day he looked at me and said, “You should be a doctor.” Was he testing my commitment as great teachers often do? Where was this coming from?
But the look in his eyes when he said that was unmistakable. As a teacher, Stuart wanted me to know my true potential and I believe he was influenced by his great friend, Leopold Stokowski, who loved acupuncture because he said it kept his “head clear.” Stokowski was able to create a harmonious energy when he conducted: It was called the Stokowski sound. (He is known for the music featured in Walt Disney’s first musical animation, Fantasia, 1940. (Mickey Mouse shakes hands with Stokowski in the film.) I respected Stuart’s insights; they opened my mind to other possibilities besides being a classical musician. I became curious how acupuncture cleared Stokowski‘s mind and wondered about other ways it could be beneficial. In an unexpected way, it brought me back to what I wanted to be as a child: a healer, especially for those dear to me.
Since Stokowski was such a great believer in the benefits of acupuncture, I started learning acupuncture, which gave me the map and knowledge of the function, signs, and symptoms of energy. In other words, the “roles and responsibilities” of the various systems of the body and how they are all interconnected. I studied in the U.S. with Asian teachers and became a licensed acupuncturist and board certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists. After becoming certified, I went to China and worked in various hospitals and the clinic at the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing, where I received a Certification in Acupuncture and Moxibustion from the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
As I learned about energy, I came to understand how Stokowski was able to use energy to conduct his orchestra.
Here are some of my music accomplishments:
· Among the youngest in Great Britain to perform the Koussevitzky Concerto (Double Bass Virtuoso and Boston Symphony Orchestra Conductor) with a full orchestra.
· Played approximately 26 musicals, ending with four years on Broadway in Les Misérables.
· Assisted by the “world’s greatest double bass player” when I was the Principal Bass of Maryland Symphony. I was only 22 years old.
· Performed with London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
Seeking the “Stokowski Sound” - Body Work, Acupuncture, Doctor of Oriental Medicine
The life of a musician is hard on your body. While still in my early 20s and playing in London, I began my healing journey by learning body work. While still performing quite often, I began studying types of body work including Hoshino, Swedish, Shiatsu, and Chinese Medical body work that I used at the Gua An Men Hospital and the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing, China.
I had the rare privilege of using my body work and knowledge on many dancers and performers for years while on tour as a bass player in many shows including Evita, Annie, Annie Get Your Gun, This Was Burlesque, Godspell, I Love My Wife, etc. (While performing in I Love My Wife, I received my Actors Equity card.)
Here are some of my acupuncture accomplishments:
· Among a handful of Americans studying at the academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing, I was perhaps the first and only invited to use healing Qi Gong/Fa Gong in China at the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
· Board Certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
· Examiner for the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Clean Needle Technique
· Doctor of Oriental Medicine-University of Aruba
· Acupuncture and Moxibustion Certification from The Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing
· Board Member of the Acupuncture Society of New York
After a short time of working with acupuncture needles, it dawned on me that the energy did not need a sharp object placed into the skin, an acupuncture needle to activate and manipulate the chi or energy. In my opinion, if you listened to the energy, while you were working with someone, like you listen to music while you are playing the music, the energy will teach and guide you how to fully express itself, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Daoist Tai Chi/ Qi Gong
Despite what was amounting to years of education to learn more about healing and energy, while I was still a musician, I still felt something was missing. I needed more education. Who were the people who lived a long time and worked with energy? Those who practice Daoist Tai Chi/ Qi Gong.
I learned Daoist Tai Chi/ Qi Gong from a Daoist Master in New York City. It required the same hours and intensive training I put into studying music. Daoist masters don’t put needles in their bodies; they work the energy. Occasionally, they needed acupuncture, but they spent their time cultivating their energy. I was working towards linking the energy knowledge of acupuncture and oriental medicine to the physical movement of the body. Eventually, I had to perform the entire 108 Tai Chi movements, while my teacher had one finger on my shoulder. The moment that the energy flow was not correct, I had to start all over from the beginning.
It took a long time to satisfy the teacher. It was not unlike working with many of my accomplished teachers in music.
One day the Daoist master said, “Kungfu is stupid.” It was an odd statement to hear while studying with a Daoist master, but sometimes a master will make a statement to make you think and investigate. Of course, as you guessed by now, I did, and this led to more education. Starting in the early 1990s, I spent the next 17 years studying Kungfu/Wushu with the same intensity as music, Oriental medicine, Daoist Tai Chi/ Qi Gong. Through studying Kungfu I understood what he meant.
The Shaolin Kungfu/Wushu system taught me that the correct physical body movements lead to the correct energy flow through the harmonious movement of the physical body. It involves more precision and intention of physical movement, whereas the Daoist Tai Chi/ Qi Gong system is a freer flowing of energy, where the discovering of energy or chi involves the correct physical movement of the body through the flow of the energy. Through studying both, I found their advantages and disadvantages: They were simply different ways around the mountain of learning. I had to learn both systems to integrate the two systems.
Here are some of my Tai Chi/ Qi Gong accomplishments:
· Taught Tai Chi/ Qi Gong and Fa Gong at the first hospital-based acupuncture and oriental medicine program in the U.S., Mercy College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
· Presenter/Teacher of Tai Chi/ Qi Gong at the Comprehensive CancerCare Conference, Washington, D.C.
· Treated patients and supported surgeon using Qi Gong/Fa Gong in the Operating Room at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York during open heart surgeries in the early 2000s.
As you see, I am continuously studying and learning. Besides Eastern disciplines, I love Western medicine and Western science! I especially love learning from the most accomplished minds from the greatest institutions around the world. Currently, I like to listen and learn from lectures on YouTube from the RI lecture series from Cambridge University, including Jim Al Khalili, David Tong, and Matt Parker. I also enjoy learning from lectures from mathematicians like Steven Strogatz from Cornell University.
The teaching from every master I worked with can be summed up in my journey with Stuart Knussen. When I auditioned for him, I put everything I could into doing my best. His first and only comment was, “you can’t play a f***ing note, can you?” When he made that first comment, I knew I found the right teacher. He tested me by cutting me to the core and waited for my response. How you respond to the challenge, how hard you work, your sincerity in what you do, would be tested every moment you were studying with the master. Is the art more important than your ego? This attitude can be applied to any study from medicine to sports, dance to science, anything you wish to pursue.
I guess the look on my face passed the test. Stuart said, “I will teach you. No one taught you how to practice.”
As I am not yet a master, so I will keep on learning as Master BP Chan did his entire life. When I die, I will become a master.
My wife Irene and I will be married 32 years in October 2022. Both of our daughters have created not-for-profits to help our world. As I like to say, “My daughters are much smarter than me.” And they point out, with great humor and affection, I set such a low bar for achievement of one’s goals and purpose that it was easy for my daughters to be more successful than their father. Olivia is the founder of the Embody Dance Conference, while Tessa is the founder of UpStream education. https://www.upstreamedu.org/
My wife Irene is also amazing. She has been teaching dance for more than 40 years and is a Black Belt in The NIA Technique. She has changed lives and contributed in multiple ways to helping people reach their potential.