By the Editor
Ilchi Lee was interviewed for the January/February 2012 issue of Wisdom Magazine.
Click here to read the article online.
Or enjoy reading the contents of the interview below.
The Call of Sedona – An Interview with Ilchi Lee
by Edie Weinstein
“As always, I am amazed but never surprised at the way life has of bringing together people and opportunities. When we toss a boomerang out into the air, do we not expect it to come back? When we shout our name out into the Grand Canyon, whose name would come echoing back, but our own? Such was the case with the marvelous book entitled The Call of Sedona: Journey of The Heart by Ilchi Lee .
In November 2011, I attended a conference called Celebrate Your Life, held in Phoenix, Arizona. It was my first trip to that part of the country and I thought “While I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll stop by Sedona and visit friends who live there.” I have a lengthy ‘bucket list’ and that destination was on it. The timing was perfect, since I was there for 11/11/11 and enjoyed a labyrinth walk as part of a ritual honoring that auspicious date. While I was at the conference, I saw a flier for the book and took note of the glowing image of Ilchi Lee on the cover . He had a look about him that whispered ‘serenity.’ A few weeks after returning from my trip, I was asked to interview him.
Wisdom: Please tell the story of what first drew you to Sedona.
Ilchi: In 1995, I left Korea and came to the U.S. to share Dahn Yoga, a program composed of traditional Korean mind-body training methods, in the U.S., and other countries around the world. In order to familiarize myself with American society and culture, I began a cross-country journey by car across the United States. Through those travels, I desperately wanted to find a place where I could set my roots down and base my activities in the U.S. I was looking for a place where people could experience a profound meeting with their soul surrounded by the beauty of nature, a place that could awaken the greatest spirit within everyone. In early 1996, I was reading a newspaper in L.A. when I saw a picture of Bell Rock and first learned of Sedona.
Wisdom: How does the voice of Spirit guide your life?
Ilchi: The voice of my soul within always talked about the big dream that I had to reach. But it’s not as though it also provides a navigator or manual for you that will take you right to your dream. I had to figure out the directions on my own through a lot of trial and error in real-life situations. Many people hear the voice of their soul, and they have dreams. But because the path of reality to get to those dreams can be long and tough, people get discouraged and give up along the way. Listening sincerely to the voice of my soul, choosing what my soul really wanted, and hanging in there until the end without giving up until I accomplished what I chose … that’s what I did until now. The voice of my soul has always called attention to my dreams. Whenever I was tired and felt tempted to give in to complacency, whenever I felt lost in thick fog without a compass or flashlight, the voice of my souls always said, ‘It’s okay. The only thing you have to fear is fear itself. Don’t look down; keep your eyes on your dream. Then, instead of your obstacles, you’ll see hope.’
Wisdom: What are vortexes and why are so many of them powerfully concentrated in that part of the country?
Ilchi: A vortex refers to the phenomenon of an object rotating in a spiral around a central axis, the way water swirls down a drain or like a tornado, for example. If you think about it, you realize that, from the tiniest atoms to the Milky Way Galaxy, whose entire massive form spirals around, our universe is full of vortex phenomena. Our body has chakras, where energy is powerfully concentrated. To give a comparison, you could say that vortexes are like the earth’s chakras. The earth also has places where powerful energy pours out of the earth or goes into the earth, and those are what we call vortexes. According to researchers, there are 21 powerful vortexes on the earth, and four of them are grouped in Sedona. It is said that the energy is generated by the red rocks that have high iron content, and that it might also be due to the power of the giant crystals buried beneath the red rocks. From what I can feel, it’s not just certain well-known spots in Sedona, but rather, it seems that all of Sedona itself, as a whole, is like a giant vortex.
Wisdom: What impact do they have on us?
Ilchi: You could say that, through the influence of the powerful energy emitted by the vortexes, energetic and spiritual changes in the body and mind take place more quickly and strongly than in other areas. At a vortex, it’s possible to have a deeper experience of meditation than you otherwise normally would. However, the greatest strength of Sedona’s vortexes lie in awakening the great spirit within us. When this spirit awakens, we can go beyond petty selfishness and we develop a desire to contribute to making human life more valuable and the world a more beautiful place. That’s when each of us ourselves becomes a vortex that exerts a positive influence on the energy of other people, as well as the earth.
Wisdom: How are the vortexes like chakras in our bodies?
Ilchi: The channels along which energy flows in the human body are meridians, and the points by which energy goes in and out of our bodies are energy points called “hyol,” meaning “hole.” There are also invisible energy centers, where energy is concentrated and collects in the body. In Indian tradition, this is called a “chakra,” and Korean mind-body training methods call it a “dahnjon.” Because the earth is also an organic life form, it has an energy system similar to that of the human body. Vortexes play a role for the earth similar to that of chakras in the human body. Powerful energy is concentrated in a vortex, and earth energy whirls around as it gushes out, or heaven energy swirls around as it comes in. Just as we cannot see the energy of our bodies with our physical eyes, vortex energy is also invisible to the eye. However, it’s possible to feel the energy of the body by focusing the mind; likewise, it’s possible to feel vortex energy through various senses.
Wisdom: Why do you suggest clearing your mind prior to traveling to this magical place?
Ilchi: What you will encounter in Sedona is more than just the interesting red rocks, juniper trees that are hundreds of years old, or beautiful sunsets. In Sedona, you come to meet with your “Self.” Sedona’s sacred nature and powerful energy exist to facilitate that encounter. If your mind is filled with worries, selfish desires, or emotions, it will be hard for you to meet with yourself. This self is closer to you than anything else, but unless you empty your mind, it might as well be so far away you could never reach it. You cannot fill something without emptying it first.
Wisdom: How did a traumatic event when you were 14 alter your life?
Ilchi: In a serious accident that occurred when I took my friend swimming in the reservoir during my eighth grade summer vacation, he drowned. I took to bed for nearly a month afterwards from the trauma of what happened that day. After that, I suffered extreme terror and anxiety about death. At the thought that, like my friend, I, my parents, and everything in this world would all disappear someday, I felt that living was so pointless. I built bigger walls between me and my academic studies, and having nothing to devote myself to, I clung furiously to the practice of martial arts, such as taekwondo and hapkido, for hours on end. In my high school years, I became a terrible pessimist. Having to live without knowing the meaning of life was the source of unbearable suffering for me. This incident from my early youth made me harbor more desperate questions about the meaning of life.
Wisdom: What was the literal ‘wake-up call’ that led you to your path?
Ilchi: As I began to be aware of my true self, there was one question that came to me incessantly from within. That question was, ‘Who am I?’ I always thought, ‘Who brought me to this world without my permission; and if I was brought here, shouldn’t I at least be told the reason why I exist?’ The answer that I ultimately gained as I approached the threshold of death several times was, ‘I am Chunjikiun and Chunjimaum—the energy and mind of the universe.’ This was the enlightenment that what was born in this world was simply my physical form; the true identity of my being is the eternal, fundamental life energy of the universe that existed before I received a body. The realization that this universe and I are not two but one—that we are all one—and the urgent need to communicate this to other people have led me on this path. This awakening took place in the summer of 1980, on Moak Mountain in Korea.
Wisdom: Please talk about your 100-day training.
Ilchi: In the latter half of the 1970s, at an antique book store in Seoul, Korea, I felt powerful energy while looking through a book about Tai Chi. Because I didn’t want to lose that feeling, I resolved to do a 100-day training. My eyes opened by themselves at 4 a.m. every morning, and before I knew it, I would find myself sitting on the nearby mountain. Oddly enough, no matter how long I sat, I didn’t feel tired. My breathing became so deep that I could hardly tell whether or not I was breathing. If I just sat down, it felt as though my body became weightless and breathing came effortlessly. Toward the end of my 100-day training, I had an important experience that made me aware of the energy latent in human beings. The weather was cold, with a wind chill factor of 20 degrees below zero Celcius, so I considered taking a day off, but I couldn’t drop the ball on my training, if only because of all the sincere devotion I had given so far. I went to the nearby mountain as usual and did some training, but my whole body froze up and I was gripped by a fear of death. That’s when I thought, ‘Oh Heaven, please do as you see fit,’ and let go of everything, and suddenly, my lower belly became hot with an exploding warmth and my whole body became as hot as a mass of fire, so much that even the snow around me began to melt. I had very powerful experiences of energy during my 100-day training, but I still didn’t have the answer to the question, “Who am I?’ That’s why I went to Moak Mountain to do training for another 21 days.
Wisdom: You faced death during the ordeal that was your 21-day training. Do you marvel that you survived?
Ilchi: If, even after surviving my 21-day training, I still hadn’t been able to answer the question, ‘Who am I?’ that would have been like death to me. Actually, after the 21-day training, it’s just like my individual identity disappeared. That’s when I died as an individual, and instead, the world came into my heart.
Wisdom: Please talk about the Sedona Meditation Tour.
Ilchi: Every year, millions of tourists come to visit Sedona, but how many of them return truly inspired by Sedona? The majority of them come here because they’re drawn by something, but I feel very anguished that they only look around here and there at Sedona’s beautiful landscape before heading back where they came from. After thinking about this, I decided to try something new in Sedona. I combined meditation and travel and started a self-development program called the Sedona Meditation Tour. Sedona is a place that makes it easy to bring down the defensive walls surrounding the self. We can’t open ourselves up 100% inside of our worldly relationships. When people are self-conscious and have a calculating mentality in order to protect their personal interests, a defensive shield forms between them that can’t always be seen. You can’t see yourself deeply through that defensive shield. Sedona’s gorgeous, monumental landscape and unrestrained, wide-open energy naturally clears away such defensive shields. When the defensive shield is cleared away, you embark on a true journey of meditation to your inner world in search of your Self. One especially strong advantage afforded by Sedona, with its abundance of energy, is that a meditation tour activates the circulation of energy in the human body and enhances awareness.
Wisdom: What would you say is your life’s work and passion?
Ilchi: Through rigorous spiritual training for which I risked my life, I encountered the greatness of the soul within me. I also came to realize that, like me, every person has a great soul inside of them. One of the most important enlightenments I had was that meeting the great soul within is the most natural of occurrences. You don’t have to make an extraordinary effort or meet somebody special for that to happen. Because it’s such a natural thing, the moment you turn it into something particularly special in your mind, you push it farther away from you. In the same way that a chick naturally hatches from an egg with the right temperature or environment, all you have to do is provide the conditions conducive to meeting with your great soul within. I know what those conditions are, and what I do is let other people know what they are. What matters most is that you trust yourself. You need to believe that you are a being capable of enlightenment, and that you came to this world in order to become enlightened. Enlightenment takes less than a minute. But it could take 10 years for you to believe in yourself.”