The Kongo Kosmogram (proper spelling), is a map for energy movement and mind awakening, for MIND IS THE BATTLEFIELD and ULIMWENGU is the method for preparation for the battle. What battle you ask? THE WAR BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL…INTELLIGENCE AND IGNORANCE! Preparation, is the transformation from horizontal (animal mind) to vertical (arisen mind). The principle here is that in the horizontal state, the energy dynamic between heaven and earth is not established. It requires a posture (state of being) in vertical positioning that facilitates the flow of primal energy (Moyo) arising from earth to heaven, stimulating the circulation of Ngolo within the body-mind.
Standing in the Ulimwengu posture, visualize the Kosmogram internally. The Black sphere (Kala) sits at the base of the spine. Focus the consciousness at this point while engaging the breath to aid the energy to rise to the next sphere at the crown point of the skull. Known as (Tukula), the red sphere represents the intensifying of the energy process, while Kala symbolizes the seminal thrust up the spine.
The next point of focused consciousness is called (Luvemba) symbolizing the descending flow of energy that accumulates in the abdomen. The energy at this point will stimulate the healing process by energizing the abdominal organs that provide nourishment to the entire body.
The energy now, further descends to the point known as (Musoni) the sphere of gold. At the Musoni point, the energy cycle completes its’ orbit of refinement. When standing in Musoni, the practitioner attains a position of complete balance and alignment, becoming the link between Heaven and Earth. Known as the Four Moments Of The Sun, this refined practice facilitates the movement of Ngolo in the form of light through the four cardinal points mentioned previously. Similar in many ways to the microcosmic orbit of Chinese energy work, this practice will yield great benefit when practiced consistently.
When beginning the practice, be sure to begin at the Kala point at the base of the spine. If one attempts to begin in Musoni it will be difficult to move the energy to Kala due to the downward pull of genital energy. The downward pull will stimulate urges that impede the upward flow of energy. The Kala point is known as Ming Men (gate of life) in Chinese energy systems, and is the more suitable “trigger point”. After the first full cycle of moving the light of Ngolo through Kala to Musoni, the energy will spontaneously rise to Kala as guided by intention combined with breathing.
Part Five Next.
The importance of focused breathing in the practice of Dikitisa Ngolo cannot be over emphasized. Focused intent that guides inhalation and exhalation, will have an invigorating and energizing effect on the body-mind. It is necessary to emphasize the importance of these principles, due to the damage sustained by the muntu (human being) during centuries of psychological and physiological abuse.
There is no benefit in scurrying around the issue of the damaging effects of “foreign presence” upon the African psyche. The Chinese people for example have used the healing benefits of qigong to address damages to the body-mind. The same applies to African people with regard to the practice of Dikitisa Ngolo , a treasure from the cultural , ancestral force of Africa.
This ancestral teaching informs us that to be unwell is to “have lost or to be in the process of losing one’s ngolo , a decrease of “self-healing power”…Fu Kiau, 1980. Also, “A sickness can be caused by waves or radiations sent or emitted by a strange body within a given environment”…Fu Kiau, 1980. To this can be added…any series of ideas that conflict with one’s cultural values can have a debilitating effect upon the body-mind. This includes traditional elements such as language, manners of interaction, etc., that have been purposely destroyed over centuries through foreign dominance and influence.
We are further taught through this methodology, that illness (dis-ease) becomes evident in the muntu when ngolo is insufficient to produce healing radiations (minienie), to abate stress and tension within the body-mind. This stress becomes evident through such behavior and actions of the muntu that are self-destructive and non-productive. Therefore, practices such as dikitisa ngolo can be effective in correcting such conditions through the awakening of consciousness, that has been damaged through the loss of traditional cultural values.
In Entering the energy body part one, holding and focusing upon one point is mentioned. In the practice of dikitisa ngolo this one point is known as the didi (core). “When an individual acts at a certain distance outside the didi, he/she then loses not only his/her essence, but his/her balance (kinenga) as well”…Fu Kiau, 1986. Living outside of one’s core will cause a loss of the bio-genetic force (self-healing power), inherited from the community of ancestors with whom one is connected by blood and tradition, which carries a message of vitality and healing.
This self-healing power (package of energy) is an entity in it self! It is an energy received genetically from one’s parents (the reason so many displaced blacks have endured the onslaught of racial aggression), at conception. However, we find that this power varies from one muntu to another, and if it is found that one has received a lesser degree of bio-genetic force (ngolo) through their parents, this condition may be corrected through the practice of dikitisa ngolo. The degree of bio-genetic force inherited through the ancestral-line through one’s parents , depends upon the health, and life style of the parents. Therefore, in order to transfer good health (sufficient ngolo) to the offspring, habits that would endanger the well-being of the offspring must be abandoned. This is not only a physiological concern but psychological as well.
An understanding of the psychological aspect of martial discipline has been neglected in the practice of many systems, especially in the West. Today, most human beings live in a state of heightened anxiety. Living in anxiety causes thoughts based upon mental images that produce automatic reactions in the body. We find the human being trapped in seemingly endless cycles of fight, flight and freeze which are based upon triggers as fear, need, desire. Many of the conflicts threatening society today are rooted in unresolved fears that trigger hatred and aggression between human beings, races and nations.
These fears and aggressive tendencies become more pronounced when the mind is not engaged in the common activities that most human beings engage in. One will find that when standing in posture, one cannot run away from the content of the mind that arises from the subconscious. These images cause psychological pains that compound the physical pain of standing in stillness, so that most who attempt to hold posture abandon the practice after a few disconcerting moments. These factors, and the initial boredom of the practice, cause many to abandon the challenge. Without a doubt, this is the most difficult form of internal martial discipline, but if one is able to withstand the challenge of one’s own body-mind, the rewards are profoundly liberating!
Stay tuned for part four.
In part one we presented the principles governing the structure of Ulimwengu and the method for entering the posture. In this installment the internal methods will be discussed. In order to attain a proper comprehension of Ulimwengu, an understanding of the principles of kala/zima must be realized.
” The more one intensifies the body-mind, the more one connects with the energy in and around the body-mind, and from there the universe itself”…an internal teaching.
Intensifying the body-mind refers to employing methods that increase Ngolo (vitality) within the body-mind. Where there is body and mind, there is disunity, disharmony. Kala/zima (complimentary opposites) speaks to the principle of unified being; an ancient African principle that preceded the yin/yang principle by thousands of years. First instituted in Central Africa and East African cultures, the doctrine of opposites was practiced as a vital element in cultures along the Nile River, reaching a high point of practice in Kemit.
It is through the unifying practice of holding posture that kala/zima is attained, leading to Kinenga (balance, body-mind). A state in which body and mind are not in conflict. The root conflict within the sleeping Muntu (human being), is the root source of conflict in the world of human association, giving rise to national and international conflict.
So, entering the energy body refers to methods of attaining body-mind, unique to the African culture before the advent of foreign encroachment. Without a doubt, the Africa that we see today has been depleted and reduced to near rubble by foreign manipulation, that has corrupted the minds of the people and the leadership with few exceptions… ” Remember the Kongo saying, it hurts to lose certain traditions. The more a society moves away from it’s traditions, the more it’s people and system become physically, ethically, economically, politically, militarily, and spiritually weak and disoriented. To lose one’s cultural traditional values is not only to terrorize oneself, but to ridicule oneself in the eyes of the world”…Fu Kiau Bunseki, Self Healing Power And Therapy Old Teachings From Africa.
So to echo remarks from part one, the ultimate purpose of Ulimwengu (posture holding), is the liberation and refinement of consciousness, not overlooking it’s obviously physical overtones. Liberation refers to freeing the mind from seeing Africa as a repository of negativity and regressive living. Freeing oneself from mental captivity and it’s physical consequences gives rise to self-healing power (Funda dia Ngolo). “In any action performed by the body, there is a current of energy invading the entire body because the human body is a generator of power in the form of images”…Fu Kiau Bunseke.
The current of energy spoken of by Baba Fu Kiau, is Ngolo flowing throughout the body. The guidance has been codified as Moyo (spiritual energy or chi) surrounding the body, and Ngolo (vital force or jing) operating within the body. The operating of the two forces coming together provides the feeling of physical power…”the merging of internal vital energy, with the universal primordial force in the atmosphere”.
Guidelines for entering the energy-body:
- The energy-body, also known as the etheric or vital-body, transforms human intention into force.
- The energy-body, is the first layer of the energy complex that facilitates human body-mind transformation.
- The energy-body, is in immediate contact with the human body.
- The energy-body, connects with higher energy-fields through intention.
- The energy-body, is the invisible double of the human body.
- Motion, breath and focused intention trigger the flow of Ngolo !
Moving internal practices beyond superstition and confusion!
Part three soon to post.
The figure featured above is drawing of a cultural piece of the Sherbo people of Sierra Leone. Called Nomoli, they are believed to represent supernatural powers. Many have been found buried in rice fields as protective spirits of the crops. Some have been found with metal balls within the abdomen. The metal is reputed to be of a type not native to this planet, causing members of some cultural and spiritual groups to associate the figures with visitors from other planets.
I have been studying these figures since the 1980s, relating them to postures known as Zhan Zhuang (pile standing), or ball holding. In our school we refer to this training posture as Ulimwengu (posture of Universal balance). In this offering, a few of the principles that we employ will be outlined.
This first outline provides a set of structural principles developed and applied in our school for practicing Ulimwengu:
- Press… press the feet by relaxing the body/mind and mentally inserting the intention into the ground or floor.
- Sit…lower the body as if sitting upon a high stool.
- Raise…raise the torso holding it erect from the waist to the head, with a feeling of the head being lifted from the crown chakra.
- Extend…hold the arms as though embracing something; aligning shoulders, elbows, wrists and finger tips.
- Lift…engage the palms of the hands including the fingers as though slightly lifting something. This will provide a sensation from shoulders, to elbows, to finger tips. This is very important for enlivening the wrists without unnecessary tension, and extending energy through the fingers.
- Relax…allow the entire body to relax while maintaining vigilant consciousness.
- Weight underside…mentally drop all body weight to the underside (top of arm to underside of arm, top of foot to bottom of foot, etc.).
- Hold one point…focus consciousness to one point and maintain focus with a relaxed though vigilant gaze.
- Expand and contract one point…expand one point with inhalation, and contract with exhalation. Practice this for duration of posture holding; beginning from 5 to 10 minutes, gradually increasing to one half hour to an hour.
Diligent practice will enable the practitioner to endure the initial discomfort associated with the posture:
a. Pain in the joints.
c. Heat in the body.
e. Brain agitation and fog.
Ulimwengu is a process of self-transformation of the body / mind, and can enhance life on many levels. However, due to the stress encountered during practice, many who attempt the practice abandon it before meaningful progress can be realized.
The physical challenges of posture holding is undeniable, however the core challenge arises within the mind. Thoughts arise that trigger the central nervous system and visions of past events flood into the mind, making practice difficult. This is when one must relax into the practice regardless of the discomfort. At this point it is about seeing the pain from a distance , as if it being watched on a film or video.
In the tradition of posture holding this is known as “forgetting the self”, or ” seeking the strength”. It is the point at which posture holding becomes decidedly internal. Otherwise the energy becomes focused solely upon external concerns such as how long have I held the posture, which breaks the focus that must be reestablished. It is the continuous focus that provides a transformation that can be felt within the energy cycles of the body/mind.
End of part one.
Once again the African centered Martial Art community has experienced the passing of a pioneer and innovator in the cause of self-mastery. Ahati Kilindi Iyi was a visionary and prophetic teacher of African Warrior systems. He traveled across the United States, and journeyed to the African Continent in his quest to study and teach African Martial Sciences.
Ahati was a phenomenal Martial Artist who moved with the grace and speed of a gazelle, and the power of a python. He was highly proficient in the use of edged and stick weapons which he wielded with pin-point accuracy. His knowledge of African culture and history was astounding. In his lectures he spoke with the insight and authority of a Griot, sharing with his audience visions of warrior culture assumed by the uninitiated to be the sole domain of Asian cultures.
I first met Ahati in the late 80s when he journeyed to New Jersey to meet and converse with me. He was a large man with a deep vibrant voice and a penetrating gaze. Having only spoken to him by telephone, I was immediately able to identify him as he stood in front of Pennsylvania Train Station in Newark New Jersey upon the occasion of many visits to the area. He observed me closely as we introduced ourselves, and I knew that he was measuring my energy and ability in the field of African Warrior Culture. I knew that he had traveled to the Continent, and would very likely be suspect of anyone claiming knowledge and ability in the culture. In fact the subject arose during one of our conversations when I mentioned to him that I had never traveled to the Motherland. He responded by saying ” Dan Inosanto has never been to the Philippines and he has vast knowledge of those systems”. Ahati never lauded his experiences or abilities through aggressive rhetoric, but demonstrated his great ability through highly advanced skills and commanding intelligence.
Words cannot express my dismay when informed by my son of the passing of yet another of my Comrades and Brothers who served with me in the Golden Age of Martial Culture. My concern is about the legacies left by such dedicated pioneers and artists. Who will carry them forward when we are all gone? The purpose of this work transcends kicking and punching. It is about the philosophy, principles and practices that enhance the human being in this time of great spiritual, mental and physical challenge!
Ahati Kiindi Iyi dedicated his life to this work, may his efforts, and the efforts of his family and students be not in vain.
Peace and blessings to all,
Shaha Mfundishi Maasi
It has been over a month since the passing of Nganga Mfundishi Tali Tolo Naa from this world. His departure from the physical world has left a vacuum not to be filled , for he was a unique one of a kind human being.
He was my Brother, confidant and comrade for over 50 years. I considered Nganga to be a Martial Arts renaissance man, having mastered 4 schools of Taji Chuan, several methods of Hsing I and Pakua, and a variety of Kung Fu weapon and empty hand forms. In addition he studied and gained great proficiency in acupuncture, moxibustion, tuina, herbology, calligraphy. Previous to all of this, he gained fame as the legendary Chicago Tiger through his great fighting skill in Karate.
He was a quiet and soft spoken man, who gave great thought to his statements before making them. Never boisterous nor arrogant, he was a consummate gentleman. I recall him telling me several months before his passing, that he entered Karate tournaments in the 1960s, not to win trophies, but to hone his self defense skills through competing against highly skilled competitors. He felt that it was also a way of moving beyond the trap of ego, that consumed so many practitioners.
Nganga was a powerful yet gentle man who was fueled by a compassion that motivated him to practice a high degree of tolerance when dealing with life’s difficulties. He would often say ” if we can understand the nature of people and situations, it will allow us to be more tolerant in dealing with them”.
It was ironic, after not having seen Nganga in person for a few years after our initial meeting in Canada in 1963, that he would form an African centered Martial Arts Academy in Chicago Heights, Illinois, at the same time that I initiated African Focused Martial Art practices in New Jersey.
We would share these and other similarities throughout the many years of our comradeship. Recently, we were both hospitalized at the same time, he in Wisconsin and I in Maryland. In spite of our illnesses, we maintained contact with each other. November 20 of last year, I texted him, inquiring about his condition. On November 22 he replied, “not good Shaha, once again , we find ourselves in the same boat”.
Though he was firmly committed to Internal Chinese Martial Arts, Nganga maintained a commitment to the enhancement of the lives of Black people through Martial Discipline. We shared this view for over half a century, and it was the cornerstone of our Comradeship.
It is sad but true that this commitment among other concerns, took a toll on both of us over the years. It is a sad reality that the commitment to liberate the minds of Black people, has shortened the lives of many of our Brothers and Sisters. Specifically, in the case of my Brother, the senseless murder of first his grandson and then his son, took a toll on Nganga. I know this for a fact due to our many conversations after the murders.
The murders serve to highlight a condition that plagues the Black race worldwide, the senseless cooperation in the slaughter of our Brothers and Sisters. We have become the purveyors of death and destruction, in full concert with those who have sought our destruction for centuries.
Some have said to me that my constant reference to such issues is depressing and a set back to the liberation to the Black psyche. I say that to stick one’s head in the sand, invites a kick in the behind. Better to face the bitter truth and move beyond it through the strategic discipline of the mind, than to engage in feel good practices that provide little more than momentary escapes from the reality of our condition.
For decades, I saw Nganga suffer the reality of producing herbal formulas, and martial teachings that addressed the physical and mental challenges of our people, only to receive lip service from those who desired only to benefit from his presence and genius, for their own benefit. Nganga once said to me ” I have developed these herbal formulas, but our people will not buy them, they prefer to purchase from others”. He suffered poverty while his name was bandied about by those who claimed to have “appreciated him”.
In his final days, he had five students who regularly attended his classes, on the day of his transition, except for his children and a student or two, he was alone. Had those who benefited from his Mastery, maintained some degree of contact with him, he would not have spent his final days sick and alone. There are those who will harbor anger towards me for my words here. To them I say, they have mistaken me for someone who cares. If the shoe does not fit, keep stepping. I must be loyal to my Brother who suffered the pain of loyalty to the cause of warrior discipline, for the liberation of his people.
He and I were castigated by an ignorant few, for developing Kupigana Ngumi. They claimed that it was a “fraud and a deception” upon the martial arts community. That it was a made up system, for the benefit of he and me. What evidence was brought forth to support such a claim. We published a paper entitled ” The truth about Kupigana Ngumi”, which explained in great detail, the true nature of our united effort. It is now a matter of public record. Once read, it becomes clear, the level of self hatred and ignorance, visited upon this cultural effort of the 1960s, by those who were not even present during that historical struggle.
I recognize no obligation to be passive or silent in the face of such ignorance, nor have I been concerned with the reaction of the agents of such ignorance. I promised Nganga that I would be loyal to our cause until death, that i will do.
To Nganga’s beloved family, I pray that they take solace and peace in knowing how much he loved them. He said to me, shortly before leaving Ashville, N.C. , “I am returning to the Chicago area to be with my children and grandchildren, to spend some time with them. I want to form a class to teach my grandchildren and all young children, for they are the future”. As I think back to that day, I believe that Nganga knew that his earthly days were growing short. I recall viewing a video that he sent to me, in which he and Ray Jr. (Simaj) performed a section of Yang Secret Form. It seemed that he was passing the torch to his eldest son as they embraced at the conclusion of the form.
I vividly recall the day that I received a text from my son Khalil saying that he was informed by Malenga Charlie (one of Nganga’s current students), that Nganga was close to transitioning. My blood ran cold as contemplating such a great loss . I continue to mourn the passing of my Brother, and most likely will for what ever days remain for me, but I take solace in having enjoyed over a half century of Brotherhood with such an unique human being!
Peace and Blessings to All !!!
We are often tested in ways that we have not anticipated. Such was my experience on the morning of October 26 2019, when I awoken to realize that I was crippled. Attempting to get out of bed, I fell to the floor. Shocked and gripped in disbelief, I struggled to stand only to collapse again.
I called out to Denise, my long time companion of 40 plus years to help me back to bed, and after a bit of struggle, I was able to position myself on my back gazing at the ceiling. What is happening to me I thought as images raced through my head, how could this be happening when I was due to depart for a book signing and guided meditation in New Jersey, within hours?
For the next six days I drifted in and out of consciousness , arguing against being transported to an emergency room, during moments of lucidity. I have had a bias towards western medicine for decades, considering its treatment of symptoms , in contrast to eastern medicines addressing the source of illness. Finally, on November 2nd, I submitted to family and students who advised me that time was running out and that I needed medical attention as soon as possible. At which point Denise called 911 and I was soon transported to the emergency room at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson , Maryland.
Upon arrival, I found myself surrounded by medical personnel who began accessing my condition as I continued to drift in and out of consciousness. Having refused food for days prior to coming to the emergency room, I was dehydrated and weak, I was aware however that my condition was grave due to the energy that was swirling around me as the medical staff scurried about.
After blood testing and other evaluations, I was admitted. I recall the emergency room Doctor tapping me on my leg and saying, “don’t worry , we will fix this”. I felt the confidence in his tone which gave me a degree of relief.
“You will need spinal surgery”, said the Indian surgeon as he looked at me with a penetrating focus. This thing is spinning out of control, I thought to myself, as contemplating his words. Is there no alternative I asked? No he answered, you have a bone pressing on your spine, have you not had pain in your lower back and legs prior to this recent incident? Yes I answered, as recounting the intense pain and stiffness of the past several years, which required that I use a cane.
“It is necessary that you have this surgery, the alternatives are increasing pain, permanent loss of your ability to use your legs, or death”! His words spun in my head as I looked at him in disbelief.
I continued to push back against the idea of my spine being exposed to a process that could leave me dead on the operating table, regardless of the reassurances of those who advocated the surgery. Finally I consented by saying to the surgeon ” okay, lets go”!
Three hours later, I returned to consciousness in the recovery room, as medical personnel accessed my condition by asking questions that would determine my condition post surgery. After an hour or so, I was taken to a room for continued recovery.
I was faintly aware of Doctors and Nurses speaking to Denise about my condition, as advising her that the next few days would determine my ability to recover fully. I was particularly aware of one Nurse who seemed quite concerned about my condition as Denise was being advised about the delicate condition that I was in by a Doctor, who endeavored to answer her questions pertaining possible complications in recovery from such intense surgery.
The next few hours were filled with an excruciating pain that was partially alleviated by pain killers that allowed moments of sleep, only to reawaken to more pain. The pain was total and all consuming. Though located in my lower spine, the radiations extended throughout my body, in an intensity never experienced by me in 78 years.
This challenge would open a door to a higher state state of mindfulness and awareness, that could only be attained by dancing at deaths’ door to the tune of unrelenting pain. The instincts honed through 60 years of spiritual and warrior training, motivated me to use the challenge as a springboard to further levels of awakening.
I decided a few days after surgery that I would gradually reduce the intake of the pain killer medications, thus eliminating the chance for the complications of addiction. I recalled a passage from a book entitled …The Puzzle Of Pain by Ronald Melzack in which he stated “The manipulation of attention, together with strong suggestion, are both part of the phenomenon of hypnosis. Self hypnosis or auto-suggestion may be related to the state of meditation observed in mystics or other profoundly religious people. Deep meditation, or prolonged, intense focusing of attention on inner feelings , thoughts or images, may produce a state similar to hypnotic analgesia.”
His words coincided with experiences that I had in Buddhist meditation beginning in 1980…So I decided that this would eventually be the alternative to the medications.
I began by chanting a mantra given to me by my Buddhist Teacher, Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche. This I would do silently as counting the repetitions on my mala beads.In the beginning, I would combine the mantra with the pain medications, but gradually refuse the medications as the pain became more manageable over the weeks and months. In addition to the mantra, I would practice the Monk Form taught to me by Dr. U Maung Gyi, and a Chen Taiji form given to my by Nganga Tolonaa, in my head, over and over. These practices allowed me to build a tolerance to the pain.
It was amusing to hear nurses suggest that I “should practice mindfulness”… Little did they know. Though they meant well…they had no idea of the difficulty of such practices and assumed that any indication of discomfort was an indication of failure to apply the method. However, finally, I arrived at a state where I very seldom asked for pain medication, to their surprise and amazement. By the time that I was discharged from the hospital some 6 weeks later, I seldom asked for the medications… totally relying upon the repetition of mantra and the practice of the martial forms in my head, a method based upon calming the agitation that accompanies discomfort by focusing beyond the challenge to arrive at a place beyond the challenge.
We learn through martial discipline that mental agitation is a cause of the loss of jing (body-mind essence), and the eventual cause of death. So, the mental agitation that comes about through pain, triggers a stress reaction that increases agitation and more jing loss…and the cycle continues, leading to further debilitation or death.
Through the practice of mindfulness, it is possible to establish control over the reactions to external stimuli. Use arising conditions to explore these practices.
Peace and blessings to all,
On the sixth of October at 3:35 in the morning, my first root lama ( teacher) entered into Nirvana. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche Master of the Karma Kagyu guided me into the Buddhist practice with these words “even in the the deepest mud pit, gold can be found”. This teaching referred to the transformation of consciousness available through the practice of meditation.
The Venerable Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche was born in easten Tibet. Born in the second month of 1924, he was born to Buddhist parents. After many years of diligent meditative practice,teaching the dharma, and bodhisattva activities, Rinpoche became the Abbot of the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery in Woodstock, New York. It was here that Rinpoche presided over my entrance into the Buddhist path in 1978.
It was also at this location that I was fortunate to take part in the Black Crown Ceremony under the auspices of the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.
I recall vividly the tireless efforts of Rinpoche to provide Dharma teachings to the various communities. On one occasion at my request, Rinpoche traveled three hours and 216 miles round trip to give a teaching at a seminar that I organized, which included late African Dance Master Chuck Davis, and the late internal arts Master, Professor Huo Chi Kwang.
I remain thankful for such teachers, and their contributions to my quest for transformation.