Last month marked the two-year anniversary since the RISE bicycle adventure ended at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in Wappinger Falls, NY. It’s been an interesting two years to say the least. I find it fascinating how one’s perception of the world can change, not just by an experience, but also by processing the experience at a later time. In my case, it has seemed like a much greater time. For me, the true processing didn’t begin until September of 2013, when I began the task of writing the book about our bicycle journey.
I am only a third of the way through the book, but it feels like I have relived the tour of 2012 a thousand times over. Every new draft and chapter in every new chapter reveals a new perspective that I didn’t understand when I was in the “now” of experiencing any particular moment. New revelations seem to burst into my consciousness faster than the previous one, and the rate in every new level of understanding is growing exponentially. As I continue to write about the RISE adventure, the element that is changing the most is my understanding and articulation of the RISE Philosophy.
Zak and I conceived the idea of RISE from the suicides of our brothers. As the organization and philosophy grew, we decided that art and creative expression are a powerful instrument in the healing process for people in the midst of grief. Music and literature were initially the art forms that acted as an icebreaker in my relationship with Zak. The founder of CoSM, Alex Grey and his book “The Mission of Art” heavily influenced the idea of the healing power of art. The RISE slogan, which is still advertised on our website, became “Suicide Awareness and the Healing Power of Art”.
The phrase was the trademark that defined the mission of RISE. However, the idea of RISE is evolving, and much of the recent development I attribute to physical, meditative, and academic discipline I have been engaged in upon my return to Phoenix. Cycling and Tai Chi have provided some physical outlets, while I make more time for studying Taoist philosophy and other modalities in self-awareness techniques.
I always hoped that RISE could be a universal tool that transcends beyond the suicide survivors community by incorporating every single person no matter what their life experience may be. In order to do so, RISE needs to be as relevant a philosophy of healing transformation for those suffering from grief, as it would be for a newly graduated high school student seeking purpose in life. After a year of learning the ebb and flow of my discipline in my new practice, I realized a universal theme that was emerging from all the literature, the Taoist research, and tai chi that could apply to anyone: self-awareness.
Self-awareness is the process in which someone can discover who they are and were (where) they came from, giving them an idea where they should go in terms of their future. In other words, it can be a tool in discovering their bliss or purpose in life, and for those experience a dramatic trauma, it can be a tool for understanding the development of their grief. The importance of being self aware helps you in the moment, learning how to be present, giving one the ability to be mindful of how they will react or respond to any given situation.
Once one begins to understand what makes them tick, the practice of self-awareness demands an individual to answer a very important question: “Is this the person I want to be?” Depending on the answer to this personal question, one may be on the precipice of dramatic transformation. Ignorance is bliss, once one becomes aware of personality traits they deem problematic; ignoring the issue will only empower the repercussions of the unwanted behavior.
I acknowledge that the idea and practice of self-awareness is not an original idea that I conjured out of the ether. It is an idea that is as old as human consciousness. Personal discovery through self-awareness and an individual’s relationship to the world is a concept deeply connected to every religion and philosophy from the east to the west. I maintain that the RISE philosophy is my interpretation based on all of my religious, philosophical, and as mythological influence from my time on this planet.
This isn’t to say that RISE is moving away from the idea that art has healing properties; in fact we are only adding to that original thought. It has become clearer now, that in order to truly begin the path to recovery, one must take the leap of faith into a personal journey of self-awareness. How someone goes about this process, is where his or her personal creativity comes into play. The greatest quest any one of us will ever embark on is the one that goes inward. RISE is the art and practice of self-awareness; it is a journey that will last a lifetime of constant rediscovery and refinement.