THE ART OF SELF-CULTIVATION
My story - influences and inspirations
I was born in 1960 into a cultured and strongly Christian family. I was educated at Cambridge University and having decided I was not cut out for academia, worked as an archaeologist, a musician and then for a long time as a senior public servant.
Since 1996, I have worked full time in the fields of coaching, counselling and complementary health specializing in helping people with life and career choices, relationships and sexuality and long-term health issues. My approach to mentoring has evolved from this experience.
I now live in France with my partner Kalyani Ma Mukti where we run La Source, a retreat and wellbeing centre in the Ardéche countryside.
Inspirations and Influences
Chinese Martial Arts, Taoism and Sexual Yoga
I have studied the martial arts tai ji quan, bagua xing yi, qigong and Taoist esoteric yoga since 1984. I am deeply in debt to my two principal teachers, Sifi Raymond Towers and Master Ma Bao Guo for their teachings. I also trained in Chinese massage, herbal medicine and dietetics. From this experience I learned a lot about how to feel the energy in my body and how to take care of myself with good diet, exercise and a balanced lifestyle.
I also became a devotee of fine oriental tea and learned how to offer tea ceremony - a practice full of symbolic and spiritual signifiance.
Perhaps even more important was the concept of gongfu. Gongfu literally means "work-time" and can be variously translated as practice, skill, craft, art or mastery. While gongfu can refer to a specific skill, such as martial arts or ceremonial tea making, it carries the deeper meaning of self-mastery. The practice of any craft teaches us to approach life as a whole as an art, as practice, as a journey toward mastery. My initiation into the path of gongfu was truly my initiation into self-cultivation.
A major part of my exploration of Taoist arts has been delving deep into the practice of Taoist sexual yoga. These powerful methods for balancing and transforming sexual energy are central to my self-cultivation and form the basis of my teaching and mentoring around sexuality. My book on overcoming premature ejaculation is in reality an introduction to sacred sexuality for men, disguised as a modern self-help guide. Helping men and women to overcome shame and open to their full capacity for loving intimacy remains an important focus in my writing and my mentoring work.
Exposure to Chinese culture inevitably led me to Confucius. Confucius is a controversial figure even today. On the one hand, historically, Confucianism has underpinned rigid and oppressive social and political regimes. On the other hand, there are the core teachings of Confucius himself as a personal philosophy built around benevolence, respect, honesty, reason and commitment. This deeper expression of Confucianism has been a consistent and lasting inspiration to me.
I am not sure the historical Buddha Shakyamuni ever intended to found a religion! Stripped of its religiosity, the teachings of Buddhism are a practical and accessible path to a life well lived. I have had several long-term involvements with Buddhist groups, and although I chose not to call myself a Buddhist, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and the Five Precepts are never far from my awareness. I continue to practice meditation daily and encourage my clients to do the same.
Under the Buddhist umbrella, I would include the work of Shomo Morita, a Japanese contemporary of Freud with a radically different, zen inspired approach. The simplicity of his formula: “Accept your feelings, know your purpose, do what needs to be done” belies its power. I am deeply grateful to the writings of David K Reynolds for opening this door for me.
Together with my partner Kalyani Ma Mukti, I have delved into the contemporary neo tantra scene. For me the experience was a worthwhile antidote to shame and guilt around sexuality, but ultimately, I found too much hedonism cloaked in a veil of pseudo spirituality. It was not a place to linger.
However, meeting and studying with the tantra-inspired teacher, the late Dr Shakti Malan, was life changing. Her teachings had a depth and authenticity I found lacking elsewhere. She has been a major influence on the work that Kalyani and I offer together under the banner of Inner Union.
Kalyani and I chose not to describe our work as "tantra". However, the exploration of both inner and outer union and sacred sexuality within the context of committed, conscious relationship is at the heart of our shared offering as Inner Union
Not a tantra teacher, but someone I met through that world is Thessa Sophia. Thessa, together with her collaborator Fleur Inanna are fearless explorers of the outer limits of consciousness through deep meditation. Working with these two extraordinary women has become an ever-fascinating part of my own self-cultivation.
I first encountered stoicism through the work of psychologist Albert Ellis who I consider to be the greatest stoic of the modern age. Ellis’s writings led me to Epictetus, Marcus Aurellius and Seneca. To me, Stoicism offer the integration of the head and the heart lacking in so many systems of thought. Stoicism teaches us to accept our our feelings and at the same time use our gift of reason and discrimination to liberate ourselves from the turmoil of the roller-coaster of emotion.
Stoicism has many gifts. It is an extraordinarily practical way to manage our thoughts and feelings on a day to basis. Above all, stoicism calls us to be fully and compassionately engaged in the world, accepting our fellow human beings and honouring our shared humanity.
The quest for self-understanding has led me to the Jungian inspired "mytho-poetic" men’s movement led by Robert Bly. The work of Bly, and other Jungians such as Robert Johnson has helped me to explore what it is to be a man and embrace authentic mature masculinity.
There is a lots of confusion and angst among men in today's post-feminist world and my mentoring work with men often focuses on issues of masculinity. For me, role models such Marcus Aurelius and Confucius offer a vision of what wise responsible masculinity can offer in service to the world ... a vision we can all aspire to... a vision of where self-cultivation can lead.
But this is not just for men! Although for several years, I worked exclusively with men, I now find it more balanced to work with both men and women. The art of self-cultivation is for everyone.
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Who Am I?
I am Nicholas Hudis an author and mentor dedicated to the path of self-cultivation. After 25 years as a therapist/coach, I see that the need is not for therapy but for cultivating the skill to live wisely, ethically and purposefully. I am no "sage" but the wisdom of Confucius, the Buddha and the Stoic philosophers guides me on a daily basis. My desire is to share this inspiration, through my writings and personal mentoring, and make a difference to your life too.