Greetings! I would like to welcome everyone to the Art of Ninzuwu blog page. If this is your first time here, please take this opportunity as a chance to review some of our previous articles. We look forward to hearing some of your experiences and insights on many of the subjects presented here. Comments are welcome. Wishing you the best in all your spiritual endeavors!
Recently, I had the honor and privilege to converse with Mr. Jonathan Blank. His work has always inspired me spiritually and also in a motivational way. He is the co-author of Secrets of The Dragon Gate: Ancient Taoist Practices for Health, Wealth, and the Art of Sexual Yoga. We hope you enjoy the interview appearing below:
Warlock Asylum: It is indeed a blessing to be able to converse with your person, as you are a man of many talents, a writer, filmmaker, and creative technologist. Yet, for our readers who may not be familiar with your work, how would you describe yourself? Who is Jonathan Blank?
Jonathan Blank: From a Taoist perspective there really is no Jonathan Blank that can be defined. I am different in each and every moment and different in relation to each and every individual – and that’s if you accept that I exist at all. But I guess that’s not a very satisfying answer, so I’ll try to give you something a little less metaphysical.
When my film, “Sex, Drugs & Democracy” came out, one reviewer wrote that the film “challenges people’s freedoms and limitations.” I think that sums up my life. I enjoy challenging my own sense of what makes me free and what my limitations are, and I also enjoy challenging others to expand their ideas of what freedom (the ultimate spiritual goal) is all about.
Warlock Asylum: In reading your bio, which appears on the Penguin Books’ website, this image came to mind of someone who is passionate about their work. How did you get involved with making films and writing?
Jonathan Blank: I started out writing at a very young age. Fortunately my parents were very supportive of this and found me a variety of teachers and programs outside of school where I could develop my talents and abilities.
Warlock Asylum: What obstacles did you have to overcome in order to be able to make your career as a filmmaker and writer possible?
Jonathan Blank: I’ve chosen to work in a variety of areas – writing, filmmaking, and entrepreneurialism – that are very challenging. There are challenges with financing, creation, marketing and distribution among many others. There is a book called “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” where he suggests that people not prioritize their schedule, but schedule their priorities. And I think that’s a very good piece of advice. If there is something you want to do, that is important to you, then make it your priority.
Warlock Asylum: Now you’ve spent over 20 years studying high-level martial arts, meditation, and Eastern philosophy. What attracted you to the spiritual technology of the East and how did it change your life?
Jonathan Blank: When I was a little kid there was a show on TV in reruns called “Kung Fu” which starred David Carradine as a Shaolin Buddhist monk. The Shaolin Temple in China is the birthplace of Zen (or Ch’an) Buddhism and is also widely considered the birthplace of Kung Fu (though this claim is open to challenge). He spent each episode trying to be peaceful, but then having to kick some ass at some point because he had to protect and defend someone’s rights. When I saw this I thought, “Wow, I’d like to be like him one day.” Little did I realize at the time that David Carradine didn’t know any Kung Fu – but of course that didn’t matter. I loved the idea that you could seek a higher plane of existence while simultaneously achieving a level of mastery over this physical realm the enabled you to live a life without fear. And it’s a path I’ve followed ever since – not necessarily very successfully, but I’ve definitely enjoyed the journey.
Warlock Asylum: Secrets of Dragon Gate: Ancient Taoist Practices for Health, Wealth, and the art of Sexual Yoga by Dr. Steven Liu and Jonathan Blank has got to be one of my top ten books of all time. It really help me make some vital decisions at a crucial point in my life and I still benefit from its wisdom. I must say “thank you” to you and Dr. Steven Liu for giving the world such a beautiful gift. How did this book come about?
Jonathan Blank: I first studied Taoism when I went to Columbia University. There were a number of interesting courses about this fascinating school of Chinese philosophy. But more importantly, there was a very famous Tai Chi and Taoist meditation teacher there named Franklin Kwong. I studied Taoism, Tai Chi and Ba Gua from him for many years while I lived in NY. After he passed I continued my Taoist studies with several amazing teachers. Then I moved out to California. I found out about Dr. Liu through a friend of mine and I started taking Taoism lessons from him. He is a lineage holder in the Dragon Gate school of Taoism and he is also a master of various Taoist Chi Gung (energy development) exercises, including the spontaneous chi gung. I studied with him for many years and then I proposed doing a book on Dragon Gate and he wholeheartedly approved.
Warlock Asylum: Rumor has it that you were also involved in writing Still as a Mountain, Powerful as Thunder. Is this really the case?
Jonathan Blank: It’s not just a rumor. I wrote “Still as a Mountain, Powerful as Thunder” for my teacher YP Dong who was a master of Yi Chuan, a Buddhist style of chi gung, with whom I studied for many years.
Warlock Asylum: You’ve put together some great documentaries, even working with the likes of Timothy Leary and members of the Frank Zappa household. I can imagine it is quite a bit of work that goes into putting such a work together. What is your source of inspiration in regards to the documentaries that you have done? Do you have any particular favorite of the three?
Jonathan Blank: I’ve made 2 feature documentaries (“Collecting America” and “Sex, Drugs & Democracy”) and one narrative feature (a comedy called “Anarchy TV”). I started with “Collecting America” which emerged from my view that America is an amazing place with a core problem which is that the value we assign to things is based almost completely on their dollar value, as opposed to the many other factors that could be evaluated (the joy it brings, the values it engenders, its sustainability, etc.) After that I wanted to make a film about how I thought a modern, enlightened society would function. And that’s where “Sex, Drugs & Democracy” came from. And while I was distributing that film, I was a guest on a crazy public access TV show which then planted the seeds of “Anarchy TV.” I’d have to say that “Sex, Drugs & Democracy” is my favorite because it encapsulates so many different ideas about how to make a better world.
Warlock Asylum: I am really impressed by the work you have done with the Reading Kingdom. Would you care to explain what the Reading Kingdom is for our readers who may not be familiar with this educational tool? Also, are there any personal experience you would like to share about the benefits it has brought to the lives of the children involved?
Jonathan Blank: Reading Kingdom is an online program that teaches children how to read and write. It’s very hard to believe, but 2 out of 3 children in the US are failing to achieve proficiency in reading. It’s our number one educational problem and quite possibly our number one problem period – from a Buddhist perspective, ignorance is the cause of all our problems. The program is based on the work of my mother, Dr. Marion Blank, who is one of the world’s top experts in literacy and language development in children. Over the last 40 years she has developed a new way to teach children how to read that overcomes the problems inherent in current reading education.
In addition to offering a remarkable program, we also do our best to help people, and that’s why we donate the program to under-resourced children all over the country. The stories we have been told about the turnaround in the lives of children who suddenly master the key skill of reading are inspiring.
Warlock Asylum: After studying Eastern philosophy for over 20 years what universal advice and wisdom would you like to share with practitioners of the Art of Ninzuwu (Ryujin Shinko) and those newly interested in Eastern Spirituality?
Jonathan Blank: Have a good time. Too much of spirituality becomes mired in denial, self-abnegation, spiritual materialism (ie, I’m more spiritual than you because I do x, y and z), and so on. It’s very important to remember that spirituality is about finding happiness and becoming more aware of yourself as part of the fabric of life on earth and consciousness in the universe. There really is no goal and nothing to achieve. It’s a path you follow and one that should be fun and enjoyable along the way.
Warlock Asylum: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and wisdom with us. It is deeply appreciated! What can we expect to hear of Jonathan Blank in the future? Any final thoughts?
Jonathan Blank: I’m currently working on a number of interesting new projects including a book about the greatest endurance sailor of all time – Reid Stowe – who spent 1152 days at sea. It’s a spiritual adventure book about the importance of following our dreams.
*We extend our appreciation and thanks once again to Jonathan Blank for taking time out of his schedule to share some of his wisdom with us. He has also made some very practical and useful tools to help improve the human community. We wish him much success in all his undertakings. Readers can learn more about his work by visiting: http://jonathanblank.com/