Saturday, January 9, 2010

George Leonard (1923-2010)

I did not know George Leonard well but he was a man that commanded my respect.

I first met George at Arthur Young's Institute for the Study of Consciousness in Berkeley sometime in the 70s after he had just completed a marathon run for folks over 50. George was a person who devoted his life to the development of his mind, his body and his heart. And, from what I could see, he succeeded in all three.

I later ran into George many times at Esalen Institute where I was running workshops in quantum physics. George was the best friend of Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy and the instigator of many innovative Esalen programs including his Samarai Games which teach, among other things, personal honor, chivalry and respect for the people we temporarily designate as "enemy"--elements all notably lacking in today's thoroughly barbaric "forever wars".

George Leonard was a southern gentleman (he was born in Atlanta, GA) and, to my mind, George embodied that dignity, courage and courtesy people have attributed to General Robert E. Lee. Among his many books, workshops and personal teachings, George co-founded a school of Aikido in Marin County, CA, where he taught his own interpretation of that elusive martial art.

I was fortunate to study Aikido in Santa Cruz under Linda Holiday Sensei who taught that anger directed towards you is an emotion not to be feared but a lucky source of energy to be transformed in spontaneously creative way that benefits both the source and the recipient of this anger.

George Leonard lived the life of an Aikido master and left for the rest of us an epigram (perhaps it will be etched upon his grave stone) which epitomizes the seemingly paradoxical Aikido view that conflict is an opportunity for learning rather than a burden to be avoided. What George said was this: "Take the hit as a gift."

George Burr Leonard, farewell, Sir. The Earth is bereft of one of its most elegant warriors.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

I studied Aikido at George Leonard's Dojo in Mill Valley when I was a teenager. I didn't know he was a cofounder of it, but I did do a few rounds of Aikido exercises with him. Before that, the same location was a head shop called the Sundancer.