Michael Ravenwood: “SkyFire Arts – Science Meets Magic” | Talks at Google

1974, in Tokyo, Japan, there was a six-year-old
half Vietnamese Eurasian who went to leave the
country and found that he couldn’t because
he had no entrance visa. See, in Japan, at that
time, a US document showing that you were born
in the country was not valid. And in order to
exit Japan, you had to have an entrance visa
to get your exit visa. And so this boy was rocking
the boat from an early age, and it didn’t really get any
less interesting from there. So not surprisingly,
that little boy was me. And this is me now. So with an incredible group
of artists and technicians, I founded a company
called SkyFire Arts. We are a performing arts
company in which we wear high-voltage protective suits. We become electrified by giant
devices known as Tesla coils. I’m sure some of you
are familiar with those. And we throw 10-foot bolts of
lightning as part of our show, literally. So the question that
I get most often when I tell people that is,
how did that even happen? How does somebody get into
throwing lightning bolts for a living? And fortunately, I have a
very good story behind it. That’s a synchronicity
out of my life, or for those who are not
familiar or really like that term much, it’s coincidence. So I was a fire dancer for maybe
a couple years at this point. And I was thinking to
myself one day, god, how I love to spin fire– the roar, the flame, the
light and the shadow. What would it be
like, I thought, to dance with electricity? It’s another primal energy,
thrilling, a little bit dangerous. “What would that be like?” I thought. Now, my great idea
at the time was to strap a couple of stun
guns to the end of a stick and tape their
buttons down and get a pair of goggles
and a groin cup, and probably do
something really dumb. But before I could do
anything like that, two weeks later, I’m
standing in line. And the guy standing
next to me starts talking to the woman over the
counter about his lightning project in a Starbucks in
Torrance of all places. And so I listen, and I listen. And eventually, I
couldn’t help myself. I turn to him,
like, I don’t mean to eavesdrop on
your conversation, but I really can’t help myself. I’m a fire dancer. I was just thinking about
dancing with lightning. I tell my story. And he looks at me, and he goes,
that is really weird that you would think those thoughts
and run into me because I build some of the largest
Tesla coils in the world. As a matter of fact,
I am teslacoil.com. And I build machines
that throw 18-, 20-foot-long arcs
of electricity. And so in addition to
this, I’ve designed a high-voltage protective suit
in which you can effectively dance with lightning. Now, my original
idea was about 2, maybe 4 inches of
lightning worth. And this is like 15-
20-foot-long arcs of electricity. So I said to him, can
I get your number? And that was Jeff Parisse. I want to mention the names of a
lot of the other amazing people that were part of the
development of this project because, frankly, I want
to really emphasize, I couldn’t have done this alone. And as you’ll see later
in the presentation, I really feel that
we did it in a way. So in essence, let’s see
what it looks like now. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING] So that last shot was the
Olympic stadium in Korea. I’ll get more on
that story later. So as you might imagine,
that didn’t happen overnight, though. And actually, another
remarkable synchronicity went into how it
all came to happen. I was at a festival called
Lightning In A Bottle one year. Oh, somebody’s been there. Amazing, right? So I was there. I was taking to my
friend, Bradley. And I was saying to him, hey,
this is lightning in a bottle. Where’s the lightning? I had an idea one time I
would dance with lightning. Maybe you can put me
in a big glass jar. I’ll be your
lightning in a bottle. He laughs, and he goes,
oh, yeah, well, you’ve got to talk to
Brent [? Henning. ?] He did all of the power
for this festival. I said, Brent
[? Hanning? ?] I just met him a few weeks ago
doing the Lantern Festival. I helped him hang lights. I have his number. I’ll give him a call. So I did. I called him up. And he’s said, oh, yeah,
you’re not the only person to ask where the lightning is. We’re going to do a project. You should be involved. So at this time, I was
way behind everybody else in the tech world, and I was
just getting to use texts. And one of the first
texts, certainly the first text that
I remember getting, is him texting me one day, hey,
we’re having a meeting tonight. You gotta come. And I just remember
looking at that and having such
a strong feeling, like, I think I really ought
to listen to this text. This technology thing
might be something I should pay attention to. So I ended up going
to the meeting. There was already
15 people there. I’m like, wow, there’s
a lot of energy behind this Brent guy, huh? So everybody’s talking,
and I join the meeting. And at a certain point, I feel
like it becomes relevant for me to share who it is,
how I got there. I’m like, I’m Michael,
a fire dancer. I thought I would
dance to lightning. I met this guy in line. And this guy sitting at
the table, leans forward, and he says, you’re telling
the story of how we met. I’m that guy that
you met at Starbucks. And I’m like, oh
my god, it is you. Because in the interim,
I hadn’t seen him. It had been a number of years. I had just called
him up occasionally. See, he was already
putting Tesla Coils under the Swiss Science Museum. He already kind of
had his little team of people that were working
in his [? chain mail ?] suits. So I didn’t feel confident
enough to just barge into his life and be like, I
should be your new lightning guy, just because I
thought of it or whatever. So I just kept in touch with
him, but I hadn’t seen him. So I didn’t recognize
him at the table until I started
telling the story. And he was like, oh, man,
I knew you looked familiar. I’m that guy. So we both decided,
at that moment, obviously it’s meant to be. We’re going to do this project. And so at the first
meeting, I shared ideas about a vaunted, 360-degree
performance stage. And dancing with
lighting, obviously, was the thing that I wanted
to help do with the project. I also just shared,
generally, what it was that I thought should be doing. And one thing in particular was
such a strong feeling for me that I had to start to stop
the meeting at a certain point. I’m, like, hey, I really want
to share that, if we do this, or when we do this,
we’re going to be attracting a lot of attention. Like, I don’t know anybody
else who’s doing this. So we’ve got to remember
to attract attention to something meaningful, to
something profound and good. Not only because– there’s
going to be another flashy show and another flashy
show every year, and something new is
going to come out. And what people really remember
is when you touch their hearts. But really, it’s also
just because that’s what I wanted to do, and I
have deep motivation for that. And so I think, in order
to really understand the perseverance
and the will it took to go through the dark times
of creating this company, I think it’s important for me
to share with you, essentially, the moment that defined my life. So I was on a bus riding
into school one day. It was early in the morning. So I was rubbing my face
trying to wake myself up. And something reminded me that
I had made love that morning. And I got a warm,
comforted feeling, just remembering how beautiful
that was and looked out the window, and something
about the rocking of the bus and the swaying of the
giant Redwood trees that I was looking at up behind
the school I was pulling into, and all of a sudden, [SNAP]. I was the bus and the
people on the bus. I was the road. I was the earth. I was the trees in the earth
and the wind in the trees. And then, just as suddenly,
I was back in my body. And a number of
different perspectives arose from this experience
that I want to share. And that will help
create the backdrop of what it was that motivated
me to create this company. So number one, through
the experience, I realized that every
moment of a mortal life is tinged with just
a hint of fear, fear that something outside
of us is going to hurt us, or fear that something we have
is going to be taken away. But in that instant, I
realized that that fear is based on a certain
perspective, a perspective that is valid. We are, in a certain
sense, separate. But there’s another
perspective, equally as valid, that everything is
completely connected and part of one being. And so having attained
that perspective, all fear, in that moment,
just fell away, like, a curtain dropped. And what washed over
me was a radiant bliss. Not a bliss of, like,
a peace, an inner peace where I was like, OK,
it’s all complete. I’m not going to do anything. But I was penetrating and
being penetrated by every point in time and space. And it was just the
most exquisite feeling that, immediately, I wanted
to share with other people. And at the time, I felt
like maybe nobody had ever had this experience. It kind of rocked
my world, you know? And I was thinking,
wow, if anybody had ever had this experience, they
would just tell everybody. And all kinds of human culture
would be totally different because there’s no
reason to compete. Everybody would
be like, oh, wow. What’s it like to be you? And just kind of in this really
collaborative space around, well, you’re the
part of me that’s like that, and curious and
helpful and supportive. It just seemed to me like all
culture would be different. And so it became my life
mission to try and share this experience
with other people. And I think also it was the
sense that I felt fulfilled. And when we feel
fulfilled and we drink something
that’s really tasty, first thing we want to do is
see the look on somebody else’s face when they drink
it versus, when we’re in a state of
[? desperation, ?] maybe we might be, like, oh, how
can I hoard this for myself? But I felt totally fulfilled
and like I wanted to share it. And that was really
part of my experience. So I was in college, as
I mentioned, at the time. And so this perspective
totally changed who I was. And it led me to study
different kinds of things. At the time, I was
studying a class called environmental ethics with
a man called Bill [? Harder. ?] Thank you so much, Bill. And I really think
it’s the perspective that I gained in that class
that gave me the framework to have that experience
in the first place along with some other things
that I’ll mention later. But that was a class
in which we considered, what if everything– not just animals and humans,
but even plants and inanimate objects– should be considered
in our ethical– in our considerations ethically,
that they should factor? And this gave me the idea,
well, what if it’s all just part of one thing, and we
should just respect everything as a whole? And then I had this experience. And went on to take a class
called The Conscious Universe with Robert Astrue. God bless you, Robert. Thank you. And that class, I
studied quantum physics. And I found that, essentially,
the most advanced form of physical science that we have
has validated this perspective that there is really only
one thing– it’s energy. And you might say, well,
OK, energy and the space that holds it. But we’ve also discovered
that it’s kind of like, well, when you get more intense
space, it becomes energy. So it’s really kind of
just this one thing. And our most advanced
science validates this. And also, the fact that it is
our awareness or consciousness that really mediates
the manifestation of the physical out
of the potential, that there’s just a sea of
potential always going on. And how we direct our
attention actually determines how this
potential manifests as a physical certainty. I could go into all
kinds of different ways that that is demonstrated–
the Einstein-Podolosky-Rosen Experiment, the validation
of Max Planck’s unified field theory, the
Heisenberg uncertainty principle, Schrodinger’s
cat, as an analogy. All of these things point toward
a reality which certain mystics and shamans have talked
about for thousands of years, which is that
there is only one being. It’s us. And we all share,
at a certain level, back here somewhere, a
mind-heart-consciousness thing, and that’s what
bridges all of us. So there are lots of
places that I studied. The book “The Tao of Physics”
by the physicist Fritjof Capra is an amazing example of
where a scientist takes his perspective. Another one is “The Holographic
Universe” by Michael Talbot. There’s a ton of work
that’s been done since then. Those are just books that I
read at that time in college. Also, some modern people
who are taking this on– people with the HeartMath
Institute, Joe Dispenza. There’s all kinds
of people and places where this kind of
realization has just become a thing because this
was about 20 years ago. So the thing I want
to share out of this, and part of what
gave me the direction that I had with the
company, is that science is the systematic
inquiry of things. And people had been doing
that for thousands of years before the scientific method. And the scientific method is
an incredibly powerful thing which we can use to
discover our reality. But there are questions that
the scientific method is not designed to answer. Like, for example,
what is our purpose? There is no instrument that
we can use to determine that. But when we find an answer
for that for ourselves, it transforms our life. And it has great physical
impact on our life. And to seek out those
questions that are not answerable by the
scientific method and answer them for ourselves
is a very important thing. And so I’ve felt like,
with the company, I wanted to draw attention
to how science has validated these perspectives, but also how
we have another sense of truth, which is really important. Because, for example,
with your purpose, we get to discover
that we create that. We could just make it up. My purpose is the– and
then all of your attention and your direction all becomes
about creating and determining that thing. And I’ll share later what I
feel like is the most important basis for that decision. So I’ll just– the
last thing I’ll share on this subject
is that really, I feel like the mystery
of all mystery school that everybody kind of hears
tell of mystery schools, right, but what is the mystery? The mystery, to
me, is essentially that there is only one
being, and it’s us, and that this
mind-heart-consciousness thing is the thing that
bridges us all. And when we realize that and
learn to direct our attention and thus our energy in
certain intentional ways, there really is no limit
to what we can create. So what was the reason that we
chose for throwing lightning? I presented to
the group, I think it’s about quantum physics
and sharing this consciousness and also sharing the awareness
that Nikola Tesla had that technology is this
incredibly powerful tool that we can use to benefit
all humankind and, in fact, all of the world, not just
a certain class of people economically, but people
across all spectrums. We can use this technology. And that’s what
he wanted to do is make sure his
technologies benefited all humankind into perpetuity. And so we were
deciding, OK, this is a really good reason to do,
a why for what it is that we do. And I also found that a certain
class that I took in college called Living Myths, taught
by Rabbi Scharnberg– God bless you, thank
you, Rabbi Scharnberg– that showed me that there are
other kinds of technologies than those physical ones that we
use to create desired effects. There are actually
internal technologies. And if you look it up,
different kinds of dictionaries define technology differently. And it can even
be just techniques that we use that are
internal to ourselves that produce desired results. And so storytelling
is a technology which shapes awareness. And it’s how each succeeding
generation passes on to the following what it
is to be human and alive. Because when we use words
to communicate things to one another, you have to have
a reference point for that word to be meaningful to you. And so to children,
in particular, it’s, like, you
might tell them it’s really important to be humble. And if you learn to be
humble, then your life will go a lot better,
and you’ll be happier, and you’ll learn a lot. And they’re, like, what
does that even mean? But if you tell them
a story, hey, there was this child one time
that did this thing, and then this other
thing happened. That makes sense to them. And they’re like,
oh, yeah, right. I can feel that. So storytelling is a technology
that we decided to employ. And that’s part of the
performance art element of what it is that we do. And essentially, at the
heart of it, as I mentioned, it’s about sharing this
unity consciousness– is one term for it, this awareness
that all things are connected– and to try and encourage culture
to reflect that understanding because I feel like that is
the primary element that’s going into this
cultural paradigm shift that we’re experiencing now. So essentially, like I said,
we decided this is our purpose. And I shared all these
things about the stage and the performance. And you’ll, later
in the presentation, you’ll see a certain image
that was created just after that meeting with
the input of a number of other people including
Brett [? Hanning. ?] The image that was this project,
at the time, called Lighting Temple. And in essence, we
decided, this is the image. This is what it is that we’re
going to be creating together. So to go into a little bit of
how much faith I had to have or how much faith I
had to do the project, I put down, at the beginning of
the whole thing, my only $1,500 in the world to put a
deposit on this one venue so that we could have a
fundraiser with no guarantee whatsoever that we would make
any money with the fundraiser. Fortunately, we did make
it back and some more. And so I got that $1,500 back. I was very grateful to be able
to pay my rent that month. And so that’s one
of the instances that I was called to show
faith in the process. And there have been
many, many more where I just had to completely
let go of whether or not things were going to go the way
that I thought they should go and just have faith that
it was going to happen. And I think that faith is
another thing, for example, that science cannot measure
currently and that has a profound effect on the
physical elements in our lives. So on down the line, we
created a number of things. And we went to
Burning Man in 2009 and acted as the production
backbone of Red Lightning Village. And that was a
remarkable experience. And there were wind turbines,
and we had solar panels, and we had biodiesel
generators, and we had healing domes and tepees
and sacred spaces where people got to connect with the
wisdom of ancient cultures. And we focused on
the harmonizing of masculine and feminine
energies and understanding how our culture could be
advanced by understanding how ancient wisdom
and practices could be revived in modern times
while still using technology. And then, ultimately,
after Burning Man, we went to a Burning
Man Decompression party in Los Angeles, and we acted
as the main stage that year. And that was an
amazing production. And I’m really, really grateful
to have been part of all that. And so some of the amazing
people that helped make that happen, Amanda [? Rain ?] and
Devin [? Haas ?] and Cassandra [? Elwell, ?] at the time. She’s married now, so I’d say– I can’t remember her
last name at this moment. But that was
incredible experience. And so essentially,
the culmination of that time, for me, was
that an elder outside of one of our sacred spaces
who was wearing a white cloak to
signify their position was sitting, guarding the
space, making sure everybody was respectful of
the offering there. And as I passed him,
I said, thank you so much for helping in this way. Thank you. And he looked at me and
he said, it’s an honor. And I could tell
that he meant it. And I went around the
corner from where he was, and I dropped to my
knees and wept and wept. And it was at that
moment that I realized that I had done something
with my life where I helped create something
meaningful for someone. I had helped build a community. And that this person
really felt like he was doing something important. And I had helped do that. And it really, it
touched my heart. And things touch
me really deeply. I’m a person that just– really, I get
affected by things. And I want to share why I
look at life with such a profound, intense
view because I think it’ll help you understand how
it is that all of this happened. So I’m named after my
grandfather, my mother’s father. And his name was [? Winyui ?]
[? Michel ?] Tam. And I’m Michael Tam. And he was executed in
the Vietnam conflict. And they captured him,
and they tortured him, and then they took
him out to shoot him in front of a bunch of
people, including my mother. And they asked him if he wanted
a blindfold, and he refused. And then they asked him
if he had any last words. And he said, yes, I
have something to say. And he said– turned to
the people who were there, and he said, these people
who are going to kill me now, they’re going to
tell you that I’m a traitor to the
Vietnamese people. And I want you
all to know that I have never done anything but
good or tried to do anything but good for the
Vietnamese people. And these people are
going to tell you that the people I work for
are terrible, horrible people, and that they’re taking
advantage of everyone, and that the people
that they work for and that they’re representing
are fair and just and wonderful people, and
that when they take over, everything’s going to be great. And I want you all to know
that that’s not the truth, and that, more or less,
the people that they’re representing are very
similar to the people that I’m representing. And this is just
the way that it is. And I want everyone here to
know that before they kill me. I don’t want them to be able
to lie to you without me at least having said my piece. And then he turned to one of the
people who was going to do it, and he said, and I
want you to shoot me. I want you to do it. Because he knew
that guy from when they were in school together. And they were good shots. He knew that guy
was a good shot. And he knew he would
kill him like that. And the guy who
shot him was crying. So I’ve got to live
up to that name. I was named after that guy. And for me, it’s kind of a, wow. I learned this story
when my mom paid for me to have a trip
after being at college. And she paid for me to
have a trip to Vietnam to see my cousin get married. And this story was translated
by my cousin [? Houng– ?] thank you, [? Houng– ?]
by my great grand aunt. And so that has really colored
my perception of my reality and my view of who
I am in the world and how I need to show up. When the chips are down,
how do you show up? And that’s kind of
how– that’s my example. And yet, I want to share with
you all that that is also not sustainable. That’s taking life
very seriously. And if you take
it that seriously, and you try, and you try,
and you try really hard, you try as hard as
you possibly can. At a certain point, it just
doesn’t become worth it. It’s just not worth it anymore. And so there were a number
of times during this project I totally burned out. I just, I reached my edge
of what I could possibly do. And I thought about giving
up a number of times during this project. I thought about,
like, maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I just need to
go do something normal. And yet, what it was
that turned me around was that I had chosen
something to do that I loved. I loved to do it. I loved to dance with fire. I loved to dance
with electricity. I loved to perform,
to do the thing. And so what I realized
when I would burnout is, oh, it’s become
more about what I’m supposed to do in my own mind
than what it is I love to do. And so I realized what I
hope is the major takeaway from this talk, if any
of you were looking to take anything away from it. And it is that love is
this incredible energy that is within us. It’s part of nature because
we’re part of nature. The earth was a big ball
of magma at one point. And things just happened
and happened and happened. And then we came out. So we’re like,
actually, the earth, that gets to look back at itself
and all that stuff, right? And this energy that
is all around us– the solar energy, wind, tidal
power, geothermal energy– these are all natural forms
of energy that we call renewable because
when we tap them, it doesn’t make any less of it. We just draw it in. And love is like that. When we find what it
is that we really love, we can be exhausted
at the end of our day. And suddenly, our
friend tells us that our favorite
band is playing. And we leap with alacrity to our
bedrooms, throw on our clothes, and immediately, we’re
dancing all night. Now, where did that
energy come from? It came from love. We’re working on a passion
project for hours and hours and look up the clock and,
oh my god, how did it, it became a timeless
space I was in. It’s the love that we have. And so that really is
what helped create or was at the heart of creating
SkyFire Arts, is love. And that’s also, to some degree,
the essence of our purpose now. So after decompression in
2009, I faced the reality that everybody in the
project, it seemed, kind of wanted to go
back to their own lives. And so I was facing
this, like, oh, wow– we’ve got this image
that we all agreed that’s what we’re building. And I had all my friends, my DJ
friends, my fire dance friends, come out to the fundraisers,
perform, do their thing to raise money for this thing
that we actually never got to produce, at this point. We never did the lightning
dancing, at this point, or the lightning
throwing, this part of it. We put up a structure it
was very similar to that at Burning Man and at Decom. We had performance,
fire performances. We had a ritual sort of
mythological performance. We had done a number of things,
but we had not done this. And so I was facing,
wow, everybody wants to go back to their
lives, and we haven’t done this. So I share with everybody how I
felt. Like, oh, hey, [MUMBLES].. And so they were like–
because we had a council to lead the thing. It wasn’t a single leader. It was a council. And they all turned
to me, and were like, we totally understand
how you feel. If you want to continue with the
project, you have our blessing. And I was like, wow, OK. So essentially, I had
to face whether or not I thought that I
could be a leader. And I had to decide
what it is that we have to be in order to be a leader. What is being a leader? And so I essentially– it boiled down to, for me, being
able to listen to the people that you’re leading and respect
them and honor them and hear them and also to hear my own
thoughts and then, at the end, to take everything into
account and then just say, OK, we’re going to try this. Could totally be wrong, but
we’re going to try this. This is what we’re going to
try and to just have the faith to leap out there and say,
we’re going to try this, and to adjust if necessary
as things show up. And so when I
accepted, OK, I can do that, I can trust myself
enough to do that, I felt like I was OK to be a leader. So I said, yeah, sure. And I want to mention
some names right now of people that trusted me to
do that and that were really amazing and supported
me tremendously in this period of time that
was very up and down and left and right. Michelle LaVon, bless you. Thank you, sister, for being
with me through all the– I mean, she’s been with– since the beginning. Marc Rosenthal, Dustin
[? Angleskin, ?] Aaron [? Lan, ?] Devin [? Haas, ?]
as I mentioned earlier, Adam [? Steinberg, ?] Stephen
[? Hughes, ?] and Robert [? Byrd, ?] who is the
first person who said, do you have a video
of you performing? And after many years of fire
dancing, I was like, no, I don’t. You’re crazy. To do this more, you need video. And he helped me
create my first video. God bless you, Robert. So essentially, from there,
a lot of different things happened. So one of the crazy stories
that was part of the inception is that I got to play
an aquatic superhero at a certain point that was
called up to do an underarm deodorant commercial. And I was put in this
suit, and they did– they sealed me up in the suit. It was rubberized and– but I made a lot
of money from it. It was, like, I had to
be in this suit all day. I earned it, OK? But it was a good paycheck
and thousands of dollars. And so what happened is, right
after getting that paycheck– sorry, not getting the paycheck,
but getting the contract and having done the gig, I get
this call from Jeff Parisse. And he says, hey, we’ve got this
potential gig, and da-da-da-da. But we need a
high-voltage suit for it because the high voltage
suits I let go, and da-da-da. So it cost exactly the
amount that you just made from your gig,
exactly the amount. And I was thinking I was going
to have my teeth checked. And I was thinking I was
going to get my truck fixed. And I was going to use this
money for my life, you know? And then that
happened, and I just went, guess I’m getting
a high-voltage suit. [LAUGHS] And so that was a
remarkable experience. And then I didn’t
have the money yet, and we needed it
immediately, da-da-da. So I called up my dad–
god bless you, Dad– Eldridge Wood. I called him up and I said,
hey, Dad, I’ve got this job. I’ve got this check coming
in, but I don’t have it. And he’s like, OK, all right,
I’ll lend you the money. So he lent me the money. Did the gig, got the suit. And then when I went to pay him
back because the check came in. And dutifully, I
came to my father. I said, Dad, I’ve got
the money, da-da-da. He’s all, why don’t
you hang onto it? It’s all right. You hang on it. See what you can do with it. And so I used that to throw
the first public performance that we ever had on which I
lost a lot more money than he gave me. But anyway, that’s
a whole other story. But it was the first
place that we actually got media of us performing
live in front of an audience. And it was a really, really
exhilarating moment in my life. At that event, I
had this experience where I was going
to do something that was completely untried. I had a fire sword
soaked with fuel. I had shaken off
the excess fuel, make sure I didn’t spray it. And I was about to, without
it ever having been tested, go up on the lightning
throwing platform and light the fire sword
using the electricity. And my two mentors at the time,
Michelle LaVon and Ted Wood [INAUDIBLE]. They both came up to me. And they were my
mentors at the time. And they said to me, so this
has never been done before. We’ve never tried or
tested this before. And I’m like, no. And they’re like, you’re going
to go and do this live on stage for the first time
ever right now? And I’m like, yeah. But if it doesn’t work,
nobody’s going to know. It’ll just do– the
lightning will shoot, and the light won’t
light on fire. And I’ll just keep
doing the performance, and only we’ll know. And also, every single
other thing that we’ve done says that this should work. There’s no reason that this
shouldn’t– we built the sword in the way, da-da-da da-da-da. So I’m going to try it. And they were like,
OK, and it worked. And I lifted the sword up,
and the electricity went off, and I lit this fire. And you should have
heard the crowd. It was amazing. One of the, obviously, peak
experiences of my life. So I feel like, to
be a leader, requires a certain amount
of faith as well as a certain amount of respect. And I have been
very blessed to have the experiences that allowed me
to come to those realizations. And I’m very privileged to
stand before you to share them. So I feel like,
to some degree, I want to share at least a
couple more things about how it is that I got
to be this person, to be able to do this thing. Because it’s really– my
experiences are so valuable, I want to share
them with people. I feel like it might– like, if
I share, hey, and I did this, and I did that, and this
is how this struck me and that struck me. Then maybe I will have done
some good in the world, and I could be worthy of
this amazing gift that has been bestowed upon me. So when I was young, when
I was in middle school, I had moved around a
lot in Southeast Asia before coming to
the United States. And I reached a point in my
life where I felt no love. I did not belong anywhere,
because I was always the new kid everywhere I went. And whereas I had my parents,
and they did love me, their way of showing their
love for me did not reach me. I did not experience their love. Their love was always
out in front of me, just like a carrot, and
behind was the whip. So I really felt no
love from them, really. And my sister was– Carol Wood, bless you. My mom’s name is
Kim [? An ?] Wood. And she passed quite
a time ago, but I wanted to say her name here
because she would be very, very happy to see me here like this. So my sister is older than me. And I was always the annoying
little brother, you know? And so I felt some
love from her. She actually was–
stood up for me a number of times
when I was young. But I just, I felt
so alone, really. I felt super alone, so
alone and so disconnected that I began to consider doing
the most awful things, the most terrible, terrible things
I considered doing. And I’m very grateful
to have made it out of that point in my life
and to have turned it around because that was a very
dark road I was on. And I feel like that is
something that really gave me, it really gave me
a perspective that allowed me to have
compassion for even the most horrible
people, the people that do the darkest things. Because I know the
desperation out of which evil acts arise, how somebody
who is even essentially good or could be very, very
good could do really, really bad things. And that compassion and that
way of treating all people as just being people
has really been essential to creating
what it is that I have, with this amazing group
of artists and technicians, created. So that happened. And so I also studied Kung Fu. And I learned the
definition of Kung Fu from a couple of internal
masters, Tai Chi masters. And they shared that
Kung Fu, in our world, is directly associated
with martial arts. And it is, in the East
though, in China, it’s used as a more general
term, like the Kung Fu box, like a box of
miscellaneous stuff. And that to be a Kung
Fu master, actually, you could do almost any
trade or any practice. And that Kung Fu
mastery is, first, being able to perform a
challenging or difficult task, then being able,
with more mastery, to be able to perform a
difficult task with ease, and then, at the last,
being able to perform a difficult task with joy. Because after that, the rest
of your life is gravy, right? It’s just, it’s
icing on the cake. If you can do difficult
things and really accept them and really embrace them and
just be with them and do them, then the rest of
life becomes easy. So that really helped me, that
perspective really helped me. Also, I studied
ninjutsu for a time. And there, they had this strong
emphasis in that training with allowing and using
gravity, allowing– doing things effortlessly. And that really,
really helped me. And also the
speaker Alan Watts B the philosopher Alan
Watts has this whole piece around how going through life
can either be rowing or sailing and that, like in
ninjutsu, it’s far more efficient to have a
sail and have a rudder than it is to try and row
your way through life. And I feel like
love and connecting to what it is we love
and allowing that energy to rise within us and fuel
what it is that we’re doing, that is a way to
go through life. And prioritizing finding
what it is that you love, which is what no scientific
instrument can currently measure or what not,
necessarily, is a really important– it’s a really
important question to answer and affects our
life tremendously. I’ve also been very fortunate
to work with a number of plant medicines. I’ve been to
spiritual ceremonies where they use a number of
different kinds of medicines. And I feel that they have a very
powerful and tremendous impact on our awareness and
that they act, in a way, like a helicopter
ride to the place that I experienced on
the bus in college. But you can’t get out
of the helicopter. You go up there, you fly around. You can experience, in a certain
way, unity consciousness, or a way you can experience
this being everything. But then, at a certain point,
it’s the end of your ride, and you come back down, and you
still face the same mountain. And so my real emphasis is
actually integration practices, practices that allow us to
experience that and cultivate that experience without
having to use plant medicines, necessarily, though
I think that they’re very, very useful and profound and
appropriate for people under very specific
circumstances and at certain
times in their life. But I feel like,
again, like I said, that integration practices
are what I really emphasize and focus on. Because any experience
that you can have, any state of
consciousness that you can attain using
a plant medicine, you can also attain without it. It’s just a certain amount
of devotion and practice. So I want to go to the
magic part for a second. Because at the
very beginning, it was like where
science meets magic. Well, where’s the magic part? Well, I just want to describe
a couple of experiences that I’ve had really
fast, because I want to be respectful of the
time, that really, to me, are like pure magic, or what
people described as magic. And maybe they’re
just things that happen that we have as of yet to
develop scientific instruments to measure. But they’re very, very real. And they go beyond the physical
into the realm where we’re all connected by that thing I
was talking about– mind consciousness, whatever it is. So I was helping my
friend Elise move one day. And she has a black
cat named Bane. And suddenly, Bane
looks around the room and looks around the
room and looks around the room where, very clearly,
he’s seeing something that we are not. And so I said to myself, oh,
this is really interesting. What would happen if I
went into a meditation and changed my state of being? I wonder how this would affect
the thing in the room or Bane or whatever. So I went, and I sat
on her bed and started doing a meditation where– it’s
a concentration-type meditation where it was like, I bring
beauty and love and truth and health and
strength and vitality and gratitude and appreciation
and humility and grace. And I just started calling
in all the good things, all the beautiful, beautiful
things in this world. And that cat looked here, looked
there, and then looked right above my head, and then
looked down, down, down, and looked right in my
eyes for like two minutes that felt like 10. I’m adjusting. It’s like the fish thing, right,
like how big was the fish. Well, it felt like 10 minutes. It was two minutes, at least
just stared right in my eyes. And so I was like, oh, wow. Like, the part of me
that’s saying the thing is one part of me. Then there’s the
part of our minds that’s like the
antenna, that just receives thoughts that fly by. And then there’s the
part of you that’s observing those parts
of your mind, right? We all know, kind of, the
different– the internal voice that we have, the different
parts of our mind. And so around the end of
this two minutes, suddenly, on the radio part of
my mind, the thought of killing and eating
the cat comes through, just kind of breezes through. And I was like, whoa,
that’s kind of hairy, Well– and at this point, I was
very accustomed to having dark thoughts and
not doing them. So I thought to myself,
though, but what would happen right now if I
kept that thought in my mind? How would the cat respond? So I did. I grabbed that thought and
I brought it right back. And it took about two seconds– 1-1,000, 2-1,000. Cat leaps up behind a cardboard
box and then peaks out at me. And I’m like, oh my god, oh
my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Like, I’m totally getting goose
pimples even thinking about it. I’m like, what did I do? What am I going to do? I don’t want to
leave it like this. This is not the message that I
want to– this is not the thing that I want to create. So I looked at him again. And in my mind’s eye, I
envision myself in an alley, starving, petting the cat. And in my heart was, not
even if I was starving. Not even if I would
die would I hurt you. You have nothing
to fear from me. And the cat looked at me. And it came out a little
bit, came a little bit. And then I reached out and I
pet the cat, and it was over. The spell was done. And my friend Elise goes,
now what just happened? She’s like, that was so weird. He was looking
around– you know. So I had to explain it to her. Another really quick
story about a black cat. By the way, now I have
a black cat of my own. His name is Black Jack. Yes, I got to say his name. That’s funny. So essentially, a person I met
through a weird circumstance– I don’t have time
to tell it now. But he told me a story of
being in Thailand in the ’80s. And he was at this
public monument. And this black cat came
out from behind the statue and it looked at all
his friends in the eye. And it looked at them,
and then it ran off. And he was like– I’m totally getting
goose pimples. And he was looking
at his friend. He’s like, do you see that? I want to go. I think we should go. So they got up, and
they walked away, and they walked
around the corner. And, wham, a bomb went off. A terrorist had planted a bomb
at the monument and blew it up. It was in the news
and everything. And he said that he
felt, at that moment, what they always say about
your body being 70%, 80% water, because he felt the ripple. He felt the concussion
wave ripple his body. He fell to the ground. He was stunned for several
minutes, couldn’t get up. When he did get up, he
went around the corner. And the place where he and his
friends were was annihilated. Concrete and steel had
just wiped it all out. And he would’ve totally
died if he hadn’t listened to that black cat. So maybe they just
get a bad rap. They’re just warning us. They’re like, hey, something’s
going to go down, OK? I’m here to tell you. So since then I’ve– one of the most intense
things that I’ve done is, I went to fire walker
instructor training. And I learned to
walk on coals that are 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit
without being burned and how to push a five-inch
sewing needle through my hand without bleeding. And what I learned there
was that, essentially, almost all of what
it is that keeps us from doing the things that
we want to do in life, almost all of it is here. Some people would
say it’s all here. Anything that you really want
to do, that you want to do, not that somebody else has
convinced you is valuable, something that you really, in
your own heart, want to do, we can do it. The only things that are keeping
us from it are in our mind, and also that we
are 100% responsible for our own happiness and that
the happiness that we tend to think is out there and
after we’re going to get this or after we’re going to do that,
we can bring that right here. And when we bring
that right here, and we’re happy with
the focus of our minds– we have the power to do this– when you do that,
then what you want, all that stuff actually
is really a lot closer and comes to you more easily. So I wanted to mention a couple
of people, at this point. My friend Troy G.
Helped Me throw my very first talent-sharing,
future-creating birthday party, in which we painted or drew what
we wanted to see in the future, and we burned it at the
beach, at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles here. And thank you, Christopher
[? Olrick, ?] for providing us those canvasses and
helping me do that too. He also helped me get this– Troy G. also helped
me get this talk. So I wanted to give a
shout out to Troy G. And also to my wife Anja. She has been a tremendous
support and a love throughout all of this. And I am super grateful
for her and everything that she has done. Thank you, my love. So what’s it all
about at this point? I’ve mentioned, more or
less, everything that it is. We create these
spectacular performances in order to draw attention
to renewable energy. And the external world,
the natural world outside of ourselves, or
the individual that we are– this means solar, wind,
tidal, and geothermal power. In a cultural sense, we’re
trying to draw attention to that with our work. But then, also, we’re
trying to draw attention to the natural energy within us
that is tappable and renewable. It doesn’t deplete
by taking of it. If anything, it grows. And so this is at the
heart of our project. And as I mentioned,
there’s a whole dimension of what’s going on in
culture right now because of the discoveries
in quantum physics where many, many more
people are recognizing that this perspective
of unity or whatnot, of the awareness of our
oneness has been validated and that there is a huge
paradigm shift where a lot of people are
accepting this reality and beginning to act
as if that is the case. And that is, essentially, what
is at the heart of our company, is that we want to
share that reality. And also, I think that that’s
really all I need to say. I’ve already more or
less said everything that I need to say about
why it is that we’re doing what it is that we’re doing. And so where are we at this
point, and where are we going? So we have an amazing
team of people. Johanna Hoffman, thank
you so much for everything that you do to help us
keep things moving forward. And we have a clear vision. We have a little nest egg. We have an amazing
network of people. And we’re planning an Indiegogo
crowdfunding campaign in which we essentially find sponsorship
for the SkyFire Arts Spirit of Tesla Tour, where we go
around and not only have a performance–
which, as I mentioned, through the storytelling
technology– communicate this awareness
of our interconnection with all things,
but also encourage people to tell a
story of, essentially, where we’re at in culture right
now and how we make it out. Like, what is the story of
how we transform this culture to be more in
harmony with nature and maintain a beautiful
world for the succeeding generations to experience. And essentially, let’s see– I think that that’s really all– I mean, I’ve got a lot
more that I could say, but I’m just feeling
at this moment that I’m pretty complete. So I’ll just leave you with
the one share that I have, which is kind of a concise
way of saying a lot of things that I’ve already said, which
is that I really believe that, when we don’t know what
to do, if we can just remember that love conquers
all– so let love rule. Just do whatever love
would do in that moment or what our love
can guide us to do. And that could mean
a lot of things. But I don’t have time to go
into any of that right now. So I want to give you,
before I depart here– thank you all so much
for your patience and for your attention. I’m very, very grateful
to stand before you. It’s the realization of
one of my wildest dreams to actually be here
speaking to you. So I want to extend my
gratitude, my appreciation most sincerely to all of you. And I want to leave
you with a bit of what SkyFire Arts feels like. Because you haven’t seen
any of the performance except for the video. And really, videos don’t
quite do what we do justice. I’m going to share
with you a piece that was the piece that sort
of put me in the position to do all of this. Jeff Parisse, at a certain
point, asked me, he’s like, do you know why I’m
letting you do this, why you’re the guy that I– because there’s a lot of people. And everybody asked me, hey,
can I dance with it– whatever. You want to know
why you’re the guy? I’m like, yeah, sure, tell me. He’s like, you’re the only fire
dancer that ever made me think. I did a performance at
a place called Laserium. And I shared the piece
that I’m about to share with you with him. And I hope he doesn’t
mind me sharing this, but, in essence, he
told me that he still thinks about it sometimes. And he’ll go to
respond to people, and he’ll think
about what I said, and then he’ll respond
to them differently. And I love that. I just– that’s
another thing that I love is, at the end
of a performance, if somebody says to me that
anything that I did or said did anything for them
or did good for them, I just feel a tremendous
sense of love and completeness like I did when that elder
told me what he told me about his experience. So I’ll share that
piece with you now. We dance to summon courage,
not only the courage it takes to face
physical dangers, but the courage we need to
say difficult things to people in the moment of truth. And we can learn to see
even the most irritating people as merely
reflections of ourselves in our own moments
of confusion, we can overcome any temptation
to judgment or sarcasm and afford them the sincerity
that we might hope to receive. In this way, we can transform
situations of conflict into opportunities for growth
and communion, transcending fear and inspiring love. Music, please. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] Thank you all so
very much for coming.


  1. SkyFire Arts is an inspirational and empowering company. Michael, thank you for sharing and thanks to Google for featuring visionaries.

  2. So much evil. So much beautiful light to combat it. With love, and forgiveness. The greatest energy of all time.

    Thank you for sharing.


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