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Aaron Darko, Physical Trainer, and I Talk about Personal Growth and Development


Aaron Darko and Eric Arnow in conversation

Recently, I was having lunch with Aaron Darko. In the video, we talk about inspiration and continuous positive transformation.  Aaron is a friend of mine, and you might say, he is my first personal trainer. Back in March of 2016, I started working out.

I had injured my knee again when a motorcycle ran right into my right knee, the same one I had injured in 1984 and again in 2014. Both those injuries required surgery. While the motorcycle accident didn’t require surgery, it did reduce the already small amount of cartilage in my knee. I was on crutches for 3 weeks.


I knew that if I was to save my knee from knee replacement, that keeping the joint strong was critical. I was going to a gym at the time and used a trainer for 3 months to get the hang of working out in a gym. While there, I met this guy, Jacob Hiller who looked like a Mr. Universe.

Jacob trains people to jump high, as in basketball dunkers. He can jump vertically 44 inches!  Never saw such build before. He’d strap a 50 pound weight against his waist and do pullups!  Anyway, he couldn’t train me and was going away in a week anyway, so he introduced me to Aaron, whom he had also trained.

Aaron had trained for years with some some success, and then Jacob showed him his system. And gave Aaron amazing results. Now Aaron trains people himself as a personal trainer. We trained for two weeks, and then he also had to leave, however, we’ve remained in touch and are good friends

. So recently he came back into Chiang Mai, where I live and we got together for lunch. Had a great time and he had talked about my doing a video with me.

Personal Growth and Inspiration

Chinese monk doing Tai Qi Stretch

A Chinese Monk Practicing a Very Deep Tai Qi Stretch

As for me, I don’t think of myself as anything special. Probably a result of my upbringing as well as having trained for years as a Zen monk and continuing on as a Zen student.

Rather than being a trendy term, Zen has an interesting history as a word. You see, Zen is the Japanese pronunciation of a Chinese Word, Chan. However, Chan as a practice, is actually an import from India, and the Indian word, Dhyana, means meditation.

So Zen is meditation. And what is meditation, but focus, or concentration. Also mixed in with awareness, or mindfulness, another word that has become popular in the West, but is actually an import from Asia.

So one of the best things you can do, if you have feelings of unease, stress, dissatisfaction, and so on, is to take a time out, and meditate. Usually, meditation involves paying attention to your breathing, but it can make use of various techniques.

Meditation, Mindfulness and Transformation

Here is a kind of weird phenomenon that shows the usefulness of meditation and self observation. In the science of physics, scientists noticed a quite interesting thing. They found that when any particular thing is observed, it automatically changes!

So, if you observe a particular habit you have, you may notice that at observation, you might think, “hmmm…maybe I could do that better…or maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.” That is the key to Continuous Positive Transformation. The opposite is true.

I find that people who have not developed that habit of watching themselves, generally blame situations outside themselves for their condition. And so they can’t change themselves for the better.

A Common Factor in Human Culture

If you look at the real heroes of just about any religion or for that matter social movement, you’ll see some individual, who observed something wrong, injustice, suffering, unsatisfactoriness in some way. And as a first step, went through a period of self examination and transformation.

Joseph Campbell discusses this at length in his masterful book, Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
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The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Campbell, Joseph (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 07/28/2008 (Publication Date) - New World Library (Publisher)

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Point being, we continually do our best and keep working on ourselves. While most religions talk about this, most people don’t think that way. You know, Couch Potatoes, as a good example. People don’t question and don’t try hard to improve themselves, do what they’re told, and get fatter and fatter, sicker and sicker, and allow themselves to be led by the nose. Often with disastrous results for themselves and indeed for their societies.

Another Common Factor in Human Societies

No matter where you look in religions and any ethical system, we see that there is a concept of right and wrong, and of what works and what doesn’t. So the ideas of killing, stealing, lying, promiscuity and gross self indulgence especially in terms of drunkenness or other forms of extreme escapism are common.

People can have various beliefs about the Nature of God, or even whether God exists or Not, but it’s generally accepted that it’s better to get along, than to be at each other’s throats (the opposite of this is considered ‘sinful’, unwholesome, or even psychopathological.

When people do harmful things, usually, over time, they’ll come back to themselves and feel regret. Why? Because Kindness, Goodness and Wisdom are hardwired into the human brain and spirit.

The Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Well, you might say, “Look, I gotta get food on the table, feed my family, I got no time for this Pop Psychology stuff. And you may well be right. You can’t improve yourself on the inside mentally, if you’re starving, cold and sick. So you do need to take care of first things first.

As a famous Zen Master said, “Cleaning First, Meditation Second”. Here is an interesting article that talks about this hierarchy of needs. It’s not long but will give you a bit more background on what we’re talking about here.



As people individually and as a species, we really have to go beyond this. Not just us, but the whole planet is at stake. So Aaron suggested I speak spontaneously some inspirational word to do your best and engage in  “Continuous Positive Transformation”.

One of my first teachers told us that when we practice personal development and continuous positive transformation, we are doing it not just for own selfish purposes. Instead, we realize that “No Man Is an Island”, as the English poet wrote. As we improve, so the world improves.

Become your own hero!