Ilchi Lee's life began in a small village near Cheonan, South Korea in 1950, the first year of the Korean War. Many of the experiences he had as a boy formed the basis of his life’s work. Even then, Ilchi questioned the nature of life and death, especially after a friend of his drowned as they swam together. He also had trouble fitting into the standard education system, because he had difficulty paying attention and sitting still.
Martial arts was where he thrived, finding success in Taekwondo and Hapkido, which taught him confidence, discipline, and the connection between mind and body. Beginning classes in middle school, he earned black belts in both disciplines. Later, Ilchi Lee ran a martial arts studio in his early years of college. Even as a young boy without any training, however, Ilchi Lee had spontaneous experiences of the life energy he later learned to control and that underlies his methods.
After graduating from high school and failing the national college entrance exam three times, Ilchi’s frustrations came to a head and he questioned his value. He felt like the trash that people in his village threw away over the side of a local bridge. Looking at this trash one day, he realized that what seemed useless could become useful with some effort and change. With the determination to change his own life, Ilchi cleaned up the trash by carrying it away up a mountain and burying it in the ground to fertilize the soil. Later, he planted pumpkins there and shared them with his neighbors.
Seeing something he decided on and produced on his own helping others, Ilchi Lee could feel his innate value and applied the same principle and effort to passing the college entrance exam. He eventually graduated from Danguk University with a Bachelor's degree in Clinical Pathology.
Ilchi then opened a clinical pathology laboratory while training in the martial art Taekwondo and other mind-body practices. He soon developed an interest in the effect of certain postures and movements on the body and mind. He married, had two sons, and lived a simple life.
However, the questions that had plagued him in his youth continued to slip into the busyness of his daily life. What is the true meaning of existence, he wondered. Is this all there is to life? Dissatisfied with intellectual answers, he began to actively searching for ways to quench the thirst to know himself. One day he experienced a lightning-like energy explosion in his body at a used bookstore and found himself waking up early every morning to meditate on a nearby mountain. His morning training continued for several months and brought him many mysterious experiences, but he still couldn't discover who he was. Finally, he decided he would train continuously until he found the answers he sought.
In the summer of 1980, at the age of thirty, Ilchi went up Moak Mountain determined not to eat or sleep while he meditated on his questions. After twenty-one days of this intense fasting and meditation, he experienced excruciating pain in his head. All of his efforts to relieve the pain were in vain and he thought he was going to die. Then, in one moment, he realized that the thing that was in pain was not him, but merely his body. The moment he was able to come out of his suffering body, he heard an explosion in his head like a cannon going off. It became really bright in front of him, and everything he had ever learned lined up neatly in his consciousness. Then a question came to him: "Who am I?" And a reply immediately flowed out of his mouth: "I am cosmic energy and cosmic mind." He came to a deep knowing of oneness with all things and that he, and all human beings, wield the creative power of cosmic energy and cosmic mind.
Ilchi wondered what he should do with this enlightenment. He continued to meditate on the mountain until he had a vision of two possible futures for the earth. In one future, he saw destruction and chaos, while in the other, he saw peace and harmony for both people and the planet. He also realized that which future actually occurred depended on the actions of human beings. At that moment, Ilchi Lee chose the positive future. Since then, he has dedicated his life to creating this vision by helping people awaken to the truths he awakened to and spreading a new spiritual cultural movement throughout the world.
His commitment is represented in his name. Born Seungheun Lee, he changed his name to Ilchi after his enlightenment. The Chinese character for “Il (一)” means “one” and that of “chi (指)” means “finger.” “Ilchi” refers to “pointing the Way.” “The Way,” referred to as the “Tao,” is the essence of Oneness, the natural order of existence he awakened to. Ilchi is someone who lives his life showing the path to oneness with the cosmos, the earth, and all creation.
Once Ilchi Lee came down from Moak Mountain and returned to his family, he saw that nothing had actually changed. The world still went on as before. He thought that if he could not help other people with his awakening, then it would all remain as beautiful ideas in his mind; it would not be true enlightenment.
To communicate what he’d realized, Ilchi Lee began teaching mind-body-energy exercises based on the millennia-old Korean practice of Sundo. Without missing a day, every morning at dawn, Ilchi would go to nearby Choonghyun Tower Park in Anyang. He began with one lone stroke patient, but his classes soon grew to large groups of people. Five years later, in 1985, he rented a space in Seoul and opened his first training center.
In the years since then, Ilchi Lee has continuously developed and refined the exercises he teaches. He grew to understand the importance of the brain, which manages our body and houses our consciousness. He came to the realization that the brain is not merely an organ for scientists and doctors to comprehend. It is the most intimate, personal space, one that you can engage at every moment of your life. With this perception and understanding, he integrated the results of neuroscientific research into the ancient mind-body techniques he was teaching.
Over time, Ilchi developed many ways to go beyond the mind’s conscious thoughts to access and manage every function of the brain. He organized the hundreds of meditative and brain-enhancing exercises he created into a system of five steps. This system is now known as Brain Education. Beyond exercises, Brain Education offers wisdom for healthy living and the successful development of children and adults.
After establishing his first center in Seoul, Ilchi Lee did everything he could to bring Brain Education to the world. He gave lectures in each region of South Korea and put all of his efforts into cultivating advanced students who could teach his methods. He also gave private sessions to well-known businessmen, politicians, and artists, including the CEOs of leading corporations like Hyundai and SK. Through all of these activities and the center’s classes, Ilchi was able to open fifty centers in ten years.
Throughout that time and until this day, thousands of students of the practice have freely taught in public parks and community locations. This movement to provide healthy mind-body exercise for all developed into the Koohak Qigong Association, which became a member of the Korea Council of Sport for All and was later named an official member organization of the Korean Olympic Committee in December 2015.. In all, there are about 5,000 Kookhak Qigong outreach class locations in Korea.
Ilchi’s vision was too large to remain in South Korea, however. In 1991, the first center opened in the United States in Philadelphia. Then in 1995, Ilchi gave management of the centers in Korea to his students and went to the United States himself. He explored the country, driving across the entire continental U.S., to find a place where Brain Education could plant roots.
While in Los Angeles, he saw a newspaper showing the red rock vistas of Sedona, Arizona, and intuitively felt that this was the place he had been looking for. He drove there and explored all of its nooks and crannies. He found it was a land where the energy of the earth was strong and where people could more easily connect with their inner selves to discover their true power and potential. Ilchi began meditation tours there that helped people awaken to oneness and become passionate about creating a positive future for the earth.
Eventually, Ilchi and his students acquired an existing retreat center on 163 acres of land just outside of Sedona in the Coconino National Forest. There now sits Sedona Mago Retreat, a center for spiritual awakening where people from around the world go for reflection, rebirth, and natural healing. It is run by the non-profit Tao Fellowship and currently welcomes thousands visitors a year from around the world.
Through Ilchi Lee’s efforts in Sedona and the dedication of his students, the number of centers in the United States were able to expand to over 100 of what are now called Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi centers. The instructors that grew out of the centers in South Korea and the United States have taken Body & Brain Yoga to Japan, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and at one point, Latin America and South Africa. There are now over 1,000 student-owned and managed training centers worldwide that teach Ilchi Lee’s Brain Education methods.
Ilchi Lee has transferred the global hub of his activities to the north island of New Zealand, where he is in the process of building an Earth Village. On 385 acres of forested land, a community of people will come for extended periods to learn Brain Education and how to live mindfully in harmony with nature and their true inner nature. Meditation tours are already being conducted that introduce visitors to the power of the pristine nature of New Zealand to quickly open their hearts and minds to their full potential.
In the midst of opening centers and retreats, Ilchi Lee achieved his dream of making Brain Education an academic discipline. It has been recognized by the South Korean government and is the basis of the curricula of the schools Ilchi Lee has established: the undergraduate Global Cyber University, the graduate University of Brain Education, and the Benjamin School for Character Education, a gap year program for high school students.
Besides being taught in schools founded by Ilchi Lee, Brain Education is being used in public schools in South Korea, the United States, El Salvador, and Liberia. In the United States, Brain Power Wellness has brought Brain Education to 400 schools, 15,000 teachers, and 250,000 students, especially in New York City and the state of New Mexico.
Outside of the United States and South Korea, a non-profit Ilchi Lee founded, the IBREA Foundation, which has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), has worked to apply Brain Education to the UN goals of development and peace. Its activities in El Salvador, Liberia, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone, India, and the Philippines, as well as Harlem, New York and Hawaii, have helped children in difficult situations release their trauma, strengthen their confidence and motivation, build harmonious relationships, and improve their academic performance. This also created safer, more peaceful, and more hopeful communities.
On September 12, 2018, Ilchi Lee, as president of IBREA Foundation, received the José Simeón Cañas National Award by President Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador for creating cultures of peace inside schools through Brain Education. At the time, Brain Education had been implemented in 1,340, or approximately 25 percent, of all public schools in the country.
Ilchi Lee's relationship with the United Nations began in August 2000, when he stood as a guest speaker in the main hall of the United Nations building in New York City during the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. There he recited the Prayer of Peace he had authored for the occasion. He promised himself that the prayer would not end as mere words. Ilchi vowed to return to the UN someday with practical means of achieving world peace.
In 2001, he hosted the New Millennium World Peace Humanity Conference in Seoul, South Korea, an event that gathered around 12,000 people from around the world to find workable means of fostering a more peaceful, sustainable global culture. Speakers at the event included former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, environmental activist Maurice Strong, and renowned journalist Seymour Topping.
The practical means of achieving peace Ilchi Lee finally offered to the UN was Brain Education. In June 2008, Ilchi once again returned to the UN headquarters in New York City, this time not as a guest, but as the host of the Fourth International Brain Education Conference. Several distinguished neuroscientists spoke at the conference such as Antonio Damasio, M.D., Ph.D and Elkhonon Goldberg, Ph.D., as well as several other guests. This event also served as the inauguration of the International Brain Education Association, which later became the IBREA Foundation.
Ilchi Lee’s work with the UN, his research and years of teaching, and his desire to create a spiritual cultural movement has culminated in the Earth Citizen Movement, which promotes the philosophy and lifestyle of Earth Citizenship. It is this philosophy that Ilchi believes will grow and flower the vision of the earth he had long ago.
The Earth Citizen Movement aims to gather 100 million Earth Citizens. An Earth Citizen is someone who agrees that the earth is our home without which we would not exist, that we should take care of our home and manage its resources sustainably for the sake of all life, and that we should put our identity as citizens of the planet Earth before any other identity or affiliation.
In 2013, Ilchi founded the non-profit Earth Citizens Organization (ECO) to spearhead the Earth Citizen Movement. ECO uses Brain Education to develop leaders who create healthier communities for a more sustainable world. Its main training center in the United States, the ECO Learning Center, opened in Cottonwood, Arizona in 2016, and its main global training center will be at the Earth Village in New Zealand. ECO leaders around the world share Earth Citizenship in outreach classes, running community projects, and helping people live mindfully.
From the time he opened his first training center in Seoul, Ilchi Lee wanted to communicate his philosophy, methods, and vision through the written word. Beginning with Dahnhak: Its Principles and Training Methods in 1985, Ilchi Lee has published over 40 books that have been translated into fifteen different languages. The Call of Sedona: Journey of the Heart, a memoir-style meditation guide, made it to The New York Times, The Washington Post, IndieBound, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today bestseller lists.
Lee’s other notable books combine his passion for the brain and for building a better future for all. Books such as Brain Wave Vibration: Getting Back into the Rhythm of a Happy, Healthy Life, In Full Bloom: A Brain Education Guide for Successful Aging (with Jessie Jones, Ph.D.), The Power Brain: Five Steps to Upgrading Your Brain Operating System, Healing Society: A Prescription for Global Enlightenment, Earth Citizen: Recovering Our Humanity, and Living Tao: Timeless Principles for Everyday Enlightenment have won a number of book awards and continue to inspire readers around the world.
Ilchi Lee’s most recent book and focus, I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation, aims to inspire people to reach their full potential by calling on them to make their own vision and using it as the basis for a long, healthy life that benefits not only themselves, but their families, communities, and the earth. It shares his determination to complete the vision of the future he saw on Moak Mountain by living as long as humanly possible and shares his realization that passion, health, growth, and value do not end at sixty, or even eighty. He emphasizes that this is possible through small, daily actions people can begin today and a detailed plan for a 120-year life.
Books are not the only medium through which Ilchi Lee communicates. He has produced two films titled CHANGE: The LifeParticle Effect and CHANGE: The Brain and Divinity. These documentaries provide strong and practical Brain Education tools for creating the changes you want to see in your life and the world. They explore quantum physics concepts and offer hope that we can utilize the vast potential for growth and change that lies within our brains. Ilchi Lee’s first film, CHANGE: The LifeParticle Effect, won accolades at five film festivals around the world.
In addition to films, Ilchi Lee concentrates his online activities in the United States at ChangeYourEnergy.com. With the reach and versatility of the internet, he is able to share the principles and techniques he’s developed more easily with people all over the world. The website hosts online courses, webinars, articles, personal consultations, and products that empower users to change their lives and to live as Earth Citizens.
Ilchi’s latest project is Brain Education TV, an online channel that brings Brain Education exercises and concepts to the future leaders of the twenty-first century through podcasts and more. The channel features inspiring stories; engaging discussions on energy, longevity, and spirituality; and how-tos on Ilchi Lee’s brain training techniques.
Keeping his vision in mind, Ilchi Lee continues to discover and share simpler ways of managing the health of our body, mind, and spirit; the health of our communities; and the health of the earth by making the most of our brain.