I was born in 1950 in Redondo Beach, California and lived my boyhood on the beaches of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. As an adult, I changed course and became an explorer of both the inner and outer worlds of my life. I traveled to Tibet, India, Nepal, China, and other Asian countries including Vietnam and Thailand. I also have gone to almost every state in the United States, most of Western Europe, four Canadian Provinces, and six states in Mexico. These travels underscored my quest to learn how the people, cultures, and belief structures in these places are both different and the same as my own. Never did I think that as a six-year-old boy standing on the sand looking out at the Pacific Ocean that I would be trekking to so many lands beyond that horizon.
Along the way, I discovered that this external travel is only an appetizer to life-changing explorations of the inner-self. Through internal inquiry and meditation, I learned that the more profound adventure is inside the human heart and mind. And by opening my mind, I came to understand the mind, heart, and spirit of others better.
From the time I was a boy, I suffered an ongoing feeling of being lost. I could not reconcile the yearnings of my heart and body with how my upbringing required me to act, let alone the heartless and greed of humanity in general.
I am a member of the post-WWII baby boom generation. I entered my teens ripe for the changes that seemed to be gathering speed as America moved into the early-mid 1960s. From the beginning of the ‘60s through 1967 massive changes prevailed in our country. Some of these changes included civil rights demonstrations in the South, the Civil Rights Act of 1960, and the creation of the Peace Corps by John F. Kennedy. We had the Cuban Missile Crisis scaring the world, and we watched in wonder as men were launched into space. Martin Luther King gave his electrifying “I Have A Dream” speech, JFK was assassinated, the Vietnam War escalated out of control, and 74 million people watched the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” program.
In March of 1965, the U.S. began bombing North Vietnam with their “Operation Rolling Thunder” campaign. During that year, more than 50 protests happened across the United States where hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against the war. Two such protests were “Women Strike for Peace” (50,000 people in 60 cities) and Vietnam Day Committee (35,000 people in Berkeley, CA). On October 6, 1966, the first Human Be-In was held in San Francisco attended by 20,000 – 30,000 people. The key objectives of the “Be-In” were personal empowerment, ecology, higher consciousness, and political decentralization. How was all this turmoil affecting me? I was flunking out of high school, working at a fast food restaurant, and in my spare time drowning my depression and fear of fitting in; with my peers, girls, and this changing society, with drugs and alcohol.
In 1967, the war had escalated, and there were 486,000 troops in Vietnam, while at home the “Summer of Love” happened in San Francisco, and love-ins were cropping up everywhere. However, despite these love-ins, of the 15,000 soldiers already killed in Vietnam, 60% of them died in 1967. Our country was conflicted with itself, just as I was with myself.
1967 also happened to be the year I had my first meditation experience at a love-in at Irvine Park in Southern California. While I’d read about meditation and enlightenment in Siddhartha, it was here, at this Love-in, where my first experience of meditation, spirituality, social consciousness, and freedom took root.
But at the age of nineteen, I became a Sergeant and section chief of a 105mm howitzer artillery unit and thrown into the fire of the Vietnam War. Even before I set foot in that faraway land, our country’s mission was drilled into me: Kill the enemy. Within days of being “in country,” I fulfilled the purpose. By the first week, I could count these fatal encounters: the death of a man at the end of my gun barrel, the death of unseen others by my comrades, the death of many from the artillery I commanded, the death of a friend, and the death of my innocence.
Even as I attempted to douse the fires of the Vietnamese war around me with drugs, haunting questions were burning from within. I’d grown up in a very stoic and pragmatic atmosphere, with parents who taught me to value self-sufficiency, a strong work ethic, good manners, and a limited display of emotion. From the time I was quite young, I’d experienced an ongoing conflict between what my heart and body yearned to feel and how I’d been taught to act. Having killed added the burden of another human being’s death my conscience.
Returning from the war, I married and adopted a remarkable daughter. With my war experiences behind me, I re-embarked on my spiritual quest, seeking guidance from a range of different teachers and practices. The problem was that the demands of society, my own new family, and self-created expectations of a career drew me into the “outer” world, where I allowed material desires to strengthen their grip on me, hoping that they would fill the emptiness in my heart, mind, and spirit.
Finally, after a dangerous flirtation with death in my late thirties, I found my way back to my spiritual path, and this time I did not waver. The Buddha said, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can, no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
Dedicating myself to these words, this is what I did. Drawing on the wisdom of many traditions, I charted my own course to personal freedom.
My first book Falling into Freedom (published through Amazon on Thanksgiving Day 2018) tells the story of my flirtation with death and of, at last, finding five principles that have become the basis of my inner freedom. My second book, Long Walk Home (currently being written), will continue my story and focus on how my five principles have enabled me to transcend my old demons and to live my truth.