My teaching and writings are dedicated to sharing what I’ve learned over my 54-year journey through eastern and western contemplative traditions. Although each tradition develops transparency to Divine Presence in its own unique way, having discovered how helpful these traditions are to each other, I teach them integrally.
Only when we offer our lives and our spiritual practices to our highest understanding of the Divine can we expect the blessings of that Reality. This act of self-consecration is the foundation of any successful practice. Therefore, the secret to any form of contemplative practice, regardless of the tradition, is this fundamental inner posture of devotion. This is my overarching paradigm, and indeed the foundational paradigm of all contemplative traditions. This is where I begin with my students. Without the consecration of our hearts and of our lives, practices become nothing more than strategies of attention that will inevitably collapse again and again back down the gravity well of our egoity.
“Only the path of devotion contains from the beginning, something in itself of the Final Truth.”–Narada Bhakti Sutras
Therefore, every system that I teach is a way of giving ourselves to a deeper reality that transcends our egoity. We will begin with learning to be present, humbly in our hearts, and offering ourselves, our lives and our practices to the Divine. From there we ease gently into the tantric practices of central channel yoga with its various aspects of pranayama, bija-mantra and concentration. When I feel my students have adequate grounding, they can, if they wish, move on to the traditional wisdom practices of Theravada or classical Vedanta. The order of teaching is: orienting the heart and mind to holy grace, building and purifying the subtle body, the development of insight wisdom. These are not consecutive steps that leave the previous experiences behind. They are more like consecutive circles where each includes and integrates what has gone before.
These practices represent long arcs of development, not measured in weeks or months, but in years. For a student of average potential, who attends at least one ten-day retreat annually, and who engages in daily practice for at least 45 minutes a day on average, it usually takes about three years to develop a practice that has real depth. Think of how long it takes to become basically fluent in a new language, or to learn a new musical instrument. You would not expect to have a basic level of mastery in less than three years, and then only with substantial daily practice. Teacher level mastery takes six to nine years on average. The good news is that with each practice we develop well, the next one will be easier. This is because within the first contemplative discipline we acquire, we must also acquire the art of learning how to learn in this numinous sphere of experience.
Being 65 years old with some health problems, my years in this world will not be many more. For this reason, I feel that it would be irresponsible to work with students unwilling to give this level of commitment.
My Approach to Teaching
I am not a guru. Pedestals are lonely places and putting someone on a pedestal is not a kindness. I refuse to be disallowed my own humanity. I try my best to maintain authentic relationships with my students, but most especially to let them know that I really care. I also guide their practice closely. This is to provide the needed encouragement, and to monitor them for safety and optimal development.
The work of establishing a contemplative life style is not a hobby. It begins as a labor of love and evolves into a love affair with the Divine. To support and catalyze this process in another person is a weighty moral responsibility. In particular, this responsibility requires adequate availability of the teacher for one-on-one time with the student, as well as students willing to show up in a disciplined manner, both in their practices and for regular meetings with their teacher.
During intensive retreat practice, close monitoring by the teacher is necessary for the student’s optimal development and safety. For this reason, during retreats, I meet one-on-one with every student, every day. In practical terms this means that intensive retreats must remain intimate gatherings of no more than ten people. Similarly, for proper guidance and support in daily practice, monthly meetings are the necessary minimum. To this I add occasional online group discussions so we can spend time together as a sangha.
My approach to training in practices and in presenting the traditions I teach is conservative. Some might think that because I guide students a across a number of traditions usually seen as disparate, that I might blur boundaries or modify teachings in some way. This is not true. I believe in firmly maintaining each contemplative methodology in its pristine and traditional presentation. Communication between these contemplative traditions happens within the student’s direct life and experience.
To be able to care for my students properly and to maintain the quality of my teaching, I limit the number of my students to what I can realistically handle in my life. I hope to be able to increase my student enrollment when I can afford to retire from my nursing career. In the interim, I do rely on my students for a measure of support adequate to permit me only part time work. This support is made up entirely of voluntary donations, referred to in the Buddhist tradition as “dana” or generosity. Without this support, I am obliged to work more hours and have less time for students. For more on that subject, please read the section entitled “Dana.” If you’re interested in working with me, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. If I can’t take you on immediately, I do keep a waiting list.