My spiritual background and development

I got from my mother a realization that I was a lucky person, compared to billions of others, and that I had an obligation to devote at least part of my time to helping others who were less fortunate. I was raised Catholic but didn’t go through confirmation (my father objected); we lived in beautiful locations (the Adirondacks, the Sonora desert, and the Sierras) from all this I developed a strong sense of God through nature.

I continued to explore many spiritual paths throughout my early adulthood.  This included:

  • paying $35 to get a TM mantra and doing a week-end retreat in Santa Barbara
  • becoming a Catholic: doing a month-long retreat at a Trappist monastery; becoming a lay minister of the Eucharist, giving communion at nursing homes each week.
  • volunteering on Saturdays at the (Hindu) Vedanta Society in Hollywood for almost two years, reading voraciously, and taking part in the pujas.
  • doing a Vision Quest led by a friend who was trained by a Lakota elder.
  • learning more about Judaism after I met my wife whose parents are Holocaust survivors. Though my wife finds the Buddhist path to feel like home, both of my children were Bar and Bat Mitzvahed at their request. In order to feel more a part of those ceremonies, I asked the rabbi to teach me to read Hebrew. After going to Jewish funerals, sitting shiva, and seeing how comforting those practices were for many people, I told my wife that if she wanted to have my service at the synagogue, I wouldn’t object!

In 1979, while I was in the Peace Corps in Nepal, I did my first Buddhist meditation retreat with S. N. Goenka at his newly opened meditation center in Igatpuri, India. I immediately knew that I was home. Over the next six years I did 12 retreats with Goenka and other teachers in that tradition, and became Secretary on the Board for the Vipassana Meditation Center in Massachusetts. I have also attended retreats with other teachers: several with Thich Nhat Hanh, and various Zen and Tibetan teachers. Since 1999 I have felt at home doing retreats and courses at Insight Meditation Society, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, and the Forest Refuge, all in Barre, Massachusetts.

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My experience teaching meditation

I was a teacher for 43 years, beginning in high school and then 30 years at Keene State College. I am one of the co-founders of the Monadnock Mindfulness Practice Center in 2002 in Keene, NH. Since then I have been teaching there Monday nights; I also led a book study group for over 10 years, and have taught various courses at the Center and in the region.

In 2007 I took the practicum for teaching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Center for Mindfulness in Worcester, MA and then took a week long follow up course two years later. I have taught many MBSR courses since then, to students and to faculty and staff at the college, and in the Keene community.

In 2010 I enrolled in the Integrated Practice and Study Program (ISPP) with Andrew Olendski and Gloria Ambrosia at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. This intensive 14 month program included four five-day retreats. With this deep study of the Buddhist sutras, my understanding and practice deepened considerably and I felt more comfortable developing my own courses and modifying the MBSR program to include other practices and ideas that I have found helpful; thus I do not call my 8-week courses MBSR any more, though that framework is still the core of most of the courses I teach.

I integrated mindfulness into several interdisciplinary courses that I taught at Keene State. I have been teaching meditation at the County Jail since 2011, and have taught meditation to many different groups of people and many settings.

For more on my teaching experiences, you can press here.