I moved to Karme Choling , a Buddhist Meditation Center under the direction of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1984 at the age of 21 and began my formal training then.
I had an initial experience of "non reference point" at 17 during an Outward Bound Sailing Program in which I did a three day "solo" on an island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. I completely failed at the survival techniques that were taught during the program but wound up looking directly at my mind with no meditation background. When I came back I noticed a difference in my experience of reality. In that transition I was able to clearly recognize the vipashyana experience.
The basic set-up was that after two weeks sailing around Penobscot Bay in a coast guard life boat with 10 other people I was dropped on an island all alone. I had 10 matches, a coffee can for a stove and a blue tarp for a tent. I quickly used up my 10 matches trying and failing to get my stove lit. Then I just hung out trapped with a constant awareness of my mind's ramblings for three days. I had never been without some kind of entertainment to occupy my mind. But here I was trapped with myself at 17 years old. Later, doing solitary retreat, within the context of training with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, it was the same kind of experience.
In every transition there is a gap. Every moment is a transition.
The result of this three day retreat was the vipashyana -- nonreference point experience. Vipashyana is a sanskrit term which is translated as "clear seeing." The Tibetan term is "Lakthong" the "th" is a hard t sound which is aspirated. This term describes the result of stripping one's experience of the obscuring effect of habitual, dualistic reference point. Going back to my home in Brunswick, Maine with my parents felt weird in a particular way. This experience was unique, strange and fresh in a way I had never felt before but recognized immediately. Later on, as I entered into Dharma training, I began to understand this experience and how "non meditation" i.e. "touch and go training" reveals this essence of awareness as vipashyana. Being a yogin is all about this. I feel I was introduced to the nature of mind in a powerful way through this period of being alone on the island-- which was not particularly pleasant-- and re-entering my old habituated life. That transition was important in what I would later understand as shamatha-vipashyana training.
Later I recognized this same experience as meeting Trungpa Rinpoche's mind-- the essence of our lineage. My direct lineage-- Khenpo Gangshar, Shechen Kongtrul, The Regent, and The Vidyadhara, they knew this experience and they transmitted it as the essence of realization. Their teachings met me there and guided me. They continue to guide me.
I received empowerments and instruction from Trungpa Rinpoche and the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin while in residence at Karme Choling from 1984-1987 and during the 1986 Vajradhatu Seminary at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.
At one point ,in particular, in a meeting with the Vajra Regent at Karme Choling in 1985, the Regent turned to me and said, "If you want to be my friend remember your mind is unborn, unceasing and with a nature like the sky." This was a very direct transmission.
I was stationed at Gade Gar as a Dorje Kasung during the preparation and parinirvana -cremation of Trungpa Rinpoche at Karme Choling. I was in residence at the time Rinpoche passed into Parinirvana and stayed throughout the entire preparation and event. I received the Kalachakra Abhiseka from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche after the Parinirvana and did guard shifts and pick ups for visiting dignitaries-- in particular I remember Eido Shimano Roshi. Roshi was dressed in very ornate formal robes when I picked him up at the small regional airport. He had met a beautiful young woman who was a student attending Dartmouth College. Roshi asked me to drop her off at her dorm before I brought him to KCL for the cremation. Looking back, the whole situation was very uncomfortable.
Somewhere around this time I became quite ill with all sorts of ailments. There were a number of students of Trungpa Rinpoche who experienced illnesses at this time.
I did guard shifts around the Kudong holding Rinpoche's body in the main shrineroom.
This was a very powerful time surrounded by the Vajra sangha and I was very lucky to be there the entire time. It was a time of incredible blessings. From my introduction to Trungpa Rinpoche's mandala in 1984 I was drawn to and competely irradiated by these blessings.
I have lived continuously within Trungpa Rinpoche’s mandala from my early days at Karme Choling and at the major metropolitan centers of that mandala, including Boulder, Colorado and Halifax, Nova Scotia. I volunteered to staff the 1992 Seminary as a cook at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado and worked on the staff at that Center in 1993-94.
I have received the abhisekas of Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and the lung for the Sadhana of Guru Padmasambhava from Trime Lhawang, Patrick Sweeney. I have also recieved numerous transmissions and teachings from Kalu Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Phakchok Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and others.
In 1994 I returned to my home in Maine because of my ill health and my inability to take care of myself. Shortly after my return my father became ill with Lou Gehrigs disease. I was able to spend time with him while he declined in health. After his death I attempted to run his business-- the New Meadows Inn, which was a famous restaurant in our locale. My background as an English Major studying post-modernist poetry and Tibetan Buddhism was not the best training for a prospective Restaurant manager but perhaps because of my complete lack of experience and still being in shock from my father's death I thought I could handle it. It took 9 years for the restaurant to finally go out of business. The final year was the only year we reported a profit since my father's death and that was because I closed the restaurant. At which point due to the generosity of my mother, my wife and I were able to purchase the small cottage rental business which had been connected to my family's restaurant. Over the years we were able to winterize these cottages and turn them into year round business which provided the steady income necessary to sustain a dedicated Dharma Center and to raise our two children.
In 2006 I established the Dzogchen Meditation Center which is dedicated to engaging the pith teachings of the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Osel Tendzin, Jamgon Kongtrul and Khenpo Gangshar Wangpo within a retreat setting. By that time, many of the institutions that had supported me in my training had changed beyond recognition. It was no longer possible to live in a residential dharma center in our practice lineage and practice as a community 5 hours a day. The whole idea of opening Dzogchen Meditation Center was to create a situation where people could train in this way. That continues to be the mission of this center and my inspiration to this day.
I was introduced to Lotsawa Eric Pema Kunsang's translations in 1990 which were extremely helpful in giving context to the powerful, direct experiences I had with my root gurus the Vajra Regent and Trungpa Rinpoche. I attended a month long Trinley Nyingpo retreat with Eric and his wife at Gomde Denmark in 2008.
I am not a Lama. My job is simply to create a practice container in which people can enter authentic training in this lineage and in that way to be a "spiritual friend." My motto is "when I feel it you get it." I can attest to the fact that it is available here 24/7. I do not give formal transmissions to students but will happily recommend authentic Lamas who work within this lineage who will.
Communal retreat practice is an effective way to develop and realize the mandala of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. As Trungpa said, without this nothing happens and when we look at the history of our lineage, the power of transmission is linked directly to the creation of strong centers of practice--strong practice mandalas.
I began studying kyudo --the contemplative art of zen archery-- in 1987 with Shibata Kanjuro Sensei within the mandala of Trungpa Rinpoche. I lived at Sensei's house in Boulder, Colorado for six months in 1994 helping with Sunday classes at the dojo. Shibata Sensei made me an instructor in 2000 in the Heki Ryu Bisshu Chikurin-ha school of Japanese Archery. I am no longer an active member of Zenko International but I teach what Shibata Sensei called "mind Kyudo" through annual retreats and personal instruction at Dzogchen Meditation Center.
When not helping to facilitate retreats at DMC, I work as a carpenter/handyman. I co-manage a small hotel adjacent to the meditation center with my wife, Susan,who also was a direct student of Trungpa Rinpoche and the Vajra Regent. We met at Karme Choling while she was on staff there in the 1990's.
We are nakpas or householder yogins. We have two grown children.
Between Two Places
I will meet you between
Here and there
but please remember
It might be different than you think
Rest your mind on the outbreath.
Cultivate bliss, clarity and nonthought as synchronized body, speech and mind.
We should go on a road trip.
Sleep in my car-- homeless.
Feel the edge of loneliness, boredom,
This is not a self-improvement project.
When I walk into Dunkin Donuts to pick up my coffee from Jasmin
Do I see her qualities
As they are?
This is Sacred world
-- the only one--
Proven at the nadir of this
Me and Jasmin.
Thank you. Have a nice day.
Written by an orphan son of the authentic lineage wandering alone in the Charnal Ground of Dunkin Donuts.