Reflections on My Spiritual Journey
I grew up as an only child playing and dreaming on the rocky shorelines of Maine. I moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1996 with my two children, Elijah and Bethany, to pursue studies in Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University. Naropa is a leader in contemplative education. In many ways, my spiritual journey began there.
Falling In Love with Buddhism
Upon starting school at Naropa, I immediately fell in love with Buddhism and decided to take my Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows. During this time, I worked closely with my dear teacher and meditation instructor, Dale Asrael. Dale is an archarya (spiritual teacher) within Shambhala Buddhism.
My first time at Naropa was cut short when I experienced a grand mal seizure driving home one afternoon. I made the difficult decision to leave school at that time in order to concentrate raising my kids and tend to my health.
Dale continued to be an amazing support for me, though, especially later on when I was being treated for breast cancer. I eventually returned to Naropa a few years later after both my kids had graduated high school. That's when I earned my M.A. in Religious Studies.
As I was completing my master's program, I developed a special interest in Dzogchen. Dzogchen is the most highly revered system of thought and meditation among the ancient Bon and Nyingma lineages of Tibet.
In order to fulfill the requirements of my degree, I was asked to complete a two-week meditation retreat at home. It was all incredibly frustrating because I experienced so much pain and tension in my body.
Late one afternoon, toward the end of the two weeks, feeling completely defeated, I decided to call it quits. I wasn't sure I'd ever meditate again, but I pulled out a book by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and happened to turn to the final section on Dzogchen.
Suddenly, the issue was clear. I was trying too hard! I just needed to relax. Later that evening, I once again took my meditation seat. It was different now though. I didn't feel like I had to prove or achieve anything. I simply rested in pure awareness. During what felt like maybe ten minutes, two hours went by.
For several weeks after that, I felt vibrantly awake and alive. Eventually, of course, I began to grapple with my neurotic tendencies again. Ego is, after all, incredibly tenacious. Nonetheless, for a little while, I had tasted real freedom and this left a huge imprint on my soul. I quickly became a student of Tenzin Wangyal.