My path has been a winding one. I have played many roles: Engineer, Pastor, Teacher, and Author. I have explored beliefs and ways of living, including Zen Buddhism, Christianity, and Taoism. I have lived in cities and towns and in the countryside. I have run marathons and hiked in deserts and mountains. I have found great beauty in the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong. For more than 40 years, I have translated, written about, and pondered the Tao Te Ching. Today I live with my wife, Nancy, in the magnificent Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona.
Along this path, I have lived through what we all feel as our lives twist and turn, rise and fall. I have struggled with doubts and fears and been enlivened by great hopes, and at times felt the deep peace that comes when we are in harmony with our life, living our true, authentic purpose. The flow of this winding path is much clearer in retrospect, of course. Choices that felt like a leap into the unknown at the time I now see as having been logical, perhaps inevitable. They were not running away from anything but moving steadily towards what mattered to me. I sometimes used to see this winding path as a negative thing. Now I know it was purposeful, indeed essential, and right for me.
This is not to say that, as I was going through the twists and turns, I did not feel lost and confused. Looking back, I can see that there had always been an unconscious battle waging between an essentially adolescent young man and a deeper identity that might be called an “inner monk.” I longed for a simple, natural, earth-centered, life dedicated to a Deeper Spiritual Truth. But the adolescent energy of pleasing others, depending on social systems for security, believing the story that “hard work” should be avoided and could be with the right “education,” and having all the trappings of material comfort was an energy that held the upper hand for several decades – though, thankfully, never overcame my soul.
I had the good fortune to attend the University of California in Berkeley in the 1960s, a place and a time of extraordinary energy and openness. A bulletin board in front of the First Presbyterian Church there caught my attention one day and drew me into my first encounter with social justice and spirituality. I don’t recall what the bulletin board said, only that it had an inviting and open tone. The church became the place where the philosophical, literary, and spiritual side of me was honored and explored. I later entered a seminary, one with some remarkably enlightened teachers where we studied the Bible as history and poetry rather than as a “Holy Book”. God was neither a subject nor an object of study, but the Mystery of Mysteries. This set the tone for my later appreciation of the Tao.
Early in my adult life, I was given a copy of the Tao Te Ching, which opened me to the poetic beauty of Eastern thought. The Zen Christianity of Father Hugo LaSalle, a Jesuit who served a church in Hiroshima and who survived the atomic bombing, was my primary introduction to Zen meditation.
Others have helped me through the years to build my spiritual life, including Alan Watts, Tai Chi master Chungliang Huang, and the former monk, George Fowler. I am also inspired by people who find joy in nature and in simple pleasures, including Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Ed Abbey.
I have no doubt that there is a Divine Energy working within the Cosmos, transforming life on Earth. In my life and in my work I seek to connect with this Divine Energy. In my work, I encourage others and am encouraged by them. My work allows me to align with the Energy, God, the Tao – that we all feel but cannot define. I try to balance my own naturally reclusive nature with the stimulus of teaching and interacting with individuals and small groups of like-minded people.
In these times of doubt, fear, and division, I draw strength and inspiration from the wordless and ineffable nature of the Tao. I live, write, and teach as authentically and simply as I can – still walking along the wonderful winding path that has led me to this point.