When were you first exposed to dharma?
I learned about meditation as a youngster, but it wasn’t until around 2004 that I started going to the Dharma Punx group on Friday nights in SF (the Back of the Bus) and hearing the dharma talks there in a language I could understand and with people that looked like me that I really felt exposed. It became my path when I learned to walk again as a sober man in 2014.
In early sobriety I held on to the dharma like a life raft. I literally took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Thankfully, enough of the teachings seeped in from earlier, they were kind of lying in wait for my heart and mind to detox enough to truly absorb. Saved my ass – for real. Not that the philosophy is some sort of recovery program but it certainly offers a road map to a path of least resistance.
How has the path manifest in your daily experience? Does it reflect in your work and relationships?
I’ve learned how to see what’s coming at me from the outside through seeing what’s coming at me from the inside. So I pay a lot more attention to how my thoughts and feelings try to pull me around. Even the way bodily pain can effect my behavior. If I find myself getting a little too far out there, I can pull back and understand I can only create and respond to the past or future in this moment. Just like what we learn in Vipassana meditation. This and taking the 5 precepts to heart has really given me a solid foundation. Sati and Sila.
I do my best to apply this to work, relationships, my practice, whatever, and when I fall short, I just check out where I’m at in that too and keep going. It’s worked out pretty well. I seem to be doing more of what I enjoy and less of what I don’t. I started training to teach a while back and that’s coming to fruition these days. I wrote and published a book. The construction thing is still paying the bills and I’m even getting married to my sweetie this year.
Who is your teacher(s)?
Vinny Ferraro is my guy. Following his lineage and teachers back has opened me up to tons of other brilliant teachers, too. Through Against the Stream and Spirit Rock I feel very fortunate to have access to so many quality teachers. Bob Stahl is my teacher and mentor in MBSR teacher training. Megan Cowan and Chris McKenna too from Mindful Schools for their program of training.
How long/often do you mediate?
Everyday now to some degree. I can almost always get a half hour or more in somewhere and twice when I can. Morning, evenings or both. In groups a couple times a week usually. I seem to have a ‘retreat season’ where I can schedule and attend a couple or more 5 day or week-longs. In between, I remember to take mindful breaths often as I can or do a certain task with concentration.
Which sangha do you normally attend?
Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society (San Francisco)
What is your primarily profession?
I’m primarily a General Construction Contractor – 25 years locally in the residential biz.
Was there an experience in your life where you realize the profound power of the practice?
Yeah, definitely. Like I said, not only did it help pull me into “real” recovery but opened me up to a whole new universe of freedom from my own self-inflicted suffering. It got pretty dark before then too, as I write about in my book “Awareness MODE; A Buddhist Antihero’s Journey Within”, the idea that I do not have to obey every thought like a prisoner and changing my perspective, literally saved me from disaster and depression.