Grew up Jewish. Initially fascinated by the power of the mind, related to athletic performance.
I became exposed to the dharma when I was dealing with chronic pain. I was required to meditate as part of my treatment, and at the time I couldn’t relax any of my muscles. But the meditation helped me learn to relax. My massage therapist told me it was as if I’d switched bodies. That change was so profound that I got curious about what else meditation could do for me.
I am not sure exactly when I first became aware of the dharma path, but my first brush with it was through reading Thich Nhat Hanh's Beyond the Self a translation of the Sutra on the Middle Way. At the time I had been in recovery for about 10 years and had a sustain spiritual practice of self-reflection and service, but I had never been exposed to the truth of Dependent Origination.
I was first exposed to dharma when I was in high school/college. It was recommended by my therapist to check out a group call Dharma Punx and thought that meditation would be a good way to help with depression/anxiety. I initially didn’t like it but when I came back from college, I thought I would give it another try.
My first year of high school I attended an independent Episcopalian school that required us to take a course teaching “world history” and “world literature” as seen through the lens of the religious traditions of the world. The course was constructed explicitly as a rite of passage, and the challenges were so intense that every one of us was transformed by the experience.
I had the blessing to be born in a dharma household where my parents volunteered to host weekly meditation sittings in our home for a local Vipassana organization in Hawaii. We recited the three refuges in pali every night before I went to bed. Monks like Munindra and Sayadaw U Pandita would come to stay with us when I was growing up.
Growing up, my mother would take my brother and I to Chinese Buddhist Temples scattered around the Bay Area on a very sporadic basis. Usually, just a few times a hour, if that. I wouldn’t say that I was introduced to the dharma per se then, but it does have a place in the memories of my childhood as an introduction to traditions and ritual.