When I was outside, I was raised obviously not from the South. I was raised in the UK notionally Church of England, although I never really went. But it’s, you know, it’s a Christian it was a Christian country when I was raised. Right? So that was notionally what I was raised with, the way it was presented to me didn’t work. So as I move through my teens, I’ve increasingly found that my religion, if you will, was the big bang and evolution. And, you know, and I moved through education, ended up in business. So I actually became a chartered accountant or a CPA over here, came over to the States, married, had a couple of kids, very focused on my career. I had moved from public accounting into the corporate world, and I was actually a mergers and acquisitions guy. So it was I was actually BellSouth at the time. So I was globetrotting, buying and selling really large businesses. That’s what I did for a living. Somewhere in the middle of that, I had been up in New York for six weeks, eight weeks for a long period of time, and just totally immersed in a deal with my deal team up there. And I really not called home. I mean, I was just in isolation working on this deal that was coming to closure. So I came back to Atlanta basically overnight at home. I had to go into the office the following day to push through the PR and some other things. And then I had a couple of deals in Brazil that I put on hold. So it’s like I’m going to fly right down to Brazil and pick those ones up. So I came through the living room. 

My one year old son came running up to me, Daddy, Daddy! He put his arms around my leg and he hugged my leg and this probably isn’t what happened, but this is what I remember. I kind of shook him off because I was busy. I’m important. I got stuff to do right, plugged it out, went to the office, and then I went off to Brazil and sometime later this came back to me like a ton of bricks. Oh, my goodness. What happened there? And I realized, you know, with a little reflection that I was missing what really mattered in life. So actually, I started listening to a series of lectures on classical music, and Bach dedicated every manuscript he wrote, including the practice pieces for his kids to Jesus Christ, studied, listened to medieval polyphonic masses, and somehow or other they would just hit me. So that was, you know, the spiritual, the mystical voice coming down to me over the centuries. So there was something that was connecting. Then I read a wonderful book by Houston Smith, which is The World’s Religions or the World’s Great Religions. I forget the title, but it’s a wonderful book and the two things I got out of that was firstly, each section had a bibliography, so this pseudo intellectual could carry on like reading. But secondly, underneath each of the world’s great faith traditions is an experience of loss of self and the practice of cultivating that experience. So that resonated sometime later when my ex-wife and our young kids were out of the house. I lay down on the couch and did a body scan and it was really difficult because it was like painting a pentagram in blood on the floor, you know, it was just really from my background, it was a really foreign and alien and scary thing to do. But I did it and I had a really profound experience. I went outside afterwards. That time I smoked, so went outside afterwards. Wow, that was cool. Lit a cigaret and I studied smoke in the cigaret. It was like I had a log in my fingers. I was like, What is this? And this is not my body. It was a really profound experience and it stuck. So there’s a really important point there, which is I’m really lucky that that stuck. There’s a lot of people who I’ve met over the years, you know, somebody who has cancer and they’re working really, really hard and they realize this is damaging. 

But secondly, underneath each of the world’s
great faith traditions is
an experience of loss of self and
the practice of cultivating that experience.

You know, everything goes sideways while they lose their hair and they’re sick going through chemo and they swear up and down they’re going to change their life and they’re not going to go back to the same old ways. And you’ve you’ve met this before. Two years later, they’re back working 70 hours a week in the same job. So I’m really lucky that it stuck. Really lucky that it stuck. So that became a meditation practice, a daily practice. And along the way, you know, I quit drinking and then I became this enlightened being so I could control my drinking. So I started drinking again. And yeah, so is this kind of strange early day thing after a couple of years, I realized I couldn’t do this on my own. Two reasons. One, I needed somebody who’d been there before to guide me so that that vulnerability and that intimacy could open up. Where I could really grow into this and have some wisdom and some support. Secondly, I needed a community of people to be with. So I ended up going to the Atlanta Citizen Center and it could equally well, I’ve got a very dear friend who is the resident minister at the Vedanta Center here in town. So it could very easily if if I’d had that conversation first, I could have ended up there. If I’d stumbled into Insight in Atlanta, it could have been that it ended up being Zen. So I spent I honestly don’t know how long. It’s probably eight, ten years, something like that. Probably ten years practicing Zen started off stepping into it, became increasingly committed. They had all day retreats, one Saturday a month. So I attended a lot of those longer retreats, not like really long, but longer retreats. I attended a lot of those. I realized somewhere along the way that the reason my ex-wife allowed me to do this was because I was becoming easier to live with or let’s just say, less difficult to live with. So she was benefiting, even though even though I wasn’t around to help her with the kids and whatever I was, it was beneficial to her to let me do this. Which, you know, one of the truths in this is you don’t see this yourself. A lot of this comes back to you later from what you hear from other people. So I went through a long period of time there where it was very much an internal practice and in many ways a clumsy practice. When I tried to take that back out, I remember one incident. I was at a park with the kids and there was some guy who was playing. He had his radio and he was playing it really loud and I thought, you know, he’s got a beat. It’s not just me. He’s disturbing everybody here in the park. So I’ll just go and talk to him and I’ll do so in a really kind and generous way. And, you know, it’s for him, not for. Well, of course it’s not. It’s for me. And it didn’t go very well. Right. But so I mean, it was a very clumsy practice in many ways, but it was a very internally focused practice. Um, along the way I was ordained a Zen Buddhist priest, so, you know, I went through the robe sewing thing and formal ordination. Um, also along the way we had a, there was a group of Chinese Buddhists came to town and at the end one of the interfaith groups was trying to get a bunch of people together to host them. So she wanted a Buddhist representation of Buddhist community. The obvious Buddhist community to go to in Atlanta is dropping low slung the Tibetan group, the traditional Tibetan group. So but of course, they’re not going to be very interested in being affiliated with a Chinese group right now, you know, with the issues between Tibet and China. So she struggled. She reached out to the abbot of the Zen Center. He asked me to go take care of it. I went along and I was wearing all my robes and all that. Wow. So there were, you know, Muslims and Jews and sex and Bahai and people from all sorts of different, different races and, you know, different skin colors, different languages, different clothes. It was spectacular and wonderful. I really loved it and I wanted more of it. So within a month I was on the board of Interfaith Atlanta on I’ve been on and off ever since. I’m still on it. So I’ve been president a couple of times too, that an interfaith became a really important part of my life. And that was a step. I saw it as a step into the back into the world, you know, turning away from the wall, stepping back into the world. And a lot of it was, but a lot of it actually was still the internal journey because a lot of that work of interfaith is you hang out with a muslim and you share it, you go on a trip and you share a hotel room with a muslim. And when I’m up in the morning sitting in the corner meditating, he gets up and he does this a lot. So you get to be with people as they’re in their practices and you get to know them as friends without really questioning beliefs or practices. So there’s kind of an immersive element which is personal growth. So coming out of that along the way, I haven’t done it in a number of years, but I observed Ramadan two or three times, the Jewish High Holidays a couple of times. Uh, experience is very different from a meditation retreat, but at the same time very parallel experiences in the opening up, the humility, the surrendering and the internal and external. So the internal emptying and the external connection, joy, um, compassion that opens up out of that practice. So there’s a very deep internal as well as an intentional external piece of that. Um, so that was, and continues to be a really important part of my life. In fact, Jan Swanson is one of my great teachers and she is the matriarch of interfaith in Atlanta. She is now 80 years old and she lives down in Charleston. And in a couple of weeks I’m jumping in the car to go for the weekend along the way again. Um, and all through all of this, I have my career going on, so I’m still here for most of this. I was a deal guy, a BellSouth. Um, about ten years ago, I went through and there was a major transition in my life, and I was, I was aware in my practice, as aware of my practice as I was sitting in the morning is like this black wall. And I’d settle down, but there’d be something that I couldn’t get through, something that I couldn’t get around. I was just there. Uh, I realized that as a, as a kid, my dad was a very Victorian father. And so one of the reasons I live in this country and not the UK is because I left that, um, somewhat oppressive environment. I love my dad dearly. I go back every few months to visit him, but that was a relationship piece of a relationship I needed to grow out of, but I didn’t fully grow out of it. So when I got married, I gave my power to my wife, which is one of the reasons that marriage failed lasted 20 years, but one reason it eventually failed is I gave her my power. She didn’t want it. She didn’t ask for it. But it’s like I did the same in the Zen Center with the abbot there. I gave him my power and then I was in an end to the business relationship with somebody. We were going to become partners, but we never did in the same kind of way. It was the same kind of thing happened. So over a period of about a year, I left the Zen Center, I left my wife and I left that business relationship. And that block went away. So there was like it was a personal thing, right? I mean, I was this the way I was living my life was disconnected with the way my practice was moving. So by shifting my life, claiming that power back, opening myself up in a different way, my practice and my life were able to move forward again. We formed Red Close Sangha. So when I left and around that same time, I left the corporate world as well and became an independent business guy, which I still am. When I left the Zen Center, I didn’t do that alone. There was some small church things that a bunch of us were encountering there. So a bunch of us all left at the same time, and we formed Red Clay Sangha and Red Clay Sangha. When we found that it was intentionally non nondenominational or nonsectarian or whatever you want to call it, and the guiding premises being we didn’t want to belong to a particular lineage. We wanted to be able to bring teachings from multiple lineages in and have people engaged in multiple lineages coming and sharing with the community. And the second thing, we did not want to be part of the patriarchal lineage with all of the power placed in the titular figurehead of the community. So those were two of our guiding principles and still are. That’s now ten years old and it’s been a great home to me. Still it was and still is a great home to me. One of the ideas there and it’s a great idea is that the teacher is the community, the teacher is the sangha. So we sit in a circle and we each hold it, hold everybody accountable, we hold each other accountable. It’s great as far as it goes, but it can only go so far because the kind of intimacy, the kind of vulnerability you really need to present in order to mature and in the practice doesn’t really happen in those kind of circles, um, requires growing into an incredibly deep trust. Uh, and that I found that doesn’t happen in that kind of farming. You go fairly deep, but you can only go so didn’t. So after one of our retreats we brought in a number of different teachers from different lineages. And I really connected with Lisa Ernst. So I lose track of time. Maybe it was five years ago, some period of time ago at least she’d be my teacher and she took me on. And of course the wonderful there’s wonderful things happen in that teacher student relationship. And it was Lisa is an amazing human being and I have benefited profoundly from her teaching and from just having her in my life. I lose track of time again. Yeah, it was about 18 months ago we were on the phone. We talked once a month, we were on the phone and she said, Gareth, I think we’ll do your Dharma transmission at the retreat next September. What what just happened there? Because that was totally unexpected. So we talked about that and it was it was really unexpected. Um, but having ten months before the transmission was really wonderful. Um, lots of questions. What is transmission? Is this really something? Lisa thinks I’m ready, but am I really ready? What am I signing up for here? So it was a, it was a really profound period in my practice, um, and in my relationship with Lisa. So the transmission happened. So that was one of the most important days of my life. I mean, it’s like it’s just a day, right? And there’s a little bit of a nominee, nominee, nominee, powdery kind of thing going on and a few friends show up. But it really is profound. And the way I think of it is Lisa had a very, very difficult life and the Dharma gave her back her life. I suspect she may not be alive without the Dharma that really gave her back her life. And she’s she’s married. So she’s got a husband is a very important thing in her life. But beyond her husband, the Dharma may be the most important thing. And so she’s never transmitted anybody before. And she says this. And then we show up in September and she’s Gareth. Is this really precious thing incredibly important to me? Yeah. Please take this. You have my full faith, confidence and trust. Please just take this. It’s just so profound. And it really emphasizes something that I had been thinking about beforehand, which is the what is transmitted. Ancient Chinese master says responsibility and it really is. So right now. I’m not leaping into what that is. I’m in kind of a transition point in my life, still engaged in professional livelihood in a you know, the corporate is not corporate, but I’m working with corporate clients, so it’s working with a small business and serving corporate clients. Um, slowing that down. It’s been very good to me and the good people I work with. But, um, I, you know, I’m just slowing it down. Sam We got chickens and bees and the God and all the rest of the solar panels. So, uh, Beth and I really enjoy our life. It’s a quiet life. We don’t have a mortgage. So the slowing down, the moving into a quieter life, to creating a lot more room in that life for the Dharma, for my own practice, um, and for the expression of that external expression of that practice as a teacher, I don’t know where that goes, and I’m really looking forward to finding out. So that’s the story. Jack Yeah.

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