Light emerged slowly through the darkness of my troubled past. Recollections from childhood that kept me alive – the luminous lakes and white birch trees in northern Minnesota, the sparkling eyes of young children as I taught them imaginative dance, and the vibrancy of classical piano music – as I loved practicing for hours. I also loved reading after dark by the light of the transistor radio and chewing saltine crackers while trying to whistle. I loved solving math problems on Saturday mornings, canoeing on the boundary waters, and learning new languages. I eagerly married and moved to California to teach French and German.
Adulthood, however, also offered fierce challenges. Five discs in my back ruptured during my second pregnancy, and I became paralyzed. Bed-ridden for most of the next five years, I learned to meditate to alleviate pain and suffering. Gradually, very gradually, I let go of my fears and my grief. I came to terms with a profound sense of loss. Slowly, every so slowly, I grew to treasure small joys such as blooming daffodils, little children laughing, neighbors bringing food, and teen-agers folding my laundry and taking care of my kids. After a third major surgery, I miraculously learned to walk again. Unimaginably grateful, I felt wondrously alive.
I learned to swim, ride a bike, play guitar, and ski again. Subsequently, I returned to my great love of teaching. I taught high school English teacher and AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination), headed anti-racist efforts, and initiated systemic reform. Then a mid-life divorce broke me open, uprooting childhood traumas that I had ever so carefully buried.
At that point, I knew my body, heart and mind needed deep, deep healing. So I began practicing Qigong multiple hours daily – and gradually my perceptions shifted. As I practiced QiGong, I entered states of awareness with which my heart intuitively resonated. Seeking freedom from the bounds of my consciousness. I explored what philosopher Alan Watts calls the false premise – that the self is something that can be known, that the self is the body, the sensations, the thoughts, the consciousness. Facing enormous emotional and psychological stress in encountering hidden beliefs and misperceptions, I feared for my psychic survival. Eventually I realized that this work meant surrendering the self.
And so I surrendered. I surrendered to the outpouring of sorrows — and into grace — and the river of shared awareness. I surrendered to the unknowing mystery of life. My dissertation Dark Grace: A Heuristic Inquiry into White Consciousness documents my journey researching the challenges of radical transformation and earned me a Ph.D. at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
I returned to the local high school that I loved and became a teacher-leader in our community, I retired from a career in public education after more than three decades of service.
As my children had grown up and left home by then, I followed my heart and studied Buddhist sutras for five years with Shaila Catherine, led study groups focused around the writings of Phillip Moffitt and Adyashanti for a decade, took dozens of online courses with Sally Kempton, and went on multiple retreats with notable teachers such as Adyashanti, Reb Anderson, Jack Kornfield, Angeles Arrien, and Alan Wallace. I completed a year-long Nondual Teacher Therapist/Training Program with Peter Fenner and a three-year Embodied Life Mentorship Program with Russell Delman.
Since meeting Judith Blackstone, founder of the Realization Process at Esalen in 2007, I’ve studied intensively with her (more than 1200 hours). When she asked me to replace her at Esalen in 2012, I was humbled and excited. A Senior Realization Process teacher now, I’ve taught RP thousands and thousands of hours at Esalen, at my home in Los Altos Hills, CA, in New York, and globally.
I am grateful to artist Lian Quan Zhen for his permission to share his artwork on my website. In his book Chinese Painting Techniques for Exquisite Watercolors, he writes about the artist’s spirit “blending … with the rhythmic vitality of nature… When painting a bird, it … is essential to capture the essence of the bird: its texture, activity and sound – its life. The bird should be able to communicate with its viewers.”
Ahhh – those are experiences I seek to share with others through the subtle, gentle, precise nondual embodiment meditations I teach – to sense our own and others’ essence – to live in harmony with the rhythmic vitality of our true nature.
My deep faith that each person is first and foremost a spiritual being is grounded in this realization:
I teach the path that I have been traveling.