Not raised a Christian, my parents never said a word—good or ill—about Jesus or Christianity.
I also was not brought up in any other religion or with any specific spiritual ideas and practices. In my home, not a word was spoken about religion or was anti-religious. We lived a practical spirituality with love, respect, and kindness.
During my senior year of college, a friend offhandedly said to me, “you’re not ambitious.” He was right. Even though I had been a dedicated student, I did not have any idea what to do with my life, and so had no ambition.
I had become especially passionate in my junior and senior years about learning new truths about American history and politics, and I had also enjoyed studying scientific truths as a zoology major. However, these interests did not provide any clarity about what to do after graduation.
Eventually, I chose teaching, and in my first spring as a high school teacher/counselor, I traveled on two school outdoor education trips: the first, backpacking in California’s southern Sierra Nevada mountains and the second, rafting down southern Utah’s San Juan River.
The wilderness initiated me into spirituality with an intensity of emotion I had never experienced before.
All I previously knew of nature’s charms had arrived muted through parks, on the edge of mountain towns, and from visits not far from asphalt or concrete. I was not prepared for the physicality, the spirituality, the beauty, and the beast of her.
At one point on the backpacking trip, I gazed awestruck across an expanse of shapely green mountains laying to the horizon as billowed clouds sailed across the peaks.
On the river trip, I climbed a giant boulder that had cracked off the gulch’s grand walls and surveyed and savored the scene, which made me feel a puny nothing and that this life is an astonishing thing. Floating the river, as we drifted dreamily downstream, my imagination soared and juked up the canyons to the ruins, hatching all sorts of visions.
These experiences ignited me to learn about Native American religion, as I suspected that Indians had had similar religious experiences living daily amongst this radiance. I soon discovered that for Indians, nature is not just home or a beautiful scene, but is filled with the spirit, with Powers, with sacred energy.
This stirring of my first religious feelings initiated my pursuit of the “meaning of life.”
After first studying American Indian religions, I soon discovered the Tao Te Ching, a classic indigenous Chinese religious text and The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a classic study of the commonalities in the religions and mythologies from around the world and throughout history.
My principal life ambition from that spring has been studying the religious, spiritual, psychological, and mythological ideas and practices of humanity and integrating the ones that seemed right into my own spiritual life. On occasion, I have had some insights of my own.
While my primary personal passion has been the study and experience of the spectacle of the religious imagination and life of humanity, my professional passion for the past three decades has been as a teacher and psychotherapist. Over the course of my career, I have been a high school teacher, coach, and counselor at a boarding school; a community mental health counselor; the assistant manager of a residential alcohol and drug treatment center; the director of a youth program; and a psychotherapist.