I first read about Buddhism at high school and I immediately connected with it. I was fascinated by spirituality and the mind, definitely what I’d call a seeker, but this was the first time I’d ever read any religious literature that made sense to me. At that time there was no-one I knew in Missouri, where I grew up, who had the slightest interest in Buddhism, and when I left for college I continued to explore it on my own. But this was at height of the whole counter-cultural revolution, so as well as immersing myself in all the Buddhist texts I could find, I also went headlong into all the drugs, sex, rock and roll and anti-war politics.
I came to feel that American society was completely hypocritical and felt very politically alienated, so much so that I left the country. I got involved in small time drug dealing as a way to live outside the system. I had a very strong ‘us versus them’ mentality that I used to justify what I was doing. I continued to pursue positive things and spirituality as well. So I created kind of a dual nature for myself. That twisted path led me to living in a very remote valley way up in the mountains in Peru near the Sacred Valley of the Incas. I was living some kind of outlaw/seeker/expatriate life there in Peru and had no intentions of returning home. I even met and married a woman from Peru.
I remember someone coming to visit me there, bringing with them a magazine article about the emerging spiritual movement in the US. It mentioned a university called the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) that had recently been established, offering courses that included meditation. I knew this was what I was looking for and soon after that, I returned to the US to embark on a Masters programme in Buddhist and Western Psychology and became a student of the renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who had founded Naropa. I brought my pregnant wife to the U.S., and our son was born in Colorado where Naropa was located.