I was born ’47 in an Italian neighborhood, which was turning into a black one, within view of the Statue of Liberty. My Dad was a mortar gunner in Patton’s 4th Armored Division. His experiences in combat and of course his own childhood prior to it, made violence a major theme in my childhood. Fighting was glorified, anger and violence were modeled, and dogmatic theology was promulgated.
At the age of 16 looking for a way out of my home environment as well as some answers to “what’s it all about…” and willing to take a step down the road to becoming a religious brother, I entered Marist Prep. Three years later I took my first vows, concealing the fact that I had become an agnostic and had radically different ideas about the true nature of the vows. For me, the vow of chastity, for example, had nothing to do with sexual abstinence or celibacy. It had to do with unconditional love; the only kind of love I recognized then and which still makes sense to me now.
My 3 years in Europe scratched my productivity itch. I took a Masters in Philosophy at the Sorbonne, most of another in French Lit. at NYU in Paris, I trained in Karate, became fluent in French, conversational in Italian. I spent the next 10 years in Asia where I had some significant realizations. The most important happened in Daramsala, where I was taking teachings at the Tibetan Library. I read J Krishnamurti and realized that my fundamental modus operandi in life, which was based on physical and intellectual domination, would never get me where I wanted to go. In fact, most of my thinking was actually a form of suffering. That blew my mind. The way out of this suffering is the process of choiceless observation, which has been my main practice since that time in ’74.
Living in Rajneesh’s commune in Poona, India, and later in Oregon, afforded me a place to test out this model of inquiry and make many other experiments. In those years I learned about the interface of meditation and sexuality, about power, jealousy, conflict, how to celebrate everything including death, and had my deepest experiences of letting go and unconditional love, not to mention punching cows and riding horses!
I moved to Santa Fe, NM in ’85 and spent a lot of time in what I could call men’s work which was essentially reclaiming parts of myself that I had pushed back into the shadow, things like fear, shame and grief. Anger was a kind of cap on the well of these deep painful emotions and beliefs. Sitting in men’s circles helped me get more clarity about how I was holding all this together and at what price.
I went back to school again in ’94 for an MA in counseling psychology. I wanted more meaning in my life and saw psychotherapy as a way to contribute to others in the context of right livelihood. In ’95 I listened to a cassette of Marshall Rosenberg on anger, which again blew my mind. He taught me that I alone am the cause of my anger, and everything else I feel. This insight helped me integrate my default emotion, which had been eating my lunch for over 50 years. NVC has also given me a very succinct way of playing/working with myself and my clients on the path to getting free of conditioning and a way that interfaces so harmoniously with the other practices I had explored and continue to explore, like Byron Katie’s work. It has also been a gateway for collaborating and co-creating with other trainers like my co-writers Jim, Jori and Jake! May the horse be with you!