I'm not sure how old I was when I started doing a certain exercise of my own design. When I went to bed one night a visualization spontaneously occurred to me while staring at the ceiling in the dark. I developed that visualization into an activity. This exercise removes stress and relaxes me. This led to other exercises and activities. All of this led to experiments in hypnagogic induction. I did not have the vocabulary to articulate this at the time so I would not have been able to tell you what I was doing.

Subsequently, I read books on lucid dreaming and tried their authors' exercises as well. I also met others who experimented with altered states of consciousness or meditation and compared notes. Sometimes we collaborated. They gave me exercises, which I tried. When I finally got into high school, a man offered a summer tai chi course. So I took that and learned actual meditation techniques and tai chi from my first Sifu (I later met one more through the VA). At the time, I thought I was some kind of master. Now I think I barely mastered basic skills that came in handy later and still serve well today.

After high school, realizing that I wasn't getting into MIT or getting a job as an astronaut, I served in the United States Army with vague plans to attend some university or other during or after my service. When I went into the military, I would use the tai chi standing and moving meditation techniques when I stood or marched in formation under the hot, Alabama sun with sweat running down my shaven head, snug in my headgear.

"You will remain at the position of attention I don't care if a bee camps out in yer STINKIN ear", one Drill Sergeant once yelled at me. They were not allowed to use offensive words so "dogone", "stinkin'" and "jaw jackin'" were common. "No problem, I thought. I'll do my meditative stare and get through this." Well, I got through it but it was not easy and far from non-problematic. Another time, I tried this while in a “stress position” called “the thinking position”. The "thinking position" entails you standing on the balls of your feet with your thighs parallel to the marching surface. You must also stretch out your arms, parallel to the marching surface so that you can precariously balance yourself. It requires stamina and balance. And, you'll never have enough of either. I was not aware this would lead to muscular failure so quickly and I passed out briefly, falling backwards toward the CTA. I heard Drill Sergeant yell for my battle-buddy to catch me as I lost consciousness. Apparently, these stress positions constitute "enhanced interrogation" or "torture" when applied to terrorists. So limits in meditative application existed. But my practices helped me focus, pass through pain, sustain performance, and uphold emotional stability while maintaining composure under difficult conditions. It took concentration and effort, but it was possible. Still, something was missing.

My first duty station was in South Korea. While there, I decided that I would prefer to travel, meet interesting people, and learn about the world. When I completed my service in South Korea, they shipped me to Kansas. Through chance, I met a teacher from Mississippi while I was living in Kansas. First, he prescribed a harsh and demanding series of exercises on basic yogic and meditative techniques. I learned bodily discipline, breath work, concentration meditation, discursive meditation, insight meditation, mandala, mantra, visualization, and other techniques both inhibitory and exhibitory. I am grateful for his instruction as it subsumed much of my previous practice and formed the foundation of all my current work, giving me the ability to sit with masters while having benefit of experience. His tutelage allowed major refinement for me and I worked with him until I completed my military service and maintained contact during and after my travels. I still lacked vocabulary to share much of this with anyone, however. And even then I needed 1,000 words to say what wiser people could say in about 20.

When it was time to end military service, I secured my savings, sold my cars, liquidated most of my property, and embarked on a low-budget trip. Having spent time in South Korea during service, I decided to go back and start traveling from a familiar place. After spending more time in Korea, I traveled around East Asia, Southeast Asia, India, and Turkey for about six more years. During that time, I had the opportunity to learn from certain monks, devotees, and teachers of several traditions. From these instructors, I learned various methods of meditation, relaxation, and other things. Most importantly, I developed a vocabulary to discuss these things and I refined my own practices and understandings. They gave me their confidence and much compassion. I'm still learning every day. And I'm grateful for all the help and suggestions from everyone.

Certain mentors urged me to share this knowledge with others. I preferred to continue my travels. And, while I was on the road, I started teaching friends who showed interest and commitment. I found that I enjoy teaching meditation and I found it rewarding to hear of and observe their results. After coming back to the United States, I started helping people I met through social activities with meditation. One evening, my wife suggested I teach meditation professionally and I heeded her advice as I generally do.

I do not work for a monastery. I will not try to convert you to a religion. I believe meditation can improve nearly anyone's life. I understand exceptions exist. For example, a person with dissociative disorder can trigger an episode through meditation. I would not feel comfortable working with a person who has this disorder without written consent from their mental health provider. It would be reckless for me to not screen for these things and require professional assent. I also look for certain medical conditions. And I also check for unrealistic expectations. A few thought I could teach them the secret to happiness (I can't). One man even thought I could teach him to levitate (I'm not kidding). I can't entertain such people for my courses. I just do not feel comfortable and I understand that is my problem. I continue to learn more about meditation and how to teach meditation. I attend seminars for healthcare professionals and physical therapists to learn more about how meditation and yoga affect the body. The medical industry seems keen to integrate this into their offerings, much like with midwifery. I'm happy to learn more about the science behind meditation and pass this knowledge on to the communities and individuals I serve.

Formal Education:
Bachelor of Arts with Honors: Intelligence | American Military University | 120 Credit Hours | August 15, 2011

Related Continuing Education:

Mindfulness & Stress Reduction: A Seminar for Healthcare Professionals | Kent Howard, MA, MBSR | Six Contact Hours | December 18, 2015

Yoga and Mindfulness for Therapeutic Rehabilitation: New Tools for Healing Your Patients & Making You a Better Therapist | Betsy Shandalov, OTR/L, C-IAYT | Six Contact Hours | June 18, 2019

Understanding Difficult & Aggressive Behaviors | Michael E. Howard, Ph.D. | Six Contact Hours | August 12, 2020

Building Resilience Through Mindfulness | Dr. Andrea D'Asaro, MBSR | Three Contact Hours | January 15, 2021