“There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein
To some people, 25 years of my life appear to be non-discursive and willy-nilly; to others, those same 25 years appear to be a miracle.
January 4th, 1985, I am 18 years-old riding in the passenger seat of an automobile being driven from Port Chester, New York to Stamford, Connecticut. Suddenly the car skids into an abutment and the engine is shot through my seat and through the back window. My face is destroyed beyond recognition, my left femur is shattered, and I have numerous other broken bones. From photos taken by the paramedics, it seems impossible to believe that I am alive. During the years of convalescence and rehabilitation that follow, I ask philosophical questions about why events take place, how human beings perceive and process phenomena, why there is so much suffering in the world, how the universe is functioning. Thus begins a 25 year odyssey searching for meaning and happiness.
I earn my Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, then a Master of Arts degree in philosophy at the University of Connecticut. Thereafter I live in Manhattan then Paris attending every philosophical lecture, artwork, play, film, exhibit, concert and class I can find. I work in the musician Paul Simon’s office, produce Russell Donnellon’s “Ursa Minor” CD, and for many years derive my income by translating French screenplays into English for French film directors such as Chantal Ackerman, Luc Besson, Élie Chouraqui, and Laurent Boutonnat, who are making their first feature films in English.
While visiting Koh Samui, Thailand in 1994, I crash into a low-hanging doorframe at full gait. There is no hospital on the island and a woman offers to heal me with her hands. I scoff but have little choice. She performs Reiki healing and cauterizes the gash in my forehead without ever touching it. Then she tells me that I need to practice yoga and meditation and learn about Buddhism and Hinduism. Over the course of the next eight years, I am inspired to write and direct an award-winning mystical short film, study parapsychology and healing at Duke University, and earn a Master of Arts degree in religious studies from UCSB where I study Hinduism and yoga with Ninian Smart and David Gordon White, Buddhism and philosophy of mind with Alan Wallace, and Kabbalah with Barbara Holdrege. At the same time, two screenplays that I wrote are produced into feature films, which I view at screenings at the Cannes Film Festival.
2003 I become involved in a lengthy, torrid love affair that puts into question everything I believe about romantic love and relationships. Over the next seven years I complete a yoga teacher training program and earn a third Master of Arts degree – this one in clinical psychology. I abandon screenwriting and devote myself to teaching yoga, completing my 3000 hour psychotherapy internship, passing my Marriage and Family Therapist and Professional Counselor licensure exams, and devouring every book I find on attachment theory, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Jungian psychology.
2010 I am living in Berkeley, California, when a sprightly woman enters my yoga class. As I watch her embody various yoga poses a lightbulb flashes in my head. I walk over to this stranger and impulsively whisper, “How would you like to make a yoga DVD?” She smiles and nods affirmatively. In that moment, all of the apparently disparate pursuits of the last 25 years – producing music, writing screenplays, directing a short film, studying philosophy, spirituality, psychology, yoga, and meditation – collapse into one and my life makes sense: I know that I am supposed to raise consciousness about our culture by creating thought-provoking multi-media presentations – first on DVDs and then in live classes. The woman and I make the best-selling DVD “Yoga for Depression and Anxiety” and I go on to produce, write, direct and act in “Mindfulness for Urban Depression,” “Mindfulness for Anxiety,” “A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation,” and “A Beginner’s Guide to Happiness.” This DVD series provides the platform for me to teach at the Esalen Institute and for PESI/CMI as well as write 200 Huffington Post articles and the highly acclaimed “How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening.”
For some people, my life from 1985 to 2010 – living in Paris, spending time in ashrams in India, going to film school, working with French directors, studying with the Dalai Lama, producing music, getting three graduate degrees, becoming a yoga and meditation teacher and psychotherapist, etc. – would seem non-discursive, non-sensical and somewhat scattershot.
And yet, those three seemingly random and disparate traumas – a car accident provokes me to study philosophy, a head injury provokes me to study spirituality, a dysfunctional relationship provokes me to study psychology – in retrospect seem miraculous. For since that day in 2010, I have been living my life’s purpose and all of those experiences that I lived through now contribute to the powerful sold-out workshops that I teach entitled “Cultivating Meaning and Happiness through Mindfulness and Yoga.” My background in philosophy enables me to quickly demonstrate to my students that their personal paradigms are inauthentic, contingent upon and unduly influenced by sundry ephemeral systems such as democratic capitalism, the myth of meritocracy, and the myth of romantic love; my background in religious studies enables me to provide students with alternative understandings of the meaning of their lives and how the universe is operating; my background in psychology enables me to provide students with scientifically proven tools that help them cultivate loving relationships, lead balanced lives, reframe the putative causes of any depression and anxiety they might be experiencing, and spend more time in the upper ranges of their happiness spectrums.