How could God allow two innocent babies to die, only one of which gets to go to Heaven because that one was baptized and the other wasn’t? As a child in Catholic school, raised to think Catholicism is right and other religions wrong, this sort of cognitive dissonance sparked my philosophical curiosity.
It didn’t mushroom until, as a teenage boy watching television, two beautiful women in leotards doing sensual yoga poses caught my eye. I followed along with the class, and at the end, in deep meditation, I had a life-changing out-of-body experience. I immediately read, digested, and practiced whatever I could find about yoga, meditation, Zen, and the like, one theme of which involved the use of psychedelics as tools for consciousness exploration, particularly in books by Aldous Huxley, Ram Dass, Carlos Castaneda, and others.
Within a matter of months, I experimented with these approaches intensely, and serendipitously found myself in a spiritual community led by Ram Dass and two other powerfully spiritual teachers, Hilda Charlton and a woman then-named Joya (who later took the name Ma Jaya). I studied intensely with these (and other) teachers for a number of years, becoming a very disciplined, accomplished yogi, attending spiritual meetings, meditations, yoga classes, and other teachings on a daily basis, fueled by my intense personal spiritual disciplines of fasting, yoga, meditation, related practices and mystical experiences. These intense, frequently powerful mystical experiences challenged my previous models of reality, the flow of time, embodiment and death, and the nature of knowledge. (I'll write a blog post about some of these world-view-shattering experiences shortly.)
In order to try to both articulate these relatively ineffable experiences and to better understand them, I wound up majoring in philosophy, wrote my dissertation on free will and reflective consciousness in the PhD philosophy program at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School, and proceeded to became Full Professor of Philosophy at CUNY’s Kingsborough campus. Along the way, I studied for two years at the Gestalt Center for Psychotherapy and Training in NYC, seeing clients in the second year, earned a 4th degree black belt in Shotokan karate, began teaching meditation and yoga in the community, and doing Yoga Therapy, in wellness centers, community centers, continuing education programs, and elsewhere, as well as teaching meditation in most of my philosophy classes, among many related activities, such as leading professional academic workshops on the use of contemplative practices in the classroom, leading weekly meditations on campus, and conducting research and publishing on these and related philosophical issues. All of my work is inter-related in mutually-supportive mays, all revolving around the idea that meditation increases effective self-regulation, agency, free will.