Confessions of a "Spiritual But Not Religious" Boomer -- Part 1

In the early 1980s I was living in Los Angeles, on a ‘fast track’ toward achieving the professional and financial success I had dreamed of, and I was beginning to believe I was destined to lead a charmed life.  

But just when I thought I had it made, a series of harrowing events, in rapid succession, brought me to my knees: 

  • the death of my father

  • responsibility for his catastrophic medical bills

  • a divorce

  • the loss of my job

  • the loss of my house  

I still had my red BMW, but it was little consolation in my state of panic, desperation and despair. 

Shortly before these events transpired, I had attended a workshop on the spiritual practices and sacred traditions of the North American Indians at Esalen Institute, in Big Sur, California. I was immediately drawn to this spiritual path. So now, in the midst of this crisis, I joined a small pilgrimage group and headed to Indian Country in Arizona and New Mexico to spend two-weeks seeking solace among Hopi and Navajo Indian elders and spiritual leaders.  

By the conclusion of the pilgrimage, I had found the solace I had hoped for but more importantly, I had discovered a spiritual reality that completely changed my life. In my darkest hours, bereft of everything that I thought would provide security and meaning, I experienced an ancient sacred realm, unlike anything I had encountered in my early Christian upbringing. This extraordinary world was filled with unimaginable beauty, mystery and power. 

I felt like I had finally returned home after wandering aimlessly for decades.  

As a Baby-boomer, like many, if not most of my generation, I grew up learning the established tenets of the church and orthodox Christian doctrines. During the 1950s and early 1960s as far as I knew there was only one true religion and everything anyone needed to know about religion and spirituality could be found in the church. I accepted the notion that God was an old, white-bearded patriarch, up in heaven and out of reach. 

During the late 1960’s and 1970, the spiritual world around me exploded as I discovered the spiritual philosophies of yogic sages, Buddhist monks and American Indian shamans and medicine men. These ancient wisdom teachings and sacred practices spoke to me in a way that the Christian traditions of my youth never did.  

I embarked on a journey to find an authentic experience of the sacred and the transcendent nature of reality. And in the process I unwittingly joined a rapidly growing group that became known as SBNR (spiritual but not religious). 

But unlike some of my peers who decided to ‘drop out’, at that time I was also invested in the notion of the American Dream and the belief that financial security and material possessions would provide a satisfying, rewarding life.  

That was, of course, until my world collapsed in the 1980s and I experienced a spiritual reality that was more relevant, meaningful and far more consequential.   

During the years following that pilgrimage I ventured deeper into the sacred realms of the indigenous cultures. I continued to study and practice with North American Indian elders and also began traveling to Mexico to study with Maya Indian spiritual leaders. I continued to pursue a career in business but my spiritual journey became increasingly important.  

Over the years I continually used the spiritual practices I was learning to help me with self-healing, overcoming the ongoing challenges of life and achieve professional success.   

In June of 2000, during a vision quest (hanblechia) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota (Souix) Indians, I experienced the Divine presence. Although I had spent many hours the preceding year in purification lodges and prayer ceremonies preparing for this encounter, my world was turned-upside down and inside-out by this encounter. It took me years to fully understand and integrate my being in the presence of what has also been called Source, the Absolute, Great Spirit and Ultimate Reality.

At the time, it appeared to me a series of seemingly random events had led me directly to the Divine. In retrospect, I can see how my experiences formed a pathway to this transformational encounter. I had been taught by the elders that there are many paths to Spirit and I know now this is true. 

It is my sincerest hope that the understanding I’ve gained on my journey will help you find your own pathway to the Divine and realize a richer, fuller life than you may ever have imagined.