I’m a geek, a spiritual explorer, an aspie, and a psychotherapist. Let’s take these one at a time.
From a young age, I’ve felt a strong emotional connection with the natural world—especially with the sky, the air, and the weather. I’ve always been drawn to the beauty and drama of storms. I went storm chasing every spring for a number of years, driving hundreds of miles to find big, beautiful storms.
I’ve always appreciated the ability to make sense of our experiences through reason. That, combined with my love of nature, drew me toward science. In my youth and adolescence, you’d often find me reading books about weather, caves, volcanoes, astronomy, engineering, and physics. I also read plenty of science fiction.
I’ve always liked designing and building things. In my youth, you’d often find me playing with electronics kits, soldering irons, saws, hammers, and nails. In my adolescent years, my attention shifted to computer programming, and I spent many hours writing video games for the early 8-bit home computers that were popular in the 1980s.
I did well in school, and I kept coming back for more, year after year, all the way through a PhD in computer science. My PhD was focused on software for supercomputers—the big computers used for scientific applications like forecasting the weather. That led to a job at a multinational semiconductor company developing software performance tools after I graduated in my late 20s.
I’ve always liked organizing groups of people. I’ve worked as a first-line manager in a corporation, served as a board member for a couple of small nonprofits, and organized many small local self-help groups and psychotherapy groups. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of entrepreneurship and creating organizations, but when it comes down to it, I’m more of an artist and healer than a businessperson or scientist. I seem to care more about discovering truth and creating beauty than I do about accumulating wealth, power, or knowledge.
I’ve done solo creative work in a number of different media over the years. As a child and young adult, I was fascinated by photography and multitrack music recording. In my teens, 20s, and 30s, I spent many hours writing and recording songs and doing nature photography. In my 40s, my creative efforts shifted toward writing, and I eventually authored a book on cultivating mindfulness and insight through meditation. Now, as I enter my 50s, my focus is shifting again, toward speaking.
I’ve been curious about consciousness since my teens. I explored the artificial intelligence field in college, but actually, awareness interested me much more than intelligence. I was fascinated by the idea of creating a computer that would have its own awareness, its own subjective experience. Toward the end of my senior year in college, I had an epiphany: I could spend my entire life trying to build an aware computer and it might not ever happen. And if I wanted to create something with its own awareness, I could just have a baby! I immediately lost all my passion for AI.
In my 30s, I encountered the technology of meditation and soon realized that it could be a tool for exploring consciousness. I started doing so, and I found this experiential exploration of consciousness much more satisfying than the intellectual exploration that I’d attempted earlier through my study of artificial intelligence. I soon discovered philosopher Ken Wilber; his work helped me break out of my scientific materialist shell, and his Integral framework was a helpful guide as I explored meditation and mystical spirituality.
I spent a significant amount of time practicing meditation and studying about it, both on my own and in spiritual community. I also explored some related practices like breathwork, ecstatic movement, yoga, and qigong. I found all these practices helpful.
Determined to cultivate insight, I explored many spiritual traditions and communities looking for the right place to do this work. Eventually, I settled into a local Tibetan Buddhist center (Albuquerque Karma Thegsum Choling, an affiliate center of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra). I later shifted my attention to the Buddhist teachings of Ken McLeod, then to Kenneth Folk. Eventually, having found what I was seeking, I let go of my focus on Buddhism. As of this writing, I’m not affiliated with any particular religion or spiritual approach; my spiritual life is guided by an inner knowing and informed by a wide range of approaches.
As I was cultivating insight, I started recognizing the fragility of our civilization, the fragility of our planet’s systems on which our civilization depends, and the negative impact that our civilization is having on those systems. I recognized that the whole thing could come crashing down in short order, and I went through a period of grief as I recognized this. I came out of this period with a renewed sense of dedication to supporting people in their awakening; I see awakening as an important part of the solution to the problems we now face.
Growing up, social skills were a weak point for me. This became especially clear in my teenage years, when I lagged behind my peers in activities like socializing and dating. I liked people and I wanted healthy friendships and relationships, but I lacked social intuition, and that led to a lot of loneliness in my teens and 20s. Being in relationship has been an important part of my path of awakening—especially my relationship with my wife, who I met in my late 30s.
In my late 40s, my wife convinced me to start learning about Asperger’s syndrome, also known as high functioning autism, which is related to deficits in social skills. I did so—reluctantly. A turning point in my thinking came when I took an online self-assessment, which indicated that I had mild autism.
I have a pretty unusual mix of personality traits, strengths, and foibles. I’d assumed this mix was unique to me, but as I started learning more about autism and Asperger’s, I made an amazing discovery: I share these traits with people all over the world. I started to view learning about Asperger’s as part of my awakening process. It was as if I’d owned a powerful but unusual car for many years and I’d finally found an owner’s manual that explained its many quirks and features. I now understand that a significant aspect of my personal awakening process has involved overcoming the limitations on my social skills caused by autism.
Over the course of my life, I’ve compensated for my slower development in social and emotional skills through study, practice, and hard work. In my 30s, I was drawn toward an intensive study and practice of empathy, compassion, communication, and conflict resolution in the Nonviolent Communication community. This led to a more formal study of psychology in my 40s, including a master’s degree in counseling.
In my current occupation as a licensed psychotherapist, I enjoy helping individuals heal from trauma through EMDR therapy and helping people learn how to have healthier, happier relationships through couple’s and group therapy. As part of my training, I earned a certificate in human sexuality, and I feel comfortable discussing sexual and gender issues with my clients.
Over the years, I’ve come a long way in developing the intuitive understanding of people that I lacked as a child and teenager. I’ve also gained a lot of knowledge and skill in facilitating personal growth and healing, and the work I’m doing now as a psychotherapist is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. I currently live in Santa Fe, New Mexico with my wife Emilah DeToro.
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