I had a comfortable upbringing in a safe and loving home, growing up with both parents and two older brothers in country Victoria and suburban Melbourne. My childhood passed without great trauma or difficulty, and I was reasonably happy and comfortable in my own skin. I managed to fit with the culture I was born into pretty well, and didn’t question it too much. At the end of high school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and no real distress about that fact. So I simply followed the path that was laid out for me. I had an aptitude for maths and physics and the next step in front of me was university. I chose to study Aerospace Engineering, as it was a course that seemed to be respected and lead to a career that would offer financial reward, although I didn’t particularly value these things.
I moved from the country to Melbourne to study, and during the next few years began to discover people, communities, events and ideas that opened me up to new ways of seeing and doing life. I met artists, musicians, vegetarians, people having open relationships, folk who backpacked around the world solo, people who consciously did wild things to change their automatic or cultural patternings. I saw windows into worlds in which the values and ways of living I had known were questioned or abandoned. I traveled briefly to Europe and Thailand and felt something of how other cultures lived. After a year of studying, I learned how to do enough work to scrape through with a pass – my energy was much more focused on personal and social experiences. I developed a strong group of friends and together we discovered festivals like Confest and dance parties, events where I contacted a sense of freedom and exploration I had never experienced before. We danced and firetwirled, I made art and wrote poems, read literature and had big parties. The tension between my emerging new world and my studies grew, and brought me to a major turning point in my life.
After 4 ½ years, I found myself at a point where felt I either needed to devote myself to my studies for 6 months and finish the course, or fail and be bound to it for another year. So I took some time alone to reflect and meditate on it all, intending to get enough perspective to just complete the course, so I could put it behind me and move on with my life. That night I had an experience in which I got more perspective than I had bargained for. I saw my life from a height, and it became clear to me that my course had nothing to do with the core purpose or meaning of my life. I couldn’t see any point to continuing it. I wanted to make a choice towards life. The next day I quit and have never regretted it.
I spent the next years mostly traveling Australia and Southeast Asia, gathering experiences and insights, and there began to grow inside me a sense of a greater meaning. I saw that there were laws and patterns that governed my experience as a human. I felt that when I could understand and enact them, they led towards profound experiences, and versions of myself where I was an amazing and beautiful being. This was incredibly exciting, and I found that others shared these perspectives with me, and that they were reflected in what I knew of spiritual and religious traditions. I emerged from my rationalist’s atheism and began to comprehend that there was much more to these traditions than superstition or escapism, and that there was much more to life than I had ever been aware of. It seemed to me that awakening was just around the corner.
However there came another stream of experience which I think really began when I sequestered myself in an old converted bus parked permanently in an alternative community in New South Wales. I went there with the intention of setting down and formalizing the insights that I had about life and how to live it well. In my host’s bookshelf I found a book called “Psychosynthesis”. I was amazed by how closely this work reflected my own growing understanding. Yet my own efforts to put words or structure didn’t come anywhere close to meeting my expectations. After I left there, something had shifted inside me. I became more aware of the flaws and failings of my own character, and that my life didn’t feel amazing all the time. The understandings that I had gathered somehow didn’t always lead to change, and the habits of mind and behaviour which worked against me were stubbornly persistent.
There was a culmination of events for me around the turn of the millennium. I was travelling alone through Southeast Asia, and had planned to meet up with friends in Thailand to bring in the New Year. A month before this I did my first Vispassana (ten day silent meditation retreat) in Thailand. This was a profound experience. I felt that within this monastery and practice was a pathway that I wanted to follow, and was torn between that and meeting up with my friends. I decided to spend a month with them, and then return to re-engage with that path. I felt somewhat out of place and awkward with my old friends at first, having been 6 months away on my own journey and things having shifted inside me, but I adjusted and settled back into my familiar friendships. After a month or so I returned to the monastery to find it was full and went to a national park to await a space. A few days later I received an email that my best friend had been shot and killed in northern Thailand.
I returned home to Australia for his funeral and found myself culturally and spiritually displaced. I was between two worlds and unable to live fully in either. I didn’t want to be my old self, but found myself unable to move beyond it. The insights which had been expressions of my direct experience became empty words that tormented me and didn’t bring me any closer to the states they described. I spiralled into a depression which took me years to work my way out of. I was stuck, and the more I tried to hang on to the transcendent experience, and the more I reviled myself as imperfect, the more stuck I became.
There was no clear moment of insight or particular intervention that helped me begin to emerge from this experience. I think the key thing at the lowest point was that I began to grudgingly accept that this flawed, unhappy existence was my reality. And I started working from there. There eventually came a point where I could say I was ok. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t good, but I was ok – and this was significant. I then travelled India for 15 months, spending a lot of time alone, writing in many journals, sorting through my stuff. I also had many incredible and varied experiences there. When I left India to come home, I felt that I was ready to begin to apply myself to something, to rejoin the world and create or offer something.
Soon after I got back I met my life partner Anna and we very quickly began a family. From being a lost cosmic wanderer I found myself very suddenly in the position of being responsible for caring for a family, and being a provider. In the past when I wanted money I just went and picked fruit until I had what I needed. This no longer sufficed for many reasons, and so I began the process of learning to make a living from something that meant something to me.
I wound my way through being a youth worker, a drug and alcohol support worker and working in youth mental health. During this time it became clearer and clearer to me that the core of what I liked about this work and what I was good at was the deep interpersonal encounters. Within the context of these roles, I found it difficult to satisfy my desire to work with people in this way. I then came across the Transpersonal Counselling course at the Phoenix Institute in Melbourne. It was a perfect fit for me, bringing together a perspective of spirituality and the vastness of human potential with a practical, relationship based healing modality. It was only later that I realised that the book “Psychosynthesis”, which had years ago mirrored my emerging spiritual experience, was written by Roberto Assagioli who was one of the pioneers of Transpersonal Psychology.
In 2009 I began my own practice. My relationship with my work continues to evolve. It has increasingly become a vocation for me in the truest sense of the word, deeply aligned with my life purpose and a vehicle for my personal growth. What it takes to support a human being to make positive change is intensely complex and rich, and at the same time incredibly and profoundly simple. Through grappling with what will support my clients and through the relationships themselves I learn more about how I can support myself. I feel very grateful to be able to play a part in helping people connect to themselves, each other, and live lives that are deep, rich and meaningful.
My family has grown, and I now have three children – River, Malachy and Soraya. We have a home and community in the Yarra Valley. I participate in a men’s circle and have an interest in exploring and promoting positive experiences of masculinity and being a man. I go to festivals over the summer and dance when I can.
I don’t get depressed any more, though of course sometimes I am sad. Most of the time I feel very grateful for the life that I have, and am increasingly able to know that my trials and tribulations are food for my soul. I’m doing the long, slow work of bridging the mundane and transcendent worlds and becoming more and more fine with the journey as it unfolds. I still have a lot of work to do, but that’s ok.