I last wrote here six years ago. Recently I received several apparently unrelated requests to post here again, so I have been thinking about how and whether to do that.
In 2006 I left the security of permanent employment and home ownership. Since then I’ve been travelling, with only a case, a backpack and a laptop bag. In a back-of-envelope calculation, I realized I’ve stayed in well over 200 places over the last decade. I’ve always been lucky to have a roof over my head, though sometimes it’s been a near scrape.
My practices during that time, other than the Four Naljors silent sitting meditation (my daily ‘base’ practice), were martial and yogic practices of Dzogchen Long-dé in the tradition of Ling Gésar. I made a couple of trips to Nepal, including spending some time in retreat there. I’m also a practitioner of chöd, yogic song, yidam and various other Buddhist Tantric methods.
Recently my circumstances changed. In November last year, I left the sangha I’ve belonged to for most of my adult life. I gave up my wandering yogi lifestyle and moved to live in the US on a long-term basis. I live in a rural mountain village at 7k feet. I love being in the mountains.
2006 was also the year David and I put together the Aro lineage mentoring programme, which I coordinated until recently. I was also one of the mentors for the programme. Nearly all of the students I mentored through that channel, and others more recently, have STEM backgrounds. Most work in the tech industry. This wasn’t by design but seems non-coincidental. In Buddhist Tantra the interplay of personality and interests are uniquely pertinent to teaching/mentoring relationships: they’re the empty mold in which practice takes place, explicitly brought to play as an aspect of an individualist path.
I’ve noticed some commonalities amongst people with a STEM orientation approaching meditation practice, which I’d like to explore further and may be fruitful material for this site. Precision in language and definition, interest in principle and function, an ‘engineering’ approach to practice, adaptive tinkering, the capacity to employ a trial and error approach, scepticism, are some. STEM learning and tech industry experience nurture the capacity to think and behave systematically. This is an interesting and pragmatic base from which to approach Tantric practice. To be able to function systematically, to operate skilfully within a systematic worldview, one develops the capacity to navigate institutional processes.1 Ideally one learns diligently to pursue a process to completion, understanding where and why accuracy and precision are required, without blindly following the rule set. This requires spaciousness, and spaciousness is the starting point for Buddhist Tantric practice.
1. This applies equally to non-STEM environments that teach systematicity.