I sometimes get questions about how Flowing Dharma came into being and where it may be headed. Here's a brief history and its story up until now.
In 1991, after reading a good deal about Buddhism and meditation, I sat for a few days at a Zen center in upstate New York. It was a pretty miserable time - lots of pain in the body, lots of noise in the mind, very little peace. Somewhere deep inside I realized there was something of value here. I just wasn't sure what it was. So I kept reading and struggling to learn to meditate. I attended several weekend retreats which introduced me to the power of a gifted teacher's presence to deepen one's practice. More than any book I ever read, it was sitting with Dharma teachers, basking in their calmness and hearing their words that kept my enthusiasm for meditation practice alive.
Around December of 1997, after sitting a number of retreats with Matt Flickstein and attending his first teacher training course, I began teaching weekly mindfulness meditation classes. Soon, in addition to growing my psychotherapy practice, I was leading two classes on opposite sides of the bay. I was also leading one- to-five-day residential retreats and becoming actively involved with supporting the larger Buddhist community around Tampa Bay. With little conscious intention, an organization began to form.
I was staying very busy and in 2001 it became apparent to me that my life was becoming unbalanced. My psychotherapy practice was growing significantly as was the interest in my Dharma offerings. I was beginning to use mindfulness training with my psychotherapy clients and beginning to frame up my MBSR program. There was a lot of energy moving out, lots of intensity with people and organizing but precious little recovery time. While I continued to spend 25 to 40 days a year in retreat, this was not enough to keep my life in balance. It became clear that I needed more unstructured time where I was free of all demands and responsibilities. Besides, my kayak, hiking boots, off-road bike and my life partner were all complaining of feeling abandoned. A change was in order.
In the supportive synchronicity of the Dharma, people came forward to take over leadership of the two sanghas I had started. I stopped leading retreats and focused more energy on bringing in respected Dharma teachers to lead residential retreats. I took a breath and got more organized.
In 2003 a few good friends and I founded Flowing Dharma, Inc. as a 501.c.3 organization to serve as a formal vehicle for our support of the Dharma. This allowed me to: (a) establish a separation between my Dharma activities and my psychotherapy practice, (b) to create an organization into which others could easily channel their support for the Dharma, and (c) offer the tax advantages of a 501.c.3 to the organization's financial supporters. I then directed more of my energy into establishing my MBSR programs, developing Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy and ultimately to teaching this method of therapy to other mental health professionals. Once again, I had become too busy. Life was getting out of balance. Again, it was time for a change.
In September of 2008, I closed my psychotherapy practice, Jordan and I got rid of our stuff and headed to Peru to test our wings living and volunteering in the developing world. In April of 2009, we began our service with the US Peace Corps in Swaziland, Africa. This experience opened our eyes to aspects of life virtually unknown in the west and shifted our view of our place in the world. We engaged in a variety of educational and community development projects, wrote a few grants and learned about sustainability while facing the challenges of living in a rural third-world community. We also found opportunities to be of service to the Dharma; informally through discussions with anyone who was interested and formally through donating our time and FD's money to help make two donation-only, 10-day retreats possible in this small southern African country.
In September of 2011, I completed my service with PC and went to Cape Town, South Africa to sit and serve at a meditation center near there. In January, I headed to Thailand to do more of the same. In September 2012, we were both back in the US, living in upstate SC while scouting out our next place to settle.
Jordan and I have learned that a dollar goes much further in these developing countries than in America and will make every effort to stretch our donors' money as far as possible in service of the Dharma. We very much appreciate your support of our work. If you would like to make a donation, simply click this button and enter your PayPal account or credit card information.