Clint: Chris, you have been studying and practicing various forms of meditation for quite some time now…about thirty two years, correct? What brought you to study meditation at such a young age?
Chris: Yes. I was thirteen years old when I discovered meditation and fourteen when I really started to practice on a daily basis. As a kid I was very interested in watching the news. I had been raised somewhat Catholic (my mother claimed to be a “recovering Catholic). I turned on the news one morning and caught a bit of the Pope John Paul being interviewed. During this interview Pope said some things that I found very disturbing. In that moment I decided that I wanted to find a spiritual practice that was more in line to what I felt my inner truth to be. I read books on Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism. The writings on Buddhism really resonated with me, and I thought to myself “hmmmm….Buddhists meditate, so I should learn how to do that” ( I later found out that most if not all the world’s religions have a meditative component to them) Of course, at that time I had no idea what that really meant, but it was the start of my spiritual journey. As a side note…I really love Pope Francis. I often wonder what my life would be like if he was the pope when I was thirteen years old.
Clint: Prior to your teaching meditation as a career, you were a professional musician. How did the change come about from musician to spiritual guide/teacher?
Chris: It was quite a long process indeed. During my time as a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, I was attending classes and various programs at The Cambridge Zen Center, which was just down the street from the college. I received my first formal meditation instruction there. So meditation and music always seemed to run parallel in my life. My first album was entitled “Somewhere Between Thought”, which is where we rest when we do Zen Meditation. Generally speaking we learn to rest in the space between the thoughts. There was always a dual interest there. The real shift for me happened when I experienced the September 11th events unfold in Manhattan in 2001.
Clint: Yes, you mention September 11th on your website as being the catalyst which brought you into teaching. Could you talk more about that?
Chris: I consider September 11th, 2001 to be somewhat like a birthday to me. A spiritual birthday if you will. In the Buddhist canon there is the famous story of Prince Siddharta escaping from his sheltered life on the palace grounds which he grew up to experience his first encounter with suffering. This experience shook him so deeply that he spent many years searching for the root of suffering, and as The Buddha, he spent forty years teaching techniques focused on freedom from suffering. Being in Manhattan on September 11th was much the same for me. Of course, I had experienced suffering prior to that event, but I had been brought up truly believing world peace would inevitably happen in my lifetime. I still believe world peace is a possibility, but not without a very dramatic change in the world and the current worldview. When the attacks on the world trade center occurred, I had already been studying meditation and Buddhism formally for almost fifteen years. I knew the contemplative teachings, if presented in an evolved way, could possibly bring about the shift needed for world peace. I have immersed myself in these teachings ever since.
Clint: The name “Such Sweet Thunder” has become something of a trademark for you. You titled your book this and the school that you are now director of. Can you talk a bit about where that phrase came from?
Chris: Sure. I was writing a letter to my teacher Ken McLeod. I had just finished a year and a half of studying a particularly challenging meditation technique. While I was writing the letter thanking him for his guidance I wrote “Awakening is Such Sweet Thunder” The words just seem to appear from the tip of the pen effortlessly. The Such Sweet Thunder is descriptive of what it felt like to me for my entire identity to drop away. My world shook from this Thunder. To quote what I wrote in the book: “With a thunderous boom the ground which once held me up, gave me security, provided me with a sense of “I”, had collapsed and disappeared.”
(Excerpt from “Such Sweet Thunder.”)
Clint: So what is next on the horizon for Christopher?
Chris: Well, currently I live a nomadic life, traveling and teaching full time. Eventually I would like to open my own center. A place where people of all religions, faiths, and spiritual practices can come together not only to practice their own particular method of growth, but to exchange and share with each other. A spiritual melting pot, if you will. But it is always difficult to predict the future. I live my life in response to what arises in the present moment, and in that way, I am subject to the winds of change. So I will continue to allow the road ahead to unfold and not force life in any one direction. I have found myself in some very unexpected places indeed! But no matter where I go, I am always home.