Working with one’s ancestors is essential to achieving a healthy and meaningful life. My grandparents were craftsmen and intellectuals from Poland, Russia and the Ukraine. My parents, siblings, and close relatives are artists involved in graphics, painting, sculpture, writing, photography, education, and architecture. My cousin Elizabeth and I are the only scientists.
I began to define myself at age 13 with my rejection of institutional learning and the planning of my own high school curriculum. I started rock climbing at age 14, attended the International School of Mountaineering in Switzerland at 15, was offered a job as an alpine guide at 16, and visited many of Europe and North America’s major mountain ranges by the time I was 20.
In 1973 I entered the self-structured Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, bringing with me a machine I’d designed for testing nylon fabrics. Focusing on science my interests expanded to include history, philosophy, literature, travel and classical guitar.
I began study of Eastern and indigenous spiritual practices with the Chilean-based Arica 40-Day Training in 1974. This asceticism fit well with the risk and struggle familiar from mountaineering. In the same year I connected with non-Western culture in the Caribbean state of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, where I spent 4 weeks as the only outsider in the active whaling village of Paget Farm.
In 1976 I transferred to the University of California in Berkeley to take graduate physics courses, learn computer programming, and work with the astrophysics group of Nobel Laureate Charles Townes.
In 1978 I moved to Austin, Texas, lulled by a sense of opportunity and the idea that I’d find it interesting because I’d never been there before. Creating my own Ph.D. program I demonstrated the feasibility of studying relativistic thermodynamics and was promptly failed for lack of deference to authority. The esteemed physicist John Archibald Wheeler wanted me thrown out altogether but Steven Weinberg, a more celebrated committee member, negotiated my reprieve on the condition that I move to some other floor of the building. Switching to a program in condensed matter physics I developed new computer algorithms, invented a quantum mechanical calculational technique and demonstrated its efficacy in the first quantum description of the onset of ferromagnetism; work that was published in the International Journal of Physics as I was awarded a doctorate.
In 1985 I accompanied my partner and anthropologist Stephanie Kane to a remote village in the Darien Jungle of Panama to study the Emberá and their technologically primitive culture — they still wore loin clothes and sometimes hunted with spears. I developed a warm relationship with a village elder who asked me to join his search for gold in the jungle’s Heart of Darkness. I turned him down to return to physics, one of my great regrets.
Research success in physics was balanced by professional failure. Lacking an advocate, and being untrained in the projects for which people were being hired, I took my computer programming skills into the business world heading to New York with my then partner Jennifer Fox, a Brazilian anthropologist and Priestess of Ifá.
After a frightening interview on Wall Street in 1988, where I was told that what counted most was one’s skill in deceiving clients, I partnered with a student programmer in founding the database software company Braided Matrix, Inc. My interest in finance led to U.S. Patent #5,740,427 for a “Modular Automated Account Maintenance System,” and on this basis we developed “4th Quarter Accounting,” a middle-sized business application that continues to develop at www.4thquarter.com.
A 1996 Botanical Preservation Corps conference on psychoactive plants reminded me of the necessity of being involved with music so, through the cultural wealth of New York City, I developed connections with artists from Inner Asia that culminated in a series of grants, spectacles, workshops, and collaborations between traditional Mongolian and American musicians. This incorporation of a holistic approach expanded to include cultural and ecological preservation, and indigenous and oriental medicine. The replacement of austere mountains with forests, steppe and jungle, and a shift from confronting nature’s impersonal side to resolving dissonant aspects of my own personality heralded becoming a healer myself.
In 1998 Jenny gave birth to our son Kiran, an event which later brought the epiphany that compulsory state schooling is a false promise of education wrapped around a socially engineered program to create organic machines. Did you ever wonder why your own school experience seemed like nightmare in a madhouse?
An instructive experience in founding our own school led to our joining a locally organized Sudbury school that believes children are the best judge of what's relevant to their own growth. Exploring learning more deeply led me to begin "The Learning Project," a compilation of first-hand accounts of authentic learning at all ages, which is now available online.
Around this time I began designing board games that allowed me to mix art, community, and system theory. Games are a dialog in which the story is manifest in the relationships that develop, reflecting both one’s attitudes and our group behaviors. Games are in their infancy as tools for story telling and exploring society.
A 2006 Peruvian conference on Science, Shamanism and Healing introduced me to the bridges forming between neuroscience, psychology and shamanism, and upon my return I began my own neurofeedback therapy at Stephen Larsen's Stone Mountain Center. From this community of scientists, dreamers, and healers I trained in various modes of neurofeedback therapy aimed at healing dysfunction, enhancing one's skills, and exploring reality.
The field of EEG-based psychotherapy and neuroscience, also in its infancy, develops on the basis of clinical success with little theory and scant recognition of insights from other cultures. My background provides me special advantage in this field where my research contributions are applauded and my presentations to lay audiences embraced.
In 2008 I serendipitously encountered Liz Dieleman who was rearranging her life after a challenging herbal apprenticeship. A year later this young musician from Michigan came to New York to join our extended family in developing her professions as a musician and as a doula. We are expecting a son in 2010.
My activities balance themes of learning and growth and connect with my obligations to self, family, and community. Indigenous cultures teach that only through a complete life does one achieve balance and strength. If I work with you I will support you in whatever work calls you, and I will help you find enlightenment inside and outside of yourself.