I became an apprentice in 1991. At the time I had already had some ‘history’ in Buddhism, having been involved in Trungpa Rinpoche’s Sangha in the seventies – and then as a student of a Zen priest in Tokyo for about ten years. This was a long time – and for whatever reasons, I came to feel pretty well worn out and dry: in need of something with a little more ‘heart’. I turned for a while to shamanism, but my explorations were mainly in books and my own imagination. Then I convinced my Japanese wife and young son to move back to the States with me. We settled in the San Francisco Bay area. One day I came upon an interview with Ngak’chang Rinpoche in a magazine called ‘Shaman’s Drum’. In the article Rinpoche spoke about some of the shamanic practices extant in Tibetan Buddhism and Bon. I was impressed with his matter of fact tone and evident personal experience, and I resolved then and there to try to meet him. My chance came about a year later when Rinpoche returned to the Bay area and gave a talk at a bookshop in San Raphael. The topic was ‘Yogic Song’. There were perhaps twenty people in the audience when Rinpoche came in dressed in white robes and wearing some rather curious looking slippers. He sat down and gazed quietly around the room for a few moments. When his seriously blue eyes locked on mine for a moment, I felt slightly dizzy. And I knew, without any doubt, that I had found my Teacher. A week or two later I attended an open retreat in Santa Cruz, filled out a short application for apprenticeship which was quickly accepted (things were maybe a little simpler in those days). And that was that.

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