About the Founder of Teaching Tools for Mindfulness TrainingJohn Bilby E-mail:email@example.com
By now, you've probably seen some references, elsewhere in this site, to the fact that I do not wish to be the center of attention at this school. As said in those places, the center of attention here is you.
But, being the founder of TTMT, I've felt that I ought to take some personal responsibility for what this web site is, along the lines of "attribution," such as is seen in newspaper articles and scientific papers. To a certain extent, a reader deserves to be able to know who and what they are dealing with, what or who they are relying on for the facts and even claims, that are being set forth.
The claims here are not so extensive, having to do with the observations I have made in my life that people who catch on to mindful awareness and learn to practice this ancient esoteric art find many uses for it, both spiritual and commonly practical in the everyday events of ordinary life.
I don't mind telling you a few things about me, as long as you remember the caveat at the top, and realize that this has nothing to do with "glorifying the founder," which would not serve you at all in the things you may be about to learn at this school. At least I can fill you in a little bit on the background of how I have come to be here now. And this can be fun for me; I don't remember ever doing this before--a "little personal history."
I was born in Boston, strangely enough, on Christmas Day, in 1934. My parents, respectively, were my Christian (Scottish, English, Irish) Father, and my Jewish (Ukrainian) Mother. Perhaps the dilemmas that this presented for a young boy have been helpful to me in encouraging the ecumenical perspective that I have grown up with. She was a flapper, and met him at Harvard. And they divorced when I was 12.
I grew up in Tucson, from a time when there were only thirty thousand people here, and only a small portion of this broad desert Santa Cruz River Valley that I have around me now had buildings in it then. There are twenty times as many people and buildings here now as there were then, and only small sections of the valley still retain their wilderness coverings of desert as I remember them everywhere as a boy. But still, there is wilderness as far as the eye can see all around Tucson, and this is a very beautiful desert here indeed.
There are many mesquite trees out there in the country, and palo verdes, and stately cottonwoods along the major washes that run down from little valleys in the mountain ranges all around here in every direction. There are century plants, ocotilla, prickly pear, and the famous saguaro cactuses (the prototype of all green cartoon cactuses with arms), which live more than a century, themselves, stand up to forty feet tall, and only grow on the face of this whole planet in this small local portion of the surrounding Sonoran Desert that extends northward in Arizona from here, and southward into the Mexican State of Sonora.
After graduating from the University of Arizona many years ago, I traveled in Mexico for two years, living in my old Ford, and then became a lieutenant in the Air Force, and was stationed three years in Morocco, where I lived in Sa‘dia du Kiss, and Casablanca. This gave me many opportunities to travel in Europe. When I came back here to Tucson I entered law school (first in my class for the semester I was there), but dropped out in favor of a career in newspaper reporting, which I undertook initially to support myself in school. I liked being a reporter better than being a lawyer. In fact, I wasn't cut out to be a lawyer, even though I did good in the grades.
This ten-year career of reporting took me from Tucson to San Diego to Los Angeles to Honolulu--working for daily newspapers in those cities. Before going to Hawaii I dropped out (this was 1967) and I became a hippie. During this period I had my first exposure to meditation and spiritual practices, which I took an active interest in.
I participated in the publication of the Oracle of Southern California, a psychedelic underground tabloid, and lived with the others who put the Oracle out together in a commune on Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills, the old Log Cabin mansion that had been built by Tom Mix and was owned for many years by Harry Houdini (last previous tenant, Frank Zappa, and band, and dancers --and their back-up band, "The Fraternity of Man," that sang "Don't Bogart that Joint" in "Easy Riders," living in the basement of the enormous Log Cabin with the day-glo painted bowling alley in the dark.) I wrote a few articles in the Oracle myself, one a story about the Beatles, these under a pseudonym, because I was still working for the Herald-Examiner in downtown L.A. for awhile longer (writing stories that the City Editor assigned, making fun of the hippies).
While I was dropped out, I spent a little time at Tassajara, near Esalen, with Suzuki Roshi. He did not speak a word in the days that I camped there. This was not long before his death. And when I went to Hawaii soon after that, it was with an intention of finding other teachers there who were "of the same kind" (though I knew not what I sought) as that gentle zen master near the end of his great life. On the plane over to Hawaii I started reading Peter Ouspensky's "In Search of the Miraculous," about his years of study with G.I. Gurdjieff in Russia. But I could only get through a few chapters before I became completely baffled.
I got a job with the morning paper in Honolulu, the Advertiser. I worked for them at the City Desk for a number of years, as a general assignment reporter and feature writer. I salted my stories about other subjects with cryptic clues that I was looking for teachers, cryptic references to awareness that I thought might catch a teacher's eye, since I had caught on, at least, from Ouspensky that awareness was somehow at the heart of all that I was searching for. "Self-remembering," Gurdjieff called this awakened state of mind.
I got many takers, and found and became friends with and worked with a number of teachers of zen, Gurdjieff work, vipassana, and other approaches to human understanding that all involve the catching on to this key secret factor--awareness, self-remembering, mindfulness, and the other names that it is known by.
Shoot! This is going on far too long, and here I was saying up above that I didn't want to hog the spotlight at this school!!! I don't think anybody cares about any more of this stuff about me. There are a few things I could add about my teacher Mitsuo Aoki, and my gestalt therapy teacher, and the Hawaiian kahunas I lived among on Makua Beach, and don FelŐpe, the 102 year old Yaqui nagłalist maestro that I met when I came back here to Tucson, and the other important teachers that I found during the course of my life. But there is enough stuff in the other pages at this web site about all of them--and more importantly, their verbatim teachings that I still remember well.
(So, if anybody really cares about this story, I'll write another installment one of these days. At least it was fun for me to reminisce about these old times . . . . .) Oh, yeah. John Bilby is my name. I'm also the kindergarten teacher here.