I was 35 when I sold my first company. After years of hard work, there was this long-awaited payoff. If I wanted to, I could retire, and live a life of leisure. My first call after the deal was signed was to my then-wife. I was bursting with pride and excitement, and her reaction left me flattened. “Okay,” she said. “Now what are you going to do?” I was angry and frustrated with her at the time, but in hindsight, I realize she knew me better than I knew myself.
When I was a child, my parents worked all the time. They never seemed to get ahead. Yes, they provided for us; there was a roof over our heads and food on the table. But there were no vacations, no trips to Disneyland, no “Hey, let’s go to the lake this weekend.” I saw what my friends could do with their parents, and I was determined that I would have that myself someday. I wouldn’t struggle the way my mom and dad did. I would make enough money to have time. My dreams were always of the freedom, experiences and “liquid time” that money could buy. After I sold that first company, I got that freedom – all the sailing, surfing, golf and mountain biking anyone could want. It took me a long time to realize that my ex-wife was right to imply what she did: all this money wasn’t going to solve the problem.
Like a lot of men that I know, I ran on dissatisfaction. There was a payoff in not feeling adequate. Over and over again, I sought out relationships with women who would reject me if I didn’t do really well. And when I did do well, it was never quite good enough. With my ex-wife, even making enough money to retire comfortably in my 30s was insufficient, because something else was still missing. I worked nine years to build this company and then sell it, expecting this tremendous payoff in terms of money, in terms of how my wife felt about me, and how I felt about myself. My wife nailed it – she knew all this success would leave me feeling hollow. And that’s exactly how I felt: completely hollow.
It was that sense of hollowness, as well as this pattern of seeking out dissatisfied women, that led me to therapy. I had a lot of phenomenal therapists, but none solved the underlying problem. I got very good at figuring out why I was the way I was, and why I wanted the things I wanted. I had this great vocabulary for my feelings, but no real way of changing those feelings. I tried meditation and mindfulness, but those techniques weren’t nearly as helpful for me as they seemed to be for others.
I had read a book that mentioned OM but didn’t think much of it until I was at a social event with this man who started talking about his experiences with it. He described what it was, and what it had done for him, and I found myself leaning in. He smiled at me, and asked if I would consider learning to OM. I felt my stomach flip, and this sudden wave of anxiety washed over me. I learned a long time ago that if terror and excitement show up at the same time, it means you need to do something. If it’s the last thing you want to do, then you really need to say yes. My greatest successes have come from following that intuition. I signed up.
I was very lucky in that my first experiences with OM were with women who had been practicing for a long time. As nervous as I was, they gave me such clear direction. It wasn’t just that the words were precise, it was that they came from somewhere centered and clean. The words were simple: “More pressure,” “Move left,” “Move right.” What was so powerful was that I could feel these words coming from within them, and I could respond so quickly. In the outside world, people sometimes say what they want and though the words seem clear, what’s behind the words can be muddy. Not with these women. It wasn’t just instructing; they were directing on a profound level. As a result, I could sit in that practice and feel completely in my body. As they spoke to me, I could feel sensation building not only in my finger, but in my belly, my head, and my heart. After it was over, what was even more remarkable was that I could describe those feelings. Therapy had given me an intellectual understanding of myself; OM, from the beginning, gave me a vocabulary for my inner emotional terrain.
The most remarkable thing about OM is that it has brought so much acceptance into my life. It’s given me the capacity to accept myself and where I am; it alleviates that nagging dissatisfaction that had been part of my life for so long. It’s also made me much more accepting of other people. We’re in this crazy time where the rest of the world is getting more judgmental, putting you in a box based on how they perceive your identity. In OM practice, you’re accepted and welcomed no matter how you present to the world or whatever your background is. You are so much more than the sum of your appearance or your gender, race, and so on.
I live in San Francisco, and over the last few years Burning Man had just grown into this huge thing. Everyone talks about driving to a remote corner of Nevada to experience belonging and union and total acceptance; everyone loves finding their own tribe and their own people. I have nothing against Burning Man, but I don’t need to go to the desert for a week to feel those things. If a pandemic comes, I want to have something I can still practice. OM gives you that sense of union and acceptance without relying on so many fragile externals that can be easily taken away.
OM is infectious. I see how my practice impacts the people around me, even those who have no idea what OM is or that it’s something that means so much to me. I notice this in terms of how my own acceptance of others, which has grown so much, manifests now in those around me. If I don’t think that differences are insurmountable, then the people close to me won’t think so either.
I started OM because I felt numb, and I wanted to feel something real. I wanted to get through a lot of the shame I had around sexuality. I got through the shame, and I started to feel, but I’ve ended up with so much more. I was so good, in my life before, at getting people to do what I wanted them to do. Now, I’m able to work with them so that we all get to do what we most want to do. That’s amazing progress, and I’m eager to see where it takes me and everyone around me.