cjmacie = Christopher J Macie, b.1943 -- in California since 1949 (a "forty-niner"), but for 1976-1984 in (West) Germany.
Age 14 or 15, reading Descartes "Meditations", saw clearly that when the blood stops flowing, this brain would power-down, and with it all this "cogito" stuff -- "ergo" no more "sum". So much for the "eternal soul" and having to live life towards heaven or hell. Goodbye Christianity in general, though I still marvel at Gothic cathedrals, stained-glass windows, the music, etc.
A high-school teacher inspired ambitions in a friend and myself: reading, writing, thinking "great thoughts". And music: late one night, while reading some "great book", tuned-in the radio (some choral music by J.S.Bach), which triggered first recalled "mystical experience" (which I now would characterize as an extreme piti –rapture episode). Not to mention starting with piano as an infant, and (ca. 8th grade) lessons on the pipe-organ – that turned into a passion to learn, play, ALL of J.S.Bach's music.
So, college (Stanford 1960-1964) as music major, but bigger was getting in with a group of teachers & students (living together off-campus) in a sort-of Platonic academy. A bit of Greek (read Aristotle's "peri psyche") and a ton of German (notably GFW Hegel's "Die Phaenomenologie des Geistes", auf deutsch, 20 or so pages/week in a study group – it took a whole year). Also Edmund Husserl's "Cartesian Meditations" (in English – a primer in 20th century phenomenology). And a bunch of Carl Jung, cultural history, etc Academically speaking, that was then mostly "counter-cultural" – topics not taken seriously within the standard framework of (Anglo-Saxon) university curriculum.
Graduate school 1964-1970 at UC Berkeley (first profession was "professional student", and avoiding having to go fight in Viet Nam), first MA in Musikwissenschaft (Musicology), then ½ way through PhD work when it got boring. Up to then, getting to know the entire history of (Western) music and the cultural history around it, was enthralling; last stages of PhD involve digging-out some deservedly forgotten corner of history and researching it to death.
Serependipitously, a friend studying composition led me to Karl-Heinz Stockhausen's music, who spent a year teaching at near-by UC Davis, and was, without knowing it as such, a master at khanika samadhi. And I happened to take a course back at Stanford (John Chowning's first such course, 1967) in "computer generated music" – blew my mind, as one said back then. The course was held at John McCarthy's (author of LISP, early pioneer in AI) lab in the Stanford hills – state-of-the-art computer hardware (PDP-6, graphics terminals, etc.), and a weird bunch of geeks, who were mostly also into music. Was allowed to go down there (from Berkeley) any night and have the whole place to myself. Took Fortran and machine-code (CDC-6400) courses, and promptly transferred out of the music department into the newly formed Computer Science department at Berkeley, which was then teeming with many of the folks who later moved across the SF Bay to help spawn many of the seminal accomplishments of "Silicon Valley".
Also, by accident, got to see "Smalltalk-72" at Xerox PARC about 1975, and spent the next 25 years inspired by that, in the end totally immersed in Smalltalk culture. (That's a computer language system that models epistemology/philosophy, and cognitive ergonomics, so to speak, while most languages just engineer higher-level machine-models.) Last full-time job (1993-1997) in that field was at PARC-Place Systems – the commercial Smalltalk spin-off from PARC.
BUT, had premonitions, and mid 1980's also went through oriental-medicine college (in San Diego), got Calif. acupuncture license in 1992, while still software professional. (As a kid, friends of my parents were engineers, back in their youth big on then state-of-the-art "ham-radio" technology; by my youth, radios were throw-away gadgets mass-produced in Japan; having a sense of history (from university days), it was clear that computers would eventually go the same route.) Also 1st-wife was, in the 1970s, into shiatzu massage, and studied with a Taoist Chinese doctor; she taught me much of that, which proved beneficial enough to motivate later exploring it on my own.
Also, an interlude in the 1980's was involvement with one "Sun Bear" (combo Chippewa-Cree and hippy/new-age teacher) and his "Bear Tribe". One teaching of his that struck a chord: one may be big into this or that (e.g. being a computer hot-shot), "but what are you doing for your people?"
So, when the "dot.com" crash (2000) wiped-out the careers of us 50s-something software types rendered obsolescent by young hot-shots from China and India who worked for a fraction of the money, I was able to, again virtually by accident, buy an established acupuncture practice in Palo Alto, and that's been the (third) "profession" for the last 16 years.
Aside from the exposure (during the formative era of "new age" – 1970s) to things like the I Ching, tai-ji-quan, etc., other subtle influences accumulated to shape the present. One teacher at the acupuncture college – the one who sucked me in with an into-lecture at an "open-house" – it turns out (as I learned only earlier this year, after his untimely death) was an avid Buddhist (Zen and Tibetan). There were Tibetan Lamas around in San Diego in the 1980's (as they were/are most everywhere, in their "diaspora"); one weekend they held a "Medicine Buddha" initiation at the acupuncture college – weird hocus-pocus with strange chanting, lots of flowers, icons, bowls of butter, etc. Didn't understand a word, but, purportedly, was "initiated" as a medicine Buddha!?
But late 1990s-2000s also undertook a major course of study with a Chinese Taoist priest (who specialized in the medicine), who was able to make sense of the medical tradition (what one learns in school is, well, textbook knowledge – "scribe-knowledge" as Thanissaro once put it, vs. the "warrior knowledge" of the practitioner). And imparted teachings that illuminated Chinese medicine (to understand which, one must know the history, as well as the philosophy and the religions). One point that came up again and again was that virtually all the "great masters" of the medicine (across 2000 years) were also adepts at Taoism AND/OR Buddhism (as was this teacher) – in Chinese culture, it's hard to differentiate the two influences.
So, about 10 years ago, again by accident, I got mixed-up with a group into Parmahansa-Yogananda lineage Kriya yoga – i.e., meditation. That got old quickly, with all the emphasis on bakhti, subjective emotionalism, True Self, etc. So, by accident, a colleague directed my to Shaila Catherine's (a personal student of Pa Auk Sayadaw) Insight-Meditation "sangha", held at a church half-way between work and home here, and I was off-and-running with Theravada. She hosted B. Bodhi a couple of times, and U. Jagara on retreats. At nearby IMC (Redwood City) I got to spend a weekend per year listening to Thanissaro Bikkhu ("Than-Geof" as he's known there), and collect all his books CDs, routinely free at IMC.
After a series of 7-10 day retreats with Shaila (specializing in "hard" jhana as well as vipassana) and a couple with Spirit Rock Meditation Center, at $1000-$2000 a crack, the Insight-Meditation scene also started to get old, for reasons now clear from reading (twice already) Than-Geof's "Buddhist Romanticism" – which, from all the previous cultural history and Germanic studies, I'm able to relish perhaps more than most readers.
And then, again by accident, it turns out that the Tathagata Medication Center is just 10 miles from where I live (closer than any of the many other meditations centers, which abound in this area) – a genuine outpost of Mahasi-Pandita Burmese Theravada. Weekend retreats FREE; 4-times/year month-long retreats at $25/day (+dana) – that's half the cost for a month that IM/VM retreats cost for a week! (Tellingly, the IM people around here never mention that place.) About the time I started going there, Sayadaw U. Pandita gave the last of his annual retreats there (40 days), but I wasn't ready for that (and it was booked-out well in advanced). And the eminent Sayadaw Silananda, who largely implemented that center, already died 10 years earlier. But the current abbot, Sayadaw Thuzana, knows his stuff too, and is very approachable.
And now there's the internet thing – a couple of years into Dharma-Overground, more recently DhammaWheel. Several years ago I lurked here a bit, pretty much intimidated by it all; though I was impressed that one "Tilt Billings" had also read (and, ostensibly, understood) Piatigorsky's "The Buddhist Philosophy of Thought". Noa Ronkin (protégé of Rupert Gethin and author of "Early Buddhist Metaphysics") lives/works at nearby Stanford, and once gave a month-long introduction to Abhidhamma at Shaila Catherine's sanga. Corresponding with her about meta-reflexive issues, she recommended Piatigorsky's book, which I was able to find ($140!) and read, though his style is s/w challenging; a background in phenomenology helped a lot.
That's pretty much it. After several careers, lots of been-there, done-that, Buddha-Path seems the right thing to go out on.
One memorable teaching from Than-Geof: the Path can seen as a matter of training restraint – what comes in, and what goes out (of the mind). Both still work-in-progress, the "output" part particularly in tending to write longish essays. But the OP here asked for it.