About David

David Clark -Guide in the Wild

From an early age I have been obsessed with the question of meaning – call me “existentially precious”.

Actually, my earliest memory is from growing up on Padre Island off the Texas Gulf Coast.  I remember I was looking up at the vast array of the stars glittering above the swaying palm trees on a balmy summer evening, and thinking: what is the meaning of it all?  My life has been a search to address these fundamental human questions:

“Who am I?  Why am I here? What is the meaning and purpose of my life?”

My experience as a priest, spiritual counselor, wilderness guide, vision quest guide, college teacher of philosophy and comparative religion, meditator, and hospice chaplain, is that without intentionally and purposely answering these questions (which because they are dynamic will change and grow), no matter what we may accomplish in life our life will be less than it could be.  At our deepest core when we take the space and time to touch in to our deepest core, we will feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled.

My experience confirms that “the unexamined life is not worth living”

Entering the Priesthood

So, it is not surprising that when I was 10 years old I began holding Sunday afternoon Christian services, with my congregation being the apartment dwellers who lived in the complex that my grandfather owned.  Of course, I passed around the proverbial offering plate with the explanation that “these candles don’t come cheap”.

I mention this because it is one example of how I was drawn to spirituality and leading ceremonies.

After graduating from college I entered the Army and served as a chaplain’s assistant to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. While there I became enthralled by the writings of the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis (of the Narnia Tales fame) and who belonged to the Church of England or what is known in the U.S. as the Episcopal Church.  And so, that’s what I wanted to be as well, not only an Episcopalian but an Episcopal priest.

Following my discharge from the Army, four years later I was approved to attend Episcopal seminary and received a Master’s of Divinity and was ordained as a priest. I subsequently spent almost twenty years as priest, particularly focusing on spiritual counseling and spiritual development.  During this time I enrolled in pre PhD Studies in spirituality and ethics at Duke University.

Exploring the Great Wisdom Traditions

There came a point, however, when I wanted to expand the horizons of my spiritual path by exploring the beliefs and practices of the Great Wisdom traditions.  I left the priesthood and embarked into the great unknown.

This was a period of great challenges, fear and trepidation as I sought to find my place in the world, often in very unfamiliar terrain.  I spent a year on a traveling self-guided vision quest, camping and backpacking through the Southwest. I also immersed myself in obtaining wilderness and  leadership skills, receiving certification as an outdoor guide with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) , WEA (Wilderness Education Association), OLTS (Outdoor Leadership Training Seminars) and a WFR (Wilderness First Responder) from Wilderness Medicine Institute.  At the same time I was exploring the spiritual practices and teachings of  Native American Spirituality, Shamanism, and Buddhism.

Upon completing my wandering I received training as a wilderness guide and spent the next 4 years working with youth-at-risk and young adults with addictions with some of the most prominent wilderness therapy programs in Utah and Colorado.  Concurrently, I entered a Master’s program in wilderness therapy at Naropa, a Buddhist University in Boulder, Colorado.  It was there that I deepened my meditation practice and attended the core curriculum for meditation and mindfulness in the Buddhist Shambhala tradition.

Becoming a Hospice Chaplain

After I felt that my time as a wilderness therapy guide had come to it’s natural conclusion, I was drawn to the service of hospital chaplaincy. I completed 2 years of clinical chaplaincy training and worked as a hospice and palliative care chaplain.

Working with the dying and their families is a profound privilege.  More often than not, I feel that I gain so much more from them than what I am able to offer.  As a hospice chaplain, the most important gift I can give is the commitment to “show up” as fully as I can and be attentively present to the needs of the patient.  This means be present to the person who is dying and their loved ones, present to myself (my own fears and concerns about aging and dying) and present to the “now” moment that we are sharing together.  The gift the dying give to me is a constant reminder how each moment is a precious gift and we do well not to squander it.
The challenging part for me in hospice is to witness the way the dying, both at home (which inspired the hospice movement) and in nursing homes are totally cut off from the natural world…the air, the clouds, the earth, the feel of the wind and sun, the sounds of birds and squirrels.  Nursing homes (despite the dedicated and loving staff who work there) are truly “houses of horror”, with little, if nothing, to remind them and help connect them to the natural world from whence we all come from and the earth which will at last receive us again.

 

Wilderness Quest Guide and Wilderness Retreat Guide

What emerged from the year long retreat was a deep sense of calling to become a vision quest guide, or, as I prefer to call it – wilderness quest guide.  I had done vision quest guiding as part of my wilderness therapy work, but I wanted to fully immerse myself in that calling and so I trained for two months in the vision quest guide training program with the School of Lost Borders in California and began offering vision quest programs as the founder and guide of Wild Spirit Passages.  My core beliefs and the mission of Wild Spirit Passages may be found on the Home Page.

My Passion and the Path I Seek to Share

This is my passion and that path that I seek to share.  This is the path that gives meaning and purpose, allowing us to live authentically our true story of who we are and our place of service in the world.  This is the path that illuminates the response from those stars so long ago, those questions from that 6 year old boy:  Who am I?  Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?

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