For Review – Autobiographical Statement

This post is the current working draft of the Autobiographical Statement required as part of my Ph.D. admissions package.  I appreciate you taking the time to look it over and to offer any suggestions or corrections you may have.  The current page length is approximately 5.75 pages, so I don’t really have a lot of runway for additional material – but does what I have here read okay?  Does it flow well?  Am I misspelling words or names, using terms incorrectly, presenting any typos?  Have I made any grammatical errors or misused any punctuation?  If you find anything that stands out, please ping me with your notes at bradley@awakeningintolife.com.


Autobiographical Statement: A four-to-six page (typed, double-spaced) introspective autobiographical statement discussing your values, emotional and spiritual insights, aspirations, and life experiences that have led to your decision to apply.


Autobiographical Statement (Cover page)

Bradley H. Bemis Jr.

Winter Park, Florida, United States

Author Note

Bradley H. Bemis Jr. is applying to the School of Consciousness and Transformation, California Institute of Integral Studies, to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology with a focus on Consciousness Studies and Contemplative Neuroscience, starting in the fall of 2022. 

Questions concerning this submission should be directed to Bradley H. Bemis Jr. @ address (removed) @ email (removed) @ phone (removed).  

Autobiographical Statement (Body)

Hello, my name is Bradley and I am a contemplative wisdom teacher with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.  In my work, I focus on the direct, experiential realization and embodiment of nondual insight; supporting my clients in the role of teacher, guide, counselor, coach, and mentor.  I have devoted myself to this work ever since experiencing a deep and profound awakening that completely transformed my life seven years ago.  When reflecting on this event, I tend to describe it as a fundamental shift in conscious perception that was deeply psychological, heart-centered, and wisdom-based.  At the time this occurred, I was suffering an existential crisis of identity that forced me to begin confronting every layer of my psychological suffering with a force of such sincerity and earnestness that it ultimately broke me wide open.  In a single flash, everything inside of me fell away.  There were no thoughts, no sense of identity, no sense of self.  There was simply awareness – and awareness of awareness.  My mind was completely empty!  My inner and outer worlds had both disappeared, the ‘me’ was gone, there was only this awareness – and me, as awareness, aware of awareness.  That’s all there was – awareness, aware of itself, as awareness.  

I have never been the same since that moment.  That was the end of everything and the beginning of something completely new.  Who I had spent my entire life as suddenly and irrevocably died.  Something wondrous and mysterious was reborn in its place.  It was an experience of such incredible and profound intensity that it will be with me for the rest of my days.  It was my initial opening into what would become my life – the first real and tangible step into Self-realization; something I knew nothing about at the time.  Up until this point, I had been Bradley – born in 1972 to a U.S. military family stationed in Bermuda.  We moved around a lot, for a while, but then found ourselves living at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba when I was around six or seven years old.  During this time period, my parents separated.  My mother flew my younger brother and I away from our father to live with her in Miami Florida, staying in a small 1-bedroom apartment with my aunt and her two cats.  About four months into this unfortunate situation, we all went to New Jersey to visit with my grandparents.  At the end of our week-long trip, my mother explained to me that I would not be returning with them.  I was going to stay with my grandparents while she took my little brother back to Florida with her.  Having already felt the loss of my father in my life, here I was – at seven years old – and my mother was leaving me too.  The overwhelming sense of rejection, abandonment, and unworthiness that formed around this wounding stayed with me until the age of 42, when everything changed forever.

My mother invited me to live with her and her new husband again a year later, but by that point, the damage was done.  I was a problem child all throughout my remaining school years – excelling academically but plagued by ongoing disciplinary troubles.  As I got a little older, around 12 years of age, I started looking for solace somewhere.  I began to immerse myself in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that I was raised in.  I loved the teachings of Jesus, was fascinated by the mystical aspects of his story, and became enthralled by the apocalyptic parts of the Bible where he would return in glory.  At the same time though, I was deeply disturbed by the Old Testament and by the behaviors, the ironies and inconsistencies, present in the way the Church conducted itself.  As I got older, I began to question everything more and more – to the point where I was considering becoming a priest but just couldn’t support ‘the party line’.  By the time I was ready to leave home and join the military myself, I had abandoned my faith and adopted a more scientifically-based philosophy of atheism.  I needed evidence – and could no longer operate from a model of unquestioned beliefs.  I was okay for a while this way, never really thinking too much about it.  Then, as I was leaving my last duty assignment with Air Force Special Operations Command in 2000, my whole sense of identity underwent several escalating periods of conflict and crisis.  I called it my period of “stumbling around in the dark”.

In 2004, I came across a book by the Dalai Lama about Buddhism and then purchased the book “Buddhism for Dummies” a few days later.  I found the teachings of the Buddha, on the nature of suffering, to be quite consistent with my own experiences – and here Buddhism was, offering a way out.  Wanting to get as close as I could to the actual teachings of the Buddha, I started to study in the Theravada tradition, joined the Seattle Insight Meditation Society, and began practicing Vipassana and Metta meditations.  I also attended a 10-day silent retreat with the S.N. Goenka school, adopted a vegan lifestyle, and began to open up to the possibility of transformation.  After a year and a half, I still wasn’t really getting the results I wanted though.  I was in the middle of a divorce and experiencing tremendous psychological suffering, so I stopped everything, sold my home, and decided to take a year off from my work as a cybersecurity professional.  I spent that year hiking and backpacking, volunteering with hospice care, and trying to get my life back on track.  When I started working again, things pretty much went back to the way they were before – I was confused, unhappy, and causing a lot of difficulty for myself.  Over the next ten years, my life became a shambling mess of a thing and I was actively hiding from it; doing my best to distract myself from the day-in, day-out dramas of my own inner conflict.

Around August or September of 2014, just after my 42nd birthday, I began to notice how dark my world had become; how depressed and hopeless I felt, how lost I was.  Something inside of me began to ask, “is this really who you want to be?”.  So, I began to look more closely at my behavior – at both my internal and external patterns of thought and expression.  There was something present in this inquiry that was different than anything I had experienced before.  There was movement toward a form of radical-self honesty that wouldn’t let me hide anymore.  Although it had been nearly 10 years since I’d left my meditation practice behind, a new form of ‘engaged mindfulness’ began to show up, on its own, effortlessly.  I was getting really grounded in the breath; in the movement of it at the tip of the nose, then in the gut, and finally the heart.  It wasn’t a meditation though, because it was coming through in my daily life activities – everything was becoming more clear, more mindful, and I was beginning to have these small insights that started to add up over time.  I refer to this as a “popcorn popper” of inner insight that was just bubbling up from within – and it kept opening me up more and more.  This process continued for another month or two, until that fateful day on 13 October 2014.  I was immersed in a full-bodied mindful rage for several hours while struggling with some repair projects around my home.  At the end of the day, completely exhausted by the intensity of it all, I sat down, began to center myself in the breath, and that’s when it happened.  That’s when everything fell away.  That’s when love finally found me.  As I said earlier, all that was left was awareness, aware of itself, as awareness.  All that was left was love. 

I spent the next year of my life in what I can only describe as a vortex or whirlwind of unexplainable mystical and synchronistic experiences.  I learned how to love myself completely – how to forgive myself, accept myself, and honor myself through and through.  I learned how to surrender into love, into faith, into trust – into a way of being that no longer depended upon the mental gymnastics and assumptions of the mind – into a full-hearted, open, and authentic expression of life.  I read and studied everything I could get my hands on.  I didn’t really have a spiritual frame of reference – all of this was actually rather shocking to me.  My Catholic upbringing and my brief stint as a Buddhist didn’t explain what was happening.  It was actually a tremendously fearful and disorienting period of time for me, punctuated by rich moments of profound beauty, insight, and realization.  I found my comfort in the Tao Te Ching, the words of Jesus, Buddhist scriptures, and talks by Ram Dass, Adyashanti, Allan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, and several others.  Around four or five months into this process, I was called to sell all of my possessions and enter into the homeless life.  At first, I was confused by this, but eventually, I surrendered into it and left my life behind to live on the streets of Seattle as a homeless, wandering ascetic.  I would sleep in front of a bookstore at night and engage in street ministry work during the day.  This lasted for nearly three months.  It came to an end when I found myself drawn to the book “I Am That” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.  Reading his words helped me see that this particular phase of the awakening journey was over.  Everything had clarified and resolved itself exactly as it needed to, and it was time for me to return to the world.  I pulled together my few remaining possessions and moved to Florida, where my family was still residing, so I could start over again. 

When I arrived in Florida, in June/July of 2015, I spent a considerable amount of time in discussion with several teachers, priests, masters, swami’s, and other spiritual leaders, all of whom validated and confirmed the clarity of my experiential insights.  I continued to teach a bit here and there, in individual and small group settings, but it wasn’t until November of 2015 that I gave my first public talk on “The Promise, Process, and Pitfalls of Obtaining Spiritual Enlightenment”.  After that I started to lead a series of classes that I called “Sitting in Truth with Bradley” at a local Unitarian Church, then at a Zen Center, and then at a spiritual center in Orlando.  By late 2017, I had started to notice that many people were enjoying my teachings, but they weren’t really understanding what I was saying.  Those who did would experience great difficulty in accommodating their newfound insights.  I felt like something was missing from my teaching work, so I started to look deeply into what that might be.  This led me to take a 9-month course in Inner Presence Coaching based on Internal Family Systems theory.  It also led me to the discovery of the Integral and Transpersonal Psychology program at CIIS.  I immediately fell in love with what I was seeing, but I needed to make sure that I could legally practice psychology at some point, so I opted to enroll in the CACREP-accredited Master of Science degree program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Walden University.  In the three and a half years that it took me to complete this program, my awakening continued to deepen and became much more embodied.  I started to study many of the clinical approaches derived from contemplative wisdom, like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, and others.  I also found that the role trauma played in people’s lives was the thing that had been missing from my teaching work.  I began to develop a new appreciation for a trauma-informed approach to nondual teaching, which is when things began to open up even more. 

In August of 2021, I graduated from Walden’s program with a 4.0 GPA, 9-months of clinical experience in trauma-informed counseling, and a clear sense that I wanted to devote myself to research efforts that would help bring nonduality into the mainstream of psychological discourse.  While I appreciate what I learned throughout my master’s program, the overall approach felt quite limited and ultimately unhelpful.  It is my unwavering assertion that, unless and until we penetrate beneath the mind, into the heart, and emerge transformed, everything else is just a half-measure.  I have no problem with the therapeutic or even transformational possibilities present in other methods, but the way I explain it to people is that “I know what it is to live on one side of the doorway, and I know what it is to live on the other side.  My whole life is now devoted to helping others cross the threshold”.  Meeting with people, giving talks, and doing occasional workshops on nonduality, self-realization, and embodied awakening is wonderful in and of itself.  However, I am not satisfied with the current state of affairs in the world or in the domain of counseling psychology.  I want to be part of a movement that allows for the objective, scientific examination of nondual teachings, practices, and insights, using the tools of modern neuroscience to demonstrate the transformational power of contemplative wisdom as a healing salve for psychological suffering.  People keep telling me that I don’t ‘need’ to pursue this Ph.D. program, that my teachings are already well regarded and that my clinical work is exceptional.  But me, I cannot help myself!  I have been drawn to this program for several years now.  It’s what I’ve been working toward this whole time.  It’s the path that continues to unfold beneath my feet.  Love has led me to your doorstep, so here I am knocking.  I want to be a part of what you are doing in the world – and I feel like I can make a powerful contribution along the way. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.  


Thanks again for your help reviewing this.  If you find anything that stands out, please ping me with your notes at bradley@awakeningintolife.com.

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