David Clippinger has been a professor and is a lecturer, author of four books and more than 200 articles, a tai chi and chi kung master, owner of Still Mountain, a tai chi school in Mt. Lebanon, a Buddhist monk and an ordained Buddhist priest.
The Mt. Lebanon resident said he's managed to take his favorite parts of each of these life paths and integrate them into his present life style and career.
"I love teaching and being in class, and still do that in my tai chi studio and Buddhist groups," said Mr. Clippinger, who has a doctorate. "My subject matter and audience from the time I was a professor of American Studies at Penn State University may have shifted from academia to more of a general lay person's focus. But my current audience is more receptive than the university students I taught because they were in class because they had to be while my current students are there because they want to better their lives."
Raised a Presbyterian, Mr. Clippinger, 45, said he never felt an affinity for the religion and that his parents weren't "really pushy for it." From an early age, he said he was drawn to the writings of Henry David Thoreau, an author he called a Buddhist at heart without ever realizing it.
"When I was in grad school in the late 1980s, I started to realize I had a lot of connections to Buddhist philosophy and practice," he said. "I began to go to monasteries and got involved in meditation practices, which came to a head when I met my last teacher, Ying Fa, zen master and abbot of Cloudwater Monastery in Cleveland. I studied under him for 10 years and have an ongoing dialogue with him ever since I first started Still Mountain in February of 2003."
Mr. Clippinger said his wife, Annabelle, an administrator for the arts program at the University of Pittsburgh, encouraged his interest in Buddhism, which dovetailed with his interest in tai chi and a philosophical outlook. In 2003, he resigned his professorship at Penn State University and moved his family to Mt. Lebanon, where he opened Still Mountain.
At the moment, running the school is a full-time job that involves teaching and leading classes. Every day, in addition to the classes he leads, he practices tai chi for at least one hour, sometimes two. At 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, he leads a meditation group of between 12 and 20 people at Temple Emanuel, 1240 Bower Hill Road, Mt. Lebanon.
A firm believer in the health benefits linked to the practice of tai chi, he also serves as a wellness program consultant for corporations and organizations, such as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
He's also staged therapeutic tai chi and chi kung workshops at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, Gilda's Club of Western Pennsylvania, the Cancer Caring Center, the Dean Ornish Program at Allegheny General, the National Hemophilia Foundation's Family Weekend, Shepherd Wellness Community Center and the Healing Weekend Retreat for Persons for HIV/AIDS.
Over the years, he's seen instances of some of his tai chi students being able to go off their blood pressure medications without changing anything else and has also seen how tai chi speeds up the healing process for cancer patients who've undergone chemotherapy or radiation treatments. In 2005, he was a keynote speaker at the National Ovarian Cancer Symposium held at the Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh.
At the moment, Mr. Clippinger is busy working on a book titled "Living Chi" about the energy that unites the theory of Buddhist philosophy with tai chi and traditional Chinese medicine.
"As H.L. Mencken once said, 'Authors write books they themselves would like to read,' " he said.
So far, he has written only a couple of chapters because of his busy work schedule. He said his family is very important and that takes up a lot of his time.
"Music is a very important part of our lives," he said. "My daughter, Tess, plays the cello, my son, Philip, plays violin and is going to enter a music conservatory this fall and the family attends the symphony at Heinz Hall. My daughter is learning to play on the cello my favorite piece, "Brahms' Second Cello Sonata."
As far as his family's religious beliefs are concerned, he said he's following the way of his parents by letting his wife, son and daughter develop their own spiritual paths.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.