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Lions Roar : November 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2011 31 and though he didn’t pursue it, he began to feel the draw of Buddhism. He was haunted by the images of Vietnamese monks setting themselves on fire in protest of the Vietnam War and he was fascinated by the work of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. But in high school, Imperioli was also reading plays and resolving to have an acting career, so—im- mersed in theater and film—a decade was to go by before he explored spirituality. Imperioli read about mysticism and the occult; he read Krishnamurti and Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. Meditation in Action by Chö- gyam Trungpa Rinpoche was the first Bud- dhist book he read. “In my late twenties,” says Imperioli, “I was what Trungpa Rinpoche would call a spiritual shopper. I would read books and they would all make sense to me and I’d get a lot out of them. But a couple of days later, after I’d finished them, I’d be back in my old habitual patterns and habitual way of thinking. It wasn’t until I had a real prac- tice, which I got through Buddhism, that I felt things starting to change.” In 1996, Imperioli married Victoria Chlebowski, a stage designer who had fled her native Ukraine with her mother in 1976 because of anti-Semitism. In college, she studied some philosophy and read a lot of Buddhist books, which she shared with Im- perioli. Then about five years ago, the couple began attending Buddhist teachings in New York City, where they live. The first teachings they went to were by Gelek Rinpoche, who has been the teacher of such luminaries as Allen Ginsberg and Phillip Glass. Now Imperioli and his wife go to all of Gelek Rinpoche’s teachings that they can manage, as well as to the teachings of Sogyal Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama. In July, they took Buddhist refuge vows with Garchen Rinpoche. “I always had a sense that spirituality meant having to work on yourself, rather than just adopt- ing a set of beliefs and following them blindly,” says Imperioli. “And the more I learned about Bud- dhism, the more I felt that’s really what it is—direct methods of working on yourself, meditation being the first method. It made sense to me that the only way to transform your world was to transform yourself.” Imperioli and his wife have busy careers and three children, yet they’ve made practice a priority by cutting out the superfluous. “We live a low pro- file life,” Victoria Imperioli explains. “We have our circle of friends but we are very family-oriented. If we go to an event at all, we go to see someone’s play or film. We never really go to parties. You can’t fit in everything.” “Buddhism has brought a lot of benefit to our PHOTOBYISABELLABERNEIS Michael Imperioli with Garchen Rinpoche on the day Imperioli took Buddhist refuge vows with him in July.