My name is Ozzie Gontang.
I am married. Kip’s an Aussie but Ozzie’s not. We have two daughters, Erin and Allison. They have indelibly imprinted on the back of their eyelids: If you want to know the future, create it. And they have and are. Both went to Berkeley in Cellular & Molecular Biology. Erin’s doctorate from Scripps Institute of Oceanography in Marine Chemistry completing a post-doc at Harvard Medical School in bacterias in 2012. Allison’s doctorate from Stanford is in Neuroscience.
Kip and I met in Munich at the Octoberfest in 1970. Married in ‘72. Back to school in ‘73 with a 2 year Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling. My mentor during that time was a psychiatrist who got me involved in marathoning. My first marathon in Las Vegas, I hit the wall at mile 11. You can read about that in my article: My First and Last Flip Off
I became Tad Kostrubala’s first Running Therapist. I still walk and walk and run with most of the patients that I see.
My real name is Austin. I went to an Augustinian Parish with the pastor Fr. Thomas B. Austin. I went to St Augustine High School taught by Augustinians. I went into the Augustinian monastery at Villanova thinking I’d last about 3 months and left 9 years later. From 1964 to 1968 in DC I organized folk masses in about 15 parishes around the Greater DC area. Led the first folk mass in the National Shrine on the Catholic University campus.
Ran 88 marathons between 1975 and 1999, two 50 milers, one of them 200 times around the quarter mile track at Santa Monica City College, a 50 kilometer, and a 55 mile run from my home to the Benedictine monastery in Oceanside to do a silent retreat.
Learned guitar, harmonica, and sang. The last few years I’ve gotten pretty good on the dijeridoo. First learned on a PVC one my daughter gave me as a Christmas present about 12 years ago. I have always loved rhythm. While I love all kinds of music, I love to listen to electronic music with a heavy bass beat.
In 2001, unexpectedly to me, I received the Don Cope Memorial Award. The criteria says: the Cope Award is the most prestigious Vistage award and acknowledges the Chair, who in addition to being a high-performing Chair, has contributed to the organization by being an enthusiastic supporter of the Vistage mission in word and deed. It took me almost a year to get over attempting to live up to it when I realized I received it for just doing what I was doing.
I am grateful to my Vistage members who have helped me challenge myself and realize: All conversations are with myself, they just happen to involve other people most of the time. So anytime I am upset, troubled, angered, irritated, bothered, frustrated by someone, I realize that it has more to do with me than them. It’s so easy to project onto others what I don’t want to deal with in myself. I’ve also learned that the more conscious I become, the sneakier my unconscious becomes.
My purpose in less than 10 words: Coaching people to be world class humans and better athletes.
My interests over the past few years have been Buddhist and Taoist philosophy, Depth psychology, the writings of Carl Jung, James Hillman, James Hollis, and Joseph Campbell, Anthony DeMello, Thich Nhat Hanh. Also all aspects of Storytelling.
So life is about living it fully, wholeness in accepting those parts of me I don’t like, finding meaning in my life, and learning not to take myself too seriously…as they say: No one else does.
Since 1995 I’ve worked several hours a week at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines. What started out as a weight and stress prevention program morphed in 1997 into the Scripps Clinic Ornish Reversing Heart Disease Program. The program developed into what has become Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine (SCIM), one of the leading centers in the world for alternative and integrative medicine, and lead by Dr Mimi Guarneri. It has been an honor to lead the emotional support groups over these years. The focus has been on assisting people to realize they are in charge of their health and well being and that SCIM is there as a resource to guide them along that path.
I’ll end with a quote I’ve carried for about 25 years: Life is the childhood of our immortality. So there is no other person like you. You, like me, are unique and it is about bringing out the best in each other. Also I like what Kip said to our daughters: I didn’t say I would make your life easier. I said I would make it better.
May you learn what you need to create your future as each moment is a unique moment. The truth is that life is a continual improv. For you this is hopefully the beginning of a mindful odyssey for you.