Robert had it all: the beach house in Malibu, the latest SUV, designer clothes, the right connections. He also had a small drinking problem, and a few personal difficulties to resolve at home.

He had made his money in California real estate, and when the market crashed in the late eighties, so did Robert. He went from a net worth of millions to bankruptcy. He lost the house, many of his friends, and his confidence. By 1992 he was thinking about killing himself.

Late one evening, he was out taking a walk. He stopped and stood motionless, his mood blacker than the night. He had a thought, a simple thought. "I am finished," his mind announced. He still has trouble explaining what happened next.

"I was overcome by a sense of relief," he reports. "A sudden feeling of inexpressible freedom. I even began to laugh out loud. My body was filled with happiness, as if I was suddenly getting a joke I'd been missing. For the first time I was feeling really good for no reason at all. I was totally here, in this moment. I could feel the trees around me, and hear the sounds without having to listen to thoughts telling me things needed to be...