As a former U.S. Navy SEAL and paramilitary security specialist, Troy Van Beek has been to some of the most dangerous places on the planet. He was lead sniper on the president of Afghanistan’s security team. He’s ridden on hostile roads notorious for car bombs and IEDs — commonplace when working in the Middle East. “Ninety miles an hour with your hair on fire was basically how we lived,” he says. He was good at it.
But he’d always had a strain of the seeker in him, and after his tour of duty ended Troy was drawn to investigate his spiritual side. Now a civilian back in the States, he wanted to find that kind of path for himself.
“I googled ‘enlightenment’ and the town of Fairfield came up,” says Troy. That piqued his curiosity, so on a trip to visit family in Michigan, he detoured south to Fairfield, home of Maharishi University of Management. “It was an amazing place,” he recalls. “It was filled with people who were in conversation about their spirituality. I was immediately taken by it.”
Troy enrolled at MUM in the BS program in sustainability. Soon after, he met Amy Greenfield, an eco-architectural designer who would become his girlfriend. Amy had been working with others in Fairfield to develop an off-the-grid sustainable community out on 185th street. Troy picked up on her passion for sustainable technologies and Vastu architecture, which matched up nicely with his own interests and aspirations.
Troy had always wanted to make world a better place, even as a soldier where he fought for others’ freedom. MUM helped to bring that dream into fruition. “Finding MUM was a blessing,” he says — even though, at first, acclimating to being on the peaceful campus was “akin to walking on the moon in comparison to the life I lived for 12 years.”
At MUM he deepened his spirituality through the practice of TM and immersed himself in sustainability studies. Before long the grip of the past began to ease up. “MUM gave me the ability to defrag my brain and body,” he says. “From that I’ve been able to take in a whole new world of possibilities.”
In 2009 Troy founded Ideal Energy, as a way to bring wind and solar power technology to corporate and government clients in Iowa and beyond, so they could run their businesses on lower cost, clean energy. For projects, Troy brings together a team of engineers, building performance specialists, security professionals, social change experts, renewable energy consultants, and architects (many of them MUM grads) to work on jobs that often involve installing massive wind turbines and vast arrays of solar panels.
Once a warrior on the battlefield, Troy looked within himself and decided on a different direction. “If I wanted to see positive change,” he says, “I knew I had to embody it myself.”
Troy and Amy married in 2012 and live in a cottage in Abundance Ecovillage, Fairfield’s thriving sustainability community. The village generates all its electricity from solar and wind power, uses sustainable materials, and maintains a small environmental footprint.
In 2012, Troy’s company, Ideal Energy, completed a breakthrough project, installing a 54,000 watt solar panel at Sky Factory, a producer of virtual skylights and window panels (see video below). The solar panel meets all of the company’s power needs. “It’s the first light manufacturing plant in the state to be net-zero [needing no outside power],” says Troy. “It’s waking people up that this can actually happen.”
Thank you to Oprah’s Next Chapter and Fairfield’s KRUU for some quotes and photos
Written by Warren Goldie