If you yearn to go beyond the story of your life and discover greater freedom, happiness, and ease of being, I teach the “direct approach” to self-realization, which bypasses elaborate practices, belief systems, and self-improvement schemes. Instead of cultivating mindfulness, meditating to achieve some special state, or chanting a mantra to quiet your mind, you can learn to relax into your own natural state of inherent wakefulness, peace, love, and well-being, from which you’ve never been separated even for an instant. This home ground of unconditional presence and clarity is always available in the midst of whatever life brings.
Once you know where home is and how to keep returning, you can abide there as much as possible–and when you find yourself getting lost in old familiar stories and habitual reactive patterns, you can explore and inquire in order to loosen their grip over you. Abide and inquire—this is the twofold journey of deepening and embodying your natural state of unconditional presence, which I like to call awakened awareness.
Everything I offer on this website–the fruit of decades of spiritual experience and teaching–is intended to support and guide you on this journey.
Because mindfulness can be a helpful preliminary step, I created the Mindfulness Meditation mobile app—it’s filled with comprehensive instructions, guided meditations, and an eight-week plan to help you establish a regular practice. Or you can read my ground-breaking book Meditation for Dummies, now in its third edition with instructional CD.
If you’re seeking guidance in the direct approach, or you’ve been practicing mindfulness for years but find that it doesn’t seem to be bringing you closer to the awakening you seek, you can begin by watching my interview with Rick Archer of Buddha at the Gas Pump, watching one of my online satsangs, or reading one of my books, Wake Up Now or Beyond Mindfulness. (Read an excerpt from Beyond Mindfulness here.)
If you’re ready to go deeper and explore how to awaken from the illusion of separation and how to embody this awakening in everyday life, I offer live online video satsangs and classes that combine pointing-out instructions, teachings, guided meditations, and plenty of time for dialogue. If you want individual guidance, I offer spiritual mentoring and counseling designed to foster the realization of your inherent wakefulness and peace while helping you to release the core stories that perpetuate suffering. And if you’re looking for a full immersion experience, I lead periodic retreats and intensives in Tucson and New York.
Wherever you choose to begin, I offer you my heartfelt wishes for a fulfilling journey home to the source of all happiness and fulfillment, your natural state of awakened awareness.
With love and blessings,
In the months surrounding the solstice, as the external light and warmth of the sun decline, we’re invited to turn our attention inward to discover the eternal light that’s never extinguished, no matter how much apparent darkness accumulates. Among exoteric religions, Judaism commemorates the flame in the temple (signifying devotion and truth) that had barely enough oil for a day but miraculously lasted for eight days. And Christianity celebrates the birth of the Christ child, who illuminates the world with his embodied divinity.
Instead of projecting this light outward onto some external figure or story, we have an opportunity at this time of year to recognize and celebrate the all-pervasive, all-illuminating light of awareness that is an essential aspect of our own true nature. Awareness brings the world into being; without it, there would be no experience. Though it seems to originate here, awareness doesn’t belong to you or me–it’s an essential quality of reality itself. Yet the recognition of the light as having its source in the heart we all share signals a powerful awakening.
In the past several decades, four major influences have been radically transforming the field of psychotherapy. Mindfulness, drawn from the Buddhist tradition, has become an essential tool that therapists can both use themselves to attune to their clients and teach directly to their clients to help them find peace and clarity in the midst of challenging thoughts and emotions. Cognitive neuroscience has mapped the brain’s role in both emotional suffering and subjective well-being, showing which brain centers are activated in particular situations and allowing researchers to measure the effects of particular therapeutic interventions, including mindfulness.
Fueled by both mindfulness research and neuroscience, the field of positive psychology has shifted the emphasis for many therapists from curing mental illness to encouraging the cultivation of positive resources and traits that contribute to overall well-being. Finally, and most relevant for this discussion, attachment theory, which explores how the bonding of infants and their parental caregivers affects mature adult relationships, has once again highlighted the healing power of the therapeutic relationship, in particular, the loving connection between therapist and client.
Recently, I began wondering about the connection between attachment theory and the Buddhist principle of nonattachment. At first I lamented the use of “attachment” and mused that “bonding” would be a much better word to describe what happens between infant and caregiver. In early infancy, of course, babies are often attached to their mothers, but as they mature through the rapprochement phase and beyond, they learn in an age-appropriate way to be more autonomous, deeply bonded but no longer attached.
Prior to full awakening, we may have numerous spiritual experiences and glimpses that whet our appetite for the dawning of Truth—brief moments of blissful merging, short-lived intimations of a dimension of reality beyond the realm of form, an insight into the emptiness or transparency of the body. But for most people, the first true awakening involves the realization that I am pure awareness, unconditional presence, the context or space in which every experience arises. In other words, I’m not the body-mind, as I once had thought, but I am that which is forever free from and aware of the body-mind and all arising.
Needless to say, this is a powerful, life-changing insight that may be accompanied by strong energetic experiences like kundalini moving up the spine, sudden laughter or tears, even fear of our own dissolution. The insight itself, the shift in the locus of identity from the head, mind, and self-image to awake awareness, is the most important point. The energy experiences are just passing states–what remains is a sense of peace, openness, and freedom from form.
Perhaps the greatest paradox of the spiritual life is that we ultimately realize ourselves to be eternal, limitless, and all-pervasive, yet we wake up each morning in a particular body and mind, experiencing life through a particular set of eyes and ears, called upon to relate to particular people and circumstances. Though we know that we’re essentially nothing and everything, we still find ourselves answering to one name and not another, prefering strawberry to chocolate, laughing at some jokes and not others, and having certain feelings and thoughts but not the feelings and thoughts of the person next to us. Our essential nature is unconditional and free, but our bodies and personalities have been deeply conditioned over a lifetime and may react to life in automatic, preconditioned ways that do not accurately reflect the profound understanding we’ve awakened to. Unlike the proverbial hermit on the mountaintop, we’re called to live our inherent perfection through these imperfect human forms, dealing with the “karmic bundle” we’ve received from a combination of early experiences and genetic endowment.
Just last week a longtime friend and colleague died unexpectedly. She had visited the ER several times with chest pain and was finally diagnosed with an aneurysm in her aorta. After emergency open-heart surgery, which she survived, her vital signs began to falter and she was put into an induced coma to improve her chances. Within a day, she was gone.
My friend had always taken great care of her body and appeared to be in excellent health. She practiced meditation and yoga, exercised regularly, ate organic produce, never smoked—ini other words, she did everything she possibly could to prolong her life. But at the age of 62, suddenly and without preparation, her life came to an abrupt end.