True happiness is our birthright, our innate condition, our natural state. Small children spontaneously radiate the joy of being. But a lifetime of conditioning has hidden it from view. Through the power of awareness, you can reclaim your birthright and rediscover lasting happiness and peace of mind and heart. My life is devoted to helping make this possible for you.
If you’ve watched my PBS special Meditation for All of Us or read Meditation for Dummies and would like to learn more, I offer a host of materials to guide you on the path of mindfulness practice, including books, apps, and individual mentoring sessions. Mindfulness has extensive, well-researched benefits, including reduced stress, better health, improved memory and concentration, increased resilience, even greater empathy and compassion.
If you’re drawn to the direct approach to spiritual awakening, as taught in the traditions of Advaita, Zen, and Tibetan Dzogchen, I offer retreats, intensives, classes, books, and individual counseling and mentoring designed to guide you in waking up from the dream of separation and realizing your nondual spiritual nature.
I’ve been practicing and teaching both mindfulness and spiritual awakening for more than 40 years and have reached hundreds of thousands of people like you. I invite you to explore my website and learn more about the offerings described here.
Wherever you choose to begin, I offer you my heartfelt wishes for a fulfilling journey home to your natural state of happiness, peace, and well-being!
Many spiritual people these days eschew politics because they believe it’s too messy and adversarial and inherently at odds with an awakened, nondual perspective. Others, surprisingly, seem to forget the deeper realization they profess to have experienced and take a strong ideological position that brooks no disagreement and allows no middle ground. “My candidate’s way is the only way, and no other point of view is worth considering or supporting.”
But embodying our awakening in everyday life calls on us to relate with other people and the broader society without either withdrawing to an inner mountaintop of detachment and disengagement or getting lost in a passionately held belief system, which is just a collective form of ego. Rather, we’re invited to respond to what life presents from the unconditional love and presence we know ourselves to be, not as a set of beliefs or values but as a lived reality.
I wrote this piece several years ago, but I’m posting it now because it appears that the mainstream media are finally addressing this issue. A recent issue of TIME featured an excellent cover story on the psychological and physiological effects of porn. Apparently, it’s rendering young men who have grown up on it impotent in actual sexual relationships, which is forcing them to pay attention and seek help. My sense is that the widespread availability of pornography has the potential to undermine lasting romantic relationship because it short-circuits the natural movement of sexual desire toward loving and mutually fulfilling connection. Here’s the post:
Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when I was a kid, pornography was sequestered away in seedy movie theaters and dimly lit “adult entertainment” emporiums. If you were curious to watch it, you had to work hard to find it, and the fear of being seen, coupled with strong social stigma, successfully kept most folks away.
Nowadays porn is everywhere, and you can indulge in it whenever you feel the impulse, merely by calling it up on your browser. Whereas once you had to make an effort to locate it, now you have to fend off unbidden emails and ads trying to seduce you into purchasing it. And late-night talk show hosts make knowing jokes about it, as if it’s an inside secret that everyone shares. If you’re drawn to it, the temptation is ever-present, the gratification is instantaneous, and the cultural attitude is blasé, if not approving. No wonder so many people, men in particular, become addicted to watching it.
As a psychotherapist and spiritual teacher, I’m not surprised when even experienced meditators and spiritual seekers report struggling with a fascination with porn. After all, sexual pleasure has such a powerful pull—without it, we wouldn’t survive as a species. My first suggestion, when I’m counseling someone, is that we set aside the question of whether the fascination is right or wrong and explore it, as we would any other issue, from the perspective of awareness.
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.