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!

Discovering the light in the midst of the dark

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.

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Attachment, non-attachment, and spiritual 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.

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Stages of awakening

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.

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Dancing on the razor’s edge

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.

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Discover the deathless

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.

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