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.
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 us. 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’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.
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.
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!
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.
At the recent antiterrorism rally in Paris in response to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, participants wore signs saying “I am Charlie Hebdo” and “I am a Jew” in solidarity with those who were targeted by Islamic extremists. At the same time, France was rocked by anti-Muslim violence in retaliation for the attacks. It’s so tempting to reduce events of this kind to a simplistic us vs. them rhetoric, as if this makes the situation easier to address and resolve, which of course it does not. But there’s a deeper opportunity here, an invitation to look beneath the surface and find our solidarity not just with those who agree with or resemble us, but with everyone, no matter their skin color or religion. Not just “je suis Charlie,” but “je suis tout le monde.”
For many years I spent New Year’s eve reflecting on the events of the year drawing to a close and New Year’s day clarifying my plans and aspirations for the year ahead. Eventually, I recognized that my aspirations were the same year after year: to be more present for my life, to open my heart even more fully to love and connection, to be of benefit to others. Over the years I discovered that I could affect the circumstances of my life to a limited degree, but I always had the power to find happiness in the midst of any situation. And in my work with people as a teacher and therapist, I’ve come to realize that we all aspire to essentially the same thing. Who among us doesn’t want to be happy, to enjoy life, to share love and connection? Even the suicide bomber and the drug dealer have the same aspirations. The only difference lies in how we go about actualizing them.
As much as you may love the holidays, they’re uniquely designed to seduce you into believing the thoughts and stories you otherwise hold in spacious awareness. As the old adage goes, if you think you’re enlightened, go home to mom and dad and the rest of the family and see what happens. If you haven’t completely released the grip of the past, it will surely come back to haunt you. The holidays are an especially good time to sit quietly and welcome the full range of your experience. Here are some reminders for flowing through the holidays with presence and grace:
Only the present moment exists.
It’s tempting to get embroiled in the unfinished business of a lifetime when you’re spending time with the people who helped create it in the first place. Even if your parents are no longer with you, or you’re the parents now and the kids come home to you, it’s easy to get triggered by the old familiar faces, the habitual chatter and patterns of behavior. But the truth is, the past no longer exists except as thoughts in your mind right now. In this moment, is there any problem that isn’t generated by your thinking, judging, interpreting mind? Let go of the thoughts, and the past has lost its hold over you.