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Major Figures in Mindfulness

If you are interested in exploring Mindfulness resources, start with the leaders in the field.  On this page, you'll find the key, respected, experienced teachers of Mindfulness in the United States.  Each has their own style, wisdom, and voice.  You''ll notice similarities among them, as all great teachers of Mindfulness are basically pointing us in the same direction:  paying attention to our lives, letting go of habitual patterns of judgment, accepting the things we can't change, and setting the intention to practice, regardless of how difficult it can sometimes be.​   I am not differentiating between those who are Buddhist teachers first, such as Thich Nhat Hahn and Pema Chodron, from those, like Jon Kabat-Zinn or Tara Brach, whose teachings draw on Buddhist wisdom but are identified as Mindfulness rather than Buddhist teachings.  These are major figures in Mindfulness that I wholeheartedly recommend exploring.​​  Their podcasts or videos are an incredible resource.

 

Jon Kabat-Zinn​

As the creator of the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class as well as best-selling books on meditation and Mindfulness, Jon has helped untold numbers of people with Mindful practices. He is also a compelling and down-to-earth speaker.  Jon's website is here

During the pandemic lockdown in 2020, Jon offered free online guided meditations and talks and answered questions from the worldwide audience attending his YouTube meditation sessions.  If you search on YouTube for "Jon Kabat-Zinn Episode" you'll find these sessions captured on his YouTube channel, numbered by episode.  As someone who attended nearly all of his "live" sessions, I can attest he had a profound impact on all of us.  It was a remarkable community gathering of thousands.  When I think back on the lockdown phase when we weren't quite sure if we would survive the pandemic, Kabat-Zinn was a lifeline of sanity and Mindfulness.  He puts ideas into words carefully, with great precision and skill.  He has a deep understanding of our delusions and showing people the way out of suffering.

Out of all the Mindfulness authors and speakers I've read and heard speak, Kabat-Zinn's precision, authenticity and instinctive ability to say the right next thing make him one of our great contemporary Mindfulness teachers.

Recommended Books by Jon Kabat-Zinn include:

Full Catastrophe Living; WhereEver You Go, There You Are;  The Healing Power of Mindfulness;  Falling Awake:  How To Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life., and Coming To Our Senses.

Tara Brach

Tara Brach's podcast titled simply "Tara Brach" is an indispensable resource in my life.  I cannot recommend her podcast highly enough.  She provides free guided meditations, talks and the occasional interview or longer talk from her archives.  Her style is conversational, gentle, healing and relaxed.  Whenever I feel the need to regain my perspective and sense of presence, I listen to one of her guided meditations or talks.  I like nothing better than to sit in my favorite chair with a good hour or so of quiet time, and listen.

You will find her talks and guided meditations on YouTube.  Her voice is rather soft, so at times she can be difficult to understand, which I regret.  But you might start with this YouTube video, which is her "R.A.I.N. Meditation" guidance.  This is one of her most well-known meditations.  It offers subtitles, which are helpful for when her voice gets too soft:  video

Her most well-known book is: Radical Acceptance.  Highly recommended.  Other books include:  Radical Compassion and Trusting the Gold. 

Her website is here.

Sharon Salzberg

Salzberg is a wonderful Mindfulness teacher and author.  Her style is warm, down-to-earth, friendly and wise.  I enjoy listening to her talks and memories of the early days when young adults in the 1960s including herself traveled to India to learn about meditation and Buddhism directly from respected teachers.  She is one of the founders of the Insight Meditation Society (with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield) and is often found teaching (I took one of her online classes recently).  Sharon's books include:  Real Happiness; Real Love; and her most recent book Real Life.  She gets right to the heart of the matter.  Her podcast "Metta Hour with Sharon Salzberg: Where Buddhist Wisdom Meets Everyday Life" is wonderful. I listen every chance I get. Her website is here

Thich Nhat Hanh (1926 - 2022)

"Thay",  which means "teacher" in Vietnamese, as he was called by his many followers, was a deeply beloved, compassionate Viet Namese Zen Monk.  He became a worldwide spiritual leader, offering meditations and talks to people around the world.  I highly recommend watching his YouTube videos to gain a sense of his tranquility and gentleness.  As with Tara Brach, his voice is sometimes too soft or low to understand each word.  But you can typically get the sense of what he is saying even if there are no sub-titles.  His books include: No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, Peace is Every Step, and You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment.  He passed away in 2022, but his foundation lives on. Their website is here

"The Way Out Is In: Zen and the Art of Living" podcast covers Buddhist themes with an approach informed by Hanh's teachings and leadership.  I find it helpful and recommend it.  The podcast is currently co-hosted by Brother Phap Huu, who served as Hanh's personal assistant for many years, and Jo Confino, 

Joseph Goldstein

His podcast "Insight Hour Podcast with Joseph Goldstein" is wonderful.  Highly recommended.  He co-founded the Insight Meditation Society with Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield.  Joseph's books include:  Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening.

Pema Chodron

Pema is one of the most widely-read Buddhist authors among Western readers.  She is in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, as a dharma teacher with Shambhala, an organization founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939 - 1987) that helped spread Tibetan Buddhist teachings in the West.  Based in Tibetan Buddhist teachings, Pema's books deal with real-life fears and problems.  She came to the Mindful path of Tibetan teachings and meditations after her own life as a divorced mother turned her toward something deeper.  Pema's books are accessible and often draw on her own struggles and experiences on the spiritual path.  Her books and audiobooks have taught me greatly.  Among her many books, I especially recommend:  When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times; The Places That Scare You -- A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times; The Wisdom of No Escape; Taking The Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears; and Getting Unstuck: Breaking Your Habitual Patterns and Don't Bite the Hook: Finding Freedom from Anger, Resentment and Other Destructive Emotions.  Her recent book is titled: How We Live is How We Die.  It sounds intriguing.  You'll find videos of Pema teaching and speaker on YouTube. Pema's Foundation website is here.

Jack Kornfield

His podcast is "Heart Wisdom Podcast with Jack Kornfield".   His website is here.

His book "The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace" is very helpful.

Dan Harris

Dan's respected podcast titled Ten Percent Happier is a great resource.  He offers interviews with leaders in the field of Mindfulness, including meditation teachers, experts, religious leaders, scientists exploring the effects of Mindfulness and many others, all of whom are interesting.  I highly recommend his podcast.  Check out his podcast and other resources at his website at:  Ten Percent Happier.

Chogyam Trungpa (1939 - 1987)

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche is probably best known as the founder of the Shambhala organization, a world-wide community of meditation centers with locations throughout the US as well as retreat centers in Colorado and Vermont.  Born in Tibet, he escaped as a young monastic man in 1959, when China invaded and occupied Tibet.  After making his way first to the UK, then to the US, Trungpa founded not only Shambhala but also Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.  What he was able to achieve in his too-short life is rather remarkable.  Many people find his videos, teachings and books to be helpful.  There is a somewhat chaotic element to his "crazy wisdom" which either speaks to you or not.  Most Shambhala Centers offer in-person meditation sessions and/or online meditation sessions, sitting in silence with the breath, rather than with guidance.  Centers usually offer free meditation instruction for newcomers and have served as many American meditators' first in-person experience with meditation, and introduction to Tibetan Buddhism.

Personally, I became introduced to Buddhism and meditation through a Shambhala Center.  I was impressed that no one there tried to make me sit cross-legged, since my hips and legs were not built for sitting cross-legged.  This was a huge factor in helping me see that meditation was not about a fight or struggle or pain, but about, well, meditating.  I still feel that sitting in any posture that causes parts of your body, such as your legs, to fall asleep or be in pain, runs contrary to listening to your body's signals.  And there is no benefit to purposefully trying to cause physical pain as part of your meditation practice. 

The Shambhala organization keeps evolving over time.  Their educational programs website is here: Shambhala Online.

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (1904 - 1971)

Suzuki was an extremely respected Buddhist leader who is credited with, among other things, founding the first Zen monastery outside of Asia.  His book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind has been extremely popular and helpful to people over the years.  Personally, I find it a bit difficult to understand, and therefore difficult to benefit from. But I list it here in case it speaks to anyone interested in a key text in English expressing Zen beliefs and ways of seeing the world.  Many have found this book helpful.  The San Francisco Zen Center was established in 1962 by Suzuki and his students, carries on his work in the Soto Zen tradition.  They have an active schedule of dharma talks and other events.  Their website is:  San Francisco Zen Center. 

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Major Figures in Mindfulness

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