Mark is an authorized Guiding Insight Meditation teacher who began his meditation practice more than 45 years ago with insight meditation teachers Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield. His primary teacher has been Joseph Goldstein, and he has trained more recently with guiding senior insight teachers Rodney Smith and Narayan Liebenson. His teaching emphasis is the essentials for a skillful wise affectionate life and how Mindfulness/Awareness in all aspects of daily life can provide an opportunity for Awakening.
But I went to this bookstore, I got there and I was soaking wet with sweat, and I went to the bathroom and I’m standing in the stall and I’m take off my clothes and I’m flapping my clothes trying to dry them off, you know, and and I was like, God, this is just not a way to live, you know? And and the reason I was going to this, bookstores, I love books, but also they had a Starbucks and I was going to get my Frappuccino and my chocolate chip cookie, you know, and as I came out of the bathroom and headed for that Starbucks there, as I passed by an end cap of books, and there was this white cover book with a slice of an orange on it, and it just said, savor mindful eating, mindful living. And I don’t know why that caught my attention. I don’t know why I even bothered picking it up. And, you know, I don’t know. But I picked up that book and I saw it was by this Buddhist monk and a Harvard nutritionist.
My one year old son came running up to me, Daddy, Daddy! He put his arms around my leg and he hugged my leg and this probably isn’t what happened, but this is what I remember. I kind of shook him off because I was busy. I’m important. I got stuff to do right, plugged it out, went to the office, and then I went off to Brazil and sometime later this came back to me like a ton of bricks. Oh, my goodness. What happened there? And I realized, you know, with a little reflection that I was missing what really mattered in life. So actually, I started listening to a series of lectures on classical music, and Bach dedicated every manuscript he wrote, including the practice pieces for his kids to Jesus Christ, studied, listened to medieval polyphonic masses, and somehow or other they would just hit me.
And when I arrived in India in 1971, I went up to the Himalayas and did a trek from outside of Katmandu to the base camp of Mount Everest. And during that trek, I there were no hotel walls or roads, just paths and the Tibetan villages. And so one could either stay in the home of a Tibetan family and you could sleep on the floor and share their food, or you could stay in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. And so that's where I first got introduced to Buddhism was on that trek to the base camp of Mount Everest.
I am not sure exactly when I first became aware of the dharma path, but my first brush with it was through reading Thich Nhat Hanh's Beyond the Self a translation of the Sutra on the Middle Way. At the time I had been in recovery for about 10 years and had a sustain spiritual practice of self-reflection and service, but I had never been exposed to the truth of Dependent Origination.
My first exposure to dharma was during my undergraduate studies majoring in Philosophy/Asian Studies. However, this didn’t translate to a personal practice until a few years later when I lost two friends to suicide in a six-month period. The bereavement related to their deaths was so overwhelming that it forced me to seek out additional community and support.
I walked into Against the Stream Nashville Meditation Center in January 2012, shortly after coming out of rehab for alcohol dependence. It was suggested that meditation could be helpful in further recovery. I remember in one of the first talks Dave Smith mentioned that, sitting was just sitting. Whether you were in traffic, the motor vehicle department or sitting comfortably on your own couch that the experience of sitting was all the same.
I was first exposed to dharma when I was in high school/college. It was recommended by my therapist to check out a group call Dharma Punx and thought that meditation would be a good way to help with depression/anxiety. I initially didn’t like it but when I came back from college, I thought I would give it another try.
I learned about meditation as a youngster, but it wasn’t until around 2004 that I started going to the Dharma Punx group on Friday nights in SF (the Back of the Bus) and hearing the dharma talks there in a language I could understand and with people that looked like me that I really felt exposed. It became my path when I learned to walk again as a sober man in 2014.