Colleen hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, born into a Catholic family with a rich European heritage, including Scottish and French Canadian ancestry. Her upbringing involved exposure to religion through Sunday school, but at 18, her parents decided to step away from organized religion due to disagreements with church politics, leading Colleen and her siblings to also cease practicing.

Initially, spirituality took a backseat in Colleen’s life as she pursued studies in art history and built a career primarily in the business side of art museums, focusing on marketing and fundraising. However, a gradual curiosity about spirituality emerged later in life, leading her to explore meditation at a Shambhala center in Los Angeles. This practice provided her with a sense of comfort and introspection, prompting her to delve deeper into spiritual exploration.

As Colleen entered her fifties, she found herself in a period of transition, characterized by her children embarking on their own paths and the passing of her parents. Fascinated by the topic of death, Colleen became a certified death doula, offering support to individuals in their dying process. Alongside her continued involvement in museums, she is pursuing education in mental health counseling, embracing this stage of life as a period of self-discovery and new perspectives, despite choosing to live alone after the loss of her family.


In Colleen’s quest for spiritual fulfillment, the path she embarked upon was marked by unexpected twists and profound encounters. Initially drawn to meditation as a means of relaxation, she found herself inexplicably captivated by the rich tapestry of Buddhist teachings.

Her journey took a remarkable turn when she stumbled upon a Tibetan temple, a kaleidoscope of colors and imagery unlike anything she had encountered before. There, she encountered a high-level teacher whose gaze seemed to penetrate her very soul, igniting a sense of familiarity and comfort she couldn’t explain.

As she navigated this unfamiliar terrain, Colleen found herself pondering the elusive concept of taking refuge in Buddhism. What had once seemed distant and unattainable now beckoned to her with an irresistible allure.

In a moment of profound clarity, amidst the tranquil serenity of a retreat in upstate New York, Colleen made a decision that would alter the course of her spiritual journey forever. With a sense of readiness and purpose, she took refuge, embracing a path that felt inexplicably right.

Looking back on her transformative journey, Colleen recognizes that taking refuge is not merely a single act but an ongoing process, woven into the fabric of her daily spiritual practice. Each moment of reflection brings new insights, deepening her connection to the path she has chosen to walk.


Through her journey in Buddhist practice, Colleen found profound meaning in the structured rituals and teachings she encountered. Initially apprehensive, she was drawn to the organized nature of the practices, finding comfort in the step-by-step process they offered. Under the guidance of her teacher, she embarked on a retreat immersed in the Ngondro teachings, a decision met with skepticism by some seasoned practitioners. Despite doubts, Colleen felt a deep sense of readiness and commitment.

The retreat experience was transformative, revealing the importance of community (Sangha) in her spiritual path. Returning home, Colleen faced the challenge of solitary practice, testing her newfound discipline and understanding. Despite the difficulty, she persisted, utilizing online resources to connect with teachers and fellow practitioners.

In the solitude of her practice, Colleen discovered the true depth of her commitment and the resilience of her newfound spiritual understanding.


In reflecting on her spiritual journey, Colleen acknowledges the intensity and enthusiasm she initially brought to her practice, likening it to a rushing fire hose of excitement. However, she received gentle guidance from her teachers to temper this fervor with patience and humility, emphasizing the importance of steady, consistent practice.

Despite her previous lack of discipline in daily life, Colleen found herself resonating deeply with the structured rhythm of her Buddhist practice. She discovered a sense of clarity and comfort through the repetition of rituals, particularly the guru yoga practice, which provided a framework for her spiritual growth.

Through these practices, Colleen found herself gradually expanding her understanding of her own Buddha nature and the interconnectedness of all beings. She draws parallels to a science fiction episode she once stumbled upon, where characters struggled to perceive a reality beyond their accustomed perspective. Similarly, Colleen feels herself opening up to new ways of seeing and understanding the world, guided by the structured stages of her Buddhist practice.


Colleen reflects on her profound transformation since embracing Buddhist practice, describing it as a crack opening to a new way of perceiving the world. Despite facing numerous challenges throughout her life, she finds solace and strength in her newfound spiritual path, which she now integrates into both her struggles and joys.

Initially drawn to the simplicity and elegance of Buddhist teachings, Colleen now navigates a deeper understanding of their complexity and application in daily life. She notices a significant shift in her awareness, with her practice becoming an ever-present thread woven into the fabric of her existence.

As she embarks on her journey as a mental health counseling student, Colleen grapples with the alignment of her studies with her Dharma practice. However, she finds solace in the convergence of existential theory with Buddhist philosophy, allowing her to adapt her learning to resonate more closely with her spiritual path.

While mindful of not imposing her newfound beliefs on others, Colleen finds herself increasingly drawn to her Sangha and the practice of pilgrimage. Despite occasional worries of becoming too enthusiastic, she remains grounded in her awareness of impermanence and the desire to explore sacred places resonant with the frequency of her practice.

Externally, Colleen may not appear drastically changed, but internally, she feels a profound shift towards acceptance, flow, and attentiveness to the present moment. In this newfound state of calm, she embraces the subtle beauty of life’s details and finds comfort in simply being.


When asked about her expectations and goals in her Buddhist practice, Colleen initially struggled to articulate a specific outcome. Feeling momentarily self-conscious, she admitted to not having a clear expectation of change or transformation. However, her teacher seemed relieved by her response, suggesting that being open to whatever arises from the practice is a valuable perspective.

While acknowledging the grand ambition of benefiting all sentient beings inherent in Buddhist teachings, Colleen’s personal goals remain fluid and evolving. She views her practice as a journey of deepening self-awareness rather than a quest for immediate relief from stress or suffering. As she continues her practice, Colleen embraces the uncertainty of her journey, allowing for growth and transformation to unfold naturally.


Colleen delves into a profound reevaluation of happiness, challenging her previous Western-centric perspective. She acknowledges that her old definition of happiness revolved around the acquisition of material possessions, the fulfillment of desires, and the pursuit of pleasurable experiences. However, through her Buddhist practice, she begins to unearth a more nuanced understanding.

She contemplates the liberating feeling that arises from being content without necessarily obtaining everything one desires. This shift in perspective marks a significant departure from the conventional notion of happiness as transient moments of joy or success. Instead, Colleen finds solace in the stability and authenticity of a contented mind, not contingent on external circumstances.

In her reflection, Colleen draws parallels between the serene countenance of spiritual figures like the Dalai Lama and the concept of genuine happiness. It’s not the fleeting thrill of momentary gratification but rather a sustained state of inner peace and understanding. This realization resonates deeply with her, offering a new framework through which to perceive life’s intricacies.

Moreover, Colleen contrasts the individualistic pursuit of freedom prevalent in Western ideology with the interconnectedness emphasized in Buddhist philosophy. She recognizes that true freedom lies not in isolation but in recognizing and embracing the interdependence of all beings. This profound shift in perspective leads her to appreciate the richness of connectivity and integration, seeing it as the essence of genuine freedom.

Through her exploration, Colleen discovers that happiness is not merely an absence of suffering or a collection of positive experiences but a profound understanding of the interconnected nature of existence. It’s about finding peace within oneself and recognizing one’s place in the vast tapestry of life, transcending the limitations of individual desires and ego-driven pursuits.

Non Duality

Colleen finds solace and insight in her meditation practice, describing a shift towards a more non-dualistic perspective. Initially feeling detached, like observing life from outside a fish tank, she now experiences a more fluid and impressionistic reality. Meditation allows her to move beyond reactive and overthinking tendencies, embracing a more experiential way of being.

Struggling with the concept of happiness in the past, Colleen now sees it as a nuanced understanding of the human experience, encompassing both highs and lows. Happiness, to her, is not about constant joy or satisfaction but rather about finding confidence in navigating life’s ups and downs with resilience and self-regulation.


Colleen grapples with the concept of rebirth, acknowledging it as her most significant hurdle on the path to embracing Buddhism. Initially resistant to the idea, she struggled to reconcile it with her previous beliefs about life and death. Her worldview centered around the notion that life ends with death, with no continuation beyond that point. However, as she delved deeper into her studies and practice, she began to confront and unravel her resistance to rebirth.

For Colleen, accepting rebirth wasn’t just a matter of intellectual comprehension; it required a fundamental shift in perspective. She had to relinquish her narrow, ego-driven understanding of existence and embrace a more expansive view that encompassed interconnectedness, compassion, and non-dualistic thinking. Through this process, she came to recognize rebirth as a multifaceted concept intricately linked to various aspects of Buddhist teachings.

Her journey involved letting go of the notion that personal identity ceases at death and opening herself to the idea of a continuous continuum of existence. This shift in perception allowed her to see herself and the world in a new light, transcending the limitations of her previous understanding. Ultimately, Colleen’s acceptance of rebirth reflects her willingness to evolve and expand her understanding of reality within the context of her spiritual journey.


Colleen reflects on the potential pitfalls of overanalyzing the power of the mind in her Buddhist practice. She acknowledges the constant possibility of second-guessing beliefs and experiences, which can lead to a perpetual state of doubt. For her, letting go of the tendency to intellectualize concepts has been a significant aspect of her journey.

In addition to grappling with the idea of rebirth, Colleen explores the notion of devotion and its complexities within Western culture. She observes her own growth in devotion, despite initial skepticism, recognizing that it’s more of an experiential realization rather than a logical conclusion. Colleen finds herself surprised by this shift, as she never expected to develop tolerance or patience for such concepts.

She also acknowledges the inherent challenges of integrating Buddhist principles into Western society, particularly in navigating boundaries and limitations within the guru-disciple relationship. Despite these difficulties, Colleen remains committed to her practice and seeks to find ways to make it work within her cultural context.

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