David, a 41-year-old resident just outside Cleveland, Ohio, is a husband and father to a six-year-old daughter. His spiritual journey began in childhood, marked by a curiosity about the world and a fascination with Buddhism, which he discovered around 15 years ago. Even as a child, he engaged in introspective practices, contemplating the impermanence of life and existence. Raised in a Catholic family, David went through the sacraments and attended a Catholic college, but his move to California after college exposed him to diverse perspectives, sparking a more intentional spiritual exploration. Professionally, David has dedicated the majority of his career to nonprofit management, focusing on contemplative and mindfulness education, environmental education, and their intersections.


David’s journey with Buddhism began in his early twenties when he experienced a profound realization that his career as an insurance analyst wasn’t fulfilling his purpose. This prompted him to leave his job and embark on a journey of self-discovery through traveling in Europe and Africa. It was during this time that he stumbled upon a Tibetan temple in France while working on an organic farm, which served as his first exposure to the depth of Buddhist practice and ritual.

Upon returning to the United States, David became involved with the Red Lotus Society, a multicultural and multi-practice center in downtown San Diego. This vibrant community offered a diverse array of spiritual and contemplative practices, ranging from Capoeira to Zen meditation. Immersed in this environment, David became a leader within the organization, deeply engaged in exploring various spiritual traditions and philosophies.

Interestingly, David had a tattoo on his back featuring symbols of different world religions even before joining the Red Lotus Society. This synchronicity, along with other meaningful encounters and experiences, reinforced his sense of being on the right path. These serendipitous moments served as guideposts, affirming his commitment to continue exploring and deepening his spiritual journey.


David reflects on his journey of exploration within Buddhism, acknowledging his attraction to the Vajrayana Path and Tibetan Buddhism. Initially drawn to the logical and philosophical aspects of these traditions, he gradually transitioned into a deeper commitment to practice. Immersive experiences, such as retreats and working with Naramkarinorbu Rinpoche’s teachings in Argentina, intensified his engagement with Buddhism.

Despite his initial ego-driven perspective, David’s experiences, including working at the Garden of 1000 Buddhas in Montana, brought about profound realizations about the embodied nature of practice and its transformative potential. Witnessing tangible effects of practice during ceremonies further solidified his dedication to the Vajrayana path, culminating in his formal refuge ceremony at the Garden of 1000 Buddhas.

David’s journey continued with his enrollment at Naropa University in Boulder, where he pursued studies in environmental leadership and the intersection of environmentalism with contemplative practices. These experiences marked significant milestones in his deepening commitment to the Vajrayana path and his ongoing exploration of Buddhism’s practical applications in various contexts and self-discovery. It is an ongoing journey that continues to enrich David’s connection with the universe.

Evolution of Practice

David views Buddhism as a spectrum of practices and lineages, each akin to a unique medicine that resonates with individuals based on their energetic configuration. Through his exploration of various traditions, including Zen, Theravada, and multiple lineages within Vajrayana, he has come to understand that the meaning of practice evolves over time. Initially, enlightenment seemed distant, but he now embraces the belief that it is achievable in this lifetime, a realization that has transformed his relationship with practice.

For David, the essence of practice lies in the deep-seated confidence that enlightenment is not only possible but inevitable. This confidence isn’t rooted in belief but in direct experience—a shift that has occurred over 15 years of dedicated practice. Despite making mistakes and navigating the complexities of rituals and traditions, David remains anchored in this fundamental realization, finding solace in the unwavering presence of this truth amid the fluctuating forms of his practice.


In his postgraduate years, David became involved with organizations integrating mindfulness and Buddhist practices into secular environments. He highlights the adaptability of Buddhist practices, particularly those associated with mindfulness and meditation, to settings such as education and teen retreats. Working with PassageWorks Institute, he witnessed how practices aligned with Hinayana and Theravadan traditions effectively supported educators in managing stress and fostering well-being, both personally and within the classroom.

David’s involvement with Inward Bound Mindfulness similarly underscores the relevance of fundamental practices for teenagers facing various life challenges. He emphasizes the importance of starting with awareness and befriending difficult experiences before delving into deeper philosophical concepts like emptiness. David recognizes the immense pressures on teachers and the need for accessible tools to alleviate stress and cultivate resilience amidst demanding work environments.

Through his experiences, David advocates for introducing basic mindfulness practices as a foundational starting point, providing individuals with essential tools for navigating the complexities of modern life.

Non Duality

David finds deep resonance in the concepts of non-duality and emptiness within his Buddhist practice. He sees them as fundamental aspects of existence, describing them as a fundamental potentiality that transcends conventional understanding. These truths have expanded his perspective, offering a broader context for his life experiences and actions, especially in relation to karma and his place in the universe. 

His fascination with science, particularly physics and quantum mechanics, further reinforces his understanding of fundamental potentiality within emptiness. The parallels he sees between Buddhist philosophy and the latest scientific discoveries validate and deepen his commitment to his spiritual path. This realization represents a significant milestone in his journey of exploration and self-discovery within Buddhism.


David’s unwavering conviction in the transformative power of retreats is a testament to the deep impact they have had on his life. He views retreats as a sacred space where he can shed the burdens and distractions of everyday existence and immerse himself in the journey of self-discovery.

During retreats, David finds the respite and tranquility necessary to access profound insights and establish a solid foundation for his work. The retreat environment provides him with the opportunity to connect with his inner wisdom, unravel complexities, and gain clarity. It is a time for contemplation, reflection, and introspection, where he cultivates a deeper understanding of himself and the world around him.

David passionately advocates for an extended annual retreat as a crucial element of spiritual growth. He believes that by dedicating a significant period of time to retreat, one can fully immerse themselves in the transformative process and experience lasting shifts in consciousness. This extended retreat allows for a deeper exploration of practices, teachings, and self-inquiry, resulting in a profound transformation.

In addition to the annual retreat, David also incorporates several weekend retreats throughout the year to maintain continuity and deepen his connection to the spiritual path. These weekend retreats serve as a renewal and reconnection, providing a structured environment for learning, contemplation, and community. They offer a balance between the intensity of the extended retreat and the demands of everyday life, allowing David to integrate his spiritual practices into his daily routine.

David recognizes the value of learning from visiting teachers and engaging in daily and weekly practices as essential elements of his spiritual growth. He seeks out the guidance and wisdom of experienced teachers, embracing their teachings and incorporating them into his own practices. By attending workshops, teachings, and retreats, David expands his understanding of different spiritual traditions and perspectives, enriching his personal journey.

Through his dedication to retreats and spiritual practices, David has cultivated a deep sense of inner peace, clarity, and purpose. His belief in the transformative power of retreats is not merely theoretical; it is a lived experience that has profoundly shaped his life and continues to guide his path.


David’s Buddhist journey had a profound beginning, marked by deep retreat experiences that left a lasting impact on his soul. However, upon returning to the material world, he encountered a sense of disorientation and disconnection from his spiritual practice. In search of a deeper connection and community, David embarked on a journey that took him from Colorado to Portland, Oregon. Despite his efforts, he faced challenges in finding a designated temple or Sangha community that resonated with him.

During this time, David’s life transitioned as he welcomed the joy of fatherhood. His responsibilities and daily routine became increasingly intertwined with the demands of parenthood, leading to a normalization of his reality. It was a time of adjustment and adaptation, as David navigated the balance between his spiritual aspirations and the practicalities of everyday life.

A turning point came when David relocated to Ohio. Destiny seemed to intervene as he discovered a beautiful temple connected to one of the mother lineages in the Nigma tradition. This marked a pivotal moment in his spiritual journey. Through his connection with the temple, David found a community of like-minded practitioners and established meaningful relationships with teachers. He eagerly absorbed the teachings and transmissions, allowing them to permeate his being.

This renewed sense of belonging and guidance provided David with the impetus to generate momentum and establish new habits of daily and weekly practice. The teachings and rituals became an integral part of his life, offering a sense of structure and stability. Gradually, David found himself reconnecting with his spiritual path, finding a deeper understanding and appreciation for the dharma.

David’s journey serves as a reminder that the path of spiritual awakening is not always linear. It is through the ebb and flow of life’s experiences, the challenges, and the triumphs, that we truly grow and evolve. With perseverance, an open heart, and a willingness to learn, we can find our way back to the essence of our being and live a life of purpose and fulfillment.

Contemplative Education

David describes his experience at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, highlighting its Buddhist-inspired and contemplative-based education model. He emphasizes that within this framework, every aspect of learning is approached as a practice, with a focus on fully embodying knowledge absorption.

For David, contemplative education extends beyond formalized practices to encompass informal practices as well. Courses like inner work, systems thinking, and environmental justice prioritize personal practice alongside academic learning. This holistic approach aims to develop students’ capacities, awareness, and presence, which can be applied not only to academic pursuits but also to interpersonal interactions and everyday life.

Secular Mindfullness

David reflects on his experiences working with teenagers and educators in the context of mindfulness practices. He observes that the impact of retreats differs between the two groups. For teenagers, the retreats become a foundational part of their year, even if they may not always resonate with the meditation aspect. The communal and inter-relational aspects of the retreats, rather than the silent or individual practices, tend to have the greatest impact on them. This leads to a cultural shift where teens seek out mindfulness practices and aim to integrate them into their social circles.

In contrast, educators, being adults and more set in their ways, tend to gravitate towards sustaining formal mindfulness practices. David notes that educators face greater challenges in maintaining these practices due to the systemic pressures of their work environments. However, despite these challenges, many educators find solace in formal practice as a means of coping with the demands of their profession. Overall, David observes that mindfulness practices take on different forms and significance depending on the age group and their respective life contexts.

Why Buddhism 

Over 15 years of his relationship with Buddhism, David reflects on how it has evolved. Initially, it was something pursued separately from other aspects of life, with a dualistic approach between science and religion. However, in the last five years, his perspective has shifted towards integration. He sees Tibetan Buddhism as a comprehensive science and religion, offering a complete view of reality. This realization has influenced every aspect of his life, including his relationship with his wife, challenging societal norms and dualistic beliefs. Now, formal practice, like Ngondro, is seamlessly integrated into his daily life, shaping his perception of reality. David acknowledges the naivety of his younger self and embraces the changes brought about by age and practice, finding comfort in a holistic approach to Buddhism that accompanies him into his 40s.


David reflects on how Buddhism has profoundly influenced his worldview, particularly in navigating the polarized landscape of politics and identity. Through the lens of Buddhism, he sees beyond dualistic beliefs and recognizes the impermanent nature of phenomena. This perspective permeates his daily life, influencing his interactions with the world, his job, and his relationships.

He acknowledges the Western adaptation of mindfulness practices, which often focus on alleviating suffering without delving into the deeper aspects of liberation from the self. David suggests that this adaptation may inadvertently reinforce individual egos rather than leading to true realization.

Furthermore, he highlights how Buddhism has been assimilated into Western culture, often losing the depth and truth of the original teachings. Practices like yoga, once deeply spiritual, have become commodified and stripped of their spiritual essence. David emphasizes the importance of connecting with authentic lineages to preserve the profound truths of Buddhism amidst Western adaptation and commercialization.

Death and Reincarnation 

David’s journey with death and reincarnation is deeply intertwined with his spiritual exploration. From childhood, he grappled with the concept of death, initially finding it terrifying yet oddly invigorating. Buddhism provided a framework for him to delve deeper into these contemplations, offering tools to navigate the existential questions that had long occupied his mind.

Through Buddhism, David found a way to structure his reflections on death, making them less overwhelming and more conducive to personal growth. He discovered that by confronting his fears, he could delve into the concept of reincarnation with greater ease. Reincarnation, for David, isn’t just a philosophical idea; it’s a lived reality that informs his actions and worldview.

One significant aspect of David’s relationship with reincarnation is how it shapes his family dynamics, particularly with his young daughter. From an early age, he and his wife have openly discussed death and reincarnation with her, fostering an environment where these concepts are normalized rather than feared or avoided. This approach allows their daughter to explore these ideas freely, sparking curiosity and wonder rather than anxiety.

David’s perspective on reincarnation also contrasts with his Catholic upbringing. While Catholicism traditionally teaches a linear progression from life to an afterlife of either heaven or hell, David sees reincarnation as part of a broader, cyclical understanding of existence. He believes that these concepts can coexist harmoniously, offering different perspectives on the eternal nature of the soul.

Despite finding solace in his beliefs, David acknowledges the societal resistance to embracing reincarnation. He reflects on the cultural barriers that prevent open dialogue about these topics, particularly within his family and broader community. However, he remains steadfast in his conviction that these beliefs are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary facets of a larger spiritual truth.

Ultimately, David’s journey with death and reincarnation is a deeply personal one, shaped by his experiences, reflections, and spiritual practices. It’s a journey characterized by curiosity, acceptance, and a profound sense of interconnectedness with the universe. Through his exploration, David seeks not only to understand the mysteries of existence but also to live in harmony with its inherent wisdom.


David emphasizes the importance of giving oneself permission as a precursor to liberation or freedom. He advocates for being curious and allowing oneself to question assumptions and explore new possibilities, rather than confining oneself within societal norms. This permission extends to feeling awkward or making mistakes, especially in spiritual practices like Vajrayana Buddhism, where beginners may feel overwhelmed by unfamiliar rituals and symbols. He stresses the significance of embracing the gray areas of life and being compassionate towards oneself amidst confusion and uncertainty. David encourages internal reflection and tracking, trusting one’s instincts to guide them towards practices and teachings that resonate authentically, while also remaining open to learning from experiences that may initially seem unappealing. He underscores the importance of genuine inquiry and discernment, highlighting the wisdom in taking time to explore and develop a deep understanding before committing to a spiritual path or teacher.


David reflects on his experience with Ngondro, emphasizing its structured progression and transformative potential. He describes how the contemplation of the four thoughts—precious human life, impermanence, karma, and suffering—leads to profound insights when approached with dedicated practice. Through retreats and contemplation, he has developed an embodied understanding of each thought, leading naturally to the emergence of Refuge in bodhicitta.

David recognizes Ngondro as a comprehensive path in itself, incorporating practices such as mandala offering, Vajrasattva purification, and guru yoga. While he acknowledges being at the early stages of this journey, he appreciates the depth and completeness of Ngondro as a transformative spiritual practice.

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