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.

J. Krishnamurti also has had a lasting and profound influence on his teaching. He has studied with numerous other teachers primarily in the Theravada tradition, but also in the Tibetan and Zen traditions. Mark has attended 3 three-month silent retreats and dozens of other retreats mostly at the Insight Meditation Society, the Forest Refuge and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.

He is an organizer/facilitator at the Sandy Springs Insight Meditation Group, is the Guiding Insight Meditation teacher for the Half Day retreats and leads silent retreats in Georgia. Mark co-founded the Roswell Insight Meditation Community in 2016 with an emphasis on inclusivity, affection and Transformation of all aspects of one’s life. He is a retired doctoral level Psychologist and also an ordained Christian deacon. He has been married for over 40 years and has two adult children.

Transcript – History

And I’ve been teaching for for a lot of years with a without a fair amount of songs in Georgia and currently involved with Sandy Springs as a facilitator and started Sandy Springs Insite back with some other people in back in 2009. And then currently I’m part of a teacher led group. It’s me and Lisa story. We’re co-founders Roswell Insight Meditation Community and I’ve been teaching there the last six years, going on seven years. And so I’m happy to be with you this morning. And I’m going to I’m going to go back to the the beginning in 1974 should have been a very happy year for me. I was graduating from college and I had decided my parents didn’t know this so much, but I decided the year before that I just could not do the business thing and all. Gabbard’s My last name is Gebhardt Mail. Cabot’s That’s what they had done historically, and that’s what I was trained for. 

And I had a degree with a few different majors marketing, management and organization behavior, which was an industrial psych some, and that was an area that I was starting a leaning lean towards. This is psychology, but struggling a lot because I was designed to do that. But my my true nature said that I wouldn’t survive. I was a fan of excesses, women, fast cars, drugs, etc.. Both my parents were alcoholics. And although I never developed an addiction problem, I certainly had the aptitude to lean in that in in that direction of of again, excess. And it was a very difficult year for me because I came upon this what I now know it as existential kind of this this urgency or angst, not knowing where I was headed, what I was going to do, having an expensive degree, which I was not going to use and I knew I wasn’t my parents were, to put it mildly, less than than happy about any of that. And what is this, this Eastern stuff you’re starting to talk about some. So I was really pretty lost and it was a difficult time for me. And I had an epiphany that big because of my propensities with the cars and women and drugs and whatever else it was that I wouldn’t survive, that I would I would be driving a very nice car, but I would I will wrap myself around a pole or whatever. And I and I just couldn’t do it. There was nothing in me that allowed me to move forward in that direction. So a friend of mine, an ex-girlfriend, invited me and some others to go out to Naropa Institute for Ram Dass. And I had looked at the book in my in my dormitory be here now and you know the book the famous book from Ram Dass and I had didn’t have a clue what would be here now men but there was a certain internal shift that said I have to I have to learn what this this means. And I went went out to Naropa Institute in 1974. It’s the first year they they open Naropa took him. Trump was there, Ram Dass was there. And it was. And Jack, who was this very, very interesting time, because you had the Buddhists and many of them Trump his followers. He has what’s called the Varsha guard for vaginas, the larger guard, and they dress in three piece suits. Right. So this band would walk in protecting him from something, and then you’d have Ram Dass in those days, the long beards, the hair, all white. And you had many of the the most famous followers of his originally, his Ram Dass, his original teacher. And it was a very beautiful, warm and then there was a a certain strictness on this side, in this clash of cultures. You know, and Ram Dass and Joakim Trump. I did a six week course with them and they would talk and there was very, very little that they could agree upon because because really Ram Dass was full of light and hope and all this other and, you know, chicken chirping would come from a little darker space. And like, I’m not sure. So it’s a very interesting time. But then I was lost and my first teacher was a Tibetan teacher, my first instruction and I really didn’t know what he was talking about. I just didn’t you know, I’m a kid from Philly. I didn’t I hadn’t ever heard the word mindfulness. I just went out because Ram Dass was there and I thought, is his stuff. I get some of it, at least the goodness part of it, but I don’t really know what be here now means. And so the first experience I had, I just didn’t know what they were talking about. And then I saw a little a little sign on the bulletin board, you know, Bolt Boulder is this beautiful little town with all kinds of stuff in, you know, part of University Boulder. Boulder part of University of Colorado is there. And it’s just a beautiful town. And I saw this little sign that said there was a guy teaching mindfulness. I don’t know that they had mentioned insight meditation because that was something that ultimately Joseph and Jack and Sharon kind of came up with some of that. So at any rate, I went to that and it was in a little room and like a gymnasium or something, a little side room or something. 

The expectations compared to reality, the very first day they walked in said
there’ll be no writing, no reading, no talking.
And I’m thinking, did I did I is this is not the movie I signed up for
and I so I said, So what are we going to do?
They said, Oh, we meditate all, all day.

And I walked in and I, I met Joseph Goldstein, who, you know, in is known to the world at this point. But he had just come back from India, spending eight years in India practicing with his teacher on a Greek, a Manildra and Goenka and some other some other teachers. And he was dressed like me. He’s he’s I just hit my mike. Sorry. He was dressed like me. He sounded like me. And I could understand what he was saying. And he used the phrase he could he could feel my suffering. And I really had had just marinated in it because I didn’t know how to get out of it. You know, I obviously raised a Christian. I didn’t know what to do there. And knowing that I would I would not survive unless some kind of transformation, transformation or some kind of change happen. And Joseph said he could feel my angst, he could feel my suffering. And he said, use just one simple phrase. He said, Can you be aware? And I could feel this this sea change of I think I can. You know, I think I think I can. And he said, it’s that simple from that day for the next almost 50 years now I’ve come from the school of Keep It Simple. The Buddha talked about a handful of leaves. You don’t need to know all the leaves in this this beautiful greenery we have around us. You just need to know this many leaves. An awareness is the key. It’s that the absolute key to all of the others. And I’ll talk about this later. What’s called the friends of mindfulness that come all of these wholesome factors that come and begin to change and transform your life, whether you want it or not. The doing of the work allows it to happen. And so I had this just this enormous sense of light that I will survive. I still don’t completely know what he’s talking about, but what somebody else understood lands what I’m going for you get you know going through because often I heard well you’ve got a bright future what’s your problem? You know why why are you what is all this gloom and doom about? And and it was this deep sense of something is missing. Something is missing from this life. And what I saw was in my parents, I came from an affluent home, a lot of dysfunction. There certainly was some love and care, etc.. I became best friends with my parents, but at that time I was still doing a lot of suffering of children of of alcoholics, you know, the fights and the, you know, and I and I’ve been surrounded by a fair amount of affluence. And the thing that occurred to me at some point was. But are they happy they have it all, at least what society says is all. But it wasn’t enough. And what I had, Jack, was whatever it was I touched, it was never enough. You wanted the girlfriend. You got the girlfriend. You wanted the car, you got the girl, you wanted the drugs or whatever you got. You got all of that. 

On the 3 vehicles

But ultimately there’s their old saying in the dharma world, lesser vehicle, greater, you know, diamond vehicle. They’re all they’re all eventually towed by owner expense. I can’t remember who said that. I didn’t. But it’s the truth.

And I was still the same underneath it all. It looked it looked good. But I still had this emptiness, not the emptiness of of what the Buddha talked about, but it but an emptiness of loneliness. And I remember my very first goal was, could I get past this, this, this loneliness? And it was interesting about that time, 1974, I made a mistake that I never make, which is being home by myself. And I came home and talked to my parents and they said, well, we’re going out to dinner. And they didn’t exactly say you’re not invited. But they they knew I at that point, I wasn’t drinking or any of that stuff. And I wasn’t wasn’t invited. And I remember as as clear as yesterday, I called everybody I know I knew and guess who I got? Nobody. And I was thrown back on myself. And I had no capacity really to deal with that. I mean, you know, I kept one step moving for, you know, moving forward. But I said, I’ve got to find this. And and that phrase of Joseph’s finally gave me the hope that somebody understood the suffering that I was going through in the Buddha talked about. Of course, I didn’t know it. I didn’t know that I was marinating in the first knowable truth. All of life is has a all of conditioned life, has some unsatisfactory unreliability. Or you could go to the extreme that I was going through of suffering. So so when I when I left Naropa, I went out West for six weeks and hitchhiked. And it was just this eye opening experiences, a world out here that I’ve never seen as a as a, you know, a little Philadelphia boy, you know, and I had talked to Joseph quite a bit, and I was surprised sometime later when I got a call from Sharon Salzberg on, probably six months after Naropa, maybe the beginning, very beginning of 75 or so, 1975. And I’d gone back home because I didn’t know what else to do was doing construction. Construction, which really thrilled my parents, you know, so swinging a hammer. And I loved physical work, but the pay wasn’t so good. But it was okay. You know, I was outside and had had fun and I was learning again, ride my bike to work and ride my bike back. But my parents weren’t happy about it and my dad was also getting sober and that was the beginning of his sobriety. And he was one miserable guy. In fact, my my brother was out of the house. He was married, but I was with my sister in the home. And I thought maybe he should go back to drinking because this this guy is so miserable, you know, I felt the same way. I just didn’t express it. I didn’t say much about it. I suffered in silence. So to speak. And I and I had left a lot of my party friends, which was what I had. So again, there was this this loneliness and despair. And when Sharon called, she talked about this retreat they were going to have. And I and she said it was a three month retreat. And I thought, oh, good, you know, and I and this question came to me. I talked to her a couple of times, and she was so thrilled because they were just trying to get enough people to to rent this monastery up at Bucksport, Maine, that that part of it was open the the big part of the monastery where we could do a retreat. Now, this was the first long retreat that they had ever done. They had done, I think a couple of maybe one or two, two week retreats out West, nothing much on the East Coast. And so I talked to Sharon. And this this this question came to me a number of time, and I never asked it. It’s like it came and the truth said, we’re not going to let you ask that one. And it was, well, what are we going to do there? So I’m driving up, you know, so I never ask the question and I was so thrilled. I’m going to make friends. Finally, I didn’t know the word sangha, but I did understand friends. I’ve always been blessed with a lot of friends. 

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!