Disillusioned at an early age, I left behind everything I knew and set off on a quest for the meaning of life in 1976, when I was 19. A college exchange program brought me to live with a family in the small island country of Sri Lanka, near India. I was mysteriously drawn to learn meditation from the serene monks I encountered there, and after immersing myself in the local culture for a semester, I embarked on a month-long silent retreat in a Buddhist monastery.
I spent my days in silent sitting and walking meditation, and after weeks of struggling to relax my body and pay attention to my breath, I began to experience a beautiful transformation. In the quiet stillness of my mind, I found serenity, and clarity. I suddenly knew with unexplainable certainty, what life was for and why I was here.
I recognized my connection with myself, other people, and the natural world, and I experienced great peace. I realized how isolated and disconnected I had been living in a competitive industrialized society, and understood why the promises of success, money, and position had lost their appeal. Truth revealed itself to me, not in someone else’s words, but in my own insights. And I was astonished to realize that I was not learning these things for the first time, but I was remembering them.
When I returned home, I found that living on the land and growing my own food provided a simpler and more grounded lifestyle in which to deepen this clarity. But I was troubled by the conflicts I saw with other people. As I lived in idealistic back-to-the-land communes and meditation centers, I was frustrated to see all the same misunderstandings and power struggles that plagued mainstream society.
I realized that we had taken on wonderful new ideals of equality, freedom, and cooperation, but had no means to achieve them. Meditation could help to center oneself in the present, but something more was needed to take this presence into relationships with other people.
I was keenly aware of the simmering conflicts all around me, between couples, within communities, and in the society at large. I felt compelled to do something, and wanted to help people learn to talk directly and honestly about their feelings and needs without blaming each other or competing over who is right. This calling prompted me to learn communication and conflict resolution skills, and later to become trained as a professional mediator. I learned skills that enable people to better understand each other and collaborate during conflict to find solutions that meet both parties’ needs.
As these practices of Insight Meditation and Conscious Communication became central to my life, I realized that teaching them was the best way to learn them. I saw them as tools for becoming whole, healthy, and content, and wanted to offer them in intensive retreats, as I had learned them. And I knew these retreats needed to happen in a sanctuary that was integrated with nature and connected to the earth.
So, in 1988 I purchased a beautiful, secluded old farm in Vermont and began developing a holistic retreat center, organic homestead, and conscious community. Ten years later I had planted trees, cultivated large gardens, renovated the historic farm buildings, and opened the retreat center. Today this land provides much of the food and many of the resources for daily living, and guests see and experience their innate connection with nature as they learn to connect more genuinely with themselves and each other.
Retreats and workshops happen at Sky Meadow within a mindfully hand-made working homestead and beautiful landscape of gardens, edible trees and shrubs, fields with grazing sheep and alpacas, swimming ponds, wooded trails, and an open hilltop overlooking the Green Mountains. In contrast to today’s large institutionalized retreat centers, Sky Meadow hosts one group of no more than 16 people at a time, affording a unique level of intimacy and depth with the teacher and other participants. We also grow much of our own food and firewood in gardens and forests surrounding the main buildings, creating a direct connection with our natural environment.
My teaching is enhanced and informed by having been the steward of this land for 30 years, and rooting myself to this piece of earth. I recognize and teach practical skills that I have seen work over the past four decades. Instead of ornate rituals or elaborate theories, I focus on practical tools which enable you to shift your perspective and see for yourself deeper layers of truth. There is an opportunity here for you to experience real, sustained personal transformation, and achieve a level of clarity and connection that is rare in today’s world.