the garden. In
meditation you first quiet
your mind and tend your heart, then
you naturally reach your hands out
to touch those places given to you to
make a difference.
Each of us has a gift to bring to this
earth. It may be to raise a conscious
child or develop a conscious business.
It may be to stand up for those
who are vulnerable by working as a
political activist. It may be to protect
the earth as an environmentalist. You
sit and you sweep the garden. It’s like
breathing in and breathing out.
KK: You became both a monk and a
psychologist. How does psychology
enrich the practice of Buddhism?
JK: When I came back from training
as a monk, I studied psychology
so I could better understand what
the heck happened to me in those
monasteries. I had learned practices
of forgiveness, compassion and
loving-kindness, and mindfulness,
but I realized I still had to learn
how to embody those principles in
relationships, work, and community.
I also discovered I still carried the
pain from my family history as well
as other painful patterns in intimate
relationships—pain that had not
been worked out in a monastery.
I still carried fears, needs, and
judgments that had never been
activated in the monastery but came
back as a layperson.
Western psychology teaches the
tools of therapy, which at its best is a
kind of paired mindfulness in which
someone helps you become more
attentive and compassionate toward
your own inner life. I also learned
Western trauma work, which
releases the deep traumas held in
the body, heart, and mind. These
were a beautiful complement to the
trainings I received in the East.
During the past several decades I
have been a bridge for many, offering
the transformative heart trainings from
Buddhist practice and integrating them
in a modern way with the wisdom of
KK: The concept of embodied
enlightenment you teach incorporates
Western psychology into a daily
spiritual practice. How does that work?
JK: Sometimes we think we have to go
to a secluded, exotic spiritual place and
after many, many, years we will
become enlightened. But it’s not there.
The conditions of praise and blame,
gain and loss, joy and sorrow, and
birth and death that we experience
are the perfect conditions for
awakening wisdom and compassion.
Embodied enlightenment means that
our bodies, our feelings, our minds,
and our relationships are the places
where we awaken.
Sometimes people do a spiritual
bypass. They make prayers or
meditate in order to rise above the
troubles of the world. But in focusing
on their spiritual ideals they may
not be paying attention to the people
they live with or their own bodies or
the traumas or emotions they carry.
Instead, they’re using their spiritual
practice to avoid the messiness and
real love that is part of human life.
To truly awaken requires us to tend
to our bodies, our emotions, our
thoughts, and our relationships in the
same way we tend to our spirit.
KK: Is that what you mean when you
say enlightenment is fairly common?
JK: I prefer the word awakening to
enlightenment because enlightenment
is loaded with a lot of fantasies and
idealization. We’ve all had moments of
stepping outside of our small, separate
sense of self—what’s called the body
of fear—and connecting with the field
of consciousness and love. It might be
walking in the mountains, listening
to a magnificent piece of music in a
great cathedral, staring at the ocean,
or being present at the birth of a child.
It might be the mysterious moment
sitting with someone who is dying
when the spirit leaves their body and
the gates between the worlds open. It
might be making love or dancing.
Those moments when we remember
who we really are have happened
to almost all of us. And then our
meditation is not a practice of reaching
for enlightenment in some other place,
but rather quieting our mind, opening
our hearts, and remembering that this
is who we really are.
KK: I love the idea of using the word
awakening instead of enlightenment
because it feels more alive. It’s a
movement, a progression, instead of a
matter of on/off or yes/no.
JK: Another way to see it is that you’re
not going somewhere else. There is
THAN EVER TO
TEND TO OUR
AND BECOME A ZONE