People used to take a step back when I said I’d been a Buddhist monk for 8 years. Not that I ever made an issue of it. For me, meditation and mindfulness are just ways to train your mind, the same way you train your body—for health, balance and enjoyment.
My teachers were the last generation of Tibetan masters to have been raised in free Tibet. I studied with them in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Switzerland I learned Buddhist philosophy, psychology and reasoning from one of the top debaters, who had sparred with the Dalai Lama.
But my favourite teacher I didn’t see much of. He was different. He played the game like a pro, giving homage to some and accepting it from others. He knew the rules. And yet there was something seditious about him. The more I saw of the Tibetan social hierarchy, the more I understood the freedom he found with us. We were the Injis, as they called us. Foreigners.
Few lamas at that time spoke English. He did so with gusto and plenty of seventies slang. He used every word strategically to get to your heart. He was Lama Yeshe. I loved him. Everyone did. And I wrote about him in The Novice.
He died at 52 from a weak heart that he knew would finish him. He wrote from his hospital room an account of his impending death that was heart-wrenching.
As for me, I wanted to be a teacher like him. Someone who listened and loved and reflected.
I’d need time. A few decades should do it.
In that time I was able to let go of the slanted jargon of Buddhism and speak plainly from my own experience.
I became a husband and father and worked in Montreal writing, designing and typesetting. Somehow my monastic skills translated into the arcane arts. At the same time I became The Naked Monk, a blogger who poked under the covers of Buddhism and belief. When I started teaching Mindful Reflection™ in 2003, I learned to detach the actual practices of Buddhism from its religious embellishments, and employed the language of science.
Most of my former colleagues are still caught up in that religion. I was different, a combination of traditional training, long experience and total independence. I teach mindfulness now because it’s the best thing I know, and it needs to be passed on.
I’ve published books and websites; I teach workshops in the workplace and privately. My most in-demand service is Personal Guided Meditation (PGM).
For more information about public workshops, corporate training programs or one-on-one coaching, email me or call 450-458-8030. I’m in the Eastern Time Zone (UTC -5:00).
Stephen is the author of The Novice, a memoir of his monk years, as well as It Begins with Silence, a secular guide to the Buddha’s teachings. Stephen has taught Quiet Mind Workshops in the Montreal area since 2003 and hosts a post-Buddhist blog entitled The Naked Monk. A selection of his Mindful Reflections™ can be found on insighttimer.com.
Stephen lives just outside Montreal with his wife and family.