As a long-time meditation teacher and co-founder of MNDFL, three premier meditation studios in New York City, I have been very fortunate to have met a good number of fellow teachers. Having sat at the feet of my elders for decades, I am delighted that so many of the teachers who I meet today are not the vaunted guru on the top of the mountain, but rather my contemporaries—a new generation of teachers with incredible openness and wisdom. It is an honor to share this list (in no particular order) of some of my peers with you in the hopes that you may get inspired and endeavor to study under their spiritual guidance.
LAMA ROD OWENS
Why he’s wonderful: To the best of my knowledge, he is one of the few African-American, queer, Tibetan Buddhist lamas out there. I first met Lama Rod at a panel hosted by New York University and was so touched by his rare blend of strength and vulnerability in sharing his open heart. Like so many of the new generation of teachers whom I’ve met so far, he doesn’t sit and lecture when he teaches. He poses questions and offers his own experiences as a way to cultivate difficult conversations so that people might realize their own truth and wisdom.
Lineage: Lama Rod is a Vajrayana teacher and graduate of Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s three-year silent retreat program.
A book of his I’d recommend: Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love and Liberation
You would love him if: You’ve been itching to enter into a dialogue with a Buddhist teacher around certain topics that are sometimes considered taboo, including sex, monogamy, race, gender identity, and social action.
His website: http://www.lamarod.com/
Why he’s wonderful: One visit to Pollard’s page and you’ll be instantly greeted with this message: “Love is our nature.” If you’ve ever met Pollard, you know he isn’t just being cute. He really means it. Pollard is the co-founder of 1 Giant Mind, one of the few meditation apps that makes the Vedic stream of teachings truly accessible to a wide audience.
Lineage: He is a Vedic teacher who studied under Thom Knoles.
You would love him if: You appreciate a straight-shooter. Pollard may overwhelm you with his authenticity at first. Everyone I know who has met Pollard is bowled over by his commitment to doing whatever he can to empower others to express their true nature.
His website: http://www.jonnipollard.com/
Why she’s wonderful: In a 2015 article for Tricycle Magazine, Johnson wrote, “It is through the day-to-day, moment-to-moment interactions in my spiritual friendships that I have learned to give and receive unconditional love in a way I could only dream of experiencing in a romantic or sexual relationship.” To know Johnson as a teacher is to know a true spiritual friend. She is one of those teachers who emphasizes that your individual liberation is not individual after all; we all rise or fall together.
Lineage: She is a teacher in both the Spirit Rock and the Interdependence Project communities.
A book of hers I’d recommend: Friendship as Freedom: Mindful Practices for Resisting Oppression and Building Community (April 2018)
You would love her if: You need an honest-to-goodness spiritual friend. Johnson will go to bat for you, lift you up when you’re down, and call you on your bullshit. She is the sort of teacher who will tell you about the truth of suffering and say it with a smile.
Her website: https://www.katejohnson.com/
Related: Sign Up for Sonima’s 9-Week Mindfulness Meditation Series!
Why she’s wonderful: Twenty pages into reading an advanced copy of Shy’s new book (see below), I did something that I’ve never done before: I requested to write the foreword. It was an honor to be the opening act to a book this good. Shy is no stranger to high praise: In 2010, the Jewish Week newspaper named her one of the “36 Under 36” change-makers, transforming the Jewish world, largely at NYU where she is the senior director of the NYU Global Spiritual Life Center, and ‘Of Many’ Institute for Multifaith Leadership. She is also the founder and director of MindfulNYU, an award-winning, campus-wide initiative that hosts yoga, meditation, and large-scale events for students, faculty, and staff.
Lineage: She was raised Jewish, but has practiced and studied Zen from a young age.
A book of hers I’d recommend: What Now? Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond (November 2017)
You would love her if: You want to explore Judaism, Zen, or both; she can speak to all of it in a way that makes these ancient traditions relevant for our modern world. Better yet, to see Yael is to know kindness. She just embodies it in her teaching style.
Her website: https://www.yaelshy.com/
Why she’s wonderful: You may be hard-pressed to find a better Buddhist newsletter than Limbach’s. One recent comment on her website called her “a young Pema Chodron,” which is, basically, the highest compliment that I can think of. A head teacher at MNDFL’s Upper East Side location and a student of Venerable Robina Courtin, Limbach specializes in coaching women to help them develop clarity and confidence so that they can expand their freedom in business and life.
Lineage: She practices in Tibetan Buddhist communities and received her teacher training through the Interdependence Project.
A book of hers I’d recommend: Tea and Cake with Demons: A Buddhist Guide to Feeling Worthy (2018)
You would love her if: You need a hug. Limbach’s approachable teaching style feels just like a warm embrace, which is why she’s a fan-favorite at MNDFL. Still, it’s important to know that she is not going to sugarcoat Buddhist teachings. Her honesty is refreshing and respected, and I’m sure will be on full display in her forthcoming book about self-acceptance and self-worth.
Her website: http://www.adreannalimbach.com/
Why he’s wonderful: Morley and I are spiritual cousins in the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. When I first met him in London years ago, it really did feel like reuniting with a long-lost family member. His teachings often explore the mindfulness of dream and sleep in a deeply esoteric, yet accessible way. He is one of the few people (and definitely the best hip-hop dancer) in my generation who I can truly trust to guide me in lucid dreaming and shadow work.
Lineage: He received authorization to teach in 2008 by his Tibetan Buddhist teacher and has spent the last 9 years leading workshops in more than 20 countries.
A book of his I’d recommend: Dreaming Through Darkness: Shine Light Into The Shadow To Live The Life Of Your Dreams (May 2017)
You would love him if: You want to learn how to befriend who you truly are, which is the focus of his third and latest book.
His website: http://www.charliemorley.com/
Related: A 6-Minute Meditation to Build Recollection Awareness
Why she’s wonderful: Bogard is a fairy queen goddess. I’m not the type of person who commonly uses terms like these to describe anyone, but this is how best to sum up her presence. When Bogard teaches, she commands the room and people often feel like she is talking only to them, which is what makes her so magical. As co-founder of the Gaiatri Yoga Teacher Training program and co-creator of SoundMind Meditation, Bogard has spent the last decade traveling the globe leading yoga and meditation workshops and retreats.
Lineage: She first studied and trained to teach meditation through the Kriya and Tantric Yoga lineages.
You would love her if: You are ready to face your own reflection. Consider Bogard your mirror. She not only sees you, but shows you who you are while offering sage advice. Trust me, you want to meet this wonder woman in person.
Her website: http://allybogard.com/
RALPH DE LA ROSA
Why he’s wonderful: Both a psychotherapist and meditation teacher, De La Rosa specializes in bringing matters of the brain, attachment theory, and trauma-work to the meditation cushion in a way that feels seamless and joyful.
Lineage: A student of both the Dharma Ocean and Shambhala lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, De La Rosa is also a yoga instructor. He is trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT), plus Breathwork and Reiki.
A book of his I’d recommend: The Monkey is a Messenger: What Your Busy Mind is Trying to Tell You (2018)
You would love him if: You want to dive deep into psychoanalysis—his specialty. One of his many talents is helping people navigate the depths of their emotional lives to work directly to resolve major life issues.
His website: https://ralphdelarosa.com/