For nearly 30 years, Dave Smith has held a practice rooted in the Insight Meditation (Vipassana) tradition. He was empowered to teach through the Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, is a certified teacher for Cultivating Emotional Balance (CEB) which is combines contemporary emotion based scientific research with contemplative practices and psychology drawn from Buddhism and has studied Buddhist psychology at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS).
Dave teaches residential meditation retreats, weekly live dharma classes, online courses, and workshops. He has developed educational tools and resources, including mindfulness and emotional skills trainings, in both secular and Buddhist contexts. Dave also works with students 1:1 through his dharma mentoring program.
In 2016 he founded the Secular Dharma Foundation to foster the advancement of emotional and psychological well-being through the education and integration of mindfulness, psychology, and various therapeutic modalities. Dave has brought dharma and meditative interventions into a variety of settings including jails, prisons, youth detention centers and addiction treatment facilities. Dave lives in rural Colorado with his wife and two sons.
Teaching Style and Influence
As a dharma teacher Dave’s goal is to connect the experience of living in the modern world with the philosophies and teachings of the historic Buddha. The approach is respectful of the classical tradition and faithful to the original teachings, but secular in its orientation and focused more on the practical psychology of Buddhism than upon its religious dogma or metaphysical aspects.
His primary interest resides in the oldest record of what the historic Buddha may have taught as found in the early Buddhist tradition (“old school” dharma). These foundational ideas have been well preserved in a body of text known as the Pali canon. A text which has been largely ignored by all schools of Buddhism. Within this massive volume of work contains the message that has been left behind for all of us to explore. The radical notion that everything that we need to cultivate a meaningful life is inside all of us. Dharma work and dharma practice is a system of living that requires training the mind, living with ethics, and developing an appropriate understanding of the limitations and possibilities of the human condition.
Dave actively pursues these interests as a practitioner, teacher, mentor, writer, friend, father, son, and husband. He has developed this website as a vehicle for continued work and to growth in this field of practice, study, and integration.His intention is to continue to provide learning opportunities through online classes and retreats, working 1:1 as a dharma mentor with individuals to strengthen their dharma practice and to provide an accurate and pragmatic framework for the Buddha’s dharma.
Personal Dharma Journey
My exploration of the Dharma began in the winter of 1993. After a series of tragic events, and barely getting through the struggles of my teen years, I began experiencing a growing confusion and hatred towards life and the world at large. At the suggestion of a close friends’ mom, I was encouraged to go meet with one of her close friends who was Dharma teacher. His name was Steven Smith. I drove out to the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA to meet with him. We talked for a few hours about my life, my experiences, my suffering, and my confusion. He spoke in detail about the challenging and important role that suffering has in our lives. He described in detail how the mind can be trained through various practices of meditative training. He discussed his time as a monk under the guidance of Burmese masters to be an authentic lineage of training. He was transparent and trustworthy. I still consider him my primary dharma door and teacher.
A few hours later, I found myself sitting across from him in the dharma hall at IMS. He showed me how to sit and offered me the basic instruction, “bring your attention to the sensation of the in-and-out breath”. I began practicing mindfulness of breathing for the next few minutes and I started to experience a sense of ease. I began to find moments where I was ok, I felt safe and present. Then the next instruction, “when you notice your mind begin to wander, gently return your attention back to the breath”. It was this basic instruction that changed my life.
When I became aware of my attention getting pulled into the mind, the stories of my life, re-living all the loss, all the horrifying experiences, all the anger, the confusion, the pain and sadness, there it was. It was all inside my own mind. I was able to watch my mind, with my mind. A radical intervention. As I continued to re-adjust my attention out of my thinking mind and into my sitting, breathing body I would find relief. From that day forward I’ve continued to benefit from that simple shift in perspective that mindfulness practice had provided.
Throughout my life I’ve continued to practice the Dharma with varying degrees of success. I spent a decade lost in the throes of active drug and alcohol addiction, touring in rock bands, living in crappy apartments, and moving around the country, all whilst sitting various 10-day Insight retreats. Feeling extremely unsatisfied, torn and confused. I decided to get sober in July 2003. Three months into sobriety, I signed up for the 3-month retreat at IMS. There I entered the innermost nether regions of my heart and mind where I would spend the next 90 days. During that time, I experienced moments of great joy and deep concentration, and times of total despair, fear and confusion. I got it all, except I was not liberated. Since then, I have spent much time trying to fully comprehend what its means to practice the Dharma.
During the last decade, I’ve been integrating Dharma practice into a wide range of territories both personally and professionally. Spending several years working with incarcerated populations teaching mindfulness and emotional intelligence exercises. The primary focus of my work has been within addiction and substance abuse populations. I’ve provided extensive work in both secular mental health environments and Buddhist communities.
I hope to see you on the path,
Other than teaching and practicing dharma I have spent much of my life and creative energy on writing and recording music. I currently have 5 albums which can be streamed or purchase on various platforms. Titles and links (some) are provided below. Enjoy.