You’re increasingly interested in mindfulness and have questions about the meditation teachers and mindfulness experts you should follow.
Meditation gurus are a dime a dozen these days, and it can be daunting to know which ones have the experience and knowledge you seek.
So to guide you on your search, we’ve put together a list of renowned meditation and mindfulness luminaries worth a look.
- What Are the Benefits of Having a Meditation Teacher?
- What Should You Look for in a Meditation Expert
- 17 Renowned Mindfulness and Meditation Teachers to Consider
- 1. Sara Auster
- 2. Michael Beckwith
- 3. Tara Brach
- 4. Pema Chodron
- 5. Ram Dass (Richard Alpert)
- 6. Siddhārtha Gautama
- 7. Satya Narayan Goenka
- 8. Joan Halifax
- 9. Jon Kabat-Zinn
- 10. Jack Kornfield
- 11. Dr. Gail Parker
- 12. Andy Puddicombe
- 13. Sharon Salzberg
- 14. Dr. Bhante Saranpala
- 15. Thích Nhất Hạnh
- 16. Holly Whitaker
- 17. Diana Winston
- Final Reminder
What Are the Benefits of Having a Meditation Teacher?
Though helpful, you don’t need a teacher to start practicing.
But investing in expert instruction allows you to reap the most benefits.
Ultimately, a teacher or coach can get you further, faster.
- Accountability: Having a coach for any endeavor is helpful because they’re an accountability touchstone, keeping you on track and focused.
- Knowledge: Teachers know their stuff, have years of practice and study under their belts, and can help tailor a practice routine ideal for your goals.
- Anchor: Everyone in your life may not understand or be on board with your meditation journey. Working with a teacher means you have someone who fully embraces your journey. That’s comforting.
- Feedback: A meditation coach will give you feedback on your progress, allowing you to reach your goals faster.
What Should You Look for in a Meditation Expert
What should you consider before choosing a meditation teacher?
We recommend examining five things.
- Needs: What are your needs? Are you neurodivergent? If so, would you do better with someone who understands the condition? Are you interested in a specific type of meditation? Does the person you’re considering specialize in it? Think about what you want and seek teachers that meet your needs.
- Goals: Don’t forget to think about your goals. Are you trying to become more relaxed or more contemplative? Where do you see your meditation practice going? Is it a personal endeavor or something you want to do professionally? Pick teachers that make sense for your journey.
- Experience: How much experience does the potential teacher have? Are they certified in any way? Have they been practicing daily for at least two years? Who did they study under?
- Power: No matter how you slice it, teachers and students always have an unbalanced power dynamic. Remember that when weighing the options, and ensure you’re comfortable with the vibes you exchange.
- Location: Do you want to work with someone in your area, or are you comfortable doing digital sessions?
17 Renowned Mindfulness and Meditation Teachers to Consider
Who are some famous meditation teachers to check out?
First, we should clarify that we don’t think a meditation teacher needs to be famous to be fabulous. Working with a mindfulness coach in your community can be the best way to go.
That said, our alphabetical list focuses on 17 influential and inspiring meditation instructors — living and dead — whose teachings and talks are worth considering as you craft your own practice.
1. Sara Auster
New York-based Sara Auster is the Frida Khalo of sound meditation.
Like the celebrated Mexican artist, Auster suffered a severe back injury due to a life-altering accident as a young woman. Instead of painting her pain as a way to heal like Khalo, Auster turned to music and sound.
She found relief via therapeutic vibrations created by marble bowls.
Auster’s back has long since healed, but she still works with glasses and bowls to create what she calls “sound baths,” a type of audio mindfulness.
Over the years, she’s traveled worldwide, performing and teaching Buddhist meditation. Many publications, including Time Magazine and The New York Times, have featured the sound healing expert.
2. Michael Beckwith
A regular on Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sundays,” Michael Beckwith is a renowned spiritual teacher who fuses old and new ways.
He runs the Agape International Spiritual Center in Beverly Hills and ministers to a congregation of about 8,000 people.
Mindfulness and meditation are core elements of Beckwith’s teachings, and he’s become one of the foremost leaders in the space.
People praise Agape services as life-changing, and Beckwith’s work has helped thousands of people turn their lives around for the better.
Check Out: To learn more about Michael Beckwith and explore his teachings and event schedule, check out his website.
3. Tara Brach
Clinical psychologist and Buddhist consultant Tara Brach founded the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C., one of the nation’s largest mindfulness centers.
Brach takes a modern approach to wellness and uses personal anecdotes and jokes while teaching. Brach is also a big believer in self-compassion and self-awareness.
4. Pema Chodron
Born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936, Pema Chodron was one of the first American women to become an ordained Tibetan Buddhist nun.
After earning degrees from Sarah Lawrence College and the University of California, Berkeley, she began studying with Lama Chime Tulku Rinpoche. At 38, she became a novice Buddhist nun under Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.
Notably, Pema Chodron has led several meditation centers and initiatives, including Gampo Alley in Nova Scotia and the international Shambhala Meditation organization.
Additionally, she’s published several works, and her teachings focus on discipline and perspective.
Check Out: Learn more about Pema at Pemachodronfoundation.org.
5. Ram Dass (Richard Alpert)
Psychologist turned mindfulness guru Ram Dass (nee Richard Alpert) played a massive role in introducing yoga and meditation to North Americans.
His spiritual journey began in the 1960s when he and Timothy Leary were conducting research at Harvard’s Center for Research in Personality.
The pair went on to found the Harvard Psilocybin Project, where they studied the effects of LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelic chemicals on the human psyche.
By 1962, Leary and Alpert started the International Federation for Internal Freedom to explore potential links between religiosity and psychedelic drugs.
But Harvard eventually dismissed Alpert and Leary in 1963 for giving psilocybin to an undergraduate and maintaining a loosey-goosey class schedule, respectively.
In 1967, Alpert traveled to India, studied under various gurus, and changed his name to Ram Dass. In 1971, he published the best-selling tome “Be Here Now,” a seminal mindfulness treatise.
6. Siddhārtha Gautama
Born in 480 BCE as the treasured son of an affluent family of the Shakya clan, Siddhārtha Gautama is arguably the most important and influential meditation advocate ever to live.
You probably know him as “The Buddha.”
Gautama abandoned a comfortable life of privilege to discover the true meaning of existence. He studied; he traveled, and eventually, Gautama began teaching “the middle way” — aka Buddhism.
Buddha taught that a well-lived life consisted of effort, acceptance, mindfulness, compassion, and jhana (brain training).
Check Out: Though The Buddha passed on thousands of years ago, check out Buddhify, a modern take on the ancient tradition.
7. Satya Narayan Goenka
Satya Narayan Goenka may not be a household name, but until recently, he was one of the most influential meditation teachers in the world.
Born in Burma under an Aquarian sun in 1924, Goenka stumbled into meditation while looking to treat his debilitating migraines.
A skeptical businessman at the time, Goenka harbored doubts but went to a meditation teacher anyway at the urging of a friend.
Not only did meditation help relieve Goenka’s condition, but he fell in love with Buddhism and mindfulness. The rest, as they say, is history.
Goenka’s teachings focused on the magic and power of stillness and focused awareness, and his widely credited with increasing worldwide interest in meditation.
He was also instrumental in the movement to bring Vipassana classes to prisons.
Goenka’s specialty was five- and ten-day silent meditation retreats, and most people who attended them valued the experience as life-altering.
Check Out: Though he is no longer with us on Earth, you can learn more about Satya Narayan Goenka and his teachings at Dhamma.org.
8. Joan Halifax
Doctor of anthropology, Zen priest, and Buddhist teacher Roshi Joan Halifax leads the teaching staff at the Upaya Zen Center monastery.
Halifax specializes in death and dying transitions, and many people with terminal illnesses turn to her teachings for comfort, grace, and hope.
One of her best-loved books is “Standing At The Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet,” an investigation into the nature of empathy, altruism, integrity, respect, and engagement, and their accompanying shadow sides.
9. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Many credit Jon Kabat-Zinn as the godfather of meditation scientific research.
Unlike most mindfulness teachers, Kabat-Zinn doesn’t consider himself Buddhist; nor does he professionally associate with any other spiritual tradition. Instead, he sticks to the secular scientific end of things.
He’s authored over ten books on mindfulness and meditation and developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, an eight-week-long, intensive, non-religious mindfulness course catering to people suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.
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10. Jack Kornfield
Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Centre, Jack Kornfield, is a former Buddhist monk who first found the middle way when serving in the Peace Corps in Thailand.
After returning home, Kornfield became a psychologist and set a goal of uniting modern psychology with the ancient wisdom of jhana, meditation, and Buddhist philosophy.
Today, Jack Kornfield is a sought-after lecturer, and he’s published numerous books exploring various aspects of mindfulness, the power of forgiveness, and other Buddhist teachings.
Check Out: JackKornfield.com is a treasure trove of Kornfield’s works. Try one of the audio meditation guides to get a feel for his approach.
11. Dr. Gail Parker
There’s a good chance you’ve encountered Gail Parker, Ph.D., C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, via Oprah’s media empire.
President of the Black Yoga Teachers Alliance and teacher at the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy, Parker takes an intersectional approach to mindfulness and meditation.
She also pioneered a program at Wayne State University School of Medicine in which students undergo mindfulness and meditation training to improve performance, capacity for compassion, and bedside manner.
In addition to her various teaching initiatives, Parker has also been a practicing psychologist for over 40 years, and she’s published two books about using yoga and mindfulness to alleviate race-based stress.
Check Out: If you want to learn more about Dr. Gail Parker’s meditation techniques or order one of her books, head to her website, DrGailParker.com.
12. Andy Puddicombe
Have you ever used the Headspace Meditation app? If so, then you’ve heard Andy Puddicombe’s soothing voice.
The former Buddhist monk founded the company with business partner Rich Pierson, and both have become stars on the mindfulness lecture circuit.
Puddicombe was raised in the United Kingdom but did intense Buddhism training in India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia, and Russia for about a decade. Eventually, he was fully ordained at a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas.
Since launching in 2010, Headspace has grown into one of the most popular mindfulness apps on the market.
In addition to being a tech luminary, Puddicombe also has extensive experience as a meditation consultant who values relatability in his work.
Check Out: Puddicombe’s Ted Talk “All It Takes Is 10 Minutes” has been viewed millions of times and is an excellent introduction to his approach and outlook.
13. Sharon Salzberg
Like many meditation teachers on our list, Sharon Salzberg found her way to the practice after studying with Asian masters.
Today, she is a highly respected member of the western meditation community and a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society.
Salzburg’s teachings are rooted in Theravada Buddhism, and loving-kindness is a big part of her approach. A best-selling author, she has written nine books and regularly runs meditation retreats worldwide.
Check Out: Click your way over to SharonSalzberg.com for more information.
14. Dr. Bhante Saranpala
Buddhist monk, academic, and meditation teacher Bhante Saranapala (aka Bhikkhu Saranapala) was born in Bangladesh and now serves as a monk in residence at the West End Buddhist Monastery in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
As the University of Toronto Buddhist Chaplain, Saranapala advises on the school’s direction regarding Buddhism-related endeavors, interests, and curriculum.
Colloquially known as the “Urban Buddhist Monk,” Bhante Saranapala has a Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Toronto and has received several honors.
Perhaps he’s best known for making meditation accessible to people from all walks of life.
Check Out: Whether you’re looking for a guided meditation or group video chats about everything from Buddhist history and dhamma to living a modern Buddhist life, head to Bhante Saranapala’s frequently updated YouTube channel.
15. Thích Nhất Hạnh
Thích Nhất Hạnh was a renowned Zen Buddhist master from Vietnam who founded the Plum Village Tradition, a spiritual school of thought that advocated for engaged Buddhism.
By his passing in 2022 at the age of 95, Thích Nhất Hạnh was one of the most respected and influential peace activists, spiritual meditation experts, and Buddhist philosophers on the planet.
A Fullbright scholar who lectured at many of the world’s most respected universities, including Cornell and Princeton, Thích published over 100 books in his lifetime with topics ranging from vegetarianism to meditation.
Check Out: Learn more about Thích Nhất Hạnh at the Plum Village website.
16. Holly Whitaker
Holly Whitaker would likely scoff at being vaunted as an influential meditation teacher. Still, we wanted to include the “Quit Like a Woman” author for folks navigating addiction and sobriety.
Part addiction memoir, part history lesson, part meditation on wellness, Whitaker’s “Quit Like a Woman” chronicles her journey to sobriety and how she used meditation and mindfulness techniques to get there.
Whitaker founded Tempest, a recovery program that takes an intersectional and individualized approach to sobriety.
She’s since left the company (on good terms) to develop other projects, including her Forty Days of Intention course and the podcast Quitted.
Check Out: To learn more about her book, courses, and other projects, head to HollyWhitaker.com.
17. Diana Winston
Diana Winston is one of the country’s foremost health and well-being experts, the Director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Centre, and a founding board member of the International Mindfulness Teachers Association.
An advocate for lifelong wellness, Winston pioneered US-based meditation programs tailored for young people.
Check Out: Catch up with Diana Winston of the Ten Percent Happier app and UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center’s website, which lists events, publications, and other opportunities. It’s also a treasure trove of guided meditations and other free mindfulness tools.
While most ordained Buddhist monks work with a single guru for an extended period, studying and analyzing various perspectives and schools of thought is also beneficial.
After all, you’re in control of your life and have the final say about what works, what doesn’t, and what makes it into your lifestyle routine.
Enjoy the journey!