Heather Sundberg has practiced insight meditation since 1993, and was first invited to teach meditation classes in 1999. Soon afterwards, she participated in the Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leader program (CDL2), graduating in 2003. She began teaching Residential Retreats in Insight Meditation in 2004. Next, Heather completed the four-year Spirit Rock/Insight Meditation Society Senior Teacher Training, facilitated by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. From 2011-2021 she was a Core Teacher for Mountain Stream Meditation in the CA Sierra Foothills. She is currently on the Spirit Rock Teacher's Council.
Beginning her own meditation practice in her late teens, for thirty years Heather has studied with senior teachers in the Insight Meditation (Vipassana) and Tibetan (Vajrayana) traditions. She is one of a new generation of “home-grown” teachers, who did her entire early meditation training at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, under the guidance of eastern and western teachers. Important influences on her practice include many of the senior teachers at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, as well as meditation masters Ajahn Jumnian, Ven. Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Lama Wangdo, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Retreat has been of central importance in Heather’s practice. She has completed more than 3 accumulated years of silent retreat, and has sat 1-3 months of retreat a year over the last 25 years. Her retreat training includes Insight Meditation, concentration (Jhana), the Heart Practices (Brahma Viharas), Pure Awareness (MahaSati), and Body-Based Energy Practices ~ upon which she bases the main themes of her teaching. Heather is unusual in that over the last twenty years she has trained equally in both Insight Meditation and the Divine Abodes (metta, compassion, joy, equanimity). To augment her retreat practice, she has spent time studying the suttas and Buddhist philosophy. She also has what she calls a ‘long-term beginners Qi Gong practice’, which her colleague Teja Bell has authorized her to include in her teaching as appropriate. Heather teaches retreats in all of the above topics both nationally and in Canada & Europe.
Heather has a deep connection with the essence of the Thai forest lineage, through her early teacher Ajahn Jumnien, who trained her in MahaSati Pure Awareness practice for a number of years. With the blessing of Ajahn Jumnien, Heather later began teaching MahaSati Retreats. Understanding that the essence of the MahaSati is accessing the wisdom of Pure Awareness in all aspects of life, she began offering in-depth ongoing Trainings in MahaSati in 2016. Heather’s other connections in the Thai forest tradition include her long-term association with Abhayagiri Monastery in California through Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro. Ajahn Amaro was a main mentor during her Senior Teacher Training. She has sat retreats with Ajahn Sumedho & Ajahn Sucitto, and has connections with many of the Bhikkhuni’s who originally trained in the Thai forest tradition.
To better facilitate students in daily life exploration, Heather completed two years of training in a body-centered trauma therapy called Somatic Experiencing. In addition, she completed a seven-month intensive Professional Hakomi training, which is in mindfulness-based somatic therapy. She offers meditation support sessions to students individually world-wide in person, by phone or Zoom on a sliding scale Donation basis. For appointments, email heather@HeatherSundberg.com.
To her great surprise, between 2010-2015 Heather has spent a cumulative one-year in study, retreat, and pilgrimage in Asia. In 2010, Heather spent six months traveling in Thailand, India, and Nepal. She spent her time there studying, sitting retreat, and learning about the cultures that gave birth to the Buddhist traditions she loves so dearly. In 2012, Heather co-led her first Buddhist piligrimage to sacred places of India and Nepal, including Bodhgaya, where the Buddha was enlightened. In 2014 she returned to India again for intensive teachings, retreat practice, and dharma-road-adventure. She was able to spend time at the 'sister Bodhi Tree' in Sri Lanka during her monthlong practice period there in 2016.
As a teacher, Heather’s style is warm and practical. Her general emphasis is for embodiment (to balance out the ‘over-headiness’ of our general culture) including strong heartfulness in practice. She carries an interesting combination of supporting a ‘less is more’ easeful style of practice + a passionate ‘no holds barred’ attitude about awakening.