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, as the youngest retreat teacher of that time period. Next, Heather completed the four-year Spirit Rock/Insight Meditation Society Senior Teacher Training, facilitated by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. From 2011 – 2020 she was a Retreat Teacher for Mountain Stream Meditation in the CA Sierra Foothills as well as teaching retreats nationally and internationally. She is currently on the Spirit Rock Teacher’s Council.
Beginning her own meditation practice in her late teens, for the last three decades Heather has studied with senior teachers in the Insight Meditation (Vipassana) and Tibetan (Vajrayana) traditions. Important influences on her practice include many of the senior teachers at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, as well as meditation masters Ajahn Jumnien, Ven. Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Lama Wangdo, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, the current Kalu Rinpoche, 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 years of accumulated retreat time, and continues to sit approximately two months of silent retreat a year. Her retreat training includes Insight Meditation, Pure Awareness (MahaSati), Concentration (Jhana), the Heart Practices (Brahma Viharas), and Body-Based Energy Practices ~ upon which she bases the main themes of her teaching. 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 practice mainly between 2000-2005 and blessed her to teach his lineage ‘in the ways she sees fit’ in 2006. After this blessing, Heather took quite a number of years to continue to practice with MahaSati, as well as integrate the depth of teachings she had received in this lineage. She began teaching MahaSati Retreats in 2013. Understanding that the essence of the MahaSati is accessing Pure Awareness/Essence of Mind 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 and Ajahn Sucitto, and is connected 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 Somatic Experiencing. In addition, she completed Professional Hakomi training, which is in mindfulness-based somatic therapy. She offers meditation support sessions to students individually worldwide.
To her great surprise, between 2010-2015 Heather 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 pilgrimage 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. She emphasizes embodiment, and including strong heartfulness in practice. She carries an interesting combination of supporting a ‘less is more’ easeful style of practice, plus a passionate ‘no holds barred’ attitude about awakening.
It has been said that when the student is ready the teacher will appear.
I have found this statement to be entirely accurate and the teacher has appeared.
Heather is a very experienced Dharma teacher who takes your strengths and transforms them into deep Dharma teachings.
Through her wonderful guidance I have experienced many profound insights
that have been life-changing in who I think I am and how the world is.
The program is simple but profound and I would strongly encourage anybody who was interested
in experiencing the Dharma to commit to this wonderful teacher and program.
~ Steve, CO – MahaSati 2022 Training