Master Teacher: David Nichtern


In a 2013 YouTube video on taming self-aggression, David Nichtern describes a New York moment in which he was driving “like an asshole.” This type of admission is typical of his ability to present the depth of the Buddhist tradition with a light touch, making it accessible and relevant. Nichtern is a senior meditation teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. He has been the Director of Karme Choling Meditation Center in Vermont and Director of Expansion for Shambhala Training International.

An Emmy winning composer, guitarist and producer, he wrote the classic song Midnight at the Oasis and has worked with a diverse range of artists including Maria Muldaur, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Jerry Garcia, and others. His book “Awakening From The Daydream: Reimagining The Buddha's Wheel of Life” was released last October.

Devoted student Dr. Jude Theriot said, “I’ve been Skyping with David once a month for almost three years now, and while we’ve changed course many times along the way, keeping pace with changing interests and life circumstances, the overall trajectory has been in the direction of a steady deepening of my practice. As a medical doctor, I often find myself in emotionally challenging situations, and I’m grateful for David’s constant presence in my life, his encouragement and support.”

Kathleen Kraft: What does your practice look like every day?

David Nichtern: Because I have a very creative lifestyle and travel and teach extensively around the world, I actually do not have a regulated daily schedule for practice, even though I highly recommend that approach to my students!

So here’s what my personal practice looks like: I am currently working on a particular Shambhala meditation practice which is part of a much longer curriculum I’ve been working on for many years. This practice requires 150-175 sessions per year. Each session takes 1 – 1.5 hours.

In addition, I am leading workshops most weekends and many evenings as well. During these workshops there can be anywhere from ½ hour to 3 hours of practice integrated so I think that would account for at least another 50-75 sessions of mostly mindfulness style meditation. I also regularly do short sessions of mindfulne