My journey started in 2004, when I couldn’t focus due to intense ADHD, was constantly slipping in and out of apathy & depression, had little-to-no somatic or emotional awareness, was completely overrun by a sense of shame and worthlessness, and engaged in a number of really destructive habits, like excessive drinking and rampant passive-aggression.
Eventually, something in me started calling for a change, and I had my first big shift by way of reading the Dalai Lama’s book, “The Art of Happiness.” It offered me a view of life that completely changed what I understood as a life well lived. Over the next several years, while completing a degree in Western Psychology, I spent my free time diving into Eastern Wisdom traditions.
In 2009, at the end of a year of social justice work in Southern Mexico, I did a one month yoga intensive, and had a split-second insight that forever changed the course of my life (quite literally). Like any true realization, it feels impossible to put it into words, but on a very deep level of heart & mind, I realized that I am not my thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, beliefs, roles, impulses or anything else I can put a word to – similarly, past and future are not “real” entities to worry about, but rather useful orienting concepts that occur in the present. To put it more simply, I learned the secret to peace.
From there, like a snake entering a bamboo tube, there was no looking back, and in 2012 I sold all my possessions, freed myself of any obligation, and set out on an indefinite spiritual journey.
I then spent four months living at the Upaya Zen Center, studied Yoga for six months in India, and pilgrimaged around Asia doing long meditation retreats in Malaysia, Nepal and Thailand. Somewhere in that period, I encountered a short book by the Burmese monk, Sayadaw U Tejaniya, and I immediately felt a pull in my heart to go to Myanmar and ordain as a Buddhist monk under his guidance.
Then, in March 2014, I bought a one-way ticket, showed up at his monastery, traded my street clothes for a set of burgundy robes, and spent the next 21 months meditating around 15 hours a day, every day. I often like to say that during that time I learned how to love myself, or somewhat jokingly (but also seriously), that I learned how to meditate (for real!).
As the story goes, in December 2015, I disrobed, left Myanmar and returned to laylife. I then spent seven months living on an organic farm in California, getting my hands into the Earth, living in intentional community, and experiencing what it was like to be in relationship again.
Ever since, my personal practice has largely been about integrating these wisdom teachings with the realities of everyday life, such as work, relationship, money, balance, and making time for white space. In the summer of 2017, I moved back to Portland Oregon, and began teaching.
Even though I now teach, I still see myself first and foremost as a student. I still practice daily, retreat regularly, and am basically always reading or listening or chewing on some dharma source. I constantly ask myself the hard questions, and look to my community, peers and teachers for support.
In other words, I don’t see the path as something that has an end point or final destination – rather, I see it as an eternal deepening, a process of continually showing up, and I couldn’t image a more worthwhile thing to devote my life to.
As for the ADHD, shame, depression, and other issues I mentioned at the start, some of those things have completely dissolved (e.g. I’m no longer passive aggressive, and have a pretty epic emotional & somatic awareness), while other things, like shame and apathy, haven’t completely fallen off, but they occur way less frequently and intensely, and don’t have much impact on my life anymore.
It’s not like it’s all roses though – new challenges come up, like skillfully handling relational breaches of trust, regulating how much time I spend in front of screens, being assertive & proactive, or a number of other things. Read: I’m not perfect.
However, regardless of what I do or do not find challenging, I increasingly believe those two previous paragraphs are the wrong conversation. It’s so easy to idealize “getting rid of” the aspects of ourselves we find challenging.
Instead, what for me has been a much greater step forward, and how I learned in Myanmar to love myself, treat other people in a way I feel good about, and ultimately find the courage to start this website & teach several times a week, has been more about using meditation to relate to myself (and others) with mindfulness, wisdom, and kindness.
When I can relate that way, moment after moment after moment, those challenges often taken care of themselves, and I’m left feeling comfortable in my own skin, and able to help out in a meaningful way.
~ David Sudar, August 2019
A former Theravadan Buddhist monk, David Sudar is passionate about practicing & offering the dharma in a way that’s earthy, heartful and rooted in the real possibility of awakening. He currently works in Portland, Oregon as a mindfulness coach & meditation teacher – he teaches at Nike, Yoga Teacher Training programs, and leads the Path of Sincerity Sangha.
David completed an intensive 21 month Vipassana meditation retreat in Myanmar with his core teacher, Sayadaw U Tejaniya, and continues to spend 1-2 months a year on silent retreat. He also draws upon his studies of Zen Buddhism, Classical Yoga, Hakomi Somatic Psychotherapy, real life relationships, and over four years spent across 25+ countries.
Here’s some links that tell more of the story:
— Full Training & Retreat CV
— My Major Influences (Basically Every Awesome Book I’ve Read)
— My Life Philosophy in One Sentence
— Every Class/Workshop/Course I’ve Ever Taught (scroll to bottom)