Jack Kornfield – Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy in the Present


“Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and eternal law.” 
– Dhammapada

Jack Kornfield (@JackKornfield) trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma, shortly thereafter becoming one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He has taught meditation internationally since 1974.

Jack has had a profound and direct impact on my life, and I’m thrilled to finally have him on the podcast to share our history, his incredible stories, and practical tactics and techniques that you can use.

Jack co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, with fellow meditation teachers Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein and the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is a father, husband, and activist.

Jack’s books have been translated into 20 languages and sold more than a million copies, including The Wise Heart, A Lamp in the Darkness, A Path with Heart, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry (one of my favorite book titles of all time), and his most recent, No Time Like the Present: Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy Right Where You Are.



Jack Kornfield - Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy in the Present

Want to hear another episode about meditation and mindfulness? — Listen to this episode with Sharon Salzberg (stream below or right-click here to download):

This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. While I often praise this company’s lion’s mane mushroom coffee for a minimal caffeine wakeup call that lasts, I asked the founders if they could help me — someone who’s struggled with insomnia for decades — improve my sleep. Their answer: Reishi Mushroom Elixir. They made a special batch for me and my listeners that comes without sweetener; you can try it at bedtime with a little honey or nut milk, or you can just add hot water to your single-serving packet and embrace its bitterness like I do.

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Jack Kornfield:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • What’s Jack’s connection with hang gliding and paragliding? [08:49]
  • Now 72, Jack recalls his childhood, a brilliant but abusive father, and becoming the peacemaker in his family. [11:51]
  • “If you’re going to be angry, do it right.” [18:18]
  • Why did Jack make the transition from pre-med to Asian studies at Dartmouth? [20:50]
  • The journey from card-carrying hippie to Buddhist monk. [22:32]
  • How did psychedelics influence Jack’s spiritual path, and what’s his stance on them today? [24:27]
  • Who is Stanislav Grof, and when did Jack meet him? [34:35]
  • How did Jack manage to find and study under Ajahn Chah? [38:55]
  • What did Jack’s rookie monk training in Thailand look like, and what suffering did he find there that was most difficult to endure? [42:53]
  • On periods of long silence and out-of-body experiences. [50:37]
  • Mystical experiences are not always pleasant. [53:45]
  • We talk about my own experience at Spirit Rock. [56:48]
  • While in Thailand and Burma, did Jack ever come close to quitting his training and going home? [57:52]
  • “Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and eternal law.” [1:03:02]
  • What advice would Jack have for people with multiple “real life” responsibilities who find it hard to take off long periods of time required for deep inner work? [1:08:40]
  • How does compassion differ from empathy? [1:22:24]
  • How might technology help us develop and harness compassion? [1:27:14]
  • Jack explains lovingkindness meditation and why it’s often effective for Westerners who have trouble with other forms of meditation (like me). [1:28:27]
  • On attending the First White House Buddhist Leadership Conference and the mission of CASEL. [1:38:04]
  • How a busy or impatient person might get hooked on mindfulness practice, and why love is a superpower. [1:41:53]
  • What does Jack recommend for people who have derailed from their path of self-discovery and need to find the way back? [2:04:08]
  • Sometimes what might seem like a derailment is just another form of communication required for the time at hand. [2:09:29]
  • What self-talk might someone employ when potentially inappropriate anger begins to surface? [2:11:48]
  • After his training abroad, what made Jack return to the United States to study clinical psychology? [2:24:53]
  • How does Jack use forgiveness to help veterans, gang kids, and others trying to cope with often horrific experiences? [2:29:53]
  • An ancient story about a warrior returning home and why community support beats community apathy. [2:34:08]
  • Does Jack feel there are problems caused by lack of significant initiation rituals in modern society? [2:39:00]
  • Which book of his would Jack recommend for a newcomer to his work? [2:44:22]
  • What would Jack’s billboard say? [2:49:05]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:50:28]

People Mention

Posted on: March 5, 2018.

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

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48 comments on “Jack Kornfield – Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy in the Present

  1. Jack Kornfield is my favorite teacher (along with Tara Brach). This interview was awesome and inspiring. Thank you for this. By the way, I am a 70-year-old woman. Podcasts are one of my favorite “listens” and yours is high on that list. MJ Hansen

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WOW! I commend you for your bravery and sharing your personal journey with us and providing useful tools to practice ourselves. One thing that I have always wondered was how to balance being this “peace and love” kind of person and being able to assertively communicate “negative” feelings such as anger. Gracias por tu trabajo y el valor que le agregas a la vida de las personas que te escuchan.


  3. absolutely fascinating! Thank you Tim & Jack.

    I was going to say that Jack does a near perfect Jeff Goldblum impression but realize that Jeff is impersonating him! (anyone else, am I alone on this?)



  4. Thanks Tim,
    If you like this guy, you should check out Radhanath Swami! Amazing story, amazing person. He will change you forever. Prolific lecturer, written two books: The Journey Home and the New York Times bestseller, The Journey Within.
    Best regards,


  5. Phenomenal Tim. I couldn’t tell that 3 hrs had passed because it was so engrossing. I actually felt better at the end of it than at the start and I think we all left with some tools to help us go through the days and dive further.

    Though only touched on briefly, the part of meditation in schools got me thinking that that would be a phenomenal thing for our entire society. Right now, we have people advocating teachers being armed with weapons of destruction. What if, instead, we armed the schools and their pupils with means of kindness and compassion?

    I hope you’re able to get us a part 2 Tim. This is was one of your best. And thank you for being so vulnerable in it. It’s good to know we’re not alone in our struggles.


    • Totally agree with you JM re: meditation in schools instead of guns. WTF?? I don’t need a reason to home/worldschool my daughter but that alone is enough to do so. SMH what is the world coming to…


      • There’s a program that I came across. Check it out if you’re interested. [Moderator: link to mindfulschools.org removed.]


  6. Tim, you’ve been asking guests about what failures have made impacts on their lives. Have you heard of or been to The Museum of Failure? Samuel West is a Phd in psychology and the curator of the museum. I’d like to hear you interview him.

    The Museum of Failure in Sweden sells a production run of my product that doesn’t include instructions, which was a failure not to print instructions on the product, but I’m moving (or violently hemorrhaging cash) forward


  7. Tim,
    Truly you are helping people to reach to their true potential,
    I do apologize for any grammar or spelling mistakes,
    English is my second language, Born and raised in Eastern Part of Africa, Ethiopia and leaving in the United States for the past eight years
    Honestly, reading the four hours work book i would day it is my first book to read with full attention
    I believe it was seven years ago, it just opens up my eyes and see my real self,
    i did not even finish my book when i quit my job from Wells Fargo, at that time
    my son was 4 year old, single mother with no support off course it’s looks the most craziest decision to make and indeed it is very weird for people around me but to me i can say that was the most powerful decision that i have ever made in my entire life.
    I know nothing,
    Everyone has different way of looking at thing but to me what makes you totally special from other great successful people in our world if that,
    You give a super power for any being to search for his/her unique greatness,
    Have you ever wished to meet someone who you might thing that person is meaningful to you? For me you are that person,
    It was one of my great wishes to get a chance to meet you or get an email from you
    Imagine someone who is nobody like me who is grown up in Africa meeting Tim Ferris will be like a dream.

    Thank you Tim for leading me to the clear path of my life!


  8. Just a friendly piece of advice as a female Tim, if you are looking for a lady friend maybe don’t mention on your podcast that you have to take antibiotics for some ‘gremlins’ you picked up in the Amazon? lol made me choke on my coffee 🙂


  9. Great trifecta of interviews of Jack, Tara Brach, and Sharon Salzberg as prominent Western teachers of the dharma. If you were to add a fourth person known for both writings and oral teachings, may i suggest Sylvia Boorstein – the Buddhist Jewish grandmother we would all like to have.


  10. He’s so right about children being your zen master. Just this week, I’ve been struggling with the fact that in order for my children to “be” something, I have to “be” it first. I can’t expect my child to not get annoyed and angry at her computer if I get annoyed and angry at my computer. So, then I have to take my emotion out of the situation and respond in calmness – which feels like I’m being inauthentic. But what Jack is saying is true – I am more than my emotions.


  11. Tim is really on a wonderful roll of wellness with Dr. Gabor Mate recently, and now Jack Kornfield. So many great interviews over the years, but these two were my favorites so far. Thank you, Tim, for the work you are doing.


  12. Tim. It’s been couple of weeks since 5 Bullet Friday on your world map and countries you wanted to visit. You’ve mentioned Latvia & Estonia. As someone who lives in Lithuania I couldn’t understand why this weird duo? And, as it seems, I cannot drop this question out of my head.
    I don’t really expect a reply but please do visit us when you’re in the Baltics.


  13. Very inspiring interview. I usually skip the lengthy ones, but was glad I didn’t today. My favorite lesson was that we have all the wisdom/healing inside of us and all we have to do is listen. Favorite quote was one I’d chant, “Earth hold me because this living is hard.”


  14. I’ve been a fan and student of Jacks decades longer than I have of you, Tim. But the 2 of you together was pure magic! Thank you. Jack saved my life while I lived overseas…and ordered all his tapes, books, and meditations. (Yea, Sounds True). Kept me sane and well and practicing. This podcast beat Jamie Foxx as your best ever!


  15. Hi Tim -Love all of your stuff and sign up for everything (seriously). One tiny thing ….. You know the little pop up box that you send us – where we have to choose – Yes- we want the cool stuff and sign up? OR No – I’m a loser and I don’t want the cool stuff? Can you add another option that says – Thanks Tim-I’ve already received this because you are so amazing!! Or something? I never want to say yes – because I already have it and of course I never want to say no. (Yea – working on that. 🙂


  16. Great podcast, Tim.

    I’ve never been a fan of Jack. I tried to read one of his books and tossed it out years ago. My meditation teaching approach is diametrically opposed to his. And yet I found myself impressed with him as you explored his past and the deep experiences that became foundational to what he does today. Some of what I found disconcerting in my past encounters with his material revealed itself to be more subtle than I expected. I learned a ton. Gratitude.

    A quick word about your cabin remodel. There are two things happening when things are not going well and you are responding to it. 1. you are applying pressure and expecting excellence. 2. you are angry.

    You can de-link them. You have habituated the two together but they don’t necessarily go together.

    Do number one from a place of unbending, urgent, willful, calm.

    Channel number two into something more effective.



  17. Tim – just read your 5 morning rituals piece – awesome. Do you have a counter 5 evening rituals piece? If I’m getting up so bloody early in the morning and working so hard during the day – I better get to bed and rest at night. Any tips / secrets????


  18. What was the Greek phrase that was brought up earlier in the show, it started with a C or a K and it basically meant once you learn this you can’t turn back?


  19. Hey, Tim! I’ve been getting really into your podcast, and I really appreciate the diversity in folks that you interview. However, I would love to see more LGBTQ+ folks interviewed! Laverne Cox or Alok Vaid-Menon would be awesome trans/queer people to hear an interview with!


  20. Thank you so much for this hope-filled interview. I have faced tragedy in the past couple of years, for which I have felt much guilt in addition to sorrow. My inner critic doesn’t rest. Tim’s sharing of his personal challenges and Jack’s insights and practical advice on loving-kindness and self-compassion were balm for heart and mind.


  21. Tim, I haven’t even finished this podcast yet, and that’s a good thing because it means there’s still more meaningful and insightful conversation to come. So far, I have particularly enjoyed the discussion about when to seek opportunities for deep personal growth. I love that Jack pointed out that there are times more suited to this than others, and more importantly that this kind of work can be done even in our regular, everyday lives. His example about parenting was spot-on!


  22. Hey Tim (and all).

    A nitpick to get out the way: “Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and eternal law.” is the Buddha speaking in the Dhammapada: verse 5 S. 1 “The Twin Verses” (found in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka).

    I haven’t listened to the podcast yet Tim but I was struck recently by your advice in the 4 hr workweek revisited episode about not overlooking the spirituality/ values section in that fine tome. You’ve clearly been putting yourself through some paces in this regard, my friend. Spirit Rock cooking recipes? Hafiz quotes? Tara Brach’s advice? Check… x3.

    So greetings from a dharma-farer here in the UK. (I am not a great fan of the tag buddhist). A quick question if I may sir?

    Are you now a “buddhist” yourself? Is that a meaningful lens for you? And if so where do you place it in your hierarchy of values?

    In my own context (and movement) I’ve been very struck by my friend Maitreyabandhu’s exhortion to Mastery in his recent work: The Journey and The Guide as a part of the path.

    Wishing you well Tim. Keep up the excellent work.

    Tom H-S


  23. Thanks TIm! I’m so excited to listen to this interview, as I’ve loved so, so many of your podcasts. You are truly a special voice in this world. I also have a recommendation for a guest, someone I’m sure you’ve heard of, as she’s apparently widely revered in Silicon Valley: Esther Gokhale. I’ve been so fascinated by her work on posture and how it intersects with anthropology…I just know you would be able to get into the weeds of body mechanics and human history in ways nobody else could!
    Thanks again, you are an important figure in these times, keep being you 🙂


  24. Tim, in sharing your struggles – which so often seem to be the ones I have as well – you are my guiding light in finding ways to be a better person. I had to cry because Jack’s words have opened my heart and let me see the self-hatred I carry. Thank you!


  25. Salüt Tim

    This episode is wonderful, a very inspiring interview. Thanks a lot for that!

    I love Jacks guidance on rising anger. This practice served me well and I hope it will channel you too.

    However, in my life I wanted to go one step further and have the benefit of the outcome (result) without feelings kicking in in the first place. Thereby, it helped me first to recognize the arena I am in and second the experience of speaking several languages. If you talk to a person who only speaks Spanish (or German, Japanese, …) you switch from English to this language because you know, you can create an environment for the best and smoothest outcome. The feeling connected to this language change is at best pride for speaking several languages. If you also speak “contractor” or “service provider” you only acknowledge and accept the scene, without any destructive feelings associated with it.

    Merci again & I appreciate you,

    (I switched from my mother tongue to yours – as explanation, just in case you spot language shortcomings)


  26. wow, that was probably the most insightful interview! I’ve been to a couple of times on retreat in the IMS. What a place! And that would be so cool if you interview the third person from this group, Joseph Goldstein 🙂


  27. I relate so much with Tim’s sharing of personal challenges- I’ve been listening to both podcasts of Jack & Tim- so grateful to see how “mainstream” this is going! Woo Hoo!


  28. Tim,
    I have been listening to your podcasts for quite a while and have read your books. I love your insight and those of your guests. I do have one issue/concern – and please know I am not trying to be negative.
    Since you started your blog, you have found hope and healing through meditation obviously with a Buddhist slant. Though I learn from every blog, if you say that up get the “best” in every field, than why not be less biased and look at industry leaders like Truett Cathy in fast-food or Jarryd Harris, a Paralympic runner, who are making a difference but believe that their power and peace comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
    Just a thought. There are many in the world who are not “fanatics” and/or extremely hypocritical that have a lot to say about the life-changing power of being a Christ-follower.
    Thanks for what you do!


  29. Jack Kornfield is inspirational man. Good to know he is sharing his knowledge for what he learned abroad. We all know not everyone are capable to pursue such long journey specially when the language is different. He never know how many people touch by the way of his teaching.


  30. I buy the self help books, sign up for the courses, longingly google spiritual retreats and bore my friends with attempts at self-analysis… all in the hope that I might ‘find myself’. In this one sentence Jack reminded me where I should really be searching.

    ‘Because freedom is not in the Himalayas or in the Amazon, the only place it’s found is in your own heart, exactly where you are’


  31. I would love to hear an interview with Alok! Their Facebook page and poetry is very comforting and inspiring (even to a white cisgender woman like myself).


  32. Hi Tim….Finding Freedom in Love…You and Jack brought such palpable connection and transformational vulnerability in this episode. Thank you. I have been using this quote so often, as it is the foundation upon which I have established my movement of “I’m Love” as a state of being…. “Love is not an emotion, but your very existence”, -Rumi. …. It is something that has evaded me for 30 years since my dad died suddenly when I was 10. The foundation upon which my concept of love was built, was suddenly and traumatically ripped away in an instant. Not knowing the layers of armor and mechanisms of maladaptive coping I was carrying for years, I moved through life with perfectionism and ritualistic control, in attempts to make sense of a world, I certainly did not feel love for myself. It wasn’t until finding breath-based vinyasa yoga and meditation in recent years, that I could sit with myself and recognize my state of being. With this, I have expanded and grown, as well as set down that armor shielding my heart. Every human suffers in some way. Everyone needs more love. Now, every day, I wake up and say, I’m Love. I would love to send you and Jack each a shirt, “I’m Love”, speaking to your intention to love yourself so you can help others do the same. We all need more love. Be Love.
    Jessica Ackerman

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Hello and thank you for this enlightened episode. I really enjoyed the quote ‘i treat my mind like a rough neighborhood – I’d never venture there alone’.

    Wanted to offer a suggestion for dealing with anger caused by unmet expectations: perhaps it might help to invoke a mantra/question each and every time it happens. Ask of yourself: Who is scared of what here?


  34. This interview was such a treat! My spiritual journey began when in search of healing I started reading books by Ram Dass and, later, Jack Kornfeld’s “Living Dharma: Teachings And Meditation Instructions From Twelve Theravada Masters” became my bible for Buddhist philosophy and meditation instructions. It was so wonderful to hear him speak and to learn about his own journey.

    One of my favorite quotes from this episode was, “What we need is collectively to develop a transformation inwardly that is parallel to this enormous outer transformation…” This would be a good line to put on a billboard. Ha!

    But the following quote resonated with me even more, “One of the greatest zen texts says: To be enlightened is to be with a trusting heart and mind.” This comes up a lot in my daily life. Our life is full of challenging situations and people, but I like to see it all as an opportunity to learn, to surrender a little bit more of my ego and attachments and to trust in the basic goodness in people and that everything will work out in the end the way it needs to be.

    Tim, I am so glad you are on this journey of healing and self- love. We can absolutely change the world by healing ourselves. And our planet really needs us right now. You are making a great impact our society by learning and bringing this awareness to the world. And that is just another reason to love yourself.


  35. Fantastic interview. Regarding rights of passage, Bill Plotkin of the Animus Institute does fantastic work in this area. He has three books out and a very loyal following among those in the know, but has so far kept a pretty low profile. Worth checking out, maybe even interviewing.


  36. Thanks for the great conversation with Jack Kornfield. Besides his insight into meditation and understanding emotions, I’m very grateful to have heard the story about Maha Ghosananda. Had never heard of him before. Thanks!


  37. Thank you for sharing your journey of seeking and finding, Tim,
    The trajectory is elegant, leading more and more inward. You’re approach is very Gurdjieffian, and of course Stoic – neither accept or reject anything; instead apply and verify. Only this approach yields the real thing – an understanding that is one’s own. Your valuable contribution is to share the results of all these experiments and attempts at verification, and, more and more, encounters with true being.
    With much gratitude for what you introduce to me and a larger audience. A lot of it is meaningful.

    p.s. Just this evening I attended a ‘concert and conversation’ with Peter Buffett, son of Warren. It was an inspiring presentation about his childhood, artistic career, and now running a billion-dollar philanthropy doing visionary work in the local economy of the Hudson Valley. He’d make a great interview subject for the show. And coincidentally he gave the same Gary Snyder quote Jack Kornfeld mentions in this episode – “Don’t feel guilty [about the state of the world]. If you start to care for the environment because you feel guilt, your care for it will be unsustainable. If you’re going to save it, save it because you love it.”


  38. What does good person Jack think of what is happening to burmer and Sri Lanka? Where buddist monk and killing and raping men and women and children and burning down their villages of who do not follow buddist way of life.


  39. I loved this episode. Does anyone remember what the knots on Tim’s bracelet (or necklace?) signify from the meditation retreat? I believe there were three meanings that Kornfield explained but I can’t seem to find it again when listening. Thanks!


  40. Dear Tim
    Firstly I would like to thank you for organising the conversation with Jack Kornfield. It was a treat to listen and inspiring .
    I wanted to offer something with regard to rite if passage , mainly for young men but also for young women.
    There is much work being done ( camps and training for men and boys) in this area in Australia by a man named Arne Rubenstein , his organization
    Is called Raising Men ( it used to be called Pathways to Manhood when my son and husband participated some15+ years back ). In any case he has been working toward initiating boys ( in Australia and elsewhere I believe) and honouring their passage to adulthood . May be of interest to you and even as a segment in your show for men seeking to provide more than the western version of what Jack described as his bat mitzvah and the like.
    Good luck and thanks again