photo by John Dooley

Upasaka Upali is a Dharma teacher who aims to demystify meditation, provide tangible instruction, and create a rewarding experience for practitioners. Upali received transmission in a lineage that can be traced back to the Buddha through Namgyal Rinpoche (Ananda Bodhi), and he took his Upasaka vows in 2015. He has a degree from St. Olaf College and has studied Dharma and meditation with Tucker Peck, Ph.D. and Upasaka Culadasa. He was a founding member of the Open Dharma Foundation and also served as its founding Executive Director. He is currently the co-host of the podcast Teaching Meditation.  

Upali is formally trained in the Shamatha Vipassana path expounded upon in The Mind Illuminated. He teaches with a student-centric approach, meaning the student guides the practice based on personal benefits rather than adhering to a single tradition or a technique. Upali has taught a wide audience, including Amazon employees, elementary students, and prison inmates, but he primarily teaches online to practitioners interested in creating depth and consistency in their practice amidst daily life. Beyond his online teaching, he teaches 5 to 6 residential silent retreats internationally each year.   

Upali was introduced to meditation in college, but it wouldn’t become a central part of his life until the experience of volunteering as a humanitarian aid worker along the US/Mexico border in 2010.  The exposure to systematic and political causes of suffering gave him severe burnout and forced him to confront his own internal suffering. In an effort to find reprieve, he apprenticed at an organic farm in Oregon in 2011 where, coincidentally, he learned the basics of Soto Zen practice from Debra Seido Martin. In 2012, Upali continued organic farming and lived alone on a farm in rural Tennessee at the base of the Appalachian mountains for two years. It was during this time that he formally began Shamatha-Vipassana meditation, and the consistency and depth of his practice flourished as a result of having the powerful combination of solitude and a systematic way to meditate.

Upali has done many solo wilderness retreats, the most memorable being a week in a cave next to the base of a waterfall in Valle Cochamo of Northern Patagonia. He also completed a one-month teaching residency at Dharma Treasure in Cochise Stronghold in April of 2018.  Each year he continues to take 3 to 5-day solo retreats in the wilderness near his home in addition to an annual 10-day silent retreat.  

Upali lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his wife, Daniela, and his dog, Willow. He is fluent in Spanish, mostly for the purpose of arguing with his Chilean in-laws, but he’s been known to talk about meditation in Spanish from time to time. He loves to rock climb and is slowly fulfilling his dream of creating an urban homestead by restoring a 1940s house and growing food in its backyard.