My exploration of the Dharma began in the winter of 1993. After a series of tragic events and barely getting through the struggles of my teen years I began experiencing a growing confusion and hatred towards life and the world at large. At the suggestion of a close friends’ mom, I was encouraged to go meet with one of her close friends who was Dharma teacher. His name was Steven Smith. I drove out to the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre MA to meet with him. We talked for a few hours about my life, my experiences, my suffering, and my confusion. He spoke in detail about the first noble truth, the truth of suffering. He described how meditation practices can be developed to overcome suffering. After our first visit, he invited me to meet him later that day for mindfulness meditation instructions.
A few hours later, I found myself sitting across from him in the Dharma hall at IMS. He showed me how to sit and offered me the basic instruction, “bring your attention to the sensation of the in-and-out breath”. I began practicing mindfulness of breathing for the next few minutes and I started to experience a sense of ease. I began to find moments where I was ok, I felt safe and present. Then the next instruction, “when you notice your mind begin to wander, gently return your attention back to the breath”. It was this basic instruction that changed my life. When I became aware of my attention getting pulled into the mind, the stories of my life, re-living all the loss, all the horrifying experiences, all the anger, the confusion, the pain and sadness, there it was. It was all inside my own mind. I was able to watch my mind, with my mind. A radical intervention. As I continued to re-adjust my attention out of my thinking mind and into my sitting, breathing body I would find relief. From that day forward I’ve continued to benefit from that simple shift in perspective that mindfulness practice had provided.
Over the last 20 years I’ve continued to practice the Dharma with varying degrees of success. I spent a decade lost in the throes of active drug and alcohol addiction, touring in rock bands, living in crappy apartments, and moving around the country, all whilst sitting various 10-day Insight retreats. This left me feeling extremely unsatisfied, torn and confused. I decided to get sober in July 2003. Three months into sobriety, I signed up for the 3-month retreat at IMS. There I entered the innermost nether regions of my heart and mind where I would spend the next 90 days. During that time, I experienced moments of great joy and deep concentration, and times of total despair, fear and confusion. I got it all, except I was not liberated.
During the last decade, I’ve been integrating Dharma practice into a wide range of territories both personally and professionally. Spending several years working with incarcerated populations teaching mindfulness and emotional intelligence exercises. The primary focus of my work has been within addiction and substance abuse populations. I’ve provided extensive work in both secular mental health environments and Buddhist communities. Creating and implementing programs and curriculum has been my primary interest. Playing an instrumental role in setting up the Refuge Recovery program and grassroots movement, I have been able to come full circle in offering classical Dharma practices to those seeking relief from active addiction. I have been involved with Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society for the last 7 years and was empowered to teach by Noah Levine and Vinny Ferraro in 2015. Currently, my primary interest is teaching silent meditation retreats , mentoring individuals, teaching educational Dharma programs and developing and providing trainings in both secular and Buddhist contexts. Please feel free to check out my teaching schedule: HERE
As a Dharma teacher, my primary focus of interest has been in early Buddhism. This being the oldest record of what the historic Buddha may have taught. These teachings have been well preserved in a body of text known as the Pali canon, which is the core focus of the Theravada tradition. Within this massive volume of work lies the message that has been left behind for all of us to explore for ourselves. The radical notion that everything that we need to overcome suffering in this lifetime is inside each one of us. The Buddha is said to have taught one thing, suffering and the end of suffering. Dharma practice is a system of living that requires meditative training, ethical and compassionate actions and behaviors, and a wise understanding of the limitations of the human condition. Whether teaching residential retreats, weekly classes, study series or working one-on-one with individuals I provide a Dharmic system that integrates four core components.
1). Mindfulness: the four foundations of mindfulness
2). Dependent origination: Buddhist psychology
3). The four noble truths: the process of awakening
4). Heart practice: the four brahma-viharas (kindness, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity)
Currently, I am pursuing these interests as a practitioner, teacher, mentor and writer. I have developed this site, Rebel Saint Dharma as a vehicle for continuing work and to grow in this field, offering as much as I can to those who are interested. My intention is to continue to provide learning opportunities through online classes and retreats, working with individuals to strengthen their meditative practices and to provide an accurate and pragmatic framework for the Buddha’s Dharma. Please contact me if you are interested in working together in whatever capacity may serve you.
I hope to see you on the path.
Dave Smith is a Buddhist meditation teacher, addiction treatment specialist, experienced speaker, and published author. He is empowered to teach through the Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society and has received training in Buddhist psychology from the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS). He is the founder of the Against the Stream Nashville Meditation Center and teaches residential retreats, meditation classes and provides mentoring, trainings, and workshops in both secular and Buddhist contexts. He provides consulting for mental health agencies and non-profit organizations, and speaks nationally at addiction and behavioral health conferences. Dave lives in Paonia, Colorado.