My Coincidental Encounter with Jack Kornfield, one of the most Influential Mindfulness Meditation Teachers of our Time

“When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities.”
—Deepak Chopra

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted Jack Kornfield near the pool at the Wailea Beach Resort. I had recently purchased a copy of his latest book: “No Time Like the Present, Finding Freedom and Joy Right Where You Are."
I first met Jack in the dining room of the Sedona Hotel in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar) in 2009. I was planning to participate in a three week meditation retreat at a monastery overlooking the great Irrawaddy River that welcomed westerners (Photos). 

I was having breakfast with Crystal who was also attending the retreat. We had met at the airport for the first time and I arranged for my friend Maybelle, a native of Myanmar to offer her a ride with us to the Hotel, where some attendees like myself were staying prior to the retreat. It was Crystal’s first time in Burma and my 4th. I looked up from our table, and caught a glimpse of a familiar face walking towards us. I realized it was Jack Kornfield. I have to admit I was a bit star struck. Anyone familiar with the practice of mindfulness meditation called Vipassana has heard the name. For those who haven’t, he is a former Peace Corp. volunteer who later trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma and India. He is an author, activist, psychologist and a cofounder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in West Marin County. Spirit Rock is a 411 acre secluded retreat center that provides a supportive environment to quiet the mind, soften the heart and see life in a more skillful and peaceful way. 

I got up, walked toward the former monk as if I was meeting a longtime friend and said: “Jack?” I introduced myself, and told him I was attending the meditation retreat. He had invited a group of generous donors from the United States including some of his students, to visit local monasteries, Pagodas, schools, hospitals, to serve those in need through their financial contributions, in a country of limited resources that given him so much in his early years.

I asked him if we could take a photo together and he said, “Sure!” I asked Crystal if she would take the photo. What impressed me was when the soft spoken teacher and scholar said, “Why don’t we have someone take the photo so Crystal can join us.” It was a skillful, kind, and inclusive gesture. 

Here we were, many years later, at the Wailea Beach Resort and I found myself being part of a repeat performance—a synchronicity in the making. Jack was seated at a table near the pool reading his emails. I approached him as he was getting up and once again said: “Jack?” He looked at me inquisitively as I introduced myself. I reminded him when we first met in Burma eight years ago and we took a photo together with Crystal. I introduced him to my wife Cecile who was laying on a lounge chair overlooking the pool. “Cecile, this is Jack Kornfield,” I said with a hint of excitement. I was going to have her take a photo of Jack and I when in true form, he suggested we all take a “selfie” together. As the great Yogi Berra once said: “It was like De Ja Vu all over again.” 

Postscript: Kornfield was one of the presenters at the 10th Anniversary “Open Your Heart in Paradise,” with friends of spiritual teacher Ram Das at the Napili Kai Beach Resort on the other side of Maui. He was spending a couple of days at the Wailea Beach Resort with his wife before heading back to California when we reconnected.

Photo of the Pagoda of my and abbot, the late Sayadaw Lakkhana as seen in the meditation hall and from my hut at sunrise during the retreat in 2009.

Photo of my friend Maybelle and Crystal having lunch prior to the retreat.