About Don Oakley

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Don Oakley is the Founding Director and President of Well Being Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which owns and operates the Well Being Retreat Center on 160 acres in northeast Tennessee.

Well Being Retreat Center is a non-denominational, independent facility whose Mission is "To promote harmony with Nature, wellness of body and peace of mind."

In service to this mission, Well Being Retreat Center holds meditation retreats, hosts wellness workshops, supports environmental and recreational efforts on the Powell River, farms organically, serves delicious wholesome food, invites connection with the natural world and supports teachings which point to our deepest inner nature.

Don's first book is "It's Time to Wake Up Now: The Top Ten Myths That Can Hijack Spiritual Awakening" is a Five Star rated book on Amazon.

Don explores various spiritual topics on his YouTube Channel.

Backstory

Don Oakley won the New England High School Swimming Championship in the 100-yard butterfly; dropped out of Princeton University five months before graduating; traveled overland across Asia when Muslims still liked Americans; hitch-hiked through Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji; paddled 600 miles down the Kazan River to the Arctic Circle; studied architecture in Boston; spent three years at an ashram in India; consulted as a licensed Civil Engineer and built affordable houses in Oregon; and worked as a full-time volunteer for Adyashanti’s Open Gate Sangha organization for two years and now serves as one of its Directors. 

Journey of Awakening

When I was in my 20's, I would have described what I was seeking as "trying to understand life and how to feel at home in it." I assumed I had to do or find something that I did not then possess. I felt like I was living behind a curtain and life was happening on the other side. I tried all the avenues I could think of to find lasting happiness and meaning: adventures, high states, respect, wealth, relationships, philosophies, and skills. There was enjoyment but no lasting contentment.

At age 30, I was astonished to find out that what I was seeking was considered to be spiritual. I had never thought of it in those terms. I started to meditate and started to be exposed to spiritual concepts. Despite sincere trying, my meditations could best be described as uninspired. At age 40, I gave up my spiritual search for the next 15 years and pursued success. It was like finally taking this body/mind out into the "real world" for a test drive and seeing what it could do. I imagined that meaningful work would lead to sustained happiness, or perhaps I simply couldn't think of anything better to do.

 

In 1998, I read "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. I had been exposed to  the concepts before, but now I was able to actually hear them. For the next five years, I attended many Eckhart retreats and had my first awakening at an Eckhart retreat in Costa Rica in about 1999. The awakening had all the bells and whistles anyone could hope for. After about 6 hours the energetic phenomena subsided and I concluded that I had lost the awakeness. I was so focused on the experience that I failed to see the essence I was being shown. In other words, I tried to keep the bathwater, but threw out the baby. It would be another five years before I discovered what had been there all along.

In 2003, I started listening to Adyashanti and going on his retreats. On February 3, 2004, I was driving home from work late at night listening to one of his talks and he mentioned "garden variety awareness." I had heard him use that term many times before, but that night, for whatever reason, I noticed the awareness that was present for every experience, sensation, thoughts, or feeling. I had a very quiet response like, "Oh, you mean that awareness? The one that has always been there? That one? Really?" But I knew it was true. No fireworks this time, just a very quiet seeing. That was the awakening that stuck. The recognition has remained. That was the end of seeking. 

But it was the beginning of another journey. This journey was now not one that was based in a sense of lack. That had dropped away. Now, it was more a relinquishment of will and allowing life to reveal itself. Life insisted on my surrender. It felt like the personal will was subjected to an erosional process that lasted several years. It was no longer effortful. My task was to let it happen. There was a sense that life knew what it was doing even if I didn't. There were several more powerful revelations during this period having to do with identity, unity and death. The high blissful states settled into contentment. Drama became uninteresting. Personal desires diminished gradually. Both hope and fear lost their grip. What was left was simply to do what needed to be done.

Life is now quite simple. In this dance, I let life lead. I try to avoid stepping on Her toes. It feels complete and yet it still goes on. I am grateful. Immensely grateful. However, it is heartbreaking to see how few recognize their true nature and seeing the consequences of not doing so.