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About Don Oakley

Don by Dana - A.jpg

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.


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. Since, 2029, he and his wife, Patty Bottari, have served as creators, managers and caretakers of Well Being Retreat Center in rural northeast Tennessee.

Journey of Awakening

"Growing up, I was not interested in religion or spirituality. 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 am obscuring veil and life was happening on the other side. I tried many of the common avenues that promised (but never delivered) lasting happiness and meaning: adventures, high states, respect, wealth, relationships, philosophies, and skills. There was enjoyment but no abiding contentment.

At age 30, I was astonished to discover that my form of seeking was considered by some to be spiritual. I had never thought of it in those terms. I started to meditate (at least occasionally) and became interested in spiritual concepts. Despite sincere trying, my meditations could best be described as uninspired. There were some insightful aha moments, but mostly having to do with interpersonal skills and psychology. 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 1997, I read "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. I had been exposed to such 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 1999. The awakening had all the bells and whistles anyone could hope for. However, the energetic phenomena soon 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 began attending  Adyashanti 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 ever-present awareness that notices every experience, sensation, thought, or feeling. There was 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. What remained was an unshakeable sense of fulfillment and what followed was a gradual erosion of personal will. I was being called to allow life to reveal itself through this form. Life insisted on my surrender. 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 and remain present for the wonder of life unfolding in new and mysterious ways.

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. It is heartbreaking to see how few recognize their true nature and seeing the consequences of not doing so. Perhaps in some small way, this teaching may be of service to your awakening. After all, it is your destiny. Why postpone it?

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