Hi, I’m Avi, welcome to my website. I’m a meditation teacher and spiritual practice guide. I believe that every individual has a unique spiritual journey—there is no one-size-fits-all approach. With groups, I teach in a geeky but accessible style, offering compelling classes and workshops on meditation and inner work. With individuals, my approach is client-centered and pluralistic. Together we’ll draw on contemplative techniques, philosophical dialogue, and your own direct spiritual experience to support you in deepening your personal practice.
A path is an orientation toward life and practice. I believe that there are many valid spiritual paths because the process of spiritual awakening is multi-dimensional. Each path develops a specific facet of the larger spiritual truth and certain paths call more to certain individuals. In the course of my own spiritual journey, I’ve explored dozens of approaches. Some I’ve merely dabbled in, others I have delved deep into with thousands of hours in personal practice.
Below are the four paths that are closest to my heart. These are the approaches I’ve felt most called to share with others.
Can meditation be both fun and geeky? I think so.
Meditation is like jiu-jitsu for your mind. It trains you to be focused, clear, and non-reactive. It can help you regulate your thoughts and emotions, cope with physical pain, and become more friendly towards yourself and others.
While meditation can be a secular life-aid, for those who choose, it is also a profound spiritual path. It can lead to wonderful states of consciousness as well as permanent shifts in the quality of everyday experience.
For those interested in the spiritual aspect of meditation, I provide guidance grounded in my years of personal experience with the deep end of meditation practice. I draw on teachings from Buddhist, Vedic and Jewish meditation traditions.
Through my close collaboration with Jeff Warren, I’ve developed a nuanced and broad understanding of meditation practice and how to teach it effectively to diverse audiences.
What some would call fantasy, make-believe, or hallucination, I call a different way of knowing.
Years of intensive Buddhist insight meditation left my ego shattered and dysfunctional. I entered a long period of serious crisis and found that the healing and integration I needed was not to be had through meditation alone.
This led me to a different type of practice, one that worked with archetypal symbols, mythic narratives, and visionary experiences.
Since then I’ve become a guide for others who wish to journey through the magical and otherworldly realms of the story-mind. With sure guidance from a seasoned traveller, the visionary gateway provides amazing opportunities for deep insight, healing, and empowerment.
I also help people explore and integrate spirit-world material that has surfaced through awakening, plant-medicine, or the loss of a loved one.
Let’s face it, the spiritual landscape is dotted with gurus, fundamentalists, and flakiness of all kinds. Many people leave traditional religious communities because they reject the dogma only to find that the spiritual-but-not-religious world can be just as full of unexamined beliefs.
I came to spiritual practice after over a decade of rigorous academic training in Western philosophy. I appreciate the struggle many of us face today in trying to craft a thoughtful and authentic spiritual belief-system. It’s no easy task to find a personal synthesis of ancient wisdom, scientific knowledge and contemporary values.
This isn’t something you have to do alone. Philosophy works best through dialogue. As somebody who has wrestled with similar conundrums, I won’t give you answers, but I can facilitate your own process of inquiry.
I believe that philosophy (in its original Ancient sense) is a spiritual path. Repeatedly asking the big questions can lead directly to spiritual awakening, or it can support any of the other paths.
After the first taste of spiritual awakening, some folks dissolve themselves into the Oneness (or Emptiness) at the heart of reality…but then are those of us who fall madly in love.
Devotional practices turn us toward loving intimacy with the Source of all. The same mystery that other paths encounter as an impersonal spiritual reality is experienced by the devotee as an awe-inspiring Other to be loved and cherished. This leads to a passionate dance of yearning, flirtation, and communion between the finite human soul and the infinite divine being.
For those who feel called to a devotional path, I offer a non-dogmatic inter-spiritual approach. While keeping the focus on your own experience, I draw on mystical teachings in the Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, and Sufi traditions that have inspired and guided my own eclectic journey on this path.
I strive to create a space that is queer-positive, sex-positive, and anti-oppressive.
Do these paths speak to you?
The spiritual path is not always smooth. A big part of the spiritual journey is learning how to navigate the ups and downs of life and spiritual practice. As you encounter stormy waters in body, heart, mind, or spirit, it can be a great help to have a trusted guide who has been there before, and who won’t judge or pathologize your own experiences, no matter how dark they may seem.
Each of these four areas have been major challenges on my own spiritual journey. Lifelong chronic pain due to a fall when I was a young child, emotional grief from the death of several close friends as well as from the ending of my first marriage, a crisis of my belief system after my secular rationalist worldview was shattered by an influx of intuitive knowing and otherworldly visions, and a prolonged spiritual dark night during which my very sense of existence was taken apart, and eventually, put back together.
Chronic physical pain is, for many, an existential and spiritual crisis. When the body becomes a source of profound suffering it can be an invitation to radical transformation.
I’ve suffered with lifelong chronic pain since a fall when I was 4 years old. Through meditation, visionary journeying, prayer and mindful movement, I’ve learned to dramatically reduce my pain. When it does come up, I am better able to flow with it rather than resisting it.
I’ve guided many students in using spiritual practices to transform and cope with physical pain. I’ve also, written and recorded a meditation for pain program with the Wildflowers Meditation App.
For millennia, people have used spiritual approaches to learn how to live in greater harmony with their emotions.
Spiritual practices allow us to delve into our emotional depths and skillfully navigate the sometimes turbulent currents of feeling within us. We learn skills of self-acceptance, compassion, and authentic relating to inner sources of unconditional love.
For mental health challenges, these practices are complementary to psychotherapy as they deeply support emotional healing and recovery.
Our goal is to integrate the lessons our emotional challenges offer us, rather than avoiding or suppressing them. This allows us to feel truly whole as we affirm all parts of ourselves.
Struggle for Meaning
Our families, culture, and education teach us beliefs and values to help us make meaning of our lives. But these don’t always support us as we change and encounter new experiences.
Events can shatter our systems of meaning: the death of a loved one, leaving your religion of origin, questioning the infallibility of a beloved spiritual teacher, or being overwhelmed by non-ordinary states of consciousness. Such experiences can lead to disorientation, loss of motivation, and existential angst.
When you struggle to make sense of things, it can be helpful to have an authentic and non-directive dialogue to help you examine and articulate your deepest beliefs and values. As a trained philosopher and spiritual director, and as somebody who has struggled deeply with issues of meaning in my own life, I am well positioned to help you re-calibrate your belief system in support of your full flourishing.
Spiritual Dark Night
Despite the amazing benefits of spiritual practice, it’s not all roses. The dark night (also called spiritual emergency or spiritual emergence) is shorthand for crisis-level problems that can be triggered or magnified by intensive spiritual practice.
Some possibilities include: hypersensitivity after a silent meditation retreat, uncontrolled body shaking movements with no medical explanation, terrifying experiences of unreality or non-existence, isolation and loneliness after the withdrawal of God’s presence, or fears of madness after seeing otherworldly visions, just to name a few.
If you are experiencing some of all of the above, it is important to know that you are not alone. All of these experiences have been described in the world’s contemplative traditions as possible side effects of spiritual transformation. I’ve experienced these challenges and moved through them, you can too.
My professional services include meditation for organizations, personal meditation coaching and spiritual guidance and mentorship. Whether you are a company looking for a mindfulness workshop, an app looking to incorporate guided audio meditations with your service, or an individual looking for some help with your own practice, it would be my honour to share my expertise and years of experience with you.
Meditation for Organizations
I create customized meditation experiences for organizations of all sizes. I draw upon years of experience and expert knowledge of mindfulness and other inner work practices.
Some of the organizations I’ve taught mindfulness for include Deloitte, Jam Direct Marketing, Mount Saini Hospital, and Toronto City Hall.
I write original, well-researched articles and blog post in my areas of expertise. Here are some examples I wrote for the Calm Blog.
I offer meditation instruction tailored to your individual needs with 30-minute coaching sessions via phone or video chat.
If you are looking to establish a new meditation practice, coaching is a way to speed up the learning process. There are endless meditation techniques, but success in meditation depends on finding the approach that inspires you to keep practicing.
For experienced practitioners, working with a teacher one-on-one allows you to fine-tune your practice and be supported in overcoming obstacles to deeper levels of meditative experience.
My own meditation experience is diverse: stretching across traditions. The foundation of what I teach is secular mindfulness meditation as well as Buddhist concentration and insight practices. However, I have also practiced extensively with self-inquiry, loving-kindness, visualization, mantra, and devotional meditation.
I accept students interested in regular one-on-one spiritual guidance. My approach is pluralistic and client-centered, helping you to explore your own spiritual beliefs and build a unique set of spiritual practices.
I specialize in guiding practitioners who are dealing with what my colleagues and I like to call “the deep end of practice.” This concerns what has traditionally been called spiritual awakening or mystical experience. Many students who come to me are already in the midst of a non-ordinary spiritual process such as kundalini release, Buddhist stages of insight, manifestation of psychic abilities, and experiences of other-worldly entities or God.
In short, I love the weird stuff! Yet, I approach it with a level headed down to earth attitude, always seeking to integrate the spiritual perspective with the constraints of our regular human lives.
I also specialize in supporting people who are having difficulty re-integrating with ordinary life after a silent meditation retreat or plant-medicine ceremony.