Books by Phillip Moffitt

Dancing with Life

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Welcome to Dancing with Life

Even under the best of circumstances, life is challenging, and much of the time it is difficult. It is always uncertain, constantly changing, and mostly out of your control. Whether it is taking you on a wonderful ride or stepping on your toes, life will move you with the rhythm and in the direction of its own unfolding, regardless of your best intentions. Life dances and you must dance with it. This is the necessary price and mysterious gift of being alive.

If life is going to dance with you, then what kind of dance partner do you wish to be? Finding a way to be at ease with the dance itself is a crucial skill in finding freedom and meaning in life. 

Dancing with Life teaches you how to move from suffering to joy in your life.

This book does not offer academic theories or vague promises of finding happiness. Rather it presents a practical approach for dealing with pain and hardship based on the Buddha’s teaching of the Four Noble Truths. It leads you along the path of exploring suffering—all suffering, but yours in particular—in order to reach a destination where you can experience what is called a “direct” or intuitive knowledge of the meaning of suffering in your own life. Through this intuitive knowledge, you can find a new relationship with your suffering that will bring you increased meaning, joy, and liberation, no matter how difficult your life may be.


Why do you suffer? Is there a purpose to your pain? What about the amount of suffering you experience—is it fair, based on some understandable system of cause and effect, or is it simply arbitrary? Can you affect how much you suffer? If so, how?

For thousands of years, questions such as these have confounded human beings trying to make sense of the seemingly random and unfair distribution of gain and loss, joy and unhappiness in every person’s life. All people are united in their common desire for happiness and their common experience of suffering. As you grow from childhood to adulthood, you inevitably experience life’s difficulties, whether it is through a physical limitation or illness, emotional anguish, fear or disappointment, loss or separation from a loved one, or the anxiety and stress surrounding all your wants and needs. No one is spared.

In a sense, then, you are already an expert on suffering. You remember it from your past, and you easily recognize it in yourself and others. You have an array of skills for averting it when possible and surviving it when it is unpreventable. But do you have a conscious relationship with your suffering? Do you utilize it to enrich your life? Or is it merely something you try to avoid? When you suffer, do you experience it as failure, an embarrassment, something shameful? If so, how much of your life is unacceptable or alien to you because it contains suffering?

The Buddha asked himself such questions 2,500 years ago, and he came to the following realization: The path to happiness and a sense of well-being in this very life lies not in avoiding suffering but in using the conscious, embodied, direct experience of it as a vehicle to gain deep insight into the true nature of life and your own existence. Instead of being a reactionary slave to the inevitable pain, frustration, stress, and sorrow in your life, which the Buddha called dukkha, you can free your mind such that you have a sense of well-being even when dukkha is present, and you create the possibility of finding complete freedom. Why not dance with the constant vicissitudes of life in a manner that is joyful and liberated, rather than feeling like a victim or being flooded with fear and stress?

The Buddha discovered a path for finding freedom from dukkha or suffering, which he called the Four Noble Truths. This set of attitudes and practices he prescribed doesn’t require you to create some new and improved version of you—one that you can only hope will someday emerge. You can take these steps as the “you” who exists right now—the one who gets lost, afraid, angry, and caught up in desire, despite good intentions. All that’s required is that you let go of your preconceived notions about suffering and open yourself to exploring the role that it plays in your life.

The Four Noble Truths was the Buddha’s first teaching after he found freedom from his own suffering. Understanding the meaning of these Noble Truths—that your life contains moments of dukkha; that the cause of your dukkha is clinging to desired objects and states of being; that you can release dukkha by letting go of clinging to those desires; and that there is an Eightfold Path to freedom from dukkha that you can follow in order to accomplish all this—is the foundation of Buddhist wisdom.

Within the Four Noble Truths the Buddha described Twelve Insights. These insights are revolutionary because they transform the Truths from a philosophical statement about suffering into a method for directly coping with suffering in your life. They elucidate not only the Truths themselves but also the way you can experience the Truths on an emotional as well as an intellectual level and then integrate these experiences into your life. In other words, the Four Noble Truths is not just a summary guideline, a creed, or a statement of philosophy, but an actual practice of insight and realization in and of itself. It is a teaching in how to live wisely.

First in discussion with my teacher, the Venerable Ajahn Sumedho, then by going to the original text, reading many commentaries, and researching for similar insights in modern depth psychology, I developed an integrated view of the Buddha’s teaching of the Twelve Insights of the Four Noble Truths, a vision that combined the practical and the mystical. I made the insights my primary focus for some years, and doing so changed both my own practice and what I teach. Thus Dancing with Life represents my experience of living the Buddha’s teachings in daily life. It builds upon the traditional teachings to offer a contemporary, integral view of how to live your life—one that asserts both the value of finding peace and joy within the context of your suffering and the possibility of purifying the mind so that it no longer collapses into suffering.

Dancing with Life is a teaching of the wisdom that is to be found in being consciously and fully present with your suffering. It points to the opportunity you have to make a radical inner shift in how you view your existence. Whatever the source of your suffering may be, this inner shift will provide a new, deeper context for interpreting your experiences that brings clarity and equanimity to your mind. The result of this inner transformation is that your life—with all its pain, disappointment and uncertainty, as well as all that you cherish, love, and work hard for—is radically enriched. You will discover, as so many others have before you, a feeling of aliveness, something mystical, palpable in your daily life. You may have a long journey to your final and full liberation, but peace and freedom of mind are available to you right now in ever-increasing measure.

Table of Contents

Preface by Ajahn Sumedho

Introduction: My Dance with Life

Chapter 1 – Dancing Lessons: How to Use This Book

Chapter 2 – Mindfulness and Compassion: Tools for Transforming Suffering into Joy


Chapter 3 Your Life is Inseparable from Suffering

Chapter 4 How Suffering Got a Bad Name

Chapter 5 Feeling the “Ouch” of Your Suffering

Chapter 6 The Call to Know that You Know

Chapter 7 The Opposite of Suffering is Not Happiness


Chapter 8 There is a Cause of Your Suffering

Chapter 9 Why Do You Suffer?

Chapter 10 Imprisoned by Desire

Chapter 11 You’re No Longer a Victim

Chapter 12 The Paradox of Desire


Chapter 13 You Can End Your Suffering

Chapter 14 Tasting the Joy of Life’s Impermanence

Chapter 15 When the Dance Ends, Freedom Begins

Chapter 16 It’s Nothing Personal

Chapter 17 You Are Not Your Self


Chapter 18 The Way to End Your Suffering

Chapter 19 An Integral Approach to Practice

Chapter 20 Developing Intention, Your Ally on the Path

Chapter 21 Now that You Know, What is It That You Know?

Chapter 22 The Courage to be Happy

Epilogue: The Call To Surrender Your Innocence

Appendix 1 The Twelve Insights of The Four Noble Truths

Appendix 2 Glossary

Appendix 3 Resources and Meditation Retreats



Summation of the Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths was the Buddha’s first teaching after he found freedom from his own suffering.

  • Dukkha is interwoven in the moments of your life.
  • The cause of your dukkha is clinging to desired objects and states of being.
  • You can release dukkha by letting go of clinging to those desires.
  • There is an Eightfold Path from dukkha to freedom that you can follow.

Understanding the meaning of these Noble Truths is the foundation of Buddhist wisdom

Excerpt from Dancing with Life
Recognizing the Suffering in Your Own Life—Chapter 4 Excerpt

The Buddha identified three kinds of suffering: the dukkha of physical and emotional pain; the dukkha of constant change; and the dukkha of life’s compositional nature, which creates a kind of pressure and unease that is constantly present, even in the best of times.

The first kind of dukkha is the obvious suffering caused by physical discomfort, from the minor pain of stubbing a toe, hunger, and lack of sleep, to the agony of chronic disease. It is also the emotional suffering that arises when you become frustrated that things don’t go your way, or upset about life’s injustices, or worried about money or meeting other’s expectations. Each day you have many experiences that cause you to be disappointed, anxious, and tense, from getting stuck in traffic to forgetting to complete an important task to snapping at a loved one during an argument. Isn’t this true? In matters of love, family, work and self-acceptance, do you not experience these sorts of negative emotions over and over again?

In addition to the dukkha you experience as a result of painful, traumatic, and uncomfortable events that happen to you, there is a second type of dukkha that you confront on a regular basis. That is the suffering caused by the fact that life is constantly changing. Doesn’t it often seem as though the moment you have found happiness in life, it disappears almost at once? Something really good happens at work, or you and your partner spend an intimate morning in bed, or you share a precious laugh with your child, and then bang! It’s over. Now you’re worried about a deadline, or fighting with your significant other, or coping with your child’s needs, and all those pleasant feelings are replaced by worry, fatigue, and the weight of responsibility. In truth, no moment is reliable because the next moment is always coming along fast on its heels. It is like a constant bombardment of change undermining every state of happiness. The mind never finds a place to sit back and enjoy life without fear. Isn’t it paradoxical that the one constant in your life is change?

Like everyone else you do what you can to try to prolong, enhance, and increase the number of pleasurable moments in your life, but nothing consistently works. There is always the next moment of the dance. No matter how much you attempt to distract yourself (and you may be one of those people who are great at creating distractions), your nervous system still perceives the changing dance, even when you are not aware of it, and it suffers, oftentimes even more so because you are trying to ignore it.

No doubt you have felt the pain, confusion, and stress that this constant flux brings to your own life, with one moment being desirable and the next displeasing. The implications are vast: You make every single choice every day within this context. You cannot escape from the continuous dance. It is an impersonal, universal truth of life. None of us – not even the wealthiest, wisest, the most powerful – gets to be an exception. We all feel pain, we all lose loved ones, we all get ill, and we all die.

Furthermore, every day, even during the pleasant moments, do you not experience an underlying unease about the future? This worry and anxiety is a manifestation of the third type of suffering Buddha identified — life’s inherent unsatisfactoriness due to it’s intrinsic instability. Even if you are fortunate in terms of your physical and emotional health, and even if you live in a secure environment with material comforts, your life is still filled with uncertainty. Disease, accidents, emotional disruption, economic setback, and death constantly lurk around the next corner. Do these threats not make you feel anxious and insecure?

How often in your adult life have you experienced the queasiness and unease that come from a sense of meaninglessness in your life? Think of all those occasions when you felt as though you were wasting your life, or sleepwalking through it, or not living from your deepest, most heart-felt sense of your self. Remember the times when you’ve felt as though there is little you do each day that has any real, lasting significance. We’ve all fallen prey at some point in our lives to such constricted, dreaded, almost unbearable dark times of self-doubt and existential angst.

What Buddha is pointing to is that suffering is an experience of the mind. He’s not offering you relief from pain; he’s offering you relief from the extra mental reactivity that causes your misery. At first this can seem foreign, but in fact it’s consistent with the roots of Western understanding of suffering. We’ve just lost our connection to it. Our ancient wisdom bearers knew life was hard, and they too discovered that there was a difference between the pain of life and your reaction to it.

Study Guide for Book Groups

Thank you for choosing to read Dancing with Life in your study group. I’ve developed this study guide to provide you with recommendations for how to approach the material in the book and to help you address certain challenges you may encounter.

General principles to consider in reading Dancing with Life:

I. As I point out in Chapter One, the insights of the Four Noble Truths are interrelated; therefore, as you progress through the insights you might go back and re-read or reflect on previous insights. As you understand more advanced insights it will deepen your understanding of previous insights. For example, once you’ve read and practiced the insights of the Second Noble Truth, if you go back and read the First Noble Truth again, your understanding of the First Noble Truth will open up a whole other level.

II. One way to understand Dancing with Life is that it is a teaching about psychological development as well as spiritual development. Therefore, as you practice each insight, you’re directly working to mature your ego. The flowering of this is noticed as you gain more independence around ego issues.

III. Some students have difficulty distinguishing between the first and second or the second and third insights of the first two Noble Truths, so it might be helpful to have a group discussion in which the whole group verbalizes the differences.

IV. A classic challenge that has been wrestled with for hundreds of years is the teaching of the Third Noble Truth before the Fourth. There are two problems: First is that when students read the Third Noble Truth it feels to them like the climax and that they’ve reached the end of the teaching when in fact the work that will lead to the climax is contained in the Fourth Noble Truth. A second problem is that the Third Noble Truth is difficult to comprehend without a strong experience base. For both of these reasons, you might want to read section four of the book before reading section three.

V. Some students can become discouraged because they perceive the Four Noble Truths to only be about suffering. In fact, every insight brings less suffering and, therefore, more happiness joy and meaning. As you begin to have realizations around the First Noble Truth, you will have more happiness based on conditions because your mind is not so reactive to conditions. As you start to realize the insights of the Second Noble Truth, you begin to experience the second kind of happiness because your mind states are healthier and you’re less caught in grasping. Finally, even a foretaste of cessation brings such unconditioned happiness and provides a new basis for meaning and joy.

VI. Some students have questions about the difference between the second and third kinds of dukkha. One way to understand the difference is that the second kind of dukkha, which is based on anicca, is located in time, while the third kind of dukkha is based on a single moment—in any given moment there is the truth that there is “no there there.”

VII. It’s important for you to understand the difference between attachment to outcome vs. commitment to your goals. It can take students a long time to get this difference, so a group discussion around this can be very helpful.

VIII. You may get very excited when you have your first taste of knowing that you know. On the positive side, it provides strong motivation for continuing to practice. On the downside, it can lead you to stop at a superficial level of this insight. One has to continue working at knowing that you know in order for it to mature into full realization. It would be helpful if everyone in the study group shared their own experience of how they have deepened in this insight.

Here are some suggestions that may help you structure your approach to studying the book:

  • Commit to reading a certain number of pages of the book each week. Some groups are reading whole chapters each week, while others are varying the length of the assignment from week to week.
  • In addition, reflect on the weekly teachings that correspond to the pages you are reading which can be accessed on the website.
  • You might choose a “keyword” to focus on for the week, such as “dukkha,” “attachment,” or “intention.” Come up with your own definition of the word, notice examples of that word arising during the week, and share them with your group.
  • During the study group you might break the group into dyads or triads for sharing or discussing a particular point.

The core materials for studying Dancing with Life are the book itself and the weekly teachings that can be accessed on the website, which I recommend you structure your study group around. From the website you can also download an audio file of an introductory Dancing with Life dharma talk by me.

May your study of this material, expand your understanding of the dharma. May your understanding of the dharma be a benefit to your loved ones and to all those with whom you come in contact.

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Teach Dancing With Life

Thank you for your interest in using Dancing with Life as a teaching text. I’ve developed this study guide to provide you with recommendations for how to teach the material in the book and to help you address certain challenges your students may encounter. The suggestions in this study guide do not comprise complete teachings; they are shorthand notes.

Learn more and download the teaching text.

Reviews and Interviews

NOVEMBER 24, 2008
Divination Foundation Pathways podcast : KBOO FM, Portland, Ore.
Interview with Paul O’Brien

Listen to it here

JULY 29, 2008
The Denver Post : “Yogi left fast lane for peace: Ex-N.Y. exec helps others find balance”
By Colleen O’Connor
When he turned 40, Phillip Moffitt walked away from the life he’d created in Manhattan as a whiz-kid entrepreneur who brought the men’s magazine Esquire—hemorrhaging readers and money—back to health. He shed his professional identity, its perks and privileges, like a cheap suit.  Read more

APRIL 6, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle : “Moffitt traded Esquire for the quiet life”
By Amy Moon
At the pinnacle of his success as chief executive and editor in chief of Esquire magazine, Phillip Moffitt walked away from it all—the glamour, the accolades, the punishing schedule—and chose instead to wake up each morning and breathe, to explore the mysteries he had always intuited. Read more

JULY 11, 2008
Wise Brain Bulletin : Review of “Dancing with Life”
By Brooke Brown, PhD
Most Sunday evenings find Phillip Moffitt teaching the dharma in Corte Madera, California, in a sangha he formed ten years ago. Dharma for Moffitt is alive and practical, not theoretical or abstract, and he anchors the teachings in everyday life examples.
Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering is Moffitt’s gift to us, a handbook for those of us who wish to lessen our suffering. The book has grown out of Moffitt’s life experience both as a student of the dharma and teacher and is re- plete with concrete examples, ones the reader can relate with and apply to his or her individual situation.
Moffitt brings to his role of dharma teacher a range of life experiences which include being a longtime student of yoga and Theravadin Buddhism, author, former editor-in-chief and chief executive of Esquire magazine, and board member for the C. G. Jung Institute. His long- standing interest in Jung, Helen Luke, and T. S. Eliot enriches his teaching with psychological insight.
Dukkha, or unsatisfactoriness/suffering, is inevitable in our lives because we cannot control the arising of causes and conditions that surround us. However, we can choose how we choose to respond to dukkha, and how we respond is what Moffitt calls “dancing with life.” He reminds us that it is possible to respond to our suffering in a way whereby we are not defined by it; rather, suffering is simply part of our dance. Dancing with Life guides us in how to be a good dance partner, how to develop and hone our skills in this ongoing engagement that is life.
Moffitt does this by penetrating the Buddha’s primary teaching—the Four Noble Truths—which is the basis for the book, and his ability to deconstruct and detail each of the Four Noble Truths feeds our capacity to become more mindful in our lives. Mindfulness is key, for it is mindfulness that enables us to respond rather than react.
Dancing With Life is divided into four books—one for each of the Four Noble Truths—each containing three insights. The Venerable Ajahn Sumedho, who wrote the preface to Dancing with Life, writes that “. . . the lucid way in which Phillip has written about how to actualize the twelve insights is a real achievement.”
The reader can opt to read the book through and later return to study different sections or choose to read the sections that beckon. In either case, Moffitt would exhort you to “make it your book!” This typifies Moffitt’s approach to the dharma, which is to hold the Four Noble Truths as a practice system, not a belief system.
Moffitt quotes Ajahn Chah: “There are two kinds of suffering: the suffering that leads to more suffering and the suffering that leads to the end of suffering. If you are not willing to face the second kind of suffering, you will surely continue to experience the first.”
Dancing With Life offers us a way to face “the second kind of suffering” and thus have a more meaningful relation- ship with our lives—for this is it! Why wouldn’t we want our participation to be as rich as possible? We may not be living the lives we wished we lived: but, nonetheless, this is the life we have. This book details the path of bringing as much mindfulness to our daily experience and enriching our lives in that manner.

OCTOBER 27, 2008
Elephant Journal : Review of “Dancing with Life”
Dancing With Life is an exploration of the little known Twelve Insights related to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. Broken into four “books” or sections, Moffitt explores the process of reflecting upon, then directly experiencing, and then finally into knowing each of the Noble Truths and also discusses how to put that knowledge into play in everyday life. There are two ways to approach this text. The first is to simply read the book all the way through, with little more than an intellectual understanding of the insights, and perhaps with some application to day to day life. The other is more in line with the intent of the author, and it means that reading this book will take some time. Each of the sections of the book offers meditations in order to come to a full understanding of the insight, and while actually doing the meditations will slow down how quickly one gets through the book, getting through it isn’t the point of this book; fully understanding the Twelve Insights and the Four Noble Truths and incorporating them into day to day life is the point. Recommended for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the Truths and how to make them an intimate part of life.

JUNE 7, 2008
The Pacific Sun : “Former CEO trades Esquire magazine to Dance with Buddhism”
By Diana deRegnier
In his first book since stepping down as Editor-in-chief of Esquire magazine, Phillip Moffitt likens the ups and downs of life to “life dancing” with us. He breaks down each movement of the dance with life and encourages us to co-choreograph a dance of our own. Read more

MAY 30, 2008
FOLIO magazine : “From Publishing CEO to Buddhist Priest to Rodale Author”
By Jason Fell
People leave magazine publishing all the time and for all sorts of reasons. Some want to spend more time with their family. Some want to go back to school. Some leave to start their own business. Others devote themselves to Buddhism after feeling “exiled” from his own heart.
Like Phillip Moffitt who left Esquire, and the industry, in 1987 after an apparently stressful stint as CEO and editor-in-chief, to devote himself to what he calls “the inner life.” In the two decades since, he has been ordained a Buddhist priest and, in 1991, founded the Life Balance Institute, a non-profit organization devoted to the study and practice of spiritual values. (He didn’t leave the industry altogether. From 1998 to 2005 he penned a bi-monthly column for Yoga Journal called “Dharma Wisdom.”)
Now, Moffitt is taking his spiritual message to the bookshelves. Out last month on Rodale Press is Moffitt’s 352-page Dancing with Life, in which he delves into the deep understanding of the Four Noble Truths, which was Buddha’s first teaching after “he found freedom from his own suffering,” Moffitt says on his Web site.
In the book’s introduction, Moffitt writes that while serving the dual roles of CEO and editor of Esquire he “felt exiled from my own heart.”
Breaking news. Deadlines. Making budgets. There’s no doubt about it: Magazine publishing can be a seriously stressful career.
I’m just happy that Moffitt chilled out, and rediscovered his “inner life.” Maybe this is a book we all should read.

Endorsements for Dancing with Life

“Phillip has written a profound book about the relationship between happiness and suffering. It is filled with wisdom about how to live a more effective and satisfying life. I recommend it for anyone who is struggling with change in their lives.” —Dean Ornish, M.D., author of The Spectrum

“The ancient practice of mindfulness is increasingly being shown in scientific studies to have remarkable consequences for healing and well-being across the lifespan. Dancing with Life systematically maps out a rigorous and profoundly loving choreography for cultivating mindfulness in the service of embodying our full potentiality as human beings, utilizing whatever circumstances we happen to find ourselves in. It is a practical and reassuring dharma guide for a great many people in the ongoing development of their practice and lives. It is very different from most dharma books in that it has such an elaborate and friendly structure to it, nested within and around the Four Noble Truths and Ajahn Sumedho’s lovely voicing of dharma. I love the precision of Phillip’s teaching of the embodiment of each insight, and the stories about his students and their challenges. And also, his willingness to share his own trials, travails, and openings along the path.” —Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living and Arriving at Your Own Door

“For each of the Four Noble Truths there are three aspects, which form a paradigm of reflection, investigation, and insight. Thus, there are Twelve Insights contained within the Four Noble Truths, which free one from suffering. This investigation Phillip calls ‘dancing with life.’ As he reveals, in order to dance with life, you need to give yourself completely to the dance, and the way to do this is through the development of mindfulness. I welcome Phillip’s excellent book.” — Ajahn Sumedho, Amaravati Buddhist Monastery

“I just want say how much we have appreciated your book on the Four Noble Truths. It is a wonderful commentary and explication of Ajahn Sumedho’s teaching and for several weeks we had our tea-time readings from it. Great job! I hope it is found to be useful to many people and that it receives the plaudits it deserves.”—Ajahn Amaro, Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery

“The Four Noble Truths are at the heart of every Buddhist tradition. Phillip Moffitt’s wonderful book, Dancing with Life, plumbs their timeless wisdom with a refreshing depth of insight. Phillip’s pragmatic and incisive understanding transforms theory into practice and helps actualize the liberating potential of these teachings. This book is an important contribution to our journey of awakening.”—Joseph Goldstein, author of A Heart Full of Peace and One Dharma

“Dancing with Life is a classic teaching that is both profound and accessible. This is a book that will be on the reading lists for sincere Buddhist students for generations ahead.”—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart

“Phillip Moffitt has given us a clear and practical guide to dealing with the unhappiness and frustration that come our way in life. He leads us on a path of connection rather than isolation, and compassion rather than fruitless anger and self-judgment. Everyone could benefit from reading this book.”—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

“Phillip Moffitt’s book is filled with practice tools for applying the timeless teachings of the Buddha to life in the 21st century. As a hospice chaplain, I have found the book immensely helpful in the way it introduces, and then fleshes out, the human condition and the skillful choices we can make to the inevitable pain, disappointment and betrayal we all experience as we breathe our way through life. In the midst of the suffering that so often accompanies the end of life in our culture, the book has helped me use lovingkindness and compassion to keep my heart open for myself and my patients.”—Ellen Robinson-Haynes, MA, MTS, Chaplain, Bristol Hospice

What Readers Are Saying

“Moffitt’s book is a gem: it is a handbook to help us develop and hone our skills so that we respond to our suffering in a way whereby we are not defined by it. The book—an explication of the Four Noble Truths, which is the Buddha’s primary teaching—is well organized, full of examples from Moffitt’s life and the lives of his students, and is eminently readable. His style is lucid and alive, and his book is a treasure to savor. I highly recommend this book to anyone whether or not they are familiar with the Buddha’s teachings.”
— B.

“Your book has truly been a wonderful addition and catalyst for my new experience of “falling in love with the Dharma.” I look forward to experiencing your continued teaching and listening deeply to the Dharma … internalizing … certainly, my intention is set!”
— Michelle

“One of my patients walked into my office yesterday, sat down, let out a big sigh, and said, “I’ve been dancing with life all week!” Yes, he is reading your book and getting so much out of it.”
— Lisa, MFT

“I’m enjoying reading Dancing with Life. I just recently finished the portion where you introduced the three ego-renunciation practices. They are now part of my daily recitation of the precepts, and more importantly a very fruitful and challenging practice when not on the cushion.”
— Dawn

“You may recall that I asked if your book would provide practical applications or examples of the 4 Noble Truths and the corresponding 12 insights. You assured me it would. I found one particular passage to be amazingly concise as well as entirely useful in my day-to-day dealings. I am quite sure that I will refer to it often as it provides one of the best summaries of why I recently removed the words good, bad, want and wait from my vocabulary with the word hope not far behind. I am now working on keeping them at bay in my thinking before they can start me on the well-worn path from pain to suffering.”
— Stan

Read: 17 Amazon 5* Reviews

Emotional Chaos to Clarity

Buy the Book, e-Book or Audiobook:

Indie Bound
Barnes & Noble


When life doesn’t go the way we planned or hoped, we sometimes collapse into emotional chaos, which can lead us to make poor decisions and act unwisely. This chain of events can create a great deal of suffering for us. However, it’s possible to relate to the disappointment and difficulty in our lives without stress and anguish. Emotional chaos is the result of reactive mind states. You know all too well what reactive mind states are—anger, anxiety, frustration, irritation, restlessness, worry, insecurity, doubt, obsession, etc. These reactive mind states are not your fault really. Life is unpredictable and sometimes painful, so of course it generates mental and emotional chaos. But you don’t have to helplessly submit to your mind being tossed around willy-nilly by these inner storms. There is a way to move from the emotional chaos of the reactive mind to a state of clarity in which you are able to respond to people and situations from a responsive mind state. Your responsive mind state knows what you are about. It allows you to stay grounded in your deepest values even in the face of life’s uncertainty. You experience clarity that allows you to act with wisdom and stay true to what matters most to you. This abiding wisdom yields a sense of ease and direction in life that I call skillful living. Here are some of the benefits of skillful living that this book seeks to help you discover:

  • You know and act from your core values at all times
  • You gain wisdom from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.
  • You can discern between thoughts, words, and actions that cause harm and those that do not, and you act accordingly.
  • You know your true nature, the essence of your character, and how to protect it.
  • You accept gain and loss equally and derive insight from each.
  • You have an inner life in which love can flourish, even if your outer life is filled with challenges.
  • You learn to speak only what is true, useful, and timely, even during moments of anger and outrage.
  • You are not controlled by your views and opinions or the story of your past, but rather you have a “don’t know” mind that responds wisely to whatever you encounter in life.
  • You have the ability to soothe yourself whenever you feel disappointed or overwhelmed by life.

Every chapter of Emotional Chaos to Clarity is followed by a self-assessment exercise, a set of practices, or a reflection, to help deepen your understanding of the insights it offers.

Table of Contents


Introduction: From Emotional Chaos to Clarity

Part I: Practices That Empower You to Achieve Clarity

Chapter 1: Beginning Your Journey to Clarity

Chapter 2: Getting to Know the Real You

Chapter 3: Setting Sustainable Intentions

Chapter 4: Starting Over

Chapter 5: Letting Go of Expectations

Chapter 6: Balancing Your Priorities

Part II: Developing Skillful Behaviors

Chapter 7: Starting Your Day with Clarity

Chapter 8: Knowing What’s Really Happening

Chapter 9: Making Skillful Decisions

Chapter 10: Cultivating the Qualities of Loving-kindness and Compassion

Chapter 11: Living into Life Through Gratitude

Chapter 12: Overcoming Attachments Through Generosity

Chapter 13: Doing the Right Thing

Chapter 14: Bringing Mindfulness to Major Life Changes

Part III: Removing the Sources of Chaos

Chapter 15: Keeping Boundaries

Chapter 16: Ending the Cycle of Self-Violence

Chapter 17: Practicing Self-Restraint

Chapter 18: Overcoming Ordinary Compulsiveness

Chapter 19: Living Skillfully with the Difficult

Chapter 20: Practicing Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Epilogue: What’s Next?


Excerpt from Emotional Chaos to Clarity
Getting to Know the Real You – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Your movement from emotional chaos to clarity begins with answering the question, “Who am I?” This doesn’t mean your gender, nationality, age, family situation, or ethnic background, and certainly not what you do for a living. Nor is it a question of who you believe yourself to be. What I mean is what matters most to you in those moments when you are not caught up in getting what you want or avoiding what you fear?

Knowing what is essential to you allows you to meet the chaos of life with a clear mind and an open heart. In my experience, being clear about who you are as you respond to life’s twists and turns is the only strategy that leads to a sustainable sense of well-being. Being grounded in your authentic self, or what I like to call your essence, supports you in making choices and decisions, helps you endure anxiety and stress, and enables you to bear disappointment and difficulty with equanimity.

The great challenge you face, like everyone else, is discovering your essence and then learning how to respond to life in light of this insight and wisdom. The central purpose of this book is to help you achieve this transformation in your life. But first you must learn to discern what is authentic, to separate it from the many false or episodic identities you have undoubtedly acquired in your struggle to find your way in life. For example, a false identity you may have adopted is one that needs to be in control of what happens to you. If things go well, you are pleased with yourself; if they don’t, you blame yourself. But it only takes a moment of reflection to realize that this is a false identity.

The hard truth is that life is characterized by continual change and you can’t count on it going as you planned. The ever-flowing stream of life delivers small and large misfortunes, all of which are beyond your control, from daily disappointments such as getting caught in traffic and missing an appointment to major life-altering challenges such as the loss of a loved one. Being able to control what happens to you in life is therefore not substantial ground on which to base your identity. The you that is always in control is an illusion. It does not exist. No matter how bright and skilled you are, you will only create turmoil for yourself by clinging to this false identity.

One skillful way to begin to understand who you are is to examine those aspects of yourself that you have mistakenly believed were the true you. As the false identities fall away, you develop clarity about what really matters. This clarity comes about as you cease to identify with the chaos of your life and as your heart opens to living life in accord with what matters most to you.

For Your Reflection: Discovering Who You Are Not

Understanding who you really are involves overcoming misperceptions about who you are not. This transformation doesn’t happen simply by thinking about it once. It demands continued reflection and investigation. The following suggestions can help you cease being trapped in a false identity and begin to open up to new possibilities:

  • Reflect on what you have read in this chapter and ask yourself what you believe to be true about you and your identity. For example, which type of mistaken identity best describes the way you tend to think? Which type has caused you the most suffering in the past?
  • Become a careful observer of your behavior and the mind states underlying that behavior. More than likely, you will start to notice a heretofore hidden separation between the seemingly solid identity that arises in a moment of strong emotion and your awareness that can observe your behavior and your mind states.
  • Begin to notice the difference between the experience you are having and your awareness of the experience. For instance, when you feel hungry, shift your attention to the awareness itself. How is this different from the experience of being hungry?
  • Become interested in the nature of your awareness itself. The capacity for awareness has a mirrorlike quality—it reflects what you like or dislike and what you identify with—but it is a neutral observer. Notice that your awareness does not become excited or afraid or identify with what you are feeling or thinking; it simply knows and reflects what is happening in your body and mind. Becoming acquainted with this awareness can provide much-needed comfort and stability when you get caught in emotional chaos.
  • Finally, select one or two areas of your life where you tend to get trapped in a mistaken identity, then try, whenever you feel yourself getting caught in those feelings, to remind yourself that they are an emotional mind state that arises because of certain conditions and will disappear when those conditions change. Making this distinction repeatedly can have the amazing effect of creating a sense of freedom in your life and opening up the opportunity to choose to be who you really are.
Study Guide For Book Groups

Thank you for choosing to read Emotional Chaos to Clarity in your book group. The purpose of this study guide is to provide you with a variety of perspectives and suggestions for exploring the teachings offered in this book. The topics in this book can reopen old wounds or trigger feelings of inadequacy or vulnerability, so it is imperative that the group set clear rules of engagement, including honoring confidentiality and refraining from criticism or ridicule. It is also vital that members of the group not give advice to the others or try to fix one another’s problems.

Discuss the Three Major Themes of the Book

The first major theme is the development of mindfulness. Mindfulness is more than simply being present and accepting the moment; it involves meeting the moment with your deepest values.

Suggestion: Divide into dyads and practice saying mindfulness out loud with one another for three minutes each. By this I mean, say whatever is true right now. For example, “I’m aware of a sharp pain in my knee. I’m aware of the blue sky. I’m aware of my breath catching in my throat. I’m aware of the orange curtains.” And so forth. Doing this practice trains you to notice what’s happening moment-to-moment and to realize how quickly it changes. It may feel a little awkward at first, but if you do the exercise with a few people you will find it fascinating.

The second major theme is intentionality, the commitment to living all the moments of your life based on your values as you move toward your goals. It is genuinely possible to experience a sense of purpose in life, one that is based on living from your intentions, regardless of almost all external circumstances. This is a remarkable truth that has held my wonder for decades and has been a major source of inspiration.

Suggestion: Discuss how each of you understands the idea of intentionality and describe a time in your life when you felt a sense of purpose. You might also discuss just how important the feelings of intentionality and purpose are to you.

The third theme is that of choice which empowers you to move from a reactive to a responsive mind. As you master these three areas, you gain clarity and lessen the emotional chaos in your life.

Suggestion: As a group, discuss the areas in each of your lives where you habitually fall into a reactive mind. As a homework assignment, have everyone observe their own pattern of reactivity then report back to the group. Notice how just being mindful of the arising of a reactive mind state seems to affect it.

Explore the Other Important Themes of the Book

1. Shifting your relationship to ego.

I chose to devote the second chapter of the book to the questions of how identity is created and how our ideas about the self trap us in a cycle of suffering. Such a discussion is challenging for many readers because we all have unrecognized attachment to our various identities. Being told they are temporary can generate resistance. Despite my concern that readers might feel resistance, I decided to place this chapter at the beginning of the book because having mindfulness about how you create identity is an essential understanding for gaining clarity. I felt it needed to unfold in the reader’s mind throughout the book, rather than being introduced to the reader at the end.

Suggestion: Have each person say which of the identities presented in the book they have historically identified with and which ones they identify with now. Additionally, discuss how each identity has some germ of truth in it but also why it lacks permanence. Of course, you may also want to discuss whether you think I’m wrong!

2. Building a habit of intentionality.

Suggestion: Look at the chapters “Starting Over,” “Starting your Day with Clarity,” and “Knowing What’s Really Happening” and discuss how these three skills combine to support developing intentionality.

3. Making skillful decisions.

Suggestion: Have each member of the group describe their history of decision-making—naming times they were skillful and times they were not. Is there a pattern? What can be learned? Also, looking at the five kinds of decisions, which ones are the most difficult for each person?

4. Living with difficulty.

Although the chapters on expectations and living with difficulty are in different parts of the book, there is a distinct relationship between them.

Suggestion: As a group discuss the relationship between expectations and difficulty. As a homework assignment, have each person notice when expectations arise in their daily life and answer these questions: Which of your expectations are based on old stories and childhood conditioning, and lack choice? What happens when you start being mindful of expectations?

5. Overcoming ordinary compulsiveness.

Ordinary compulsiveness is a constant source of emotional chaos, yet it lends itself to being readily clarified.

Suggestion: Either in a group or in dyads, have each person describe how compulsiveness manifests in their life. Then have each person describe how they felt listening to the others, whether they felt compassionate or judgmental. Discuss how the wisdom reflected in the chapters on balancing priorities and keeping boundaries support overcoming ordinary compulsiveness.

6. Developing decision-making skills.

Attachment and reactive mind states create an undesirable environment for making decisions. In contrast, the clarity that comes from knowing what’s really happening and the commitment to doing the right thing create an ideal environment for wise decision-making.

Suggestion: Have each person state what the word clarity means to them, and answer these question: How often do you feel you have clarity when you have strong emotions? In which area of your life is it most difficult for you to have the clarity that allows you to know what is really happening? In what way does your fear of making a poor decision block your decision-making process?

7. Exploring the imaginative possible.

Being mindful of when you reach a point where you believe a certain attainment is possible is extremely valuable in the inner development process. I call this point the “imaginative possible.” It is a point of imagination because you can imagine or conceive that some change is possible even though it has not happened. Although almost everyone has had such moments, many people are unaware when they occur.

Suggestion: In dyads, have each person state what the term imaginative possible means to them and describe one or more such moments in their life. Have each person answer the question: What prevents you from opening to possibility more fully in your life?

8. Ending self-violence.

Suggestion: In groups of three or four, take turns reporting your individual history with self-violence, whether it’s over-scheduling, self-criticism, or denying yourself opportunity. How would clarity of intention and mindfulness balance these tendencies?

9. Practicing forgiveness and gratitude.

Suggestion: Have each person describe the ways they are skillful in forgiving others (and themselves). Also have them name a situation in which they have struggled with forgiveness and how it felt. Discuss how gratitude can help with forgiveness.

10. Having faith in the path.

Suggestion: Have each person state to the group whether they believe it is really possible to significantly increase the clarity in their life. If so, what do they think the obstacles to finding clarity are? In what way might the teaching on starting over play a critical role in staying on the path to clarity? Have each member of the group declare their commitment to growing in clarity. When doing this, it is appropriate for other members of the group to acknowledge the commitment of the person who is speaking.

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Endorsements for Emotional Chaos to Clarity

Emotional Chaos to Clarity is a masterwork. Be inspired by the possibilities it opens. Be strengthened by the guidance it offers in decision making. Be surprised by the illumination that comes when you contrast your ideals with your actual days. And be encouraged in the midst of your life challenges by the power and love that comes when you see and live by your highest intentions.”

— Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., author of The Wise Heart and A Path With Heart

“Phillip Moffitt takes the profound insights of the wisdom traditions and translates them into simple and effective steps to stable inner strength, happiness, and peace. His unique gift is his own deep grounding in what it really takes to be fully engaged with life while remaining clear-headed and happy. An extraordinary book.”

— Rick Hanson, PhD, author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

“Building on a history of finding his way out of a meaningless, albeit successful, worldly life into a life of service, Phillip Moffitt has crafted a highly practical handbook for navigating the inevitable challenges that beset us. A marvelous tools to have handy when our better knowing is overwhelmed by those often mysterious interior storms, this book communicates a desperately needed feeling that we can indeed succeed in shaping lives of meaning.”

— Don Hanlon Johnson, PhD, author of Everyday Hopes, Utopian Dreams: Reflections on American Ideals

“In Emotional Chaos to Clarity, Philip Moffitt maps out a path for opening and expanding our sense of what is possible, what we are capable of, what will bring us true happiness. He also shows us step-by-step how to apply acceptance, kindness, awareness, and compassion in order to make those aspirations come to life. To move from emotional chaos to clarity is not a minor journey, but it is possible, and for any one of us, it can be real.”

— Sharon Salzberg, author of Loving-Kindness and Real Happiness

“Phillip Moffitt presents a clear path to living an authentic and intentional life. He has a profound understanding of how emotions distort our perceptions and how we can create new, healthy habits of mind.”

— Dean Ornish, M.D., author of The Spectrum

“A few years ago, Phillip wrote a beautiful treatise on the Four Noble Truths and now, such a short time later, he shares another great gift for transforming our lives into a sacred journey where everything is workable and nothing is trivial. With this book in particular one doesn’t need to be a Buddhist practitioner to fully understand and apply the life enhancing principles Philip has presented. His writing is direct and personal, extremely practical, and often peppered with convincing anecdotal evidence supporting the intrinsic human capacity for consequential transformation when given appropriate support and skills. This is a book I can give to just about anyone interested in living aligned with loving awareness!”

— Sarah Powers, author of Insight Yoga

Reviews and Interviews

Psych Central
Reviewed by Dan Berkowitz

Phillip Moffitt’s life is right out of that classic story in which a financially successful man — one who seemingly has it all — realizes he needs something more.

He realizes there’s something deeper, something more meaningful to life.

At the height of his career, Moffitt was CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Esquire magazine. However, Moffitt was not satisfied. So he traded his traditional successful life for a shot at inner peace. He took up mindfulness meditation and changed his life.

Today, he is a meditation teacher and co-guiding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. In his newest book, Emotional Chaos to Clarity: How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life, Moffitt takes what he has learned firsthand and shares those teachings in a readable and thoroughly enjoyable way.

Moffitt was 34 years old when he began to focus full-time on personal growth. He had enjoyed great success, but his life “seemed out of balance. I felt as though I wasn’t living from my authentic self. Even though my external life was fun and stimulating, my internal experience was that of not being connected to a larger purpose.”

One of the main themes of Emotional Chaos to Clarity — and a prime reason why it is so appealing — is that while Moffitt is a teacher now, he wasn’t always one. He has a story. He took a path. Moffitt is not some guru born on the side of a Nepalese mountain, unaware of the day-to-day “realities” of Western culture. In this way, his story feels more “true” in a way that is sorely lacking from much of the spiritually-tinged self-help field.

Furthermore, because of his unique backstory, Moffitt’s appeal is immense. Anyone who has felt a gaping hole in his being can relate to his story.

Moffitt’s a skilled writer. There is no flowery language painting an abstract portrait of the secret to life. He writes cleanly and directly. However, he still thoroughly conveys his message. He strikes the perfect balance.

Moffitt’s teachings revolve around two central ideas: Mindfulness and intention. He writes:

The combined skills of mindfulness and intention described in this book represent an approach to transforming life’s many challenges into opportunities for growth. This approach constitutes the foundation for a more authentic relationship with yourself and others. As you apply these life skills you will feel more grounded and oriented in your life. My purpose in writing this book is to assist you in this process of learning how to live more skillfully.

As might be expected with a book with such heavy subject matter, Emotional Chaos to Clarity should not be viewed as a quick read. Each chapter should be studied, and, both literally and figuratively, meditated upon. At the end of each chapter, Moffitt provides an exercise or some closing wisdom. Because the book demands work on the reader’s part, it’s perhaps best to read about a chapter a day or so. Mindfulness is a skill. It is one that must be cultivated. To rush through a book like this essentially defeats its purpose.

Moffitt’s ultimate goal is to eliminate or lessen what he calls “the emotional chaos of the untrained mind.” Our minds are constantly racing in a state of turmoil. We make plans and they fall through. We react and we often react poorly. What Moffitt would like us to do is to not perceive ourselves as having to react, but rather choosing how to respond. This slight adjustment in perception can make a world of difference.

Emotional Chaos to Clarity is a wonderful contribution to the self-help field. It is one that deserves to stand out and be recognized. Moffitt’s messages are universal, while the manner in which he conveys them is poignant, proper and downright perfect.

DATE: JUNE 4, 2012
Vitality Magazine, Toronto
by Susannah Kent
Imagine learning to accept gain and loss equally, deriving wisdom and insight from both. Also imagine a life where you feel empowered to pursue your dreams and goals without worry, opening your heart and mind to a deeper, richer, more satisfying relationship with your life just as it is. In Emotional Chaos to Clarity, Philip Moffitt, former editor-in-chief/CEO of Esquire magazine, and renowned meditation teacher, offers concrete, practical guidance on how to make these imaginings a real possibility.

Moffitt states that the purpose of writing this book was to “help people learn to live more skillfully,” just as he began to do at age 40. Leaving behind a successful career, he embarked on a journey of study, meditation, and Jungian analysis to discover new capacities in himself, and a connection to a larger purpose. That larger purpose evolved into helping others find clarity, direction, and meaning in their lives.

His approach, influenced by Western psychology and Buddhist philosophy, involves using a combination of mindfulness and intention. This can provide the foundation for a more authentic relationship with yourself and others, resulting in the ability to transform life’s many challenges into opportunities for growth.
Moffitt suggests that we often confuse who we really are with the emotions, thoughts, and impulses we experience, and then react in ways which bring emotional chaos to our lives. He says this emotional chaos (confusion, uncertainty, anxiousness, and feelings of conflict and indecisiveness) is a result of reactive mind states. The reactive mind is one pulled in many directions depending on our perceptions. According to Moffitt, in order to rid ourselves of emotional chaos we must move from a reactive mind state to a responsive one. In a responsive state, one knows and understands one’s true self; a state that is grounded in our deepest values during all of life’s ups and downs.

Moffitt wholeheartedly believes that it is mindfulness that allows us to set intentions through understanding what matters most (your values). Being grounded in intention and aligning one’s actions to those intentions “as best you are able is what provides integrity and unity in your life” (clarity).

The book is divided into three sections. Part I, “Practices That Empower You to Achieve Clarity,” explains the concept of mindfulness, explores ways to discover your true self (not the one guided by misperceptions), and introduces such practices as living an intentional life, letting go of expectations, starting over, and balancing priorities. The next section, “Developing Skillful Behaviors,” presents skills that will guide you to live according to your values and intentions. Skillful behaviours include making wise decisions, cultivating the qualities of loving kindness and compassion, living life through gratitude, doing the right thing, and overcoming attachments through generosity. Part III, “Removing the Sources of Chaos,” looks at what Moffitt calls unskillful behaviours; the ones that bring chaos and suffering not only into our lives, but to those around us, such as failing to set and maintain boundaries or practice restraint, along with compulsiveness.

Each chapter includes a related self-assessment exercise, as well as a set of practices or meditations to help the reader cultivate clarity and live more skillfully. Moffitt also shares inspiring stories from some of his clients and students, relating their struggles, insights, and successes.

At its core, Emotional Chaos to Clarity is an honest and compassionate invitation (and offer of assistance) to discover a richer, deeper, more balanced life. This is an invitation well worth accepting.

DATE: MAY 24, 2012
Shambhala Sun
Phillip Moffitt was editor in chief of Esquire magazine when he abruptly resigned. Friends and colleagues thought this was a strange decision, yet he felt it was refreshingly authentic—he never again wanted to get stuck in overvaluing worldly accomplishment. Now Moffitt is a co-guiding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Northern California, and the founder of Life Balance Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps people find direction and meaning in their lives.
Drawing on his own experiences, as well as on the experiences of his students, Moffitt helps readers develop inner strength and happiness. There are three parts to the book. The first lays the ground by addressing what it means to be human and reconnecting us to what really matters, the second focuses on developing the behaviors necessary to meet life more effectively and authentically, and the third offers strategies for overcoming obstacles on the road to clarity.

Library Journal
Moffitt (former editor in chief, Esquire; founder, Life Balance Inst.) describes emotional chaos as a reaction to negative life situations rather than an honest and clear response. He shows how a proactive response, using the skills of mindfulness and intention, can transform life’s challenges into opportunities for growth. Through Moffitt’s explanations, exercises, and assessments, readers can cultivate the practices of “skillful living,” e.g., learning to let go of expectations, ending the cycle of self-violence, and living life with gratitude. VERDICT: Moffitt includes case studies and psychological insights geared toward general readers. A helpful book for those who need a clear focus.

Publishers Weekly
At age 40, Moffitt, owner and editor-in-chief of Esquire, left to “explore the inner life.” After drifting with no clear direction, he moved from New York to California, went on meditation retreats, underwent Jungian analysis, and founded the Life Balance Institute. Moffitt summarizes the philosophy underlying his work in this guidebook for navigating through confusion, disappointment, and tough decision making. Part one, “Practices That Empower You to Achieve Clarity,” helps the reader connect with what matters most. The second section, “Developing Skillful Behaviors,” focuses on goals that enable one to confront life more effectively and authentically. The third part, “Removing the Sources of Chaos,” examines why people behave unskillfully and cause suffering for themselves and others. Each chapter, dealing with issues such as developing loving-kindness and recognizing personal boundaries, is followed by a self-assessment exercise, such as the Compassion Practice meditation with a repetition of phrases: “I can feel your suffering. May your suffering cease.” Though rife with buzzwords like “mindfulness” and “authenticity,” and the less elegant “imaginative possible,” the book still delivers valuable tools for psychological self-development and a more harmonious relationship with life.

Awakening through the Nine Bodies

Based on meditation practices Phillip Moffitt learned twenty years ago from Himalayan yoga master Sri Swami Balyogi Premvarni, this beautifully illustrated book is a guide to exploring the nature of mind and gaining a better understanding of experiences that arise during meditation. The Nine Bodies teachings map out a journey that starts with consciousness that arises in the physical body and is directly observable, and then travels through ever more subtle levels of consciousness to that which is not manifest and is only potential, and therefore has to be inferred. The book includes a series of mysterious illustrations that Balyogi created during his time of intense Samadhi explorations. Each illustration is a rich composition of symbols that express aspects of inner experiences that are almost impossible to express with language.

Moffitt makes these teachings available for meditation students from all spiritual traditions to use as gateways for exploring the nature of mind and as additional means for tracking and classifying meditative experiences. Students of yoga will also find value in the teachings of the Nine Bodies as they provide a means for contextualizing and connecting with yogic teachings on chakras, koshas, gunas, and the Three Bodies.

Learn more, visit Nine Bodies

I first met Sri Swami Balyogi Premvarni, a yogi in the ancient Himalayan forest tradition, in 1999 during a visit to his ashram in Rishikesh, India. I went there at the urging of a friend and my only intention was to ask him a question about an energy blockage in my throat. That visit was the beginning of a long journey of learning Balyogi’s teachings on the Nine Bodies system of wisdom about the wholeness of a human being—mind, consciousness, body, spirit, and more. This system is based in ancient Tantric and yoga traditions combined with Balyogi’s own understandings.

After that first meeting, I returned to Rishikesh many times to study with Balyogi. And, for years, I practiced the teachings such that I had a direct experience with what Balyogi was pointing me toward. When I was ready, I shared my experiences of these teachings with experienced meditation students on a limited basis. Many students found them to be of great value and asked for more in-depth exposure. Due to this student response and at Balyogi’s urging, I resolved to write a thorough explanation of my own understandings of consciousness that have arisen from working with these teachings.

I began to write Awakening through the Nine Bodies ten years ago. This project turned out to be a more formidable challenge than I had anticipated. The book constitutes my own insights regarding consciousness that have arisen from so many years of exploring these teachings. In it, I describe how it is possible to move beyond ordinary mind states into a new direct awareness of the nature of consciousness itself. I offer a detailed description of the nature of consciousness and how to explore the various qualities and energies of consciousness in meditation.

In addition to this in-depth investigation of the nature of consciousness, the book also includes a series of teachings in the form of twenty beautiful, mysterious illustrations that reveal the subtle aspects of consciousness along with instructions in how to use the illustrations in your meditation practice. Balyogi says he created these illustrations during a period of intense Samadhi when he had a series of revelations and visions about the structure of consciousness. I offer detailed interpretations of each illustration along with precise meditation instructions intended to guide one toward a particular state of consciousness.

My deepest aspiration is for this book to be helpful to Buddhist and Patanjali yoga practitioners in their meditation practice by pointing to and explaining some of the varieties of experiences of consciousness in meditation. These practices are meant to be complementary to your lineage practice and not a replacement for it. If you delve into the Nine Bodies teachings and practice them, you will find that there are instructions for clearing obstacles from your path so that you can fully utilize your meditative states and insights on your journey of awakening.

The teachings presented in this book are my best effort to discern and point to what is true and useful for you to explore regarding the Nine Bodies in your meditation practice. With exploration and practice, it is possible to gain new understandings, more flexibility in your meditation, and possibly a new energetic facility in your mind.

If you are curious to explore these teachings with me, I will be leading several Nine Bodies retreats in the coming months.

Much metta to you . . . Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,


Learn more, visit Nine Bodies


“In this remarkable book, Phillip Moffitt presents a subtle and original description of the many layers of human consciousness, leading to the depths of liberating realization. Moffitt’s understanding is relevant for students from both yogic and Buddhist backgrounds.”

—Guy Armstrong, author of Emptiness: A Practical Guide for Meditators

“How can we map the inner terrain of consciousness, locate ourselves within it, and even choose to travel in different dimensions to discover ever more subtle qualities of existence? Awakening through the Nine Bodies directly addresses these perennial queries. I will be enjoying this book for years to come and highly recommend it to all those seeking true inner freedom.”

—Sarah Powers, cofounder of the Insight Yoga Institute and author of Insight Yoga

“This beautiful book offers subtle and vast teachings on the mystery of the body and mind—combined with paintings by an Indian master that evoke deepening states of meditative awareness.”

—Jack Kornfield, author of No Time Like the Present: Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy Right Where You Are

“Awakening through the Nine Bodies is at once a vivid map connecting the vast territories of consciousness, a practical guide that can immediately be put to liberating use, the tale of a unique spiritual apprenticeship, transmission of a precious lineage that otherwise might be lost, a bridge between various yogic and Buddhist models, and an invigorating call to awaken.”

—Chip Hartranft, author of The Yoga-Sutra of Patañjali: A New Translation with Commentary