Jon Bernie

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Fast Facts
Jon Bernie-18-2.jpg
Spiritual Teacher
Soto Zen, Theravada Buddhism, Advaita
Main Countries of Activity: 
Date of Birth: 
Place of Birth: 
Conneticut, USA
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Other Related Gurus: 
Jean Klein, Brother David Steindl-Rast


Jon Bernie is a spiritual teacher focused on the unfolding of natural wakefulness — the already enlightened basic state that lies at the core of human experience. He has four decades of practice and study in the traditions of Soto Zen, Theravada Insight Meditation & Advaita Vedanta.

He claims he had a series of awakening experiences as a teenager that led him to ordain as a monk in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and subsequently to the practice of Vipassana as an early student of Jack Kornfield.

In the late 1980s, Jon’s spiritual path was altered by Jean Klein, a teacher of Advaita Vedanta and Kashmiri Yoga, with whom he studied for an extended period. He subsequently spent time with Papaji and Robert Adams, both direct disciples of Ramana Maharshi. Jon’s spiritual development was also aided by his decades-long relationship with Brother David Steindl-Rast, who, along with Thomas Merton, was one of the first known Christian monks to seriously practice in the Zen and Tibetan traditions and has since been instrumental in building interfaith networks worldwide. Jon was formally asked to teach by Adyashanti in 2002.

In addition to his work as a spiritual teacher, Jon is also an experienced healer and teacher of somatic embodiment via his extensive training in the Alexander Technique, the Qigong system of Dr. Yu Penxi and the Zero Balancing system of Dr. Fritz Smith. He has been in private practice since 1981 and has given lectures and workshops on the Alexander Technique and other modalities at the Suzuki Method Teacher’s Conference, UCSF Medical School, JFK University, the Whole Life Expo and other conferences.

Jon leads classes, intensives and retreats in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationally. He also does intensive, one-on-one work with individuals both in person at his San Francisco office, and remotely by phone or Skype.



Opening the Heart

You can’t force the heart to open. It can only open by itself, like a flower. Your heart may feel restricted; even someone with a great deal of presence and openness can still have a heart that feels restricted. So you bring that presence, that awareness that is open, to the heart that isn’t. That’s all. You approach what’s limited with what’s vast, and open-heartedness happens by itself. That’s really what finishes the cycle of karma.

Our Fundamental Nature is Happiness

Trying to find happiness is not possible. Why? Because we cannot find what we fundamentally are. So how do we discover and in a sense become one with what we fundamentally are?

By learning to feel directly “what is” — that is, what’s being experienced in the mind, body and heart — free of judgment, comparison and analysis. Learning to feel directly could also be described as “being one with” “what is”.

This quality of acceptance or compassion is the essence of our shared Heart of Oneness and simultaneously leads to and already is the profound vastness of our true and everlasting Happiness.

Being Listening

It’s very tricky to communicate about the Truth, because what is it that you do in listening or in this moment, reading? How do you make meaning of what you are reading right now?

We don’t even know we’re creating belief structures—or strengthening belief structures or attitudes. How is it possible to listen and not, in a sense, create protection or safety? Can you listen without understanding and have that be all right? Is that actually possible? To just be listening.

In other words: not to listen with the goal of having to understand the concepts and turn them into an intellectual process. We’re conditioned to do that – it’s simply instinctual, animal functioning. So I invite you to listen as being listening. Can you just listen without having to organize what you’re hearing? Can you listen and not have to understand one word? Can you relax in not knowing? Because that is the key to becoming one with the Mystery. The essence of mystery is not knowing. Knowing is a form of protection. It’s safe.

Not knowing has no protection — it’s the essence of Freedom.

Spiritual Unfoldment is Like a Love Affair

There’s the initial enthusiasm, excitement and hope for the future. You’ve had a glimpse or taste of the truth and you feel “I’ve finally found my way — I’m on the right track now!”

But what you don’t realize is that the experience of truth is actually a big fat mirror — and when it begins to reflect our “dark side” or our core unconscious defense patterns then we’re in trouble! The patina of romance has worn off and we come face to face with our resistance. If we’re new to the “path” we blame our pain on: our partner, our parents, our teacher, the teaching, politicians, etc. We don’t yet see that our resistance is actually the door to freedom.

If we are one of the lucky few who “don’t have a choice” then we muster the courage required to leap into the flame of truth and are then transformed into the Light and Love of Freedom.

The Student-Teacher Relationship

The teacher embodies the truth. We naturally “give” or emanate that which we embody. If we embody peace, then we in a sense give or “transmit” peace. If we embody joy, we transmit joy. If we embody love, then we give love. There is no volition in the giving or the transmission. Like the fragrance of a rose, it simply emanates. If your nose is clean you can smell the flower.

The transmission of truth from teacher to student requires the readiness of the student. Readiness means open, available, free of conclusions or judgments. The experience of transmission, or satsang, is actually the realization that we are not separate. There is no one who takes themselves to be a teacher and no one who takes themselves to be a student. It is then, and only then, that true teaching or transmission takes place.



Offers near weekly satsangs in San Francisco, monthly satsangs in Santa Cruz, and frequent special satsangs around the Bay Area of California. Also does retreats and one-day intensives. Offers phone and Skype private sessions to people around the world.

View Video

Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

Ordinary Freedom

by Jon Bernie


This book is about Freedom. It’s not about a special state or condition called “Freedom,” some idea or concept to be believed in; rather, it is about the recognition and realization of our essential nature.

When we arrive in this moment and awaken to the truth of our existence, we discover that Freedom is completely ordinary—ordinary, yet awesome. The recognition and realization of our essential nature is for many a gradual transition. The challenge of our generation is to find out how to support this transformation in the midst of our everyday lives.

Adyashanti writes, “This wonderful collection of Jon’s teachings really captures his ability to point us back to our own innate freedom. What makes Jon’s teachings so powerful and relevant, though, is that no part of the human experience is denied. Indeed, there is an open encouragement for all of our human experience to be included and embraced as a means of discovering the infinite ground of being, within which all of our experience unfolds. This in itself is a great gift to any spiritual seeker looking to find out what freedom is really all about.”

Reading Ordinary Freedom is like having a wise and loving but uncompromising friend on the path to discovering our true nature.

Recommended DVD & Video: 
Cover image

Tears of the Buddha: Spirituality & Emotions


Tears of the Buddha: Spirituality & Emotions explores the spiritual path through the lens of emotion. Director Joel Lesko interviews modern Buddhistic, Advaita or Satsang teachers to find out how their teachings apply in daily life - are emotions an impediment to spiritual growth? What about so-called unspiritual emotions like anger and hate? Do emotions trap a seeker in the personal self?

Tears is a serious look at an area of life that is often confusing and problematic for people in spiritual practices. Rather than another documentary about a teacher's enlightenment or awakening, Tears of the Buddha questions age-old teachings about emotions and leads to an important conversation about individual selfhood - is it real or is it an illusion? Lesko shares his own experiences and interviews leading teachers including Gangaji, Eli-Jaxon-Bear, Jeff Foster, Daniel Barron, and others.