I love teaching meditation and working with people to cultivate mindfulness in daily life. My approach is strongly informed by my family and cultural background, concern for human rights and social justice, and the good fortune of encountering Buddhist teachings nearly 30 years ago.
Born and raised in London in a large Irish-Catholic family, I benefited from the welfare state that was created in Britain after World War II. I went on to study and teach law in England before moving to the U.S. in the late 1970s.
I worked on human rights in Latin America for more than 20 years and wrote my dissertation and a book on the conflict in El Salvador and U.S. policy there. During that period I began to study, practice and train in Buddhist insight meditation.
The sense of coming home I felt from the practice led me to begin teaching meditation and mindfulness in 2000. I completed a four-year teacher-training program with Jack Kornfield and other senior teachers at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California and the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass. I also trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Somatic Experiencing, a mind-body approach to healing trauma.
As a teacher and long-time social activist, I am committed to aligning the inner life with the outer—actively bringing the wisdom and compassion of Buddhist teachings to bear on the social, political, economic and environmental concerns of our time. To this end, I co-founded the Washington Buddhist Peace Fellowship and I mentor a team that teaches mindfulness in correctional facilities in the DC region.
I see my role as teacher and counselor to be that of a spiritual friend who helps others access their innate awareness and wisdom. In my own life, I practice gratitude for the bounty I have been given, look for the goodness and potential in each and every person, and tap a flow of lightness and humor amidst the serious challenges we face.
My latest work is to bring mindfulness more deeply into our habits of daily living. Abandoning habits that cause suffering and cultivating those that bring greater ease and happiness are a current teaching focus and the subject of my recently completed book. The Here and Now Habit will be published by New Harbinger Publications in March 2016.
As a veteran and survivor of the 9/11 Pentagon attack, I worked with Hugh to turn my life
around. His kind presence and reminders to come back to my experience, just as it was, helped
me open up to living in utterly new ways.
- Steve Zappalla
Hugh taught me how to access mindfulness when life seemed to zip along with me tugging behind. I learned the invaluable habit of accessing presence and feeling the experience instead of feeding my fear and anxiety with endless stories. These moments, while not always the easiest initially, helped me build a more grounded foundation to live by and have paved the way for inner peace.