Awakin Calls » John Prendergast
John Prendergast: Psychotherapist, nondual spiritual teacher, somatic healer
Jun 12, 2021: Archaeologist of the Heart
Watch: Video Recording
“Whether we realize it or not, the heart is what we most carefully guard and most want to open.” John J. Prendergast, Ph.D., likens the investigation of the heart to “an archaeological dig.” Helping people excavate layers of the heart is a culmination of his life’s work weaving together the threads of his various professional disciplines – as a psychotherapist, professor of psychology, somatic healer and nondual spiritual teacher – with the glittery strands of his own deep self-inquiry. Prendergast believes that combining the “critically important service that mature, kind, and relatively clear psychotherapists offer” with spiritual insight can help people with what he terms “unfolding.” “I can often sense an See full.
“Whether we realize it or not, the heart is what we most carefully guard and most want to open.”
John J. Prendergast, Ph.D., likens the investigation of the heart to “an archaeological dig.” Helping people excavate layers of the heart is a culmination of his life’s work weaving together the threads of his various professional disciplines – as a psychotherapist, professor of psychology, somatic healer and nondual spiritual teacher – with the glittery strands of his own deep self-inquiry.
Prendergast believes that combining the “critically important service that mature, kind, and relatively clear psychotherapists offer” with spiritual insight can help people with what he terms “unfolding.” “I can often sense an essential dimension of being within my clients and students and help them attune with it.”
“The deeper you go, the more tender the layers,” says Prendergast. “We abandon ourselves when it feels too painful to remain intimate with our essential nature.”
Author of The Deep Heart (2019) and In Touch (2015), Prendergast is a retired Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies and a very soon-to-retire psychotherapist in private practice in the Bay Area. He offers online and in-person (when possible) retreats in the U.S. and Europe. He has studied extensively with leading spiritual masters of our age.
By his early adulthood, Prendergast was already a meditation guide to others – and himself was able to reach a profound silence. And yet he hungered for treasures buried much deeper, prompting him to fervently seek ever deeper inner truths. In his twenties, he completed a six-month meditation retreat and a year of law school, spent time in an ashram in South India, and eventually began graduate school. These experiences created a foundation for his next many years during which he became a licensed psychotherapist and continued to immerse himself in meditation and self-inquiry.
Then, unexpectedly, Prendergast had an unanticipated dream involving an Indian guru of non-dualism, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, with whom he had been unfamiliar. This inspired him to read Maharaj’s famous dialogues in I am That. This was a life-changing event for Prendergast, which he says turned his compass decidedly towards self-inquiry.
Prendergast thereafter met Jean Klein, a European medical doctor and musicologist, who was a master of Advaita Vedanta and Tantric Shaivism, and Prendergast studied with Klein for fifteen years until Klein’s death in 1998. Passionately curious “to understand how psychology and spirituality intersected,” Prendergast eventually realized “that the apparent division between them was only in my mind.…I couldn’t find any human experience that was not essentially spiritual.”
After Klein’s passing, Prendergast began studying with Adyashanti, a trained Zen Buddhist teacher who is a self-described “teacher of enlightenment.” Prendergast had “a number of profound openings” with Adyashanti and began leading self-inquiry groups and co-leading retreats for psychotherapists, with Adyashanti's blessing.
Prendergast was also founder and editor-in-chief of Undivided: The Online Journal of Nonduality and Psychology which launched in October 2011 as a free, peer-reviewed, multimedia and interactive journal that published original works by cutting-edge therapists and spiritual teachers exploring the interface of nondual teachings and psychology. He also was co-editor of two collected volumes of essays at the intersection of psychotherapy and nondualism, The Sacred Mirror (2003) and Listening from the Heart of Silence (2007). Previously, for 23 years, he supervised masters’ level counseling students at the California Institute of Integral Studies (where he had earned his Master’s and PhD degrees).
Always driven by a desire to discover his own truest nature, Prendergast emphasizes the importance of uncovering the heart by shedding the false conditioning imposed by the ego’s sense of self and by the social tendency to prize the mind over all else. He delivers his teachings at a meditative, thoughtful pace (many are found online) coming from a clear mind and a compassionate heart.
His latest book, The Deep Heart: Our Portal to Presence, focuses specifically on the heart’s role as our most “easily accessible portal to true nature,” building from his renowned book on somatics, In Touch: How to Tune In to the Inner Guidance of Your Body and Trust Yourself. While In Touch details “subtle portals” or “primary entry points leading to the essential,” Deep Heart, and his latest teachings, explore the heart as the place from which a “sense of meaning springs, as does our sense of oneness or communion with the whole of life.” He explains that in the “deepest dimension of the heart – what I call the Great Heart – you can feel yourself at one with the ground of being.”
Prendergast himself is indeed of great heart. He reminds us that the heart, “deep, vast and loving … is where we feel most affected … both emotionally and spiritually.”
Join us in conversation with this practical, gifted and compassionate master teacher – and explore how to become an archaeologist of your own heart.
Five Questions for John
What Makes You Come Alive?
Remembering who I really am - open, loving, lively awareness.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
There have been so many pivotal turning points. Perhaps the most important was an initial recognition of my self as infinite awareness while on retreat with Adyashanti in 2001.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
Again, so many. Most recently my wife, Christiane's, total availability and support when I was diagnosed with early stage 4 prostate cancer last year.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
None, really. I do hope to write a book about our Deepest Ground, if time allows.
One-line Message for the World?
Be who you really are.
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