In this episode of Soul Curriculum, Rohan spends time with Henry Shukman, author and spiritual director of the Mountain Cloud Zen Center in Santa Fe. The two dive into the theme of deep listening and what it can open up in us; how to hone our ability to be present to the world around us and to each other; and the importance of finding mentors to guide us along the way. Join us to hear two soulful meditation practitioners in candid conversation.


As an author and poet, Mark Nepo has spent decades writing about spirituality and serenity. But his life wasn’t always as calm as it is now. Growing up, Mark feels challenged by the demands of his perfectionist father and struggles to feel seen. Years later, after surviving a battle with cancer, Mark looks back and realizes that watching his father refurbish a boat in their backyard provided one of the most important, surprising lessons of his life.


In this episode of Soul Curriculum, Rohan speaks candidly with songwriter, poet, artist, and musician Morgan Harper Nichols about the creation of her Meditative Story. They explore the role art plays in helping her to connect with herself and others, and how to stay open to the unforeseen ways in which a sense of belonging may arrive in our lives.


Celebrity chef Carla Hall wasn’t always interested in cooking. As a child, she finds that puzzles and play help her to discover her true character. When she falls upon a hard time, she instinctively turns to memories of her grandmother’s kitchen for comfort. In this episode of Meditative Story, Carla shares how sensory play finally allows her to solve her biggest puzzle yet — herself.


In the UK, Joe Wicks became a household name early in the pandemic with his daily workouts. Early on in his own life, Joe learns first-hand how fitness can help people survive hard times, as he runs miles to escape from a chaotic childhood. As he begins his adult life, he embarks on a 2,000-mile bike ride — but this time, he realizes, he’s not racing away from his fears, but running toward his purpose.


Lex Gillette is a 5-time medalist at the Paralympic Games, and a world record holder in the long jump, but he’s more than that too. As he learns to navigate the world after losing his sight, he’s worried about being left out and overlooked — or, just as bad, being seen only in terms of his disability and his athletic gifts. Lex shares the story of how he began to forge his identity on his own terms, creating a spotlight that he steps into with his entire being.


When Nataly Dawn’s family moves from to France, she’s unable to speak, read, or even play the way the other kids do. It’s embarrassing, but as she slowly learns the language, she finds a new kind of joy in the process of discovery. The singer-songwriter shares how a beginner’s mindset can be a doorway to connection and joy.


As a boy in Oxford, Henry Shukman seeks refuge from a painful childhood by disappearing into poetry, immersing himself in nature. But the beauty and clarity he finds there is only fleeting. A visit with a mysterious old family friend helps him to understand that experiencing beauty doesn’t have to be a chance encounter. Through listening deeply, she shows him how to unlock beauty at every moment.


Lehua Kamalu is a navigator aboard a Polynesian ship sailing from Tahiti to Hawaii. It’s only by reading the signs that she’ll get to where she wants to go.


Steven Ho grew up in a strict Vietnamese-American household where the stakes were high. He felt an overwhelming pressure to walk the straight line set before him — a line of overachieving and excellence. As Steven grew up, he encountered circumstances that catapulted him into a deep curiosity for the world around him. Steven began to wonder if there might be more than he could have ever expected, waiting for him outside the lines.


Morgan Harper Nichols is a songwriter, poet, artist, and musician who was diagnosed with autism as an adult. Growing up, she yearns to see the wider world outside her rural home. When she spends a semester studying abroad, she finds herself surrounded by the unfamiliar — and feeling rejected and lonely sometimes. But by stepping into the unknown, she begins to discover what is most important to her — and finds a new path to belonging.


As a child, Maya Shankar struggles with taking things too seriously, but her father helps her understand her place in the universe. When her adult life brings unexpected sorrow, she turns to these lessons again, to find a balance between the seriousness that comes with loving life and the perspective of knowing we’re all just passing through.


In this special episode, we spend more time with a storyteller who recently shared their Meditative Story with us, Sharon Salzberg. Rohan and Sharon wind their way back through Sharon’s story, exploring the key theme: Being kind, loving, patient with yourself. Together, they dive deeper into this idea, in a way that may just open up something special in you.


On his podcast and TV show Song Exploder, Hrishikesh Hirway digs deep into the creative process of legendary songwriters. But before Hrishikesh becomes a podcast creator, he’s a working musician himself who finds his ability to create being slowly drained away by self-doubt. He shares the story of how he gets drawn back into creating music through an unexpected collaboration.


By the time Sharon Salzberg is 16 years old, she knows the people around her don’t admit to suffering. A year later, she makes a life-changing decision to travel alone to India to study meditation. It doesn’t all go as expected. Through the journey’s disappointments, discomforts, and surprise lessons, she finds an unexpected friend: herself.


Gordana Biernat grows up in a household full of mayhem and darkness. But there’s one saving grace: her grandfather, who spins legendary stories of the quirky folkloric magic he sees all around them. In this Meditative Story, she talks about reopening herself to the unseen that she encounters all around her when she stops dodging fear and starts seeking new chances to grow.


Growing up on his father’s ranch, Waddie Mitchell learns that adventure and freedom aren’t things to seek elsewhere, but are embedded in the raw materials of his own life.


Today, Dallas Taylor is a creative director and creator of the beloved podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz. But before this, he had another life – one that brought immense pressure. He shares the story of how he comes to realize that feeling the weight of anxiety and fear doesn’t mean he’s broken. It means he’s human.


Writer Isha Sesay is happiest when she is caring for others; it’s a lesson she learns from her mother while growing up in Sierra Leone. But as an adult, there’s another lesson her mother teaches her, in quite another way: that even the most caring and giving among us must learn to receive help too.


Every Thursday night, Matthew Mercer leads a merry band through a maze of goblins, spells, and enchantments, as he plays an immersive role-playing game. In our story, Matthew explores what these creative games open up in him and how shining his light into the world gives others permission to do the same.


In this episode — in this experiment — we’re inviting back storyteller Kristin Windbigler. Together, Rohan and Kristin wind their way back through Kristin’s story, and talk about the key theme her story explores: “How can I connect with those who are different from me?” The goal: to dig into this theme in a way that may just open up something special in you.


Like so many of us, Chad Sanders has strived to belong for as long as he can remember — thwarted in the shadows of other people’s judgements of him. Fortunately, life has its way of giving us glimpses into our limitless possibility, when we allow our natural creativity and curiosity to embody our highest expression, regardless of the friction that people and circumstances place upon us.


When Kristin Windbigler moves to rural Humboldt County, California, she falls in love with the wild, green and growing landscape. Her dream of being a journalist leads her to San Francisco. And it isn’t until she moves back home again that she realizes just how special her hometown is — a place where our differences fall away.

Comedian and actor

As he sits with his wife in pediatric cardiology unit, Joel McHale is struggling to feel anything but helpless. His infant son has been born with two holes in his heart; an operation is underway to repair them. In that moment, Joel begins to see the unpredictable journey of parenthood that lies ahead. 
What he learns: Life’s randomness — and perfectly random miracles


Silvia Vasquez-Lavado is the first openly lesbian woman to climb the famous Seven Summits, a bucket list of the highest mountain on every continent. But while preparing for the seventh summit, she realizes that she can’t charge forward with the same conquering mentality.


Like so many of us, Rohan is navigating the tragic daily news coming out of Ukraine. He offers words of calm and a simple way to balance our attention when we find ourselves glued to the headlines on our phones.


For the first 22 years of his life, Al Harris singularly focuses on one single goal: to play basketball in the NBA. That dream comes to an end when he’s passed over during the 2008 NBA draft. In the ensuing years, Al is recruited to play professional basketball throughout Europe. He learns that the experience of impacting others along his journey is what will result in a lasting legacy.


Morgan Saylor is an actor of stage and screen, best known for her portrayal of the teenage Dana Brody in the series “Homeland.” But, before acting, her first passion was mathematics. Morgan unfolds how math has given her a way to approach the unknown with trust and openness, accepting that each moment and every relationship contains infinite possibilities.


When Fred Minnick returns from his military service, he finds himself haunted by what he saw. Trauma, as a result of the battlefield and his childhood, holds a grip on him until a bag of barbecue potato chips unlocks something in his brain. An untapped talent — he was born with a remarkable sense of smell — serves as a lifeline back to the present moment, and back to himself.


By age 14, Jacob Sartorius had millions of social media followers who loved his honest, heartfelt content. But on the flip side of that love, he discovered a darker side to his celebrity — one that threatened his own well-being. Until a simple technique helped him find a way back to himself, one breath at a time.


We’re inviting you into the Meditative Story library to explore the idea: what’s possible when you reframe the question? You’ll hear excerpts from some of our most beloved episodes in which storytellers see challenges from a new perspective, reframe something that they might have been stuck on, and ultimately move forward with a new sense of possibility.


Writer Florence Williams, grieving the loss of a long marriage, finds herself in Tulsa, Oklahoma; she’s come to sit with Penny, her former mother-in-law, who is dying of cancer. As Penny begins to withdraw from the world, she has one final question for Florence, and one final piece of advice.


Rohan Gunatillake recounts his 2005 trip to Plum Village, the monastic community founded by the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Author of over 100 books across mindfulness, Buddhism, activism, and nonviolence, Thich Nhat Hanh inspired generations of people all around the world to explore mindfulness and meditation.

Actor, writer

Boy meets girl, girl notices boy’s squirrel painting, boy and girl fall in love. The plot of a Hollywood romcom? Not even close. But when struggling actor Randall Park meets the person of his dreams at an LA party, it’s the start of an epic love story.


Before Keith Ferrazzi became an expert on building bonds at work, he’s busy building emotional armor around himself – to hide his background, his ambitions, even his true feelings. He shares his story of building that armor, and then slowly learning to dismantle it, piece by piece.


Gracia María is a modern-day medicine woman, in the tradition of her Peruvian ancestors. In connecting with her deep and ancient roots, though, she realizes she also needs to rebuild the bonds with her immediate family, in order to share with them the person she’s become.


Austin Mao – a listener in our community and a friend – shares a love letter to his wife, Chuchu, and another to his mother. These are letters of love, grounded in vulnerability and integrity. The lesson here: When we let go of judgement, there is freedom.


Fluent in cheating time to squeeze productivity out of every minute, entrepreneur Keith Yamashita recounts the frightening details of a devastating stroke as it is actually happening, and discovers the second part of his life. It isn’t a medical recovery. It’s an awakening.


As the pandemic drags on, Vanessa Hua finds herself in a dark place of panic and doom-scrolling. But that begins to change on one spring day, when she recognizes a small jewel-green plant growing on the forest floor. Her discovery helps her tap into a body of shared, ancient knowledge, one that helps her find steadiness within the chaotic present moment.


Under the starry night sky, Rohan shares with us a ritual of ending and beginning. Bring to mind something you want to celebrate from this past year; release something you want to let go of; and mindfully choose a word, a beacon, that represents, in this fresh and unwritten year ahead, something that you want to become.


As an artist and writer, Beth Lisick has had her share of freelance side gigs. But nothing can prepare her for this latest assignment: tending to the unforgettable Bill, who leads Beth on an epic journey through New York City. What she learns along the way: Everyone’s struggles are not immediately visible. And neither are the gifts they have to offer us.


The end of a troubled life ignites a search for answers – a truth long buried, and a truth not yet formed.


Hoping to preserve the recipes of his beloved family dishes, Jai Punjabi returns to his parents’ home in Bombay and discovers that the secret lay not in the ingredients, but in a way of being.


Learn these calming techniques to help navigate tricky family dynamics, the challenges of disconnecting from work, and the loneliness that can arise at even the most joyful times of year. Notice them, name them, release them.


All her life, Meredith Arthur is a model of competence and control, and it sweeps her higher and higher up the professional ladder. But inside, something isn’t right. After a painful wake-up call, Meredith drops the version of herself that she’s constructed and starts noticing the one she’s long neglected.


During some of the tougher days of the last two years, Rohan takes refuge in learning a new dish: aubergines with fermented chili bean paste and black vinegar. The project grounds him at an ungrounded time, and gradually leads to a singular form of mastery – no recipe required. A meditation about learning the ingredients, practicing the steps, and ultimately stepping into your intuition.


It happens not in a yellow wood, but in author Steve Almond’s befuddled 20s, when he is facing for the first time a decision that might actually matter. To the left lies success. To the right, something more interesting.


As a Night Minister with San Francisco Night Ministry, Rev. Monique Ortiz walks the dark streets of a beautiful and aching city – a city that transforms completely when the sun goes down. Reaching out to the most desperate souls, she learns to help in a way she hadn’t imagined.


Standing at the door of the airplane, a new thing called “snow” swirling around her, Rohan’s mom is about to take a momentous step – making a life change that reverberates down the generations. A meditation about the steps we take when the outcome is uncertain.


Before becoming a MacArthur-winning entomologist, Dr. Marla Spivak is adrift – first as a young woman in search of direction, then deep in the Amazon, severely ill and fearing death. Time and again, it’s the hum of bees that shows her a path forward. 

Actor, activist, comedian

Growing up, Milana Vayntrub has a tender but challenging relationship with her father: All their happy times together end with him getting back on a plane. What might it mean to forge a new kind of intimacy?
What she learns: How to make right what was once wrong


Years before his YouTube-phenomenon cooking show Binging with Babish, the filmmaker Andrew Rea finds himself slipping into despair. His day job is draining him; so is an unhappy marriage. He finds the courage to take big bold steps toward a new life that’s centered on his passion for food. But there’s a Part Two of this story. Because even as he finds a more fulfilled version of himself, he learns to temper some of his younger ideas about happiness.


You might know Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos and The Many Saints of Newark. But before all that, he was a 17-year-old kid, adrift, curious about acting. His parents give him an enormous gift: they trust him.
What he learns: It’s your life


Russ Ellis has led the kind of life they write books about. But as he reveals in this episode, even the fullest life can be haunted by a single event half a century earlier.

of the Episcopal Diocese in Washington, DC

Crisis can descend on you in unexpected places – and so can clarity. All that’s required of you is to be there for it, and to stretch yourself in ways you hadn’t expected. Mariann Budde tells of three defining moments of struggle and grace.
What she learns: Finding yourself in what’s easy, not just in what’s hard


The idea of a meditation retreat is deeply romantic. But the reality can be very different. Join our host Rohan Gunatillake on his first retreat, at a monastery in the English countryside, where he locks in to his meditation practice for the first time – and on the same night, almost gives it up altogether.

Actor, writer

Boy meets girl, girl notices boy’s squirrel painting, boy and girl fall in love. The plot of a Hollywood romcom? Not even close. But when struggling actor Randall Park meets the person of his dreams at an LA party, it’s the start of an epic love story.
What he learns: How we grow in relationships

Peloton superstar

Join Robin Arzón on the longest run of her life: the Florida Keys 100 Ultramarathon. As difficult as it is to run 100 sweaty miles in the South Florida heat, far more challenging is the mental fortitude to keep doubt at bay.
What she learns: When to think big, when to think small

Dirctor, National Gallery of Art

Arriving in a strange town, disoriented and desperate to crawl into bed, Kaywin Feldman realizes she is just steps from an eight-century-old art treasure: a small chapel covered floor to ceiling with frescoes. She wanders inside, and the course of her life abruptly changes.

Professor and 

Journey with Dr. Laurie Santos to an island in Puerto Rico where she is one of only a few people among thousands of monkeys. The company of non-humans, it turns out, can help us better understand ourselves.
What she learns: To look for unlikely teachers

Comedian and actor

As he sits with his wife in pediatric cardiology unit, Joel McHale is struggling to feel anything but helpless. His infant son has been born with two holes in his heart; an operation is underway to repair them. In that moment, Joel begins to see the unpredictable journey of parenthood that lies ahead. 
What he learns: Life’s randomness — and perfectly random miracles


Years after graduating, actor David Duchovny realizes that what he mistook for dislike from a teacher was in fact an encouragement to go his own way, in his own time.
What he learns: The importance of giving ourselves time


The heart of storytelling is a journey, across time and place. In these four short stories, travel to a remote and lonely farm … a village alive with family … an island teeming with unique life … and a city street that suddenly begins to feel like home.

Curator, MoMA

Struggling to make a decision that will shape the rest of her life, a young artist returns to the place where she feels most true to herself: the sea.
What she learns: The courage to make a change


Loving football – specifically loving England’s team during a cup final – means resigning yourself to heartbreak, over, and over, and over. In this meditation, Rohan Gunatillake explores the singular anguish routinely visited upon dedicated fans of a favorite team. Within a mindful life, that anguish can become its own kind of beauty.

Baseball Hall-of-Famer

Legendary shortstop and third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. holds the record for the most consecutive games played. But just showing up was never an end in itself – it’s how he showed up that distinguishes his legacy.
What he learns: How to show up for others


All our problems haven’t magically vanished after the dark year gone by, but perhaps we’ve begun a new chapter, a slow re-awakening. In this collection of short stories, Rohan finds moments from four storytellers – Diana Nyad, Nalini Nadkarni, Franklin Leonard and Florence Williams – that explore the singular moments that set us on a new path.

Wayne Little

Inspired to become a nurse, Wayne Little is starting to wonder if he’s taken the wrong path … until he meets a mentor who helps him to understand the mission, and the calling, of a life in healthcare. Years later, in the middle of a global pandemic, he calls on those lessons he learned so long ago.

S.G. Goodman

As a young girl, mowing her neighbor’s lawn in the Kentucky heat, S.G. Goodman learns many important things: how to avoid running into the chain-link fence, the art of blowing the grass away from the house … and the way these small, regular acts of community become the glue holding the world together.


In a story he’s never told before, Robert Reich shares the pivotal moment when he turns his economist’s eye on his own life, and realizes: It’s fallen out of balance. On a muddy cross-country field, watching his older son run through the rain, he realizes what he must do to fix things.
What he learns: To create space for the truly important


In a meditation for all the senses, Rohan guides you into a relaxed state that will quiet your mind and help you drift to sleep.

Journalist and amateur boxer

In a quest to define masculinity on his own terms, writer Thomas Page McBee trains to become the first transgender man to box in the ring at Madison Square Garden.
What he learns: When to advance, and when to drop back


In the morning, Idaho pastor Tri Robinson herds cattle and mends fences; in the evening, he writes sermons for his growing congregation. But the two parts of his life don’t feel connected. What is he doing, as a leader, to help preserve the precious creation called Earth?
What he learns: To choose what’s right


As a young composer, Max Richter is searching for his voice, the sound of a music that is uniquely his. But what he has is only a box of fragments, half-formed questions. He sits with them, he thinks on them, he lets them mature – and then he realizes: This is exactly the music he wants to make.
What he learns: The beauty between modes of being


Twins Brian and Scott Nicholson are dancers and choreographers on tour with Ariana Grande. But when an unimaginable tragedy strikes, that energy is shattered. Until they realize – they must keep moving. Together.


Tony Tjan grows up in the cold and dramatic landscape of Newfoundland, where snow piles high and storms rage – but the neighbors always keep a door open to help one another.


Omar Wasow had a fabulous life as a reporter and tech expert, but an important piece of unfinished business from his college days kept nagging at him. Why did this one-time gifted kid struggle to complete something that mattered to him? Why couldn’t he even get started?