Who we are
Awakening Dharma’s mission is to foster awakening and its embodiment in worldly life, though the modern application of authentic, rigorous Buddhist and modern practices.
Tina Rasmussen, Ph.D.
Tina’s warm style, bright clarity and supportive presence helps students recognize their deeper nature, both on the cushion and in daily life. She has a decades-long commitment to cultivating her own and others’ deep spiritual unfoldment while functioning in an embodied, worldly life.
Tina learned to meditate in 1976, at age 13. In 2003, after many years of practice in Buddhist and modern non-dual traditions, she was drawn to undertake an intensive year-long solo retreat during which a profound awakening to Reality occurred. In 2005, Tina attended a retreat with Burmese meditation master Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, who ordained her as a Buddhist nun. During the retreat, Tina became the first Western woman to complete the entire Samatha path in this lineage. Tina also took refuge with Tsoknyi Rinpoche, a Tibetan Dzogchen teacher, and was initiated into the Nyingma lineage.
As an offering of gratitude to the dharma Tina, along with Stephen Snyder, wrote the book, Practicing the Jhanas, which was later published by Shambhala. In 2007 Tina became the first Western woman authorized by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw to teach.
After these life-changing experiences, at first Tina felt a strong pull to become a “cave yogi” and turn away from householder life to abide in the peace and bliss of Truth. However, over time, the possibility functioning from realization while living in the dynamism of the modern world became a more compelling life’s path. Tina then began participating in the Diamond Approach, a contemporary wisdom path designed for householders, that integrates the psychological and the spiritual into one continuum for living “in the world but not of it.”
Tina and Stephen now lead retreats and offer spiritual mentoring to practitioners worldwide. Tina has also worked as an organizational development consultant and coach for more than 25 years. She completed her Ph.D. in 1995, and has authored several published books on humanistic business practices.
Described as warm-hearted with a resonant presence, Stephen finds fulfillment in supporting students as they re-discover deeper inherent authenticity in the unfolding of their true nature. This deepening authenticity leads to a more profound, experiential knowing with greater refinement in everyday life.
Stephen has been a Buddhist practitioner for more than 35 years. After traveling through Asia as a youth, Stephen began practicing Buddhist meditation (primarily Zen) in 1976 at the age of 19. Following his awakening experience at 28, he continued the opening process of deepening and integrating the “unconditioned” in his everyday life. In 2004, Stephen took refuge with Tibetan Dzogchen teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and has been initiated into the Nyingma lineage.
In 2005, Stephen attended a two-month retreat with Burmese meditation master Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw. He completed the entire Samatha path as presented by the Sayadaw, becoming the first American male to complete this attainment. The Sayadaw authorized Stephen to teach in 2007. With Tina Rasmussen, Stephen wrote the book, Practicing the Jhanas, published by Shambhala Publications in 2009. As Stephen’s integration of realization into worldly life progressed, he discovered the Diamond Approach, a modern path for householders in living their spiritual understanding. Stephen and Tina now offer retreats and spiritual mentoring to students worldwide.
Special Projects Director
Jennifer Wheeler’s spiritual curiosity began in childhood and has had many manifestations. As a child, she was actively engaged in the Lutheran church. She discovered the wisdom of the East through the practice of Tae Kwan Do as a teenager, and hatha yoga as a college student. Intellectual engagement with the questions of existence dominated her young adult hears, during which she found greatest solace in the natural world, a discovery that led her to incorporate nature as a key component of her spiritual life. She began formal practice in the Buddhist tradition in her early 40s. This eventually led to her ordination as a lay Dharma teacher, and then as a novice monastic in the Vietnamese Mahayana tradition. She also obtained a master’s degree in Buddhist Studies under the direction of Dr. Peter Harvey.
Jennifer first began practicing with Tina and Stephen in 2008, and has completed many retreats as well as two year-long Awakening Dharma mentoring programs with them. She offered beginning samatha meditation instruction under their guidance, and founded and led an ongoing meditation group near her home in Connecticut. She currently gravitates toward the nondual aspect of the great spiritual traditions of the world, and to the Diamond Approach–a contemporary wisdom path.