Judy Lief is a Buddhist teacher who trained under the Tibetan meditation master, Ven. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She has been a teacher and practitioner for over 35 years, and she continues to teach throughout the world. Judy is known for offering insights and practices stemming from the Buddhist tradition as a support for ordinary people facing the difficulties and challenges of modern life. Judy leads retreats and workshops as well as presenting online teachings.
In her teaching, Judy prefers questions to answers, humor to earnestness, delight to solemnity. Judy teaches with clarity and empathy, with deep respect for the wisdom of the Buddhist teachings and the power of Buddhist practice. She especially enjoys sharing insights drawn from her Buddhist training with people simply looking for a way to develop more mindfulness and kindness in their lives. Judy’s teaching is marked by gentleness, humility, and an occasional poke of insight.
Teaching and Editing
In her teaching, Judy focuses on how the insights and meditative techniques stemming from the Buddhist tradition can be applied to the challenges of everyday life and to pressing global issues. She is the editor of many of Trungpa Rinpoche’s books, including the recently published three-volume set, The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, which gives a penetrating overview of the three stages of the Tibetan Buddhist path from beginning to end. The task of bringing Trungpa Rinpoche’s extensive body of teaching into the world continues to this day, as he left a large archive of spoken teachings to draw from, spanning his seventeen years of teaching in North America.
Profound Treasury Retreats
Judy serves as the head teacher for annual Profound Treasury Retreats, held each year in Maine and in Colorado. These nine-day retreats are designed to give participants a taste of the teachings and the retreat format Trungpa Rinpoche developed for his senior students in his annual three-month-long “Vajradhatu Seminary” programs. In Profound Treasury Retreats, in addition to group meditation practice and a main class focused on teachings from The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, each year a variety of elective classes are offered.
Facing Mortality and Caring for the Dying
Judy is the author of Making Friends with Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality (Shambhala Publications, March 2001). She has been presenting classes and workshops on a contemplative approach to death and dying, and on the teachings of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, since 1976. Judy collaborated with Florence Wald, a founding mother of the Hospice Movement in the United States and former head of the Yale School of Nursing, on several conferences, workshops, and dialogues examining the role of spirituality in the care of the sick and dying.
Judy was a keynote speaker at the 10th International Palliative Care Conference, held in Montreal in 1994 and at other international conferences. In 2000–2001 she served as pastoral counselor for the Maitri Day Health Center in Yonkers, NY (an adult day health center for people with AIDS). While in Vermont, Judy served for many years on the Madison-Deane Initiative, which produced the award-winning documentary, Pioneers of Hospice, and had the mission of changing the face of dying through education and advocacy. She also served on the board and was a member of the faculty of the Clinical Pastoral Education program at the Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington, Vermont. In recent years Judy has been a keynote presenter at Contemplative Care of the Dying Symposiums held at the Garrison Institute and sponsored by the Zen Center for Contemplative Care. She has led workshops and given presentations at several Naropa University conferences on Compassion and Healing.
Judy offers workshops and retreats for pastoral counselors, hospice workers, care givers, and medical personnel internationally on the contemplative care of the dying.
Dealing with Cancer
Judy is a founding faculty member of the Courageous Women, Fearless Living Cancer Retreat, held annually at the Shambhala Mountain Center. This annual five-day retreat brings together ancient wisdom practices and modern-day knowledge to create a healing environment that supports and empowers women dealing with cancer, by sharing wisdom in integrative medicine, yoga, mindfulness practice, healing meditations, art, ritual and more
In addition to her book, Making Friends with Death, Judy continues to write and has contributed many articles for both magazines and anthologies. Her articles have appeared in The Lion’s Roar, Tricycle, O Magazine, Buddhadharma, and The Naropa Journal of Contemplative Psychotherapy.
Asian Pilgrimages and Programs
In collaboration with Authentic Asia, Judy serves as lecturer on pilgrimages to Asian countries, such as Tibet, India, and Bhutan.
Peace and Justice
Judy is a founding member of The Contemplative Alliance, an affiliate of The Global Peace Initiative of Women. This organization brings together contemplatives, scholars, and activists from many traditions who seek to apply contemplative understanding to pressing global issues.
Judy graduated summa cum laude from Luther College in 1967. After graduating, Judy spent a year in Lucknow, India as a Fulbright Scholar. She returned to pursue graduate education at Columbia Univerisity. She studied at Columbia from 1968-1972, completing all but the dissertation (ABD) in Sociology and Asian Studies. While at Columbia, she engaged in research at the Bureau of Applied Social Research and the South Asian Institute.
Judy became a Buddhist practitioner in 1971, when she met her teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She became a close student and studied with him until his death in 1987. She served under Trungpa Rinpoche as the executive editor of Vajradhatu Publications, and from 1980-1985, as the Dean of Naropa University, in Boulder Colorado. She was on the staff of the Maitri Therapeutic Community and also worked closely with Trungpa Rinpoche as the Head of Study and Practice at several of his advanced three-month training programs, called Vajradhatu Seminaries.
Currently, Judy lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband Chuck, the president of Naropa University, and her dog, Loki. Happily, her daughter Jessica, her daughter Deborah and husband Frazier, and her grandchildren — Niamaya, Neruda, Kaizer, and Tilly — live nearby.