The Art of Mindfulness

Gary Sharlow

I began my career working in the field of environmental education while serving as an assistant wildlife biologist for the National Park Service in 2001. Upon leaving the NPS, I continued in the environmental field while working in the education division of one of the world’s leading science research centers & museums. In 2015, I transitioned into a career in the field of mindfulness and meditation full-time when I accepted a role as the program manager for the Community Meditation Center at Spirit Rock. I later joined the management team at the Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center where I continue to support meditation retreats to this day. I also supported community programming for New York Insight Meditation Center as their director of programs before leaving to join the team at Awake in the Wild which is an organization grounded in the principles of nature-based mindfulness and meditation. There, I serve in both a staff role as well as a certified AitW teacher.

Mindfulness & Meditation

From 2009 – 2016, I curated an annual speakers series that broadcast nationwide on NPR called Conversation on Science. By coincidence, in 2010, I invited Jon Kabat-Zinn to speak as part of the upcoming season’s lineup for a conversation about the science of yoga. He accepted my invitation with the caveat that the conversation be about the science of mindfulness and yoga which set me on a new journey of discovery to learn more about this thing called mindfulness. In my quest to understand his background, I quickly joined a weekly meditation group held by one of the founders of San Francisco Insight and never looked back. Shortly after my discovery of the powerful impact of meditation on my life, I changed course in my career. I have been working in the field of mindfulness meditation since 2015 having completed 2 teacher training programs along the way. This has led me to combine my passion for the natural world with my passion for mindfulness meditation which is now coming together here as the Art of Mindfulness.

Conservation Photography

While serving as a manager in the education division at the California Academy of Science in San Francisco, I created a number of successful programs focused on exploring people’s passion for the natural world. My conservation photography program led to a number of successful community-oriented programs including an annual international nature photography competition called the BigPicture Competition which is now recognized as one of the most prestigious photography competitions of any genre anywhere in the world. This project also seeded a popular online magazine that features the work of these photographers and their subjects while also raising awareness of the research conducted by the Academy’s robust research division. I also piloted a community-based program that led to the creation of a robust citizen science program based on data collection through photography. This project led the Academy to purchase iNaturalist, a very popular photography-based citizen science app that provides research-quality data to scientists and governments around the world. I taught nature-based photography workshops through the California Academy of Sciences for 7 years after a successful earlier career as a professional photographer.

The Art of Mindfulness

As a mindfulness meditation teacher, I get to combine my passion for giving a voice to the natural world through visual storytelling with my passion for contemplative nature-based meditation practice. I’ve also worked as a professional photographer and taught photography since 2004. My workshops and trips combine a Love-Not-Loss approach to exploring and understanding the natural world through a child-like sense of awe and wonder while also looking at the power of storytelling through digital photography and filmography. I combine this artistic exploration of the natural world with a deep contemplative practice grounded in the four foundations of mindfulness which I have come to know through both my personal meditation practice as well through years of working with and mentoring dharma teachers around the country.

Many of my programs and trips are grounded in a – nature meets art, meets meditation, meets conservation – framework. Join me online or out on the trails to learn more about how you can combine your passion for mindfulness and photography to give voice to the natural world. I split my time between San Francisco, CA, and northern New Mexico where I also get to serve as a manager at a deep forest meditation center grounded in Theravada Buddhism for part of the year.

Where I’ve Trained and Worked

Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Awake in the Wild

Now Children

Mindfulness Training Institute

New York Insight Meditation Center

Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center

California Academy of Sciences

University of Connecticut

Sonoma State University