Deepen your understanding of Buddhist psychology
and the genuine mental health of awakened presence.

A highly regarded textbook for mental health professionals
By Lisa Dale Miller, LMFT, LPCC, SEP

Forewords by Anam Thubten and Ronald D. Siegel
Published by Routledge
Available now in digital and paperback editions.

Effortless Mindfulness promotes genuine mental health through the direct experience of awakened presence—an effortlessly embodied, fearless understanding of and interaction with the way things truly are. This book offers a uniquely modern Buddhist psychological understanding of mental health disorders through a scholarly, yet clinically useful presentation of Theravada, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhist teachings and practices. Written specifically for Western psychotherapeutic professionals, the book brings together traditional Buddhist theory and contemporary psychoneurobiosocial research to describe the conditioned and unconditioned mind. This in-depth exploration of Buddhist psychology includes complete instructions for psychotherapists in authentic, clinically appropriate Buddhist mindfulness/heartfulness practices and Buddhist psychological inquiry skills. The book also features interviews with an esteemed collection of Buddhist teachers, scholars, meditation researchers and Buddhist-inspired clinicians. While written primarily for clinicians, anyone interested in psychophysical well-being will benefit from the material in this book.


"Lisa Dale Miller’s book is an essential read for those seeking to separate mindfulness facts from mindless fictions and for all psychotherapists interested in using mindfulness techniques in practice... Miller’s book is a delightful, educative read that turns psychologists’ attention to the often overlooked theoretical underpinnings of our work, as well as a thought-provoking reminder to ponder the essential questions that are at the philosophical core of our practices. She offers the entire field of mental health an invaluable service."

"This book is awesome. I have waited a long time for someone to articulate this at the level of resolution that you are doing referent to all the various dharma streams. Thank you for writing your groundbreaking book bringing the conversation about the classical Dharma world and its relationship to genuine mental health to this next level. I hope it is very widely read and studied.”
—Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Effortless Mindfulness is the real deal! It skillfully provides the most comprehensive and authentic approach to integrating Buddhist teachings with contemporary therapeutic principles and the most relevant psychosocial and cognitive neurobiological research. From across schools of Buddhism and secular adaptations of mindfulness, Lisa Dale Miller is able to weave together the common threads that provide relevant theory on the nature of suffering and the methods of mental training that can lead to a sustainable healthy mind in the most practical way. Clinicians, scholars, and practitioners alike will find this book to be a valuable resource for his or her own personal journey and for the field of contemplative science.”
—David R. Vago, PhD, instructor at Harvard Medical School

“Lisa Dale Miller has offered mental-health practitioners—and all those seeking to integrate basic wellbeing and happiness with the ancient and time-tested wisdom teachings in Buddha dharma—a clear, scholarly, and thoughtful approach to understanding the important and growing connection between the two. She addresses the important questions of what genuine mental health is and what practices best support it at many levels, drawing expertly from neuroscience, clinical practice methods, Buddhist philosophy and modern psychological theory. As a clinician, researcher and long-time meditator, she has a unique perspective in the quest to connect the dots between dharma and modern psychology.”
—Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist dharma teacher and author

"Western psychology has focused primarily on mindfulness as a technique for emotional healing. In this scholarly manual for clinicians, Lisa Dale Miller offers a more complete view of Buddhist psychology and mental health. Effortless Mindfulness reveals the understanding behind the technique of mindfulness and points to many more possibilities for further utilization and integration of Buddhist psychology in western clinical work. Any clinician interested in exploring Buddhist psychology in depth will be interested in this book."
—Phillip Moffitt, author of Emotional Chaos to Clarity and Dancing with Life

Welcome to the liberative psychotherapy of awakened presence!

Mind is like the sky...

Distressful thoughts and emotions are like dark clouds obscuring the mind's innate clarity, tranquility, receptivity and responsiveness.

Each time we recognize the utter transparency of thoughts and emotions, the clear sky of unbounded awareness shines through.

When we learn to recognize and rest in the clarity of awareness, the liberative power of awakened presence is experienced.

Awakened Presence Psychotherapy™ Methodology

Be curious about the causes of suffering and non-suffering.

Suffering is not what feels bad and non-suffering is not what feels good. Non-suffering is knowing the actuality of inner and outer experience. This knowing liberates the suffering of false self-narratives and afflictive thoughts and feelings. While known self-narratives may offer comfort, these distorted inner stories prevent us from engaging joyfully and energetically in our lives. Being curious about suffering is the first step toward non-suffering.

Explore actual experience as it arises, exists and ceases.

Willingness and curiosity are the engines of exploration and awareness is the vehicle of knowing things as they actually are. Though awareness is always available, most of us spend much of our waking moments unaware of here-and-now experience. When we deliberately attend to bodily experience or external objects or even mental contents, and then rest easily, yet firmly in the awareness of the flow of phenomena, cognitive-affective distress and physical agitation decreases.

Recognize the veracity of sensory awareness.

Sensory consciousnesses (sound, sight, taste, touch, smell) and internal bodily sensing (interoception) provide refuge for an agitated psychophysical system. Awareness opens us to the immediacy of phenomena. As long as the mind remains embodied and vividly present, it is unable to generate narrative interpretations of experience. This means less moments of depressive, anxious, self-hating thoughts and feelings, and more moments of awakened presence.

Recognize the transparency of thoughts and emotions.

As afflictive thoughts and emotions fall away, their true nature—impermanent, transparent, mental phenomena—becomes apparent. This can be a shocking experience for a long-suffering psyche. The natural dissolution of something so feared, so loathed, so gripping seems incomprehensible. But actuality is like this: thoughts and emotions arise and pass away on their own; body sensations shift and release naturally. In the groundless ground of ‘just knowing’, self-delusion has nothing to hold on to.

Rest in the open clarity of pure awareness.

The inner freedom of resting in the mereness of phenomena brings an experiential vividness that is both ordinary and extraordinary. Awakened presence is the immediacy of ‘just knowing’, ‘just feeling’, ‘just being with’. All true insights about the causes of suffering and non-suffering spring forth from the innate luminosity of awareness. The more one chooses to rest the mind in the actuality of awakened presence, the greater intimacy one has with the boundless nature of the mind’s capacity to know.

Gain insights about self and world, and act skillfully.

Purposefully choosing awareness spontaneously potentiates the psyche’s ability to recognize narrative suffering and easily distinguish it from experiential non-suffering. We may learn many painful truths about how we cause or maintain inner and outer suffering; how we cling to unwarranted blame and hatred toward self, others, and our circumstances. Standing in the truth of uncomfortable insights takes courage. Acting upon these insights requires fearlessness and a dedication to wise, compassionate responsiveness.

Audio and Video Resources


Buddhism and Modernity: Panel 2
The role for the transcendent dimensions of Buddhist practice and teachings in a disenchanted world

Mangalam Research Center on June 7, 2015. Lisa's talk starts at 8:22 in the video time sequence.

The Buddhist Psychology of Addiction

This dharma talk was delivered at Marin Sangha on May 31, 2015. I was asked to talk about the Buddhist psychology of addiction. The talk covers quite a bit of ground including childhood trauma and its physiological and psychological role in teen/adult addiction. The talk also has instructions for landing in the aliveness of physicality as it is.

Listen Now to Buddhist psychology of addiction
Listen as an iTunes Podcast

Author talk on Liberation of Mind

This dharma talk was delivered at Insight Meditation South Bay on March 3, 2015. I was invited to talk about "Effortless Mindfulness". I used this opportunity to speak about how liberation of mind was conceptualized by various schools of Buddhist philosophy/psychology and how it might be interpreted and applied in modern psychotherapy.

Listen Now to Liberation of Mind

A Dialogue with David Vago, PhD on the Clinical Relevance of Awakening
Part One

Or listen to Part One in its entirety mp3 recording or iTunes podcast

David Vago, PhD and I recently recorded two rich and informative conversations focused on translating the Buddhist concept of "enlightenment" into modern clinical terms. David is currently involved in cutting edge neurobiological research on the awakened mind states that arise during various meditative practices. This first part of our two-part conversation covered the following topics: contextualizing the terms enlightenment, awakening, liberation; demarcating clinical markers of progress on the path; Nirvana and mini-nirvanas; state vs trait changes of awakening; extinction of mental and emotional habits; dissolving greed, hatred and delusion; pure awareness or nature of mind; the inherent problems of quick fix mindfulness.

David Vago, PhD is an associate psychologist in the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory (FNL), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and instructor at Harvard Medical School. David has previously held the position of Senior Research Coordinator for the Mind & Life Institute and is currently a Mind and Life Fellow. David’s research interests broadly focus on utilizing translational models to identify and characterize neurobiological substrates mediating psychopathology, to better predict outcomes and potential biologically-based diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for those suffering with mental illness. David has been specifically investigating brain networks supporting self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence in order to clarify adaptive mind-brain-body interactions and their therapeutic relevance in psychiatric disorders.


Part Two Videos: A Dialogue with David Vago, PhD on the Clinical Relevance of Awakening

Watch the videos or listen to Part Two in its entirety mp3 recording or iTunes Podcast

This first of Part Two's three videos focuses on S-ART, David's neurobiological framework for describing the positive effects of meditation on self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence. Covered topics include: Perception and distorted self-perception; clarity and insight; reducing mental and emotional suffering.

The second of Part Two's three videos covers not-self: Theravada, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna notions of awakening and not-self; secular mental training; different interventions for different psyches; selflessness/emptiness in psychotherapy; translating the dharma into neuropsychological terms, vedanā (craving and aversion); decentering.

This final Part Two video focuses on: embodied cognition; aggregates and seeds of habit mind; other-centeredness and not-self; non-referential compassion; empathy fatigue; refuting self-compassion; clinical Tonglen practice; neurobiological evidence for not-self states; developmental model of awakening; dynamic responsiveness; neurotherapeutics.

A refutation of a "universal dharma"

These two Dharma talks were delivered at Marin Sangha June 22 and 29. In the first talk, "Universal Dharma... Not", I use the Buddhist Teachings to refute the controversial claim by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others, that mindfulness-based interventions (MBSR and the like) deliver a universal dharma; an accurate depiction of traditional Buddhist meditation practices and implicitly imparts the profound ethical and philosophical aspects of the actual Buddhadharma. In the second talk, "Dreamlike Nature of Phenomena", I describe Lojong Mind Training and its attentiveness to the dreamlike nature of self, mind and world; a unique feature of the Buddhadharma that is not imparted by any mindfulness-based intervention. I hope you find these teachings stimulating and thought provoking.

Listen Now to Universal Dharma... Not

(or download iTunes podcast)

Listen Now to Dreamlike Nature of Phenomena

(or download iTunes podcast)

Serge Prengel interviews Lisa on the intersection of Buddhist psychology and
Somatic Experiencing, and their practical application during patient sessions.
listen now

Lisa introduces the book and describes why she wrote it.
listen now

Instructional Videos

The book “Effortless Mindfulness" includes instruction in delivery of informal mindfulness and heartfulness skills for patients to use in daily life. It also features seven principles of Buddhist psychological inquiry. These instructive videos help clinicians learn how to dialogically point out cognitive and emotional misapprehensions that create so much confusion and suffering for our patients… and ourselves!


Buddhist psychology-inspired Skill #1:
Use the cause of distress as a vehicle for liberation from distress.

This is the first in a series of skills videos targeted specifically for mental health professionals. However, anyone can use this dialogic method to work internally with any form of inner mental or emotional suffering.

In this short video on Buddhist-psychology-inspired inquiry skills, I recount a dialogue with a patient that illustrates how to generate embodied presence and empowered choice-making by working directly with inherently false mental constructions about the future. This form of inquiry is a wonderful example of what I call psychotherapeutic wu wei or effortless action. Leveraging the cause of distress as a vehicle for liberation is an amazingly effective non-dual Buddhist psychological intervention. (No identifying information is included in this material)

Recorded Meditation Practices

(coming soon)

"Effortless Mindfulness" includes authentic instruction in many of Buddhist psychology’s key meditation practices such as, the Ānāpānasati Sutta (sixteen steps of Mindfulness of Breathing), Objectless Shamatha, and the Brahmavihāras (lovingkindness, compassion, altruistic joy, equanimity.) These Buddhist practices are the primary source for most secularized clinical mindfulness meditation interventions. Every meditative practice in "Effortless Mindfulness" includes exacting instructions for teaching patients. That said, clinicians who choose to teach meditation to their patients must be dedicated practitioners of the meditation they wish to impart. Daily meditation and personal use of informal mindfulness and heartfulness skills in daily life is essential for effective delivery of Buddhist psychological interventions. The information, practices and teachings in "Effortless Mindfulness" and on this website should never be used frivolously or irresponsibly.

Upcoming trainings and events

Events and Trainings


Meditation and Dharma Talk
Everyday Dharma Series: Dharma in Challenging Relationships
Insight Meditation South Bay
February 21, 2017
Mountain View, CA

Dharma Talks
Marin Sangha
March 12 and 19, 2017
Nov 5, 2017
San Rafael, CA

Clarity, Compassion and Restoration:
A day of dharmic self-care for medical and mental health professionals
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Sunday, November 12, 2017
9:30am - 4:30pm


Awakened Presence Psychotherapy™ Trainings

Lisa is currently developing a series of online and physical space trainings for mental health clinicians. Stay tuned for information on specific offerings, dates and locations. Please use the contact form to get on the mailing list to receive notification of future trainings.



Get in touch with Lisa

Lisa Dale Miller, LMFT, LPCC, SEP, is licensed to practice psychotherapy in California, New York and Oregon. She specializes in treating trauma, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, stress disorders, somatic disorders, and relationship distress. Lisa is an outpatient clinician for the Veterans Administration San Jose and a teacher of Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) for addiction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for depression relapse prevention, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Lisa presents at conferences and trains clinicians in the clinical applications of mindfulness and Buddhist psychology. She is a dharma teacher and has been a yogic and Buddhist meditation practitioner for over four decades. She is also an internationally exhibited visual artist.

Visit Lisa's psychotherapy website
Visit Lisa's visual art website

Or send her a message.