Warriors in the World: Melissa Moore

photo portrait of Acharya Melissa MooreMelissa Moore wasn’t all that interested in Buddhist meditation nor was she looking for a spiritual path when she arrived at Naropa Institute in Boulder in 1979 to study contemplative psychology, dance and other arts programs. Yet she was nourished by the atmosphere, and enthralled with the parties. “Naropa allowed me to participate in the community,” she says. “Shambhala and the wild world of Trungpa Rinpoche captured me.”

Melissa eventually became a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1982, after four years of resisting him. Upon graduating from Naropa in 1985, Melissa was immediately offered a job working with an eating disorder clinic at a Boulder hospital. “I entered the whole psychological world and quickly became a professional, unfortunately. I got further away from the essence of basic sanity that I was trained in at Naropa.”

Through perseverance and practice, Melissa eventually reconnected to the heart of contemplative psychology, which integrates modern psychological processes with the wisdom tradition of Buddhism. After accepting a job in San Francisco, Melissa earned her PhD in Psychological Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She began teaching and offering contemplative psychology seminars through her job in Davis, California.

2004, Melissa teaching Karuna Training in Germany

2004 Melissa teaching Karuna Training in Germany

With the encouragement of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Melissa helped found Karuna Training in Germany, a 3 year professional training in contemplative psychology. Karuna is now offered in the Netherlands, France, Austria and Poland. Melissa continues to teach there at least once a year. Find more information on Karuna Training here

At the time this article was written, Melissa was one of three Shastris (senior teachers) appointed by The Sakyong to serve the Northern California region of Shambhala. A major role of the shastri is to personally mentor and strengthen the local teaching mandala. She has since been named an Acharya, a senior teacher in the Shambhala tradition.

Melissa also directs the Felton Institute, a research and training division of Family Service Agency of San Francisco, whose mission is to disseminate the use of evidence-based and strengths-based practices throughout the mental health field. Find more information on the Felton Institute here

“Contemplative psychology has a life of wisdom of its own, and I keep connecting with it,” Melissa says. “Holding the tenet of intrinsic health, contemplative psychology is a very strength-based model.” Melissa and a number of seasoned Naropa-trained therapists plan to start trainings in contemplative psychology trainings in Northern California soon.

Group of people standing together

Melissa Leading a Shambhala program in Greece

A lifelong love of driving has led Melissa through many intersections on a winding but purposeful road from commandeering the family automobile at an early age to the command she has as a teacher today. Her efforts reach many directly through presentations of the Shambhala teachings, and as a leading voice in the growing recognition of contemplative psychology.

When she isn’t on the road, practicing, or interacting with people, Melissa describes herself as “a complete animal fanatic,” sharing her back yard with 1 dog, 2 cats, 3 chickens and 10,000 bees. Now an accomplished cook, she claims to have been in her 20’s before a sangha member taught her to boil water. Melissa has studied many cultures to learn their culinary secrets, and one of her favorite paths is between her kitchen and her garden, from which she tries to gather most of the ingredients in the meals she creates.

Wherever she stops and goes on her path, in whatever vehicle she’s driving, Melissa Moore makes the most of her intersections.

— Article shaped by Steve Schurkey, June/July 2012