Gelong Thubten: "I believe meditation can change the world in small ways"

Lucy Donoughue
By Lucy Donoughue,
updated on Jan 18, 2023

Gelong Thubten: "I believe meditation can change the world in small ways"

Gelong Thubten, author of A Monk’s Guide to Happiness: Meditation in the 21st Century, shares how Covid-19 has impacted his life, his experience of severe burnout and reflects upon using lockdown to slow down

Gelong Thubten joins the line up of wellbeing advocates sharing their thoughts on life, mental health and building resilience on Series 4 of Happiful’s podcast I am. I have.

Thubten became a Monk over 26 years ago, after experiencing severe burnout and being diagnosed with a severe physical illness in his early twenties. While it was his intention to stay at the monastery for just a year in the first instance, something, he says, resonated so deeply with him that he knew a spiritual life was the right path for him.

Thubten now teaches meditation and works with schools, prisons, universities and corporate institutions to help people improve and build their wellbeing through the power of daily practise.

This year has reaffirmed the importance of meditation for him personally, as he contracted Covid-19, was very unwell and is still in recovery. “It’s been a year of illness for me,” Thubten shares. “Illness for the world, really. I’m very aware that so many people have been sick and died and I’m worried about my loved ones. So it’s a time of anxiety and too much bad news.”

However, he believes that we could seek to draw some positives from the state we find ourselves in. “This situation could be pushing us to look more deeply at ourselves and to take that time for our own mental health and wellbeing.

"I think now with the slow down of life, we do have an opportunity to look after ourselves better,” he continues. “And meditation has a central role in that.”

Gelong Thubten on

Being a Buddhist Monk

“I’ve been a Monk for so long now, that it’s just so comfortable and natural to me, but when I first became a Monk it wasn’t an obvious choice!” Thubten says laughing. “My friends thought I had gone completely mad. But I had a very severe burnout and that led me to take stock of my life and think about how to look after myself.”

Leading a spiritual life and serving others, he explains, is now at the core of who he is.


“I’ve been teaching meditation for around 20 years, but in recent times more and more people have become interested in it,” Thubten notes. “There’s so much stress in the world. Before this year we were already in a crisis of stress, and mental health. People were just too busy and they were struggling.

He shares that meditation could be a crucial component in addressing this mental wellbeing crisis.

“I really believe that meditation can change the world in small ways. We need more peaceful, calm people, and we need people to be less stressed, less greedy and less frantic. Obviously people are always going to be busy, I’m not suggesting that everyone can go and live on a retreat on an island! People have busy lives, but I do want to help them understand how to look at their minds and transform their minds, because I think that’s the secret to a happy life.”

Listen to Gelong’s episode of I am. I have
A Monk’s Guide to Happiness: Meditation in the 21st Century is out now.

Title image Steve Ullathorne

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