Robert Waldinger

American Author, Professor, and Zen Priest

Whatโ€™s life really like? Not just for me, but for most of us? Iโ€™m fascinated by this question, and I look for answers in three places...

As Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, I watch entire lives play out over 85 years and two generations.

As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, I work with people who share their life stories with me.

As a Zen teacher and practitioner, I see the workings of my own mind and body as they show up moment after moment.

My Research & Writing

When we cut through all the cultural hype about happiness, what actually makes a good life? For more than two decades I’ve explored this question as director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the only studies in history to track the same people from adolescence into their 90s. Using rigorous scientific methods, I’ve examined what really makes us thrive. Tracking 724 families over 85 years, we find that the breadth and depth of our relationships are keys to wellbeing – not just happiness, but physical health.

Psychiatry & Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

In my psychiatry practice, I help people work with emotional distress and psychological obstacles. Psychodynamic therapy serves as the foundation of my approach. It is based on the understanding that mental well-being is influenced by unconscious conflicts, significant childhood experiences, and painful feelings that are often hidden behind defense mechanisms. These dynamics can impact an individual's development and their ability to adapt to new situations and relationships. Through a process of guided self-discovery, we aim to uncover the underlying reasons behind thoughts, feelings, and actions. By gaining a deeper understanding and acceptance of one’s inner life, people can develop more appropriate and life-enhancing ways of dealing with these internal experiences.

Education & Teaching

With a passion for sharing knowledge, I take great pleasure in communicating what I know about various subjects, including the science of lifespan development, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and Zen Buddhism. Through the act of teaching, I not only clarify my own thinking but also foster connections with others. Join me in this enriching journey of discovery, where teaching and discussion become conduits for personal growth and mutual enlightenment.

My Zen Journey

Zen provides a sanctuary of inner peace and spiritual exploration. I am both a practitioner and a transmitted Zen teacher (Roshi), and I teach Zen both online ( and in person on retreats. Zen helps us cultivate awareness in each moment. Practice guides us towards a deeper understanding of the self, the nature of existence, and the interconnection of all beings. Whether you are a beginner seeking an introduction to Zen or an experienced practitioner looking to deepen your practice, you may find some of the writings and dharma talks here to be of use in your own path toward awakening. The goal is to support you in finding clarity amidst the chaos of daily life, and cultivating a sense of inner harmony that extends far beyond the meditation cushion.

My goal is to share what I’m learning to help people connect with the truth of what makes a good life.

Video Poster Image

Lessons from 8 Decades of Research

The happiest and healthiest people are those who have warm connections with others. Exploring the crucial link between social bonds and quality of life, I share insights into how to identify and strengthen the relationships that impact your well-being most.

The Art Of Living Well Newsletter
Subscribe for insights from my research, my clinical work, and my own zen personal journey.