Advisors & Consultants

David Nowakowski is as a philosopher and educator in the Helena area whose professional work is dedicated to helping people of all ages and backgrounds access, understand, and apply the traditions of ancient philosophy to their own lives.  A lover of philosophy and the great outdoors, David moved to Helena (originally from Pennsylvania) in 2019 to build his consulting practice and serve as a Philosophical Advisor and Consultant for Merlin CCC & Senior Mentor for scholars in the Merlin Fellowship Program.

David began studying ancient philosophies and classical languages in 2001, and has continued ever since.  A scholar of the philosophical traditions of the ancient Mediterranean (Greece, Rome, and North Africa) and of the Indian subcontinent, reading Sanskrit, Latin, and classical Greek, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 2014.  His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including Philosophy East & West, Asian Philosophy, and the Journal of Indian Philosophy; as well as in presentations to academic audiences at Harvard, Columbia University, the University of Toronto, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and elsewhere. 

After half a decade teaching at liberal arts colleges in the northeast, David chose to leave the academy in order to focus his energies on the transformative value of these ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions in his own life and practice, and on building new systems of education and community learning that will make this rich heritage alive and available to others.

A hermit by nature and by committed choice, he balances contemplative solitude with his active work in teaching, counseling, and the healing arts.  We are elated to be collaborating with David on our philosophy in the community activities, fellowships, and other Merlin projects.  David can be reached at [email protected] or via his personal website.

Justin Whitaker
Philosophical Advisor & Mindfulness Practitioner

Justin WhitakerJustin Whitaker serves as a Philosophical Advisor (overseas) for Merlin CCC.  Currently residing in Hong Kong as a Senior North America Correspondent at Buddhistdoor Global, Justin is also an author, founder of Mindful Montana and a Mindfulness Practitioner for Merlin CCC (when in the United States).

A Helena native who has lived and taught philosophy and religious studies in Missoula, England, India, and China, Justin is a Certified Meditation Teacher who successfully defended his Ph.D. in Buddhist Ethics at the University of London in January 2016. He holds an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Bristol and a B.A. (with some graduate work) in Philosophy at the University of Montana-Missoula.  We are thrilled to be collaborating with Justin on several philosophical adventures.

What is mindfulness?  The term today is well defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” The practice is in many ways universal, and certainly today it is taught and studied by Western scientists as a universal, secular exercise. On the other hand, the practices developed by Kabat-Zinn and others have their roots in a number of non-Western philosophical/religious traditions. Early Buddhist thought and Zen are two major sources for contemporary understandings of mindfulness.  In teaching a course or workshop on mindfulness, I split my attention on (1) explaining and discussing various scientific studies of mindfulness, (2) covering historical understandings and uses of the practice, and most importantly, (3) actual practices ranging from “eating” and “walking” meditations to periods of silent mindfulness of breathing and the cultivation of compassion.

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