Melissa Blacker was born in 1954, in Boston, Massachusetts. Her parents were secular Jews. From them she was schooled early to have a deep appreciation of art, theater, music (especially jazz) and leftist politics. In order to understand a spontaneous spiritual experience she experienced when she was nine years old, Melissa began a life-long exploration of religion and psychology.
She attended Wesleyan University, earning her BA magna cum laude in Anthropology and Music in 1976. She went on to earn an MA in Counseling Psychology from Vermont College of Norwich University in 1991. From 1993 to 2011 she worked at the Center for Mindfulness, founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, where she was the associate director of the Stress Reduction Clinic, and a director of professional training and education programs. She is now teaching Zen, leading retreats, and helping to run Boundless Way Temple. In addition, she has a private practice in contemplative counseling, spiritual direction and mindfulness consulting. For more information: www.melissablacker.com.
In 1977 she met David Rynick and they married in 1982. Their daughter, Rachel Blacker Rynick, was born in 1986.
In 1981 she and David began studying Zen with the independent teacher Richard Clarke. After twenty years with Dr. Clarke, Melissa became the student of James Myoun Ford, Roshi. She was ordained a Soto Zen priest (unsui) in 2004 and completed shuso training in 2005. Advancing through the Harada-Yasutani koan curriculum she received Dharma transmission from James Ford in April of 2006. In 2006 she was elected a teacher of the Boundless Way Zen sangha. In 2010 Melissa received from James Ford Inka Shomei, which is the full acknowledgment of mastery in the Rinzai lineage of Zen.