Leigh Brasington studied the jhanas with the late Ven. Ayya Khema, who authorized him to teach retreats on the jhanas. He was also empowered to teach by Jack Kornfield. He teaches numerous jhana retreats throughout the year, at venues that include Cloud Mountain, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, Gaia House, Vallecitos, and Southern Dharma.
Kate Lila Wheeler began teaching meditation in the mid-1980s and continues to practice with teachers in Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist lineages. Writing is an important part of her life; she has recently completed a second novel.
I find teaching to be a very deep and powerful "no self" practice. When I connect with others during Dharma talks--in the intimacy of small groups, and while holding meditation practice interviews--I am continually reminded to know, and be, in a place of clarity, spaciousness and immediate presence. Being able to offer students such a place of connection is my greatest pleasure and inspiration, as well as the most appreciated challenge in my teaching practice.
For me, the real fruit of the teaching is seeing the beauty of a gradual, and sometimes sudden, unfolding of a heartmind into its true self; seeing the variety of ways a person's essential, creative energy of being flows into the world.
On one end of the teaching, I am excited and inspired by students who are deeply committed to long-term, intensive practice. On the other end (and of course they're connected), I find that working closely with people at the grass roots level--in a co-creative process of developing and sustaining Dharma practice, study and community opportunitiies on a day-to-day basis--is equally exciting and inspiring.
From the immediacy of presence flows a wisdom that naturally connects us to the way of things. This amazing gift of mindfulness provides us with a spaciousness where we can make appropriate, healthy and creative life choices. Rather than being caught up in our old, conditioned habits, mindfulness provides us with the gift of engagement at its best. This is the Gift of the Dharma that we offer to all beings.
Matthew Daniell began Buddhist meditation in Asia in 1985. He practiced Zen in Japan, Tibetan Buddhism in India, and Insight Meditation in the United States, India, Burma, and Thailand, where he was an ordained monk for more than a year. His Asian teachers include Harada Roshi, Kalu Rinpoche, Dipama and Munindra. His Western teachers include Larry Rosenberg, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg. Matthew is a founder and the guiding teacher at the Insight Meditation Center of Newburyport, Massachusetts (IMCNewburyport.org), and is a member of the Religious Services Department at Phillips Exeter Academy.
I find that practitioners can practice Vipassana for a long time without paying attention to the role that fear plays in their lives. Living with fear that is unacknowledged leads to fragmentation in life and practice. I encourage people to look at the energy of fear, for fear can limit our access to freedom.
It is quite possible to diligently practice mindfulness, yet keep fear at a distance. Not becoming intimate with fear creates a dualism and complacency that gives a silent nod of approval to living with fear. When we begin to look at, and become friends with, our fear, we suddenly discover a lot more space in our lives.
In the larger picture, Vipassana offers us all a practice that goes counter to the tremendous cultural momentum around us of materialism and consumerism. With practice, we can learn how to take full responsibility for ourselves, and so pay attention to developing inner qualities capable of sustaining us as we navigate the shifting sands of life.
I try to help practitioners approach their meditation practice and their lives with compassion and wisdom. Bringing a loving attentiveness into each moment allows us to learn kindness rather than condemnation, and discernment rather than judgment.
I feel that it is essential not to make a split between the formal practice that happens on retreat and the informal practice that happens in daily life. At the core, formal practice and daily life practice are the same. In all arenas of life we can create the same dedication to wakefulness and sensitivity. The right place to practice meditation is wherever we are. The right time to practice is right now. And the right way to practice is to know what we are doing whenever we are doing it.
We can live each moment in a fresh way, free from expectations of how things should be and open to how things are whether we are sitting on the cushion, washing the dishes, or talking with a friend. With practice, we can discover a current of underlying joy and find that all of life is sacred.
Meditation practice is an offering to the world. When we meditate, we practice not only for ourselves, but for all beings. In meditation there is a gradual purification of heart. This purification allows us to trust ourselves and to respond spontaneously to others with compassion and insight.
Developing a clear understanding of the teachings and learning to fully inhabit the body have been core parts of my Dhamma practice. These areas, as well a strong emphasis on the heart, inform and shape my teaching. The few years I spent training as an Anagarika in the Thai Forest monasteries broadened my understanding of the Buddha's teachings and instilled a profound respect for the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sangha. All along the way, I've been particularly interested in how other modalities like Nonviolent Communication and Somatics can support our growth in awakening.
Patricia Genoud-Feldman has been practicing Buddhist meditation (vipassana and Dzogchen) in Asia and the West since 1984 and teaching vipassana internationally since 1997. She is a co-founder and guiding teacher at the Meditation Centre Vimalakirti in Geneva, Switzerland.
Rebecca Bradshaw is the guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Center of the Pioneer Valley (www.insightpv.org) in Easthampton, Massachusetts, and one at the guiding teachers at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. "My passion is encouraging students to drop into embodied presence, and grounding this presence in wisdom and lovingkindness. When a sense of love and kindness underlies our practice, we can explore life deeply in a truly integrated way, bringing together mind, heart, and body. Wisdom then holds it all in spaciousness. I especially enjoy connecting with young people in the Dharma, teaching students on longer retreats, supporting sangha on a community level, and sharing the dharma in Spanish."