I try to convey that the wisdom and compassion we are looking for is already inside of us. I see practice as learning how to purify our mind and heart so we can hear the Buddha inside. In doing so, we naturally embody the dharma and help awaken that understanding and love in others we meet.
I try to use the formal teachings as a doorway for people to see the truth in themselves. I feel I'm doing my job when people look into themselves to come to their own deep understandings of the truth, access their own inner wisdom and trust in their "Buddha-knowing," as Ajahn Chah called it, which is different from their intellectual knowing.
The Buddha-knowing is a deeper place, underneath the concepts, which is in touch with the truth, with our seed of awakening. I want practitioners to have more and more confidence in, and familiarity with, that deeper place of knowing. It is accessing this dimension of our being that becomes the guide to cutting through the confusion caused by greed and fear. We have everything we need inside ourselves. We do not need to look to a teacher when we remember who we really are.
Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey aims to inspire the skills, determination, and faith necessary to realize the deepest human freedom. He is the resident teacher for Vipassana Hawai’i and when off-island teaches across the US, Canada, and in Burma.
Jessica Morey, MA, is the executive director and lead teacher of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education. She began practicing meditation at age 14 on IMS Teen Retreats. She has undertaken longer-term practice in Asia and the US, and worked in clean energy finance. She is a participant in the 2017-2021 IMS Teacher Training Program.
John Peacock, an academic and meditation teacher for 25 years, currently teaches Buddhist studies and Indian religions at the University of Bristol, UK. He is an Associate Director of The Oxford Mindfulness Centre, recognized by Oxford University.
From 1971-1991 Joseph Kappel lived as a Buddhist monk as Pabhakaro Bhikkhu, with Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho in Thailand and Great Britain. His initial interest in Buddhism was inspired by visits to Thailand from Vietnam where he was a Captain serving as a combat helicopter pilot in 1969-70. Since leaving monastic life in 1991, Joseph has taught MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) in Massachusetts’s prisons, received the degree of Master of Education from Harvard University, and worked with college athletes to facilitate “mental fitness” and the inner game. He currently teaches meditation retreats in various settings in the US. Additionally, he co-leads retreats with Ajahn Amaro at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England. Joseph’s commitment is to encourage everyone to awaken in daily life by using life’s journey to cultivate deep understanding, virtuous conduct, along with wise effort & reflection.
Dr. Judson Brewer, MD PhD is the Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness and associate professor in medicine and psychiatry at UMass Medical School. A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for addictions. He started meditating on his first day of medical school in 1996 and has been under the guidance of Joseph Goldstein since 2008.
Kittisaro & Thanissara, both former monastics in the Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah, are married, teaching partners, and co-founders of Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, in South Africa. They are co-authors of Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Guide to Engaged Buddhism. They currently live in North Bay California where they are Guiding Teachers of Sacred Mountain Sangha, on the Spirit Rock Teacher Council, and are Core Teachers at IMS.
The method I use most in teaching is anapanasati or mindfulness with breathing. Breath awareness supports us while we investigate the entire mind-body process. It helps calm the mind and gives us a graceful entry into a state of choiceless awareness--a place without agendas, where we are not for or against whatever turns up in the moment.
In this state we relax into ourselves. We allow the mind to empty itself of its own content and take us into a realm of silence.
Choiceless awareness, with the transition into and out of silence, has fascinated me for a long time. What are the barriers to our minds becoming silent? How do we remain in silence long enough to receive its countless benefits? Can we learn to bring thought-free wakefulness into each aspect of our ordinary, daily living?
As lay people we need a practice that helps us learn how to live whole-heartedly, to do justice to the many challenges of lay life, and at the same time grow in the dharma. This includes moving gracefully back and forth between our daily life and intensive retreat practice.
Presently, I am deeply interested in using Buddha's Charter of Freedom of Inquiry, the Kalama Sutta, as a framework for my teaching. In this teaching, the Buddha invites us to question and doubt. It invites us to use personal experience to test and verify the truth of the teachings. This in turn encourages us to acknowledge life's greatest teacher: Life itself.
The challenge for us all is to question ourselves. Do we know how to live? If the answer, in any way, is no, then bring in the dharma and let's see how the teachings help us live in a wise and kind way.