Santikaro lived with Ajahn Buddhadasa during the last nine years of his life and became his primary translator. Ordained as a Theravada Bhikkhu in 1985, Santikaro spent most of his monastic life at Suan Mokkh. During this time he led Dawn Kiam, a small monastic community for foreigners. He is the founder of Liberation Park, a modern expression of Buddhist practice, study, and social responsibility, located in rural southwestern Wisconsin. There he continues to teach, explore nature, and translate the work of his teacher. He teaches Buddhism and meditation with an emphasis on the early Pali sources and is a lucid interpreter of the original teachings and discourses.
Sebene Selassie is a meditation teacher and certified Integral Coach®. She has been studying Buddhism since majoring in Comparative Religious Studies as an undergrad at McGill University. For over 20 years she worked with children, youth, and families nationally and internationally for small and large not–for–profits. Her work has taken her everywhere from the Tenderloin in San Francisco to refugee camps in Guinea, West Africa. Sebene is a two–time breast cancer survivor.
The most compelling part of my practice right now comes in the form of my writing. For a long time, I've focused my teaching and writing on lovingkindness. Now as I look more deeply into lovingkindness, I find that it actually rests on another foundation, the expression of faith.
Faith is the topic I am exploring most in teaching and writing. Today there is a tremendous upsurge of interest in a new kind of faith, based on a practice where people can experience a direct spirituality, one without rigid dogma or compulsory belief in a specific cosmology. This is a spirituality that rests on personal transformation.
Vipassana allows us to take a method of mind training and craft a way of life that is more compassionate, more ethical and more powerful than our unawakened lives. The Buddha's teachings give us an immediate experience of what we can do to change. Faith in the teachings means we align ourselves with a vision of our greatest possibilities. This is the heart of the practice.
Shelly Graf is Common Ground's Associate Director and is currently being trained by Insight Meditation Society as part of their four-year Teacher Training. They are a staff dharma teacher, like Mark Nunberg, the Guiding Teacher. Shelly provides direct support to the guiding teacher with developing and clarifying the center’s vision, policies, and priorities. Currently they teach the Wednesday night Weekly Practice Group, Daylong and Half-Day Retreats, and co-lead Living the Practice Workshops.
Shelly is also a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and received their Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota in 2003. For a long time she has been interested in what it means to serve as a white social worker in brown communities. She is also a huge MN Lynx fan!
Dr. Stephen Fulder was born in the UK and received an M.A. from Oxford University and a Ph.D. He has devoted his life to exploring inner and outer healing and spirituality. He is an author and lecturer in herbal and natural medicine with 14 published books. He lives in an environmental village in the Galilee in Israel, which he helped to found and where he grows his own food. Stephen has been practicing Vipassana meditation since 1975, is the founder and senior teacher of the Israel Insight Society, the main Vipassana/Mindfulness organization in Israel, and has been teaching retreats and courses in Buddhist practice for 15 years. He has established programs and organizations, such as ‘Middleway’, which apply these teachings to aid peace and healing in the communities in the Middle East.
My biding motivation for the practice of teaching is to share my interest, my understanding and my confidence in the Buddha's way for a balanced and deeply happy life. Given the pace of our culture and the direction in which it is going, mindfulness is essential to sanity. Since my first vipassana retreat in 1975, I've experienced the wisdom of sanity, peace and freedom.
Now, the challenge in sharing the dhamma is to translate the Buddha's understanding into an idiom that speaks to the whole of our lives. As practice matures, the focus in guiding others shifts from informing the skeptic, inspiring the depressed and doubtful, soothing the suffering, energizing the lazy, cautioning the ambitious to discovering the subtler sources of suffering and happiness in our understanding and behavior. With deepening vipassana insight, students joyfully and confidently disentangle their minds.
In all of this, what sustains me as a teacher is the unwavering confidence that mindfulness is the source of our healing, sanity and freedom. Vipassana practice offers us a perspective on reality that is liberating, both personally and at every level of human interaction. Initially, my unwavering commitment was to the practice. Now my commitment includes service in sharing the dhamma and wherever possible informing, inspiring and encouraging others in the practice.
Thanissara, from London, was a nun for 12 years in the tradition of Ajahn Chah and has taught internationally for over 30 years. She is co-founder of Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, South Africa, Sacred Mountain Sangha, California, and Chattanooga Insight, Tennessee. She has an MA in Mindfulness Psychotherapy Practice from the Karuna Institute UK and is co-author of Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Guide to Engaged Buddhism, author of Time To Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, and several books of poetry. She is a member of the Teacher Council at Spirit Rock and co-guiding teacher of Sacred Mountain Sangha.