As a monk, I bring a strong commitment, along with the renunciate flavor, to the classic Buddhist teachings. I play with ideas, with humor and a current way of expressing the teachings, but I don't dilute them.
Sitting in a field of fifty to eighty people really starts my mind sparking. Since I don't prepare my talks ahead of time, I find myself listening to what I'm saying along with everyone else. This leaves a lot of room for the Dhamma to come up. Just having eighty people listening to me is enough to engage me, stimulate me, and create a nice flow of energy. The actual process of teaching evokes ideas that even I did not realize were being held somewhere in my mind.
Different teaching situations offer their own unique value. In retreat, you are able to build a cohesive and comprehensive body of the teachings. When people are not on retreat and come for one session, it opens a different window. They are more spontaneous and I'm given the chance to contact them in ways that are closer to their "daily-life mind." This brings up surprises and interesting opportunities for me to learn even more.
I'm continually struck by how important it is to establish a foundation of morality, commitment, and a sense of personal values for the Vipassana teachings to rest upon. Personal values have to be more than ideas. They have to actually work for us, to be genuinely felt in our lives. We can't bluff our way into insight. The investigative path is an intimate experience that empowers our individuality in a way that is not egocentric. Vipassana encourages transpersonal individuality rather than ego enhancement. It allow for a spacious authenticity to replace a defended personality.
Brian Lesage has practiced Buddhist meditation since 1988 and has taught meditation since 2000. He has studied in the Zen, Theravada and Tibetan schools of Buddhism. He was ordained in the Rinzai Zen tradition in 1996. His training in Vipassana Meditation includes doing extended meditation retreats in Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, and India as well as numerous retreats in the U.S. He leads retreats and teaches meditation courses nationwide.
What I most love in my teaching practice is seeing students become dedicated to their own liberation. As their spiritual practice matures, people light up from within when they begin to understand that personal freedom is possible. This commitment to freedom on the part of the student inspires me to find ways to express my deepest understanding and enthusiasm for liberation.
The mindfulness teachings of the Buddha are among the more direct, practical meditation techiques that we can cultivate. My focus is on sharing these practices in an accessable, down-to-earth way. How can we disengage from our habits of responding to the world through veils of confusion, greed, and hatred?
Mindfulness practice helps us recognize when we are responding to the world from the mental and emotional habits that obscure our true home, our radiant nature, which manifests as compassion and love. The Buddha's teachings show us that we are not isolated individuals who need to live defensive lives. Rather, we can learn to trust and live from our full potential as compassionate members of a connected planet.
Erin lives in Durango, Colorado and is a member of the Dharma Leader Council of the Durango Dharma Center. She is a graduate of Spirit Rock's Community Dharma Leader Training and is currently a teacher in training as part of the Spirit Rock/IMS teacher training program.
What has always engaged me is working with practitioners who are deepening their commitment to the Dharma and then seeing them take a quantum leap in their understanding. My contribution to this commitment is working towards conveying a Theravadan practice with a Mahayana spirit.
The Theravadan practice of vipassana provides simple, direct instructions that can be immediately understood and applied in daily life as well as retreat practice. The Mahayana spirit has the beautiful attitude that we practice not for ourselves alone, but for all sentient beings. Between the two, the unfolding of liberation for ourselves and others becomes a simple, down-to-earth practice that anyone can do.
It is fun for me to take the most difficult concepts and put them into accessible language, to unwrap the mystery. So I try to find ways to explore the breadth of concepts like "emptiness" -- to see how the entire path can be explained in terms of this synonym for nibbana. One of my aims is to bring the goal of freedom into the here and now. This way practitioners get a taste of freedom, so they know what they are heading toward on their journey to liberation.
The tools of mindfulness and lovingkindness can be picked up by anyone. They are easy to understand and they bring immediate benefit to our lives. The essence of vipassana is ideally suited to western society, especially to the resonance between our psychological turn of mind and our quest for spiritual understanding.
I have two main aims in teaching. The first is to spread the dharma as widely as possible, offering it to as many different people as I can. The second is to teach a smaller number of people over sustained periods of time. This in-depth teaching engages my tremendous love for intensive, long-term meditation practice, where people can immerse themselves in the retreat experience and see how it transforms their understanding.
Although deeply rooted in the Vipassana tradition of Theravada Buddhism, I enjoy working with various skillful means from different Buddhist schools to help convey the essence of all practice, the one dharma of liberation. This essential dharma includes the wisdom of non-clinging, the motivation of compassion to practice for the benefit of all beings, and the potential for liberation within us all.
Given the speed and complexity of our culture, the Buddha's teachings offer a much-needed means to slow down, a way to create some inner calm. We need to touch base with this place of tranquillity in order to allow our bodies and minds to unwind. We then have the chance to see more deeply and profoundly the nature of our lives, how we create suffering and how we can be free. The dharma begins with the development of calm and it carries us all the way to liberation.
Mark Coleman has been engaged in meditation practice since 1981, primarily within the Insight meditation tradition. He has been teaching meditation retreats since 1997. His teaching is also influenced by his studies with Advaita Vedanta and Tibetan teachers in Asia and the West, and through his teacher training with Jack Kornfield. Mark primarily teaches at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California, though he also teaches nationally, in Europe and India.
He leads backpacking retreats, nature-based retreats, and teaches retreats for environmental activists in the wilderness at Vallecitos Mountain Refuge in New Mexico, and at Knoll Farm in Vermont. In the Bay Area, Mark has a counseling practice, where he integrates his studies of psychotherapy and meditative work. He is the author of “Awake in the Wild - Mindfulness in Nature as a path of Self-Discovery." Mark has been an avid hiker, and backpacker for most of his life and spends much of his time in the outdoors. He lives in the woods in Marin County, Northern California.