Because I've been teaching in Burma the last three years, I've been able to see how mindfulness can be nourished by a culture that supports the ancient liberation teachings and by daily experiences of happiness arising from acts of generosity, morality and renunciation. Thus the practice of Buddhism and the living of Buddhism are woven together in a seamless tapestry.
If there is anything that is most engaging to me now, it is the desire to bring this sublime way of life into our culture in the West.
What began as a deep compassion for the suffering of the existential predicament of human beings deepened as I understood that we need not identify with our experience. It is this understanding that has led me far onto the path of befriending others on their spiritual journey. My greatest inspiration is working with students wherever they are in the moment. We are all capable of so much more than suffering; once we learn how to be mindful, it's only a matter of remembering that it is the purity of intention which frees us. Dismantling the myth that we need to be something other than what we are is so important, because if we can learn to be mindful of exactly where we are, we experience the happiness of peace, which is what we deeply are.
My deepest appreciation is for the joy of the spiritual adventure. The purity of mindfulness, which soothes our sophisticated, intellectual, analytical, and out-of-touch-with-our-bodies mindset, is the moment we remember to pay attention without embellishment, interpretation or judgment. That moment becomes overwhelmingly touching because it brings us what we most wish for, unconditional love and peace. This truth, this purity of intention is what brings us home.
Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda-Nash is a Buddhist teacher, writer, diversity consultant, and community activist. She is a core teacher and Leadership Sangha member at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California (www.eastbaymeditation.org), and she appears in two documentary films, Acting on Faith: Women's New Religious Activism in America; and Between the Lines: Asian American Women's Poetry.
Sally Clough Armstrong began practicing vipassana meditation in India in 1981. She moved to the Bay Area in 1988, and worked at Spirit Rock until 1994 in a number of roles, including executive director. She began teaching in 1996, and is one of the guiding teachers of Spirit Rock's Dedicated Practitioner Program.
Sally has always been inspired by the depth and the breadth of the Buddha’s teaching, as presented in the suttas of the Pali Canon, because the truth and power of the Buddha’s words still speak to us today. Her intention in teaching is to make these ancient texts and practices accessible and relevant to all levels of practitioner, from the very new to the dedicated meditator.
The millennium question I hear students asking is how they can integrate the path of self-liberation with the path of paying attention to the welfare of others. My focus is guiding practitioners to do both. The dharmic brilliance is that liberation, the core teaching, creates a deep, transformative experience of who we are, which, in turn, transforms our care for the state of all beings everywhere.
I love storytelling as a vehicle for the dharma. I find that creating a non-ordinary reality of time and place carries the Buddhist spirit beneath the intellect and straight into the heart. Since we are all on a mythic journey inside the story of our lives, creating a timeless dimension through storytelling fires up our natural wisdom and compassion.
One of my deepest passions is engaging with an earth dharma. Dharmic awareness gives us a way to create a profound relationship to the land. We can learn to show care, honor and respect, loving the environment as the true extension of our hearts and minds that it is, feeling one with it in our blood.
People all over are seeking and longing for a sense of connection, community and an inner life. When we fuse the traditions of the dharma as self-liberation and as compassionate action, we infuse our daily lives with the power of the ancient lineage of Buddhism. We learn about the true nature of who we are and what it means to lead a compassionate life with ourselves, with others and our environment.
Trudy Goodman has practiced in the Zen and Theravada traditions since 1974. She founded InsightLA and Growing Spirit (a family program) in Los Angeles. She is the guiding teacher of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy in Cambridge, MA.
Wes Nisker is a dharma teacher, author, radio commentator and performer. He is the founder and co-editor of Inquiring Mind and a member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council. His latest book is Crazy Wisdom Saves the World Again!