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.
Cheryl Slean has been practicing meditation intensively since 1995, teaching since 2007, and is currently on the Teachers’ Councils at Against the Stream L.A. and Insight Community of the Desert, Palm Springs. She teaches classes and retreats at these centers and at other spiritual and secular venues including Seattle Insight, Mindful Schools, Refuge Recovery Centers, Santa Monica Hospital, Google LA, and many other health and wellness and business settings. She has also helped design research on the efficacy of meditation for chronic pain, and developed associated trainings for healthcare professionals. Cheryl has a Certification in Mindfulness Facilitation (CMF) from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and regularly offers meditative interventions in addiction outpatient programs.
Dave Smith is a Buddhist meditation teacher, addiction treatment specialist, experienced speaker, and published author. He is empowered to teach by Noah Levine of Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society and received training in Buddhist psychology from the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS). HE has operated intensive programs and trainings for the Nashville office of the Mind Body Awareness Project (MBA), as well as providing services, workshops and trainings for Refuge Recovery. Dave has extensive experience bringing meditative interventions into jails, prisons, youth detention centers and addiction treatment facilities. He is the guiding teacher of the Against the Stream Nashville Meditation Center and teaches over 300 meditation classes and workshops a year. Dave teaches Buddhist meditation retreats internationally and is an active teacher for Against the Stream throughout the US. He provides direct services for mental health agencies, the public library, and speaks nationally at Addiction and Behavioral Health conferences. Dave recently relocated to Los Angeles.
Erin is Guiding Teacher at Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center in northern New Mexico and Resident Teacher at the Durango Dharma Center. Her approach to sharing the dharma is influenced by her love of wild nature, her ongoing experience as a student of the Diamond Approach by A.H. Almaas and by her decades of working with somatics and as a bodyworker.
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.