Right now I'm deeply involved with developing an urban meditation center in my community. It's important for me to sink my teaching roots into a commitment to my community, to ongoing relationships with people as they practice inside retreats and out of retreats. What are all the ways Sangha is relevant and applicable to our family life, our work, and our play?
Ongoing is my investigation of my own understanding about the assumptions behind what we teach. The graduate work I did in Buddhist studies greases the wheel for this type of reflection. Since part of the inquiry about freedom involves not being stuck in one position, I enjoy pulling the rug out from underneath what we, as teachers, stand on. In other words, to practice the practice.
At the core, what deeply motivates me is my compassion for the suffering in our world. Vipassana teachings, especially as we adapt the forms to an American culture, offer our society a chance to truly look at the turmoil caused by such behaviors as consumerism and individualism. Vipassana creates a different set of values by fostering a high degree of self-reflection on our underlying motivations and intentions, both as individuals and as a society.
Gina Sharpe is a founding teacher of New York Insight. She discovered the Dharma over 30 years ago and has studied and practiced in Asia and the United States. She was trained as a Retreat Teacher under the mentorship of Jack Kornfield. She teaches at Retreat Centers and meditation communities around the United States, including at a maximum security prison for women. She holds two meditation classes in Westchester County, New York.
Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia has been offering instruction in Theravada Buddhist teachings and practices since 1990. She is a student of the western forest sangha, the disciples of Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Chah, and is a Lay Buddhist Minister in association with Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in California. She served as resident teacher of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts from 1996 through 1999. Taraniya teaches at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and at Dhamma centers in the United States.
Gregory has been teaching meditation since 1980. He developed the practice of Insight Dialogue, offering retreats worldwide and authoring books including Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom and Dharma Contemplation: Meditating Together with Wisdom Texts.
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.
Heather Martin has been meditating since 1972, and practicing Vipassana since 1981. Beginning with S.N. Goenka, she has since been influenced by both Burmese and Thai streams of the Theravada tradition, and by Tibetan Dzogchen with Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Most recently she has been studying with Burmese Sayadaw U Tejaniya.
Her practical and wholehearted approach embodies ease and joy, while grounded in realism.
She has been leading retreats in Canada and the US since 2001. She worked for 20 years as a midwife, and lives on Salt Spring Island, off the south coast of B.C. For more information and Heather's teaching schedule, please visit: ssivipassana.org.