Kittisaro, from Tennessee, a Rhodes Scholar and a Buddhist practitioner for over 35 years including 15 years as a Theravada monk in the Forest School of Ajahn Chah. He is also a practitioner of Pure Land and Chan Buddhism. He is co-founder, with Thanissara of Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat in South Africa and has completed two year long retreats. Kittisaro currently lives in the North Bay, California, teaches at IMS and Spirit Rock, and is co-author of Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism.
Kittisaro & Thanissara, both former monastics in the Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah, are married, teaching partners, and co-founders of Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, in South Africa. They are co-authors of Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Guide to Engaged Buddhism. They currently live in North Bay California where they are guiding teachers of Sacred Mountain Sangha.
La Sarmiento has been practicing Vipassana meditation and has been a member of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW) since 1998. La's practice and approach to the Dharma has been influenced greatly by the teachings of Tara Brach, Pema Chodron, Larry Yang, Eric Kolvig, Michele McDonald, Cheri Maples, Joe Weston, and Ruth King. In September 2012, La graduated from the Community Dharma Leadership IV program sponsored by Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA.
Since 2005, La has been the guiding teacher/leader of the IMCW Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Sangha and the IMCW People of Color Sangha. They* integrate the Kalyana Mitta process and the concepts of Respectful Confrontation and Non-violent Communication into their gatherings to create a sacred space for group wisdom to arise. Between 2011 and 2016, La also co-led the DC Monthly Teen Sangha for youth between 13-19 years of age.
La is a senior retreat/event manager committed to bringing diverse teachers and programs to IMCW and to making the Dharma accessible to all. La has been a lead teacher of mindfulness teen retreats in Virginia through Inward Bound Mindfulness Education since 2011, has co-taught the LGBTIQ Retreat at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY since 2014, and has co-taught the Young Adults Retreat at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center since 2014.
The method I use most in teaching is anapanasati or mindfulness with breathing. Breath awareness supports us while we investigate the entire mind-body process. It helps calm the mind and gives us a graceful entry into a state of choiceless awareness--a place without agendas, where we are not for or against whatever turns up in the moment.
In this state we relax into ourselves. We allow the mind to empty itself of its own content and take us into a realm of silence.
Choiceless awareness, with the transition into and out of silence, has fascinated me for a long time. What are the barriers to our minds becoming silent? How do we remain in silence long enough to receive its countless benefits? Can we learn to bring thought-free wakefulness into each aspect of our ordinary, daily living?
As lay people we need a practice that helps us learn how to live whole-heartedly, to do justice to the many challenges of lay life, and at the same time grow in the dharma. This includes moving gracefully back and forth between our daily life and intensive retreat practice.
Presently, I am deeply interested in using Buddha's Charter of Freedom of Inquiry, the Kalama Sutta, as a framework for my teaching. In this teaching, the Buddha invites us to question and doubt. It invites us to use personal experience to test and verify the truth of the teachings. This in turn encourages us to acknowledge life's greatest teacher: Life itself.
The challenge for us all is to question ourselves. Do we know how to live? If the answer, in any way, is no, then bring in the dharma and let's see how the teachings help us live in a wise and kind way.
Larry Yang, a longtime meditator, trained as a psychotherapist, has taught meditation since 1999 and is a core teacher at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA. He has practiced in Southeast Asia and was a Buddhist monk in Thailand.
Leigh Brasington studied the jhanas with the late Ven. Ayya Khema, who authorized him to teach retreats on the jhanas. He was also empowered to teach by Jack Kornfield. He teaches numerous jhana retreats throughout the year, at venues that include Cloud Mountain, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, Gaia House, Vallecitos, and Southern Dharma.
Kate Lila Wheeler began teaching meditation in the mid-1980s and continues to practice with teachers in Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist lineages. Writing is an important part of her life; she has recently completed a second novel.