Lately, my own practice is moving more and more into the monastic world. As I teach out of that nourishment, I find people hungry for the traditional, solid forms of the Dharma. I see people's lives changing when they engage in these forms. Certainly, as I deepen my own Sutta study, I find the traditional ideas so helpful it encourages me to delve further.
In this, I am learning how to ride the edge of a question, instead of reaching for answers. When I let the question hang there, as a living presence, its very aliveness stimulates movement toward an answer, an opening.
Some key factors imprint my teaching. The fact that I'm a purely Western-produced Dharma teacher, without the influence of Eastern traveling, and that I'm a middle-aged Western woman with a psychological background. Also, my years in a Christian practice now translate into my engagement with such ideas as embodiment: how do we take the practice and live it? What is practical in the Dharma, a sort of Buddhist Householder Hints.
From my perspective, the world is in serious trouble. We have separated ourselves from all other beings, and in the process do a lot that keeps us from being present. It is so urgent that we learn to be present and see what is true about our being here, that we live with kindness and compassion for all beings. Vipassana supports these intentions and helps us all heal, no matter what the eventual outcome may be.
Matthew Brensilver, PhD, began practice in the Tibetan tradition and since 2003, has studied with Shinzen Young. He served as a Buddhist chaplain at USC for four years and teaches about the intersection of mindfulness and psychotherapy at UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center.
Matthew was trained by Noah Levine, with whom he teaches at Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. Talks are available at againstthestream.org/audio. He has been involved with Spirit Rock Teen Retreats since 2008.
Matthew Daniell has been practicing Buddhist meditation and yoga for over 20 years. He studied Zen in Japan and Insight Meditation in India, Burma, and Thailand. His teachers include Munindra, Dipa Ma, Larry Rosenberg, Sharon Salzberg, and Joseph Goldstein. He studied yoga in the tradition of T.K.V. Desikachar of Madras India, and is certified to teach in several traditions. Matthew resides in West Newbury and teaches at various universities and retreat centers. He also co-leads retreats with Larry Rosenberg at the Insight Meditation Society, Omega, Kripalu, and CIMC. He is a founder and the guiding teacher at the Insight Meditation Center of Newburyport, MA.
Melanie Waschke has had a Meditation practice since her early twenties. She has been deeply involved in the mindfulness practice taught by Thich Nhath Hanh, living in his retreat centers for over a year as well as doing a lot of long term practice in the Vipassana tradition worldwide. Currently she is part of the teacher training program led by Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein and others. Melanie Waschke is a clinical psychologist, working in Germany. She teaches meditation in English and German.
I find that practitioners can practice Vipassana for a long time without paying attention to the role that fear plays in their lives. Living with fear that is unacknowledged leads to fragmentation in life and practice. I encourage people to look at the energy of fear, for fear can limit our access to freedom.
It is quite possible to diligently practice mindfulness, yet keep fear at a distance. Not becoming intimate with fear creates a dualism and complacency that gives a silent nod of approval to living with fear. When we begin to look at, and become friends with, our fear, we suddenly discover a lot more space in our lives.
In the larger picture, Vipassana offers us all a practice that goes counter to the tremendous cultural momentum around us of materialism and consumerism. With practice, we can learn how to take full responsibility for ourselves, and so pay attention to developing inner qualities capable of sustaining us as we navigate the shifting sands of life.