I first encountered Buddhism in 1974, and it blew the doors wide open for me with its profound and practical insights into the mind, suffering, and true happiness. Over time I gravitated to the original teachings of the Buddha, embodied in the Theravadan tradition, for their down-to-earth clarity, and important sources for me have included the teachers of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and the Pali Canon itself. More recently, I've explored grounding the dharma in modern evolutionary neuropsychology - "neurodharma" - recognizing how mind arises dependently upon the body, especially the nervous system as it tries to meet ancient needs for raw survival. I am especially interested in using these approaches to heighten the learning - the cultivation (bhavana) - from beneficial experiences (otherwise often wasted on the brain) to reduce the underlying sense of deficit and disturbance that causes the craving that causes suffering and harm. Overall, I feel amazingly blessed to have the opportunity in this life to ride the dharma stream and share its gifts with others!
Rob Burbea has practiced and studied Buddhism since 1985. Teaching since 2004, he is currently the Gaia House Resident Teacher and a member of its Teacher Council. He is a co-founder of Sanghaseva, an organization exploring the Dharma through international service work, and also a co-initiator of DANCE, the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (www.thedancewebsite.org). Rob is the author of Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising.
More and more, the teaching practice takes me into the community where I engage directly with students. My focus right now is on bringing the continuity of the Dharma into the market place. Although retreating is an important form for self-knowledge, I find myself less interested in the immediate results of a retreat and more interested in helping students investigate their relationship to the ups and downs of their everyday life.
Nature, death and spontaneous freedom continually interweave themselves into my teaching. From the forest of Thailand, where I spent several years, I bring a deep awareness of the healing quality of nature into my teachings. Relaxing into our true nature allows us to realize what it means to be a human being. It is here we find a resting point, a counterbalance to the speed and turbulence of our culture.
My work in hospice brings a sense of urgency into my teaching. Working with the theme of death and dying reveals the here and now of life to us, how important it is to open to each loss, change and transition that marks our path. Life is precious. We need to awaken without hesitation.
Many of us crave to be more calm and centered. We know that life has more to offer than this fleeting material world. For each of us, the Dharma offers an immediacy of freedom for which we do not have to strive or wait. In practice, we can learn to relax deeply into the moment and rediscover spontaneous freedom.
Ruth Denison studied in Burma in the early 1960s with the meditation master Sayagi U Ba Khin. She has been teaching since 1973 and is founder of Dhamma Dena, a desert retreat center in Joshua Tree, CA, and The Center for Buddhism in the West in Germany.
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.
Shaila Catherine is the founder of Bodhi Courses (bodhicourses.org) an online Dhamma classroom, and Insight Meditation South Bay, a meditation center in Mountain View, California (imsb.org). She has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience, and has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand, completed a one year intensive meditation retreat with the focus on concentration and jhana, and authored Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, (Wisdom Publications, 2008). She has extensive experience practicing and teaching mindfulness, loving kindness, concentration, and a broad range of approaches to liberating insight. Since 2006, Shaila has continued her study of jhana and insight under the direction of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, and authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana (Wisdom Publications, 2011).