Dharma practice is medicine for the mind -- something particularly needed in a culture like ours that actively creates mental illness in training us to be busy producers and avid consumers. As individuals, we become healthier through our Dharma practice, which in turn helps bring sanity to our society at large.
Giving dharma talks offers me the opportunity to express gratitude for my Thai teachers -- Ajahn Fuang Jotiko and Ajahn Suwat Suvaco -- in appreciation of the many years they spent training me, which came with the understanding that the teachings continue past me. Giving dharma talks also pushes me to articulate what I haven''t yet verbalized to myself in English. This in turn enriches my own practice. When you help a wide variety of people deal with their issues, it helps you practice with yours.
When giving a talk, I try to remain true to three things: my training, my study of the early Buddhist texts, and the needs of my listeners. The challenge is to find the point where all three meet -- not as a compromise, but in their genuine integrity.
For this, I play with analogy. Meditation is a skill, and our meeting point as people, whatever our culture, lies in our experience in mastering skills: how to sew clothes, cook a meal, or build a shelter. So I've found that one of the most effective ways of explaining subtle points in meditation is to find analogies with more mundane skills. Through the language of analogy we find common ground from which our practice can grow to meet our individual needs, and yet remain true to its universal roots.
Dr. Amy Saltzman is a holistic physician, mindfulness coach, scientist, wife, mother, devoted student of transformation, long-time athlete, and occasional poet. Her passion is supporting people of all ages in enhancing their well being, and discovering the Still Quiet Place within. She is recognized by her peers as a visionary and pioneer in the fields of holistic medicine and mindfulness for youth. Dr. Saltzman has offered mindfulness to young people from pre-K to college undergrads in socioeconomically diverse school, and community settings. She has conducted two research studies evaluating the benefits of teaching mindfulness to child-parent pairs, and to children in low-income elementary schools; these research projects were conducted in collaboration with the Department of Psychology at Stanford University.
Andrea Fella is the co-teacher at the Insight Meditation Center and the Insight Retreat Center. She has been practicing Insight Meditation since 1996, and teaching Insight Meditation since 2003. She is particularly drawn to intensive retreat practice, and has done a number of long retreats, both in the United States and in Burma. During one long practice period in Burma, she ordained as a nun with Sayadaw U Janaka. Andrea is especially drawn to the wisdom teachings of the Buddha. Her teachings emphasize clarity and practicality. Andrea is a member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council, and teaches residential retreats for IMC and other retreat centers around the country
Ann Dillon began meditating in 2003. As her meditation practice developed and evolved over the years, she discovered a natural inclination to the jhanas. In 2008 Ann began practicing and studying under the guidance of Shaila Catherine. Since then she has been developing and cultivating the traditional samadhi-vipassana (concentration-insight) practice as a means of preparing the mind for liberating insight. In 2011 Ann attended a 4-month retreat with Pa-Auk Sayadaw and Venerable U Jagara, focusing on the Four Elements meditation. Sutta study is an ongoing source of support and inspiration for her practice. Ann lives in Florida with her family, where she also teaches yoga and works as a pedagogical consultant in distance education programs.
My teaching practice and my personal practice continually intertwine, each weaving a pattern in the larger tapestry of the Dharma. The theme that threads itself throughout my practice relates to the tremendous pain and suffering, the challenges and difficulties that so many beings face, and the possibility of awakening from this suffering. From this immediate calling I've woven the purpose of my life.
It is a deep honor for me to come together with others who feel a similar calling of connection to the Dharma to learn about the greatest gift of all: a happiness inside of us that is unconditional, and a depth of being that is infinite.
Together, our practice is dedicated to this effort of opening to our hearts' potential. To this I bring the flavor of my lineage--the continuation of the teachings of my root teachers, Ruth Denison and her teacher U Bha Khin; a commitment to learning how to live with each other in kindness; and my life as a lesbian in a long-term relationship.
Even though I have been involved in different traditions over the years, what I love about Buddhism is the simplicity of the practice; the fact that it isn't embodied by a lot of ritual, or special clothes, or the need for different props. I love the moment-to-moment calling of awareness to whatever one is doing. And vitally important, I appreciate the safety inherent in the teacher/student relationship, where the emphasis is on the practice itself and the teacher engages as a peer and spiritual friend.
Berget Jelane has been practicing meditation since 1986 with Gil Fronsdal as her primary teacher. She coordinates SJ Insight Meditation, teaches at various groups in the Bay Area, and has a small sitting group in Morgan Hill. Berget was ordained as a lay Buddhist minister in 2010. She is a psychotherapist and incorporates mindfulness and the Buddha's teachings into her work with clients.