Ayya Anandabodhi is co-founder of Aloka Vihara, a training monastery for women near Placerville, CA, where she currently resides. She has practiced meditation since 1989, and lived as part of the Ajahn Chah lineage at Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries for 18 years. In 2009 she moved to the US and took full bhikkhuni ordination in 2011.
Ven. Dr. Pannavati is Co-Abbot of Embracing Simplicity Hermitage. An African-American Buddhist monk ordained in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions and with transmission from Roshi Bernie Glassman of Zen Peacemakers, she is both contemplative and empowered for compassionate service. More than 70 homeless youth between the ages of 17 and 21 have resided at the hermitage over the past 2 ½ years and that effort has evolved into a separate 501(c)(3), MyPlace, Inc. which has its own accredited high school, jobs training program, youth center and residential program. An international teacher, she advocates on behalf of disempowered women and youth globally; and insists on equality and respect in Buddhist life for both female monastics and lay sangha. She was a 2008 recipient of the Outstanding Buddhist Women’s Award. In 2009, she received a special commendation from the Princess of Thailand for Humanitarian Acts and ordained the first Thai Bhikkhunis, on Thai soil with Thai monks as witnesses. In May 2010 she convened a platform of Bhikkhunis to ordain 10 Cambodian Samaneris, performing the ceremony in a Cambodian temple, witnessed by Cambodian abbots and sanctioned by Maha Thera Ven. Dhammathero Sao Khon, President of the Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks of the US. Finally, Venerable is a founding circle director of Women of Compassionate Wisdom, a 21st century trans-lineage Buddhist Order and Sisterhood. She recently ordained their first American oblate.
I am a lifelong spiritual practitioner who has trained for over 20 years in the Theravada Buddhist tradition in the U.S., India and Sri Lanka. I live in an urban area and consider how the practices can translate for my fellow citizens with a busy modern life; I am most interested in bringing these ancient teachings to the contemporary world, informed by my love of creative arts, technology, politics and pop culture. I also have an MBA and am particularly interested in the practice as it relates to leadership development -- how we can each see through the things that hold us back from manifesting our unique gifts and talents in the world. I am on the Spirit Rock Teacher's Council and teach at other meditation centers, but also do a lot of teaching & coaching in tech companies, nonprofit organizations, and less overtly spiritual settings. For more information, please visit: www.anushkaf.org
Devin Berry is co-founder of Deeper Still, a teen meditation sangha at East Bay Meditation Center and serves as a founding board member of Mindful Peacebuilding. A meditation practitioner since 1999, he is a student of Thich Nhat Hanh as well as a Vipassana practitioner. Devin is a graduate of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher training practicum. He has worked with a wide variety of groups from children, teens and young adults and elders using culturally-informed approaches. For over a decade Devin has worked with many youth organizations including Stepping Stones, The Mosaic Project and Mindful Schools, designing and implementing curricula, teaching and facilitating groups of all ages based in mindfulness practices. Devin recently co-designed and lead a course for African-American elders, and has been co-facilitating trauma-informed, ancestral healing workshops. After completing the training in Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) in 2014, he co-founded the Transforming Historical Harms Project of the Bay Area. Devin can be described as an engaging, humorous storyteller who uses poignant anecdotes to convey powerful truths and a breadth of life experience.
Elad Levinson LCSW has studied and practiced Buddhism since 1970. His practice has always been passionately interested in the integration of Buddhist philosophy and methods with the mundane worlds exigencies. He is the co-founder of Pounds for Poverty, whose mission is to bring Mindfulness and Altruism to the treatment of weight related illnesses. He has an active psychotherapy practice in Palo Alto and management consulting firm focused upon accelerating the solutions to environmental and social problems working with the entrepreneur- founder/investors or senior leaders. His firm is called Noble Purpose Consulting.
The more I rest in present awareness, and don't separate myself out from life, the more I appreciate the impact that I have on others. Only when I am present am I sensitive to my connection to the world, am I able to feel how important it is to be non-harming in my words and actions. When I am lost in thought, I lose that simplicity and sensitivity.
I continually point toward this secret of the present moment, for if I am really present, I don't suffer as much, I don't cause as much suffering, and I am less afraid. I may experience intense pain or pleasure, but the degree of mental suffering lessens. Practicing mindfulness de-conditions the habits that prevent me from being centered in the present. This in turn gives me a more stable awareness, which allows me to recognize my inherent peace and freedom.
It is this taste of nowness--introducing people to the living quality of the present moment and its sense of freedom--that most engages me in my teaching practice. I find no evidence of suffering, in my mind, unless I remind myself of some event that is not in the present. Suffering arises when I am lost in my imagination, reviewing the past or fearfully anticipating the future.
I feel tremendous gratitude and love for the dharma, and the practice of awareness. Knowing my mind a little better, and being less preoccupied with my internal drama, makes me more available to the suffering of others. Consequently, I am moved to give to others rather than focusing on what I can get. In spite of being more attuned to suffering, staying present allows each day to become more joyful, compelling and intereesting. My desire to run from this moment, by running after an imagined, better future, or away from a past fear, has diminished. It is present wakefulness that helps me recover my capacity to live with balance and ease in the world.
Mark Coleman has been engaged in meditation practice since 1981, primarily within the Insight meditation tradition. He has been teaching meditation retreats since 1997. His teaching is also influenced by his studies with Advaita Vedanta and Tibetan teachers in Asia and the West, and through his teacher training with Jack Kornfield. Mark primarily teaches at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California, though he also teaches nationally, in Europe and India.
He leads backpacking retreats, nature-based retreats, and teaches retreats for environmental activists in the wilderness at Vallecitos Mountain Refuge in New Mexico, and at Knoll Farm in Vermont. In the Bay Area, Mark has a counseling practice, where he integrates his studies of psychotherapy and meditative work. He is the author of “Awake in the Wild - Mindfulness in Nature as a path of Self-Discovery." Mark has been an avid hiker, and backpacker for most of his life and spends much of his time in the outdoors. He lives in the woods in Marin County, Northern California.
Noliwe Alexander has been a student of Vipassana meditation for over 15 years. Throughout this time of deep devotion to the Dharma, Noliwe has become a dedicated practitioner, teacher of various sitting groups around the Bay Area, facilitator of community workshops and Buddhist meditation day longs and class series programs. She is a Life & Business Coach dedicating both her coaching & Dharma practice to the POC, LGBT, At Risk and Elder communities. She is a graduate of Spirit Rock’s CDL4 program and completed EBMC’s Commit 2 Dharma program in 2010.
Noliwe is a wisdom keeper and humbled by the presence of her ancestors spirit that lives within and walks beside.