Marvin G. Belzer, PhD, has taught mindfulness meditation for twenty years. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. For many years he taught a semester-long meditation course in the Department of Philosophy at Bowling Green St. University, where he was an Associate Professor of Philosophy. He teaches an undergraduate course at UCLA (Psychiatry 175: Mindfulness Practice and Theory) and teaches mindfulness in many different venues in Los Angeles.
Mary Aubry has been meditating and attending insight retreats for over 25 years. In 2009, she attended her first jhana retreat with Leigh Brasington, who authorized her to teach the jhanas in the tradition of the Venerable Ayya Khema. Other than Leigh, her primary teachers include Joseph Goldstein, Tara Brach, and Bhikkhu Analayo. She is a teacher with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C. and teaches retreats nationally on insight, the jhanas, and the brahma viharas.
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, MSW, PhD, serves on the Guiding Teachers Committee and Board of Directors at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He was previously Program Director for Mindful Schools and for more than a decade, was a core teacher at Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. Each summer, he lectures at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center on the intersections between mindfulness, science and mental health. Before committing to teach meditation full-time, he spent years doing research on addiction pharmacotherapy at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine. He is the co-author of two books about meditation during adolescence.
Matthew Daniell began Buddhist meditation in Asia in 1985. He practiced Zen in Japan, Tibetan Buddhism in India, and Insight Meditation in the United States, India, Burma, and Thailand, where he was an ordained monk for more than a year. His Asian teachers include Harada Roshi, Kalu Rinpoche, Dipama and Munindra. His Western teachers include Larry Rosenberg, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg. Matthew is a founder and the guiding teacher at the Insight Meditation Center of Newburyport, Massachusetts (IMCNewburyport.org), and is a member of the Religious Services Department at Phillips Exeter Academy.
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.