What I teach is a reflection of the constantly changing nature of my own practice. When I give a talk it is not a set agenda, but something that I've been reflecting about. The talks tend to be in rhythm with my own practice.
At the moment, I'm reflecting on the interplay of the personal and the non-personal, on aloneness and intimacy, on emptiness and embodiment. This process of reflection is a slow one. I hold a question in the background of my consciousness and then prepare to be surprised, to see what actually arises.
I enjoy the dharma a great deal. I try to convey that meditation practice is not a pathway of endlessly overcoming obstacles, but also a path of tremendous joy. It brings a great deal of profound truth to people's ability to find happiness. I have great faith in the Dharma, and a bottomless faith in people's capacity to be wise.
The ancient traditions of Buddhism are as relevant today as they were 2,500 years ago because people's capacity for getting themselves into trouble, for confusion, alienation and separation is not so different from Buddha's time. Vipassana, then and now, offers people an opportunity to transform themselves, and in so doing, transform the world around them.
My engagement in teaching the dharma, to point to a free and liberated life, has remained the same since the first day I started. It is my unwavering commitment to inspire people that such a life is accessible to us all, here and now. This is what sustains me and gives me enthusiasm.
With contemporary language, I endeavor to address the depth of the Dharma, to go into the inner experience by using one of the contributions to the great wheel of the dharma, insight meditation. Insight meditation is a respectful and healthy practice. It gives us meditation techniques which, when practiced, lead to real insight into the whole of existence as well as our life in particular. It speaks to what it means for us to be a part of this world.
I also pay attention to the breadth of the Dharma by attempting to address every possible life endeavor, leaving no stone unturned: materialism, consumer culture, livelihood, environmental resources, love and respect for sentient beings, relationships, all the issues of daily life.
Most important for me is to keep the priority and focus on striving to live the awakened and liberated life and not be sidetracked by any particular feature, no matter how noble its contribution. A liberated and awake life is the center of the Dharma, and I find that I am simply unable to settle for anything else.
Corrado Pensa teaches insight meditation in Italy and the US. Since 1987 he has been the guiding teacher of the Association for Mindfulness Meditation in Rome. He is also a professor of Eastern Philosophy at the University of Rome and a former psychotherapist.
DaRa Williams is a trainer, meditation teacher and psychotherapist. DaRa has been a meditator for the past 25 years and is a practitioner of both Vipassana and Ascension meditation. She is a graduate of the Spirit Rock/Insight Meditation Society Teacher Training Program and is a Guiding Teacher at IMS. She is the Program Manager and a core teacher in the current IMS Teacher Training. DaRa has been a clinician and administrator in the field of Mental Health for over 25 years and currently maintains a private practice in Manhattan. She is a certified trainer and practitioner of Indigenous Focusing-Oriented Therapy and Complex Trauma. DaRa integrates these skills, understandings, wisdom traditions and worldviews in her intention for contributing to the ending of suffering for all beings.
"It is my belief that vipassana meditation and the dharma are ideal for transforming suffering, particularly the trauma of oppression and its many vicissitudes-where the chains around our minds and hearts can be broken and dissolved. Awareness and wisdom become the vehicle for freedom and transforming lives."
Deborah Ratner Helzer has practiced with Western and Asian teachers in the Theravada tradition since 1995, including a year as a nun in Burma. She has been teaching in the Washington, DC area and assisting with retreats around the country since 2001.
Debra Chamberlin-Taylor is a teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. She has been meditating since 1973 and has led retreats that combine spiritual and psychological growth since 1978. In addition to practicing Vipassana, she has been influenced by Dzogchen, Diamond Heart, and devotional practices. More recently she has become a certified teacher of Wisdom Healing Qigong, finding Qigong and mindfulness used together to be the most healing and transformative practice in her long spiritual journey. A psychotherapist, she also leads workshops on embodiment of awareness and love in relationships and in our diverse world.
My work since 2006 through UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (uclahealth.org/marc) emphasizes making mindfulness teachings accessible to all, regardless of background, yet without losing depth practice. In recent years I have been teaching on Natural Awareness— the effortless, objectless, and spacious side of awareness practices. Socially engaged Buddhism is a thread woven through many of my talks-- how can we end suffering both internally and externally? Having worked with teens and young adults for many years, some of the talks are geared to young people. Finally as a mom of a tween, I'm deeply inspired by the transformative power of daily life and family practice.