After decades of practice and teaching, what inspires me are those moments when I can see the habitual as if it were for the first time. If such moments occur while I'm giving a talk, then the teacher in me can hear its own words imbued with the freshness imparted by those who truly listen -- the multiple aspects of myself being part of the audience as well. Thanks for your participation in the process.
I have two main aims in teaching. The first is to spread the dharma as widely as possible, offering it to as many different people as I can. The second is to teach a smaller number of people over sustained periods of time. This in-depth teaching engages my tremendous love for intensive, long-term meditation practice, where people can immerse themselves in the retreat experience and see how it transforms their understanding.
Although deeply rooted in the Vipassana tradition of Theravada Buddhism, I enjoy working with various skillful means from different Buddhist schools to help convey the essence of all practice, the one dharma of liberation. This essential dharma includes the wisdom of non-clinging, the motivation of compassion to practice for the benefit of all beings, and the potential for liberation within us all.
Given the speed and complexity of our culture, the Buddha's teachings offer a much-needed means to slow down, a way to create some inner calm. We need to touch base with this place of tranquillity in order to allow our bodies and minds to unwind. We then have the chance to see more deeply and profoundly the nature of our lives, how we create suffering and how we can be free. The dharma begins with the development of calm and it carries us all the way to liberation.
Kevin Griffin is the author of the seminal 2004 book "One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps" and the recent "A Burning Desire: Dharma God and the Path of Recovery". He has been practicing Buddhist meditation for three decades and been in recovery since 1985. He’s been a meditation teacher for almost fifteen years. His teacher training was at Spirit Rock Meditation Center where he currently leads Dharma and Recovery classes.
Lani Miller is a teacher at New York Insight Meditation Center. She has been practicing Insight meditation since 1977 and teaching since 2009. Lani is a graduate of the third Community Dharma Leaders Program. She is a Singer/ Songwriter who is interested in how music and other creative arts can be a vehicle for sharing spiritual truths and values.
The method I use most in teaching is anapanasati or mindfulness with breathing. Breath awareness supports us while we investigate the entire mind-body process. It helps calm the mind and gives us a graceful entry into a state of choiceless awareness--a place without agendas, where we are not for or against whatever turns up in the moment.
In this state we relax into ourselves. We allow the mind to empty itself of its own content and take us into a realm of silence.
Choiceless awareness, with the transition into and out of silence, has fascinated me for a long time. What are the barriers to our minds becoming silent? How do we remain in silence long enough to receive its countless benefits? Can we learn to bring thought-free wakefulness into each aspect of our ordinary, daily living?
As lay people we need a practice that helps us learn how to live whole-heartedly, to do justice to the many challenges of lay life, and at the same time grow in the dharma. This includes moving gracefully back and forth between our daily life and intensive retreat practice.
Presently, I am deeply interested in using Buddha's Charter of Freedom of Inquiry, the Kalama Sutta, as a framework for my teaching. In this teaching, the Buddha invites us to question and doubt. It invites us to use personal experience to test and verify the truth of the teachings. This in turn encourages us to acknowledge life's greatest teacher: Life itself.
The challenge for us all is to question ourselves. Do we know how to live? If the answer, in any way, is no, then bring in the dharma and let's see how the teachings help us live in a wise and kind way.
Larry Yang, a longtime meditator, trained as a psychotherapist, has taught meditation since 1999 and is a core teacher at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA. He has practiced in Southeast Asia and was a Buddhist monk in Thailand.
Leigh Brasington studied the jhanas with the late Ven. Ayya Khema, who authorized him to teach retreats on the jhanas. He was also empowered to teach by Jack Kornfield. He teaches numerous jhana retreats throughout the year, at venues that include Cloud Mountain, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, Gaia House, Vallecitos, and Southern Dharma.