Sebene Selassie is a meditation teacher and certified Integral Coach®. She has been studying Buddhism since majoring in Comparative Religious Studies as an undergrad at McGill University. For over 20 years she worked with children, youth, and families nationally and internationally for small and large not–for–profits. Her work has taken her everywhere from the Tenderloin in San Francisco to refugee camps in Guinea, West Africa. Sebene is a two–time breast cancer survivor.
The most compelling part of my practice right now comes in the form of my writing. For a long time, I've focused my teaching and writing on lovingkindness. Now as I look more deeply into lovingkindness, I find that it actually rests on another foundation, the expression of faith.
Faith is the topic I am exploring most in teaching and writing. Today there is a tremendous upsurge of interest in a new kind of faith, based on a practice where people can experience a direct spirituality, one without rigid dogma or compulsory belief in a specific cosmology. This is a spirituality that rests on personal transformation.
Vipassana allows us to take a method of mind training and craft a way of life that is more compassionate, more ethical and more powerful than our unawakened lives. The Buddha's teachings give us an immediate experience of what we can do to change. Faith in the teachings means we align ourselves with a vision of our greatest possibilities. This is the heart of the practice.
My greatest joy is giving the gift of love and hope through the dharma, knowing it is possible for humans to transform their hearts. These dharma gifts include paying attention, practicing clarity and kindness and addressing the suffering of the world--which, of course, includes ourselves.
Right now I'm most enthusiastic about the first gift, paying attention, because it makes every part of our lives better. Paying attention allows us to become more clear, and each moment of clarity is a gift to ourselves and those around us. Clarity keeps us from contributing to more suffering. The gift of clarity and kindness also supports a peaceful heart, which allows us to address the suffering in the world with love. When we practice clarity, we offer the possibility for humans to live in a different way. But a peaceful heart is only the beginning. We also have to take action, go out and directly address the suffering with peace in our hearts.
As a parent, grandparent and a psychotherapist, I teach out of the stories of my life and the lives of those around me. I am especially touched by personal narrative, accounts of spiritual journeys, and how these become vehicles for connecting with the dharma. I believe in revealing my own story so that others are more at ease to reveal theirs. Truth talking is a way out of suffering. Discovering how our hearts and minds work and creating a dialogue supports right speech practice. This is an on-going primary practice that we can do all the time. My hope is that I encourage people how to pay attention and to tell the truth by example.
Thanissara, originally from London, was a nun for 12 years in the tradition of Ajahn Chah and has taught internationally the last 30 years. She is co-founder and director of Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, South Africa and has an MA in Mindfulness Psychotherapy Practice from the UK. She is co-author of Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Guide to Engaged Buddhism, author of Time To Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, and several books of poetry. She currently lives in the North Bay, California and teaches at IMS and is on the Teacher Council at Spirit Rock, a Core Teacher at IMS, and Guiding Teacher of Sacred Mountain Sangha.