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.
Dr. Stephen Fulder was born in the UK and received an M.A. from Oxford University and a Ph.D. He has devoted his life to exploring inner and outer healing and spirituality. He is an author and lecturer in herbal and natural medicine with 14 published books. He lives in an environmental village in the Galilee in Israel, which he helped to found and where he grows his own food. Stephen has been practicing Vipassana meditation since 1975, is the founder and senior teacher of the Israel Insight Society, the main Vipassana/Mindfulness organization in Israel, and has been teaching retreats and courses in Buddhist practice for 15 years. He has established programs and organizations, such as ‘Middleway’, which apply these teachings to aid peace and healing in the communities in the Middle East.
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.
Valerie Mason-John is a playwright and author of eight books. She works as a consultant in conflict transformation, restorative justice, leadership, and anti-bullying. She lives in British Columbia, and is chairperson of Vancouver Buddhist Centre, where she leads a weekly meditation class for people in recovery from addiction.