Merra Young is a psychotherapist, community dharma leader, and founder of Rivers’ Way Meditation Center. She’s also on faculty at the U of M , Center for Spirituality and Healing and at the University of St. Thomas /St-Catherine, Graduate School of Social Work . Merra has over 30 years of experience in the integration of meditation and psychotherapy, and is co-founder of the Midwest Meditation and Psychotherapy Institute.
So much of my inspiration and joy comes from bearing witness to the unfolding of the dharma in myself and others. My teaching is most engaging when I'm involved in an on-going relationship with students and having the opportunity, and honor, to see what's happening in their lives. We may begin our practice on our cushions; and yet, as we learn to bring practice to all corners of our lives, we get a glimmer of the true possibility of liberation.
Simplicity has been most helpful to me, so I stick with basic instructions and try to distill my words to the bare minimum in a simple, clear and precise way.
My interest focuses on how to liberate the mind. I like to explore and find different ways that are most useful to people. I'm aware that various aspects of the practice, and the teaching, resonate with different people at different times. What is that person's experience right now and what will be most helpful to them? Often the answer comes to me by looking at what has happened to me in practice, and using that experience to help someone discover their own intuitive wisdom.
In my teaching, lovingkindness supports the developmental unfolding of wisdom. It doesn't do us much good to practice in ways that perpetuate self-judgment. When we come from a place of caring and lovingkindness, we allow for the possibility of transformation in our lives. Lovingkindness and wisdom allow us to move from a life of reaction to a life of inner resonance with the world around us. They take us out of a place of reaction and into one of responsiveness.
A native of El Salvador, Nils started meditating at the age of 16 after an event that changed his life. He studied major religions at Lancaster University in England and did research on gurus in Pune, India. He stayed in Hindu and Benedictine monasteries until he went to Thailand to ordain in Ajahn Chah's Forest tradition. He made a commitment to be a monk for seven years and lived in monasteries in England, New Zealand and Italy. He helped translate talks by Ajahn Chah and has given his own talks in a variety of venues including Common Ground Meditation Center in Minneapolis. The first discourse of the Buddha is the framework by which he lives his life. He currently teaches mindfulness four times a week to teens in Oakland. Nils is a member of Casa del Corazon and EBMC’sAlphabet Brothers of Color Deep Refuge Group. His teachers continue to be Ajahn Viradhammo and Ajahn Sumedho.
Pamela Ayo Yetunde is a Sati Center for Buddhist Studies Chaplaincy Program and Community Dharma Leader graduate. She teaches pastoral care and counseling at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton. Ayo has contributed articles to Lion's Roar and Buddhadharma magazines, including the book review on A Thousand Hands: A Guidebook to Caring for Your Buddhist Community
Formally trained with a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Patrice Koelsch is a writer and educator who began sitting at Common Ground in 1995. She has been facilitating meditation groups in correctional facilities since 1999. Patrice has also practiced meditation at monasteries in Burma and Thailand. In 2006 she completed a year-long Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program at the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies. Patrice has been certified to teach through Spirit Rock\’s Community Dharma Leaders Program.