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.
Shelly Graf is Common Ground's Associate Director and is currently being trained by Insight Meditation Society as part of their four-year Teacher Training. (Note: Shelly uses they/them pronouns.) They are a staff dharma teacher, like Mark Nunberg, the Guiding Teacher. Shelly provides direct support to the guiding teacher with developing and clarifying the center’s vision, policies, and priorities. Currently they teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Weekly Practice Groups, and co-lead the DharmaCore Queer Meditation Community.
Shelly is also a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and received their Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota in 2003. For a long time she has been interested in what it means to serve as a white social worker in brown communities. She is also a huge MN Lynx fan!
Spring Washam is a well-known meditation teacher, author and visionary leader based in Oakland, California. She is the author of A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, and Wisdom in Any Moment. Spring is considered a pioneer in bringing mindfulness-based healing practices to diverse communities. She is one of the founders and core teachers at the East Bay Meditation Center, located in downtown Oakland, CA. She is also the co-founder of a new organization called Communities Rizing, which is dedicated to providing yoga and meditation teacher training programs for communities of color. She received extensive training by Jack Kornfield, is a member of the teacher's council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California, and has practiced and studied Buddhist philosophy in both the Theravada and Tibetan schools of Buddhism for the last 20 years. In addition to being a teacher, she is also a shamanic practitioner and has studied indigenous healing practices for over a decade. She is the founder of Lotus Vine Journeys, an organization that blends indigenous healing practices with Buddhist wisdom. Her writing and teachings have appeared in many online journals and publications such as Lions Roar, Tricycle, and Belief.net. She has been a guest on many popular podcasts and radio shows. She currently travels and teaches meditation retreats, workshops and classes worldwide. In addition to being a teacher she also considers herself a healer, burgeoning writer, facilitator and spiritual activist. Spring has studied indigenous healing practices and works with students individually from around the world. She currently teaches workshops, large groups, compassion meditation and loving kindness retreats throughout the country. Her work includes earth based practices, awakening in the body, movement, dance and yoga.
My biding motivation for the practice of teaching is to share my interest, my understanding and my confidence in the Buddha's way for a balanced and deeply happy life. Given the pace of our culture and the direction in which it is going, mindfulness is essential to sanity. Since my first vipassana retreat in 1975, I've experienced the wisdom of sanity, peace and freedom.
Now, the challenge in sharing the dhamma is to translate the Buddha's understanding into an idiom that speaks to the whole of our lives. As practice matures, the focus in guiding others shifts from informing the skeptic, inspiring the depressed and doubtful, soothing the suffering, energizing the lazy, cautioning the ambitious to discovering the subtler sources of suffering and happiness in our understanding and behavior. With deepening vipassana insight, students joyfully and confidently disentangle their minds.
In all of this, what sustains me as a teacher is the unwavering confidence that mindfulness is the source of our healing, sanity and freedom. Vipassana practice offers us a perspective on reality that is liberating, both personally and at every level of human interaction. Initially, my unwavering commitment was to the practice. Now my commitment includes service in sharing the dhamma and wherever possible informing, inspiring and encouraging others in the practice.