Naomi Newman, MFCC, Graduate of Gestalt Institute, co-founder of A Traveling Jewish Theatre, has been a Vipassana practitioner for 24 years. She was a member of the Spirit Rock Vision Council that articulated the visions and intentions of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Ms. Newman has traveled throughout the United States performing “Crossing The Broken Bridge,” created in collaboration with John O’Neal, African American playwright, artistic director of Junebug Productions and political activist. Mr. O’Neal was one of the founders of the Free Southern Theatre, the artistic arm of the Civil Rights movement. In their five years of touring and performing together, O’Neal and Newman entered into communities, facilitating dialogues, story circles, meetings and workshops focused on diversity issues. In the 70’s, Ms. Newman was a senior therapist at the Center for the Healing Arts in Los Angeles, an organization that pioneered psycho-spiritual work with people who have life-threatening illnesses.
I try to help practitioners approach their meditation practice and their lives with compassion and wisdom. Bringing a loving attentiveness into each moment allows us to learn kindness rather than condemnation, and discernment rather than judgment.
I feel that it is essential not to make a split between the formal practice that happens on retreat and the informal practice that happens in daily life. At the core, formal practice and daily life practice are the same. In all arenas of life we can create the same dedication to wakefulness and sensitivity. The right place to practice meditation is wherever we are. The right time to practice is right now. And the right way to practice is to know what we are doing whenever we are doing it.
We can live each moment in a fresh way, free from expectations of how things should be and open to how things are whether we are sitting on the cushion, washing the dishes, or talking with a friend. With practice, we can discover a current of underlying joy and find that all of life is sacred.
Meditation practice is an offering to the world. When we meditate, we practice not only for ourselves, but for all beings. In meditation there is a gradual purification of heart. This purification allows us to trust ourselves and to respond spontaneously to others with compassion and insight.
Nikki is of Persian heritage, and was introduced to contemplative practices and yoga in the early 1980's, to meditation in 1991, and to Theravada Buddhism in 2003. She has studied with various Western and Eastern teachers, with a keen interest in intensive silent retreats. She studied jhanas and detailed analytical vipassana with the renowned meditation master Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw who instructed her to teach. She is also a Spirit Rock authorized retreat teacher, a Stanford trained compassion cultivation instructor, and a UCLA certified mindfulness facilitator. She teaches Buddhist meditation and contemplation nationally, and in particular, at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, where she also serves on their Board of Directors. Nikki holds a Ph.D. in computer science from UC Berkeley and has had an active career as an Artificial Intelligence scientist in academia and industry for over two decades.
Noliwe Alexander has been a student of Vipassana meditation for over 15 years. Throughout this time of deep devotion to the Dharma, Noliwe has become a dedicated practitioner, teacher of various sitting groups around the Bay Area, facilitator of community workshops and Buddhist meditation day longs and class series programs. She is a Life & Business Coach dedicating both her coaching & Dharma practice to the POC, LGBT, At Risk and Elder communities. She is a graduate of Spirit Rock’s CDL4 program and completed EBMC’s Commit 2 Dharma program in 2010. Noliwe is a wisdom keeper and humbled by the presence of her ancestors spirit that lives within and walks beside.
Norman is a Zen priest and abbot, a husband, father, and a poet, a teacher with wide-ranging interests and passions. During almost 30 years at San Francisco Zen Center, he served as director, tenzo, tanto, operations manager and other positions. Norman retired as abbot of Zen Center in 2000 to take his teaching out into the world. He continues his involvement with the Zen Center as a senior Dharma teacher. Norman believes in the possibility of engaged renunciation: living a fully committed religious life that does not exclude family, work, and a passionate interest in the world. In addition to his teaching with the Everyday Zen sangha in the Bay Area, Norman is guiding teacher to four other groups: the Bellingham (WA) Zen Practice Group, the Mountain Rain Zen Community (Vancouver, BC., Mar de Jade (Mexico), and The New York Zen Circle (New York City).
Ofosu Jones-Quartey has been practicing meditation since 2000, with a focus on Vipassana in the Mahasi and Thai traditions, incorporated with Madhyamaka philosophy. He is a part of the Bhavana Society community and a student of Bhante Buddharakkhita, among others. Ofosu is also an accomplished musical artist and was a founding member of the Buddhist-inspired Hip Hop band, Shambhala. Ofosu is now a solo artist, making both pop and Buddhist-inspired music.
Developing a clear understanding of the teachings and learning to fully inhabit the body have been core parts of my Dhamma practice. These areas, as well a strong emphasis on the heart, inform and shape my teaching. The few years I spent training as an Anagarika in the Thai Forest monasteries broadened my understanding of the Buddha's teachings and instilled a profound respect for the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sangha. All along the way, I've been particularly interested in how other modalities like Nonviolent Communication and Somatics can support our growth in awakening.