For over 35 years Michele has been a pioneer in bringing together Zen and Vipassana, Deep Ecology, Social Justice, Non-Violence, Leadership Training, and Personal and Business Development modalities, before such integration was considered possible. She works extensively to create diverse environments and champion high-risk communities. Michele is a high ranking woman Sensei (teacher) in Aikido and Iaido sword, a visual artist, Hypnotist, NLP Transformational Mentor and Coach, and co-founder of Manzanita Village Center in Warner Springs, CA and Five Changes.
Because I've been teaching in Burma the last three years, I've been able to see how mindfulness can be nourished by a culture that supports the ancient liberation teachings and by daily experiences of happiness arising from acts of generosity, morality and renunciation. Thus the practice of Buddhism and the living of Buddhism are woven together in a seamless tapestry.
If there is anything that is most engaging to me now, it is the desire to bring this sublime way of life into our culture in the West.
What began as a deep compassion for the suffering of the existential predicament of human beings deepened as I understood that we need not identify with our experience. It is this understanding that has led me far onto the path of befriending others on their spiritual journey. My greatest inspiration is working with students wherever they are in the moment. We are all capable of so much more than suffering; once we learn how to be mindful, it's only a matter of remembering that it is the purity of intention which frees us. Dismantling the myth that we need to be something other than what we are is so important, because if we can learn to be mindful of exactly where we are, we experience the happiness of peace, which is what we deeply are.
My deepest appreciation is for the joy of the spiritual adventure. The purity of mindfulness, which soothes our sophisticated, intellectual, analytical, and out-of-touch-with-our-bodies mindset, is the moment we remember to pay attention without embellishment, interpretation or judgment. That moment becomes overwhelmingly touching because it brings us what we most wish for, unconditional love and peace. This truth, this purity of intention is what brings us home.
Monica Antunes has been practicing Buddhist meditation in Burma and the West since 2008. Monica teaches mindfulness in the context of child protection services and works as an MBCT trainer for cancer patients in Geneva, Switzerland. She is training in NeuroSystemics, a bio-psychosocial approach to individual, group and community resilience. She was invited to teach in 2017 under the guidance of Guy Armstrong. Monica was born and raised in Mozambique.
Mushim Patricia Ikeda is a co-founder of East Bay Meditation Center, EBMC, in Oakland, California. She's currently a core teacher at EBMC, and guiding teacher of an award-winning yearlong program training social justice activists in secular mindfulness. She has published Buddhist-related nonfiction and poetry widely for journals like Lion's Roar, Buddhadharma, and Tricycle, and she is the recipient of a Global Diversity Leadership Award.
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.