Once called “the most intriguing African-American Buddhist” by Library Journal, Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei has been bridging the worlds of spirit and justice since her critically-acclaimed book, Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace. Ordained as a Zen priest, she returned to her activist roots and began applying wisdom teaching to social issues to become a leading voice in the ever-emerging field of Transformative Social Change. Recently becoming only the second black woman to be recognized as a Zen teacher, she is known for her unflinching willingness to both sit with and speak uncomfortable truths. angel notes, “Without inner change, there can be no outer change. Without collective change, no change matters.” Whether in writing, teaching or speaking, her voice is unique.
Richard Mendius, MD is a neurologist in private practice in Marin County. He trained at UCLA as an epileptologist under Jerome Engel and as a neurobehaviorist under Frank Benson and Jeff Cummings. He has been on the teaching faculty of UCLA, Oregon Health Sciences University, and Stanford University. His meditation practice began in the 1980s with Shinzen Young in Los Angeles, and continues at Spirit Rock with Jack Kornfield, Phillip Moffitt, Ajahn Amaro, and Ajahn Sumedho. He teaches a weekly meditation class at San Quentin. His daughters, Courtney and Taryn, and his son, Ian, are three of his main teachers and companions on the path.
Richard Shankman has been a meditator since 1970, and teaches at Dharma centers and groups internationally. He is guiding teacher of the Metta Dharma Foundation, and cofounder of the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies and of Mindful Schools. He practices and teaches meditation that integrates compassion, mindfulness, concentration and insight as one path of practice. Richard is the author of The Art and Skill of Buddhist Meditation and The Experience of Samadhi.
I first encountered Buddhism in 1974, and it blew the doors wide open for me with its profound and practical insights into the mind, suffering, and true happiness. Over time I gravitated to the original teachings of the Buddha, embodied in the Theravadan tradition, for their down-to-earth clarity, and important sources for me have included the teachers of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and the Pali Canon itself. More recently, I've explored grounding the dharma in modern evolutionary neuropsychology - "neurodharma" - recognizing how mind arises dependently upon the body, especially the nervous system as it tries to meet ancient needs for raw survival. I am especially interested in using these approaches to heighten the learning - the cultivation (bhavana) - from beneficial experiences (otherwise often wasted on the brain) to reduce the underlying sense of deficit and disturbance that causes the craving that causes suffering and harm. Overall, I feel amazingly blessed to have the opportunity in this life to ride the dharma stream and share its gifts with others!
More and more, the teaching practice takes me into the community where I engage directly with students. My focus right now is on bringing the continuity of the Dharma into the market place. Although retreating is an important form for self-knowledge, I find myself less interested in the immediate results of a retreat and more interested in helping students investigate their relationship to the ups and downs of their everyday life.
Nature, death and spontaneous freedom continually interweave themselves into my teaching. From the forest of Thailand, where I spent several years, I bring a deep awareness of the healing quality of nature into my teachings. Relaxing into our true nature allows us to realize what it means to be a human being. It is here we find a resting point, a counterbalance to the speed and turbulence of our culture.
My work in hospice brings a sense of urgency into my teaching. Working with the theme of death and dying reveals the here and now of life to us, how important it is to open to each loss, change and transition that marks our path. Life is precious. We need to awaken without hesitation.
Many of us crave to be more calm and centered. We know that life has more to offer than this fleeting material world. For each of us, the Dharma offers an immediacy of freedom for which we do not have to strive or wait. In practice, we can learn to relax deeply into the moment and rediscover spontaneous freedom.