Syra Smith is a Community Teacher with the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland California, where she is co-creating space with one of the most diverse communities of dharma practitioners in the US.
Syra has been educating and working with young people for more than 20 years. She coordinated and co-facilitated EBMC’s weekly Teen Sangha and eventually established and served as Co-Guiding Teacher for the Center’s first peer-led Young Adult Deep Refuge Group. She worked with Resolve to Stop the Violence, an award winning program in the San Francisco County Jail System utilizing contemplative and restorative practices to impact violence and recidivism in our prison communities.
A lifelong meditator and SF Bay Area native, Syra began her personal meditation practice as a teen in 1988 and has been practicing in the Theravada Buddhist tradition since 2009. She graduated EBMC’s Commit to Dharma study program in 2011 and became a Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leader in 2017. Syra is currently participating in the multi-year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program through the Awareness Training Institute and UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center under the guidance of Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach.
Presently, Syra co-leads the Mid-Day Dharma Collective at SF Insight. She teaches Insight Meditation and mindfulness throughout the SF Bay Area and proudly serves as Core Teacher with the San Francisco LGBT Sangha.
A pervasive but often invisible source of suffering in our culture is self-aversion. We are a busy culture, and we move through our life feeling anxious and dissatisfied, but not fully conscious of how we neglect or judge our inner experience. We suffer from a lack of belonging: to our own bodies, to each other and to the earth. When we practice Buddhist meditation, we learn how to listen deeply and hold our life tenderly.
The open space of compassion allows us to realize that our thoughts and emotions are not who we are; they are waves in our ocean. This gives us the freedom to live more wisely and love more fully.
For over thirty-five years, I've been exploring the awakening of awareness with yoga, meditation, a clinical psychology practice and relationships in spiritual community (sangha). Since the untying of emotional knots is an essential part of "waking up," it is natural for me to weave these elements into my Buddhist practice and teaching. With formal practice, and a genuine engagement in sangha, we can cultivate the qualities of heart and awareness that allow for deep emotional healing and spiritual freedom.
Buddhism guides us in slowing down, quieting and paying attention in an honest and caring way. Through our mindfulness and compassion practices, we establish a sense of intimacy and belonging to our life. We discover that there is no Buddha "out there." Rather, we realize that our true refuge is the wakefulness, openness and love of our own natural awareness.
Teja Bell (Fudo Myoo Roshi) is a lineage dharma teacher and Rinzai Zen master, the 85th ancestor of the lineage of Lin-Chi I-Chuan. He teaches dharma and qigong as embodied mindfulness through integrating somatic skills with meditation practices.
Tempel Smith spent a year ordained as a monk in Burma and teaches Buddhist psychology and social activism in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is currently part of the IMS/Spirit Rock Teacher Training Program.
Tere is second generation Mexican, with a Lebanese family background. She was born and lived in Mexico City almost all her life. There she became fascinated by Tibetan Buddhism. She moved to Los Angeles in 2002 with her now late husband and three young daughters. Once in LA, she met Trudy Goodman at InsightLA and decided to leave behind her Business career and interest in Geography to devote herself to her family, her personal growth, and the study and practice of Buddhism to enhance her life and the lives of others around her. In LA, Tere became a passionate painter. Her mindfulness journey has strengthened her creativity as a visual artist. She is currently the president of a large growing and successful multinational company in Mexico City and a firm believer of the enormous benefits of mindfulness everywhere. Her heart calls her to share the Dharma with Spanish Speaking communities. She facilitates mindfulness groups in both Spanish and English.
Thanissara, originally from London, was a nun for 12 years in the tradition of Ajahn Chah and has taught internationally the last 30 years. She is co-founder and director of Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, South Africa and has an MA in Mindfulness Psychotherapy Practice from the UK. She is co-author of Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Guide to Engaged Buddhism, author of Time To Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, and several books of poetry. She currently lives in the North Bay, California and teaches at IMS and is on the Teacher Council at Spirit Rock, a Core Teacher at IMS, and Guiding Teacher of Sacred Mountain Sangha.