The millennium question I hear students asking is how they can integrate the path of self-liberation with the path of paying attention to the welfare of others. My focus is guiding practitioners to do both. The dharmic brilliance is that liberation, the core teaching, creates a deep, transformative experience of who we are, which, in turn, transforms our care for the state of all beings everywhere.
I love storytelling as a vehicle for the dharma. I find that creating a non-ordinary reality of time and place carries the Buddhist spirit beneath the intellect and straight into the heart. Since we are all on a mythic journey inside the story of our lives, creating a timeless dimension through storytelling fires up our natural wisdom and compassion.
One of my deepest passions is engaging with an earth dharma. Dharmic awareness gives us a way to create a profound relationship to the land. We can learn to show care, honor and respect, loving the environment as the true extension of our hearts and minds that it is, feeling one with it in our blood.
People all over are seeking and longing for a sense of connection, community and an inner life. When we fuse the traditions of the dharma as self-liberation and as compassionate action, we infuse our daily lives with the power of the ancient lineage of Buddhism. We learn about the true nature of who we are and what it means to lead a compassionate life with ourselves, with others and our environment.
For over four decades, Stewart Cubley has pioneered a way of integrative and creative living through the practice of process painting. His method is one of respectful questioning, inviting you to extend yourself into new areas of thought and feeling. Stewart has the ability to meet you where you are and to ask the right question at the right time. He is a down-to-earth teacher whose personal interactions allow you to see yourself differently in ways that can be life changing. Stewart travels throughout the world, teaching his unique approach to thousands of people at personal growth centers such as the Esalen Institute and the Omega Institute. He has brought his work to multinational corporations, programs in prisons and countless other public forums. Steward is the co-author of "Life, Paint & Passion, Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression" (Tarcher/Putnam). He and his wife, Shae Irving, live in Fairfax California and part of the year on their homestead near Denali Park, Alaska.
Susan Moon is a writer and teacher and for many years was the editor of "Turning Wheel," the Journal of socially-engaged Buddhism. She is the author of The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi, a humorous book about an imaginary Zen master, and editor of Not Turning Away: The Practice of Engaged Buddhism. Her most recent book is This Is Getting Old: Zen Thoughts on Aging with Dignity and Humor. Her short stories and essays have been published widely.
Susie Harrington has been meditating since 1989, and been engaged in Insight meditation practice since 1995. She began teaching in 2005, with the guidance of Guy Armstrong, Jack Kornfield and more recently Joseph Goldstein. She often offers retreats in the natural world, believing nature to be the most profound dharma teacher, and a natural gateway to our true self. Her teaching is deeply grounded in the body and emphasizes embodiment of our practice in speech and daily life. For more information go to desertdharma.org.
My greatest joy is giving the gift of love and hope through the dharma, knowing it is possible for humans to transform their hearts. These dharma gifts include paying attention, practicing clarity and kindness and addressing the suffering of the world--which, of course, includes ourselves.
Right now I'm most enthusiastic about the first gift, paying attention, because it makes every part of our lives better. Paying attention allows us to become more clear, and each moment of clarity is a gift to ourselves and those around us. Clarity keeps us from contributing to more suffering. The gift of clarity and kindness also supports a peaceful heart, which allows us to address the suffering in the world with love. When we practice clarity, we offer the possibility for humans to live in a different way. But a peaceful heart is only the beginning. We also have to take action, go out and directly address the suffering with peace in our hearts.
As a parent, grandparent and a psychotherapist, I teach out of the stories of my life and the lives of those around me. I am especially touched by personal narrative, accounts of spiritual journeys, and how these become vehicles for connecting with the dharma. I believe in revealing my own story so that others are more at ease to reveal theirs. Truth talking is a way out of suffering. Discovering how our hearts and minds work and creating a dialogue supports right speech practice. This is an on-going primary practice that we can do all the time. My hope is that I encourage people how to pay attention and to tell the truth by example.
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.