Stephen has been a Buddhist practitioner for over 30 years, and is authorized to teach by the eminent Burmese meditation master, Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw. Described as having a compassionate no-nonsense style, he finds fulfillment in supporting students as they discover deeper authenticity in the acceptance of a loosening self-definition in the process of purifying the mind. This deepening authenticity leads to a more profound, experiential knowing and appreciation of the magnificent complexity of the Buddha's teachings.
My biding motivation for the practice of teaching is to share my interest, my understanding and my confidence in the Buddha's way for a balanced and deeply happy life. Given the pace of our culture and the direction in which it is going, mindfulness is essential to sanity. Since my first vipassana retreat in 1975, I've experienced the wisdom of sanity, peace and freedom.
Now, the challenge in sharing the dhamma is to translate the Buddha's understanding into an idiom that speaks to the whole of our lives. As practice matures, the focus in guiding others shifts from informing the skeptic, inspiring the depressed and doubtful, soothing the suffering, energizing the lazy, cautioning the ambitious to discovering the subtler sources of suffering and happiness in our understanding and behavior. With deepening vipassana insight, students joyfully and confidently disentangle their minds.
In all of this, what sustains me as a teacher is the unwavering confidence that mindfulness is the source of our healing, sanity and freedom. Vipassana practice offers us a perspective on reality that is liberating, both personally and at every level of human interaction. Initially, my unwavering commitment was to the practice. Now my commitment includes service in sharing the dhamma and wherever possible informing, inspiring and encouraging others in the practice.
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.
The inspiration for my teaching is to help people discover the direct experience of ultimate truth that underlies conventional reality, and then infuse life with an ever-deepening awareness of this mystery as it manifests in our everyday work and relationships. I have practiced meditation since 1976, and have been authorized to teach by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma.
Willa Thaniya Reid (formerly Ajahn Thaniya, top photos), has been practising formal Buddhist meditation since the 80s. Her primary training has been through the Thai Forest Tradition of Luang Por Chah. The Forest Tradition is in harmony with her affinity for the natural world and for reflective teachings. For 18 years she was part of the monastic community of this tradition based in England. As the senior nun of Cittaviveka for eight years, she offered support to the lay and monastic community; teaching retreats in the UK, USA, Europe and Australia. She brings to her teaching a love for the original suttas of the Buddha. For the previous six years she served the community in Melbourne, offering spiritual support to the dying and their families. She has a Masters degree in relationship counselling, and clinical pastoral training. In 2015 she returned to New Zealand to develop a meditation community with her partner.