Gregory has been teaching meditation since 1980. He developed the practice of Insight Dialogue, offering retreats worldwide and authoring books including Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom and Dharma Contemplation: Meditating Together with Wisdom Texts.
I have always enjoyed working with practitioners who are continuing to deepen their practice. In the many long retreats I teach at both IMS and Spirit Rock, I feel free to pass on the deepest pointings I’ve found in the teachings of the Buddha in the Pali Canon. Those are my guiding lights in practice and understanding.
It is fun for me to take the most difficult concepts and put them into accessible language, to unwrap the mystery. So I try to find ways to explore the breadth of concepts like "emptiness" -- to see how the entire path can be explained in terms of this synonym for nibbana. One of my aims is to bring the goal of freedom into the here and now. This way practitioners get a taste of freedom, so they know what they are heading toward on their journey to liberation.
The tools of mindfulness and lovingkindness can be picked up by anyone. They are easy to understand and they bring immediate benefit to our lives. The essence of vipassana is ideally suited to western society, especially to the resonance between our psychological turn of mind and our quest for spiritual understanding.
Helen Stephenson has practised Hatha Yoga and Insight Meditation since 1979. Initially she was taught by the late Robert van Heeckeren and in 1981 she began to study classical yoga with the Indian Yogateacher Sri. S. Rajagopalan. Her movement work is influenced by the work of the late Moshe Feldenkrais "awareness through movement" and her training in body centred therapy with the late Ron Kurtz. Having lived most of her life in a communal setting she and her husband are now part time wardens at a busy Quaker centre in Milton Keynes.
The more I rest in present awareness, and don't separate myself out from life, the more I appreciate the impact that I have on others. Only when I am present am I sensitive to my connection to the world, am I able to feel how important it is to be non-harming in my words and actions. When I am lost in thought, I lose that simplicity and sensitivity.
I continually point toward this secret of the present moment, for if I am really present, I don't suffer as much, I don't cause as much suffering, and I am less afraid. I may experience intense pain or pleasure, but the degree of mental suffering lessens. Practicing mindfulness de-conditions the habits that prevent me from being centered in the present. This in turn gives me a more stable awareness, which allows me to recognize my inherent peace and freedom.
It is this taste of nowness--introducing people to the living quality of the present moment and its sense of freedom--that most engages me in my teaching practice. I find no evidence of suffering, in my mind, unless I remind myself of some event that is not in the present. Suffering arises when I am lost in my imagination, reviewing the past or fearfully anticipating the future.
I feel tremendous gratitude and love for the dharma, and the practice of awareness. Knowing my mind a little better, and being less preoccupied with my internal drama, makes me more available to the suffering of others. Consequently, I am moved to give to others rather than focusing on what I can get. In spite of being more attuned to suffering, staying present allows each day to become more joyful, compelling and intereesting. My desire to run from this moment, by running after an imagined, better future, or away from a past fear, has diminished. It is present wakefulness that helps me recover my capacity to live with balance and ease in the world.
Jake Dartington has practised Buddhist meditation since 1995 and trained as a meditation teacher with Christina Feldman, the co-founder of Gaia House in Devon. He began to teach retreats and meditation courses in 2007. As well as teaching at Gaia House, Jake leads daylong and evening courses at various places around the country. He teaches Insight Meditation, Mindfulness courses and yoga in Nottingham.
I try to convey that the wisdom and compassion we are looking for is already inside of us. I see practice as learning how to purify our mind and heart so we can hear the Buddha inside. In doing so, we naturally embody the dharma and help awaken that understanding and love in others we meet.
I try to use the formal teachings as a doorway for people to see the truth in themselves. I feel I'm doing my job when people look into themselves to come to their own deep understandings of the truth, access their own inner wisdom and trust in their "Buddha-knowing," as Ajahn Chah called it, which is different from their intellectual knowing.
The Buddha-knowing is a deeper place, underneath the concepts, which is in touch with the truth, with our seed of awakening. I want practitioners to have more and more confidence in, and familiarity with, that deeper place of knowing. It is accessing this dimension of our being that becomes the guide to cutting through the confusion caused by greed and fear. We have everything we need inside ourselves. We do not need to look to a teacher when we remember who we really are.
Jaya Karen Rudgard began meditating in the 1980s and practiced for eight years as a nun in the Theravada tradition with Ven. Ajahn Sumedho. A graduate of the IMS/Spirit Rock Teacher Training, she teaches insight meditation and mindfulness in the UK and internationally.
Jenny Wilks has practised Buddhist meditation for many years and has an MA in Indian religions. She has taught on retreats and dharma gatherings since 2005, is a regular teacher at the Barn retreat centre at Sharpham in Devon, and has been teaching at Gaia House since 2008. Jenny trained as a clinical psychologist; she leads mindfulness-based therapy groups in healthcare settings and for the general public and teaches and supervises on the MBCT diploma course at Exeter University.