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.
JoAnna Hardy has practiced in multiple traditions since 1999, and in 2005 her practice landed on the Theravada insight tradition. Retreat teaching, bringing the Dharma to communities and individuals who don't typically have access to traditional settings, and building multicultural community are her focus. She is a co-founder of the Meditation Coalition: meditationcoalition.org
John received Theravada Buddhist ordination and training for a period of eight years while living in Thailand and India. He has been teaching meditation and leading retreats around the country since 1980. John is an Interfaith minister and teaches at Duke University. He is the guiding teacher for the New Hope Sangha in Durham, NC.
John Peacock, an academic and meditation teacher for 25 years, currently teaches Buddhist studies and Indian religions at the University of Bristol, UK. He is an Associate Director of The Oxford Mindfulness Centre, recognized by Oxford University.