Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda-Nash is a Buddhist teacher, writer, diversity consultant, and community activist. She is a core teacher and Leadership Sangha member at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California (www.eastbaymeditation.org), and she appears in two documentary films, Acting on Faith: Women's New Religious Activism in America; and Between the Lines: Asian American Women's Poetry.
So much of my inspiration and joy comes from bearing witness to the unfolding of the dharma in myself and others. My teaching is most engaging when I'm involved in an on-going relationship with students and having the opportunity, and honor, to see what's happening in their lives. We may begin our practice on our cushions; and yet, as we learn to bring practice to all corners of our lives, we get a glimmer of the true possibility of liberation.
Simplicity has been most helpful to me, so I stick with basic instructions and try to distill my words to the bare minimum in a simple, clear and precise way.
My interest focuses on how to liberate the mind. I like to explore and find different ways that are most useful to people. I'm aware that various aspects of the practice, and the teaching, resonate with different people at different times. What is that person's experience right now and what will be most helpful to them? Often the answer comes to me by looking at what has happened to me in practice, and using that experience to help someone discover their own intuitive wisdom.
In my teaching, lovingkindness supports the developmental unfolding of wisdom. It doesn't do us much good to practice in ways that perpetuate self-judgment. When we come from a place of caring and lovingkindness, we allow for the possibility of transformation in our lives. Lovingkindness and wisdom allow us to move from a life of reaction to a life of inner resonance with the world around us. They take us out of a place of reaction and into one of responsiveness.
I try to help practitioners approach their meditation practice and their lives with compassion and wisdom. Bringing a loving attentiveness into each moment allows us to learn kindness rather than condemnation, and discernment rather than judgment.
I feel that it is essential not to make a split between the formal practice that happens on retreat and the informal practice that happens in daily life. At the core, formal practice and daily life practice are the same. In all arenas of life we can create the same dedication to wakefulness and sensitivity. The right place to practice meditation is wherever we are. The right time to practice is right now. And the right way to practice is to know what we are doing whenever we are doing it.
We can live each moment in a fresh way, free from expectations of how things should be and open to how things are whether we are sitting on the cushion, washing the dishes, or talking with a friend. With practice, we can discover a current of underlying joy and find that all of life is sacred.
Meditation practice is an offering to the world. When we meditate, we practice not only for ourselves, but for all beings. In meditation there is a gradual purification of heart. This purification allows us to trust ourselves and to respond spontaneously to others with compassion and insight.
Nikki was introduced to contemplative practices and yoga in the early 1980's, to meditation in 1991, and to Theravada Buddhism in 2003. She has studied with various Western and Eastern teachers, and in particular, practiced jhanas and a detailed analytical method of vipassana under the guidance of Pau Auk Sayadaw, who instructed her to teach. Nikki has completed teacher training programs at Stanford's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research & Education (CCARE), UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) and is currently part of the SRMC/IMS/IMC Teacher Training. She holds a Ph.D. in computer science from UC Berkeley and has had an active career as a research scientist in academia.
Having taught formal retreats since 1986, my current interest is in supporting individuals and groups in integrating and applying the teachings and insights in daily life, and working with small groups in the exploration of the dharma for liberation of mind and heart. My talks draw on the traditional teachings and their pointing to liberation here and now.