Naomi Newman, MFCC, Graduate of Gestalt Institute, co-founder of A Traveling Jewish Theatre, has been a Vipassana practitioner for 24 years. She was a member of the Spirit Rock Vision Council that articulated the visions and intentions of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Ms. Newman has traveled throughout the United States performing “Crossing The Broken Bridge,” created in collaboration with John O’Neal, African American playwright, artistic director of Junebug Productions and political activist. Mr. O’Neal was one of the founders of the Free Southern Theatre, the artistic arm of the Civil Rights movement. In their five years of touring and performing together, O’Neal and Newman entered into communities, facilitating dialogues, story circles, meetings and workshops focused on diversity issues. In the 70’s, Ms. Newman was a senior therapist at the Center for the Healing Arts in Los Angeles, an organization that pioneered psycho-spiritual work with people who have life-threatening illnesses.
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.
Norman is a Zen priest and abbot, a husband, father, and a poet, a teacher with wide-ranging interests and passions. During almost 30 years at San Francisco Zen Center, he served as director, tenzo, tanto, operations manager and other positions. Norman retired as abbot of Zen Center in 2000 to take his teaching out into the world. He continues his involvement with the Zen Center as a senior Dharma teacher. Norman believes in the possibility of engaged renunciation: living a fully committed religious life that does not exclude family, work, and a passionate interest in the world. In addition to his teaching with the Everyday Zen sangha in the Bay Area, Norman is guiding teacher to four other groups: the Bellingham (WA) Zen Practice Group, the Mountain Rain Zen Community (Vancouver, BC., Mar de Jade (Mexico), and The New York Zen Circle (New York City).
Developing a clear understanding of the teachings and learning to fully inhabit the body have been core parts of my Dhamma practice. These areas, as well a strong emphasis on the heart, inform and shape my teaching. The few years I spent training as an Anagarika in the Thai Forest monasteries broadened my understanding of the Buddha's teachings and instilled a profound respect for the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sangha. All along the way, I've been particularly interested in how other modalities like Nonviolent Communication and Somatics can support our growth in awakening.