I am intrigued by how we can live the 'holy life' as lay people. How do we erase the imaginary line between formal sitting practice and the rest of our lives? How can we bring full engagement to formal and informal practice? Is it possible to embody, in our lives, the understanding and insight that comes with intensive training? And can we live our lives in a way that expresses and continues to deepen our realization? These questions fuel my practice and my teaching.
I place a lot of emphasis on the Buddha's teaching about mindfulness of the body. The body is a powerful dharma gate. I encourage people to deeply investigate the body and use it as a place of recollection in daily life.
Our individual and cultural habits, our confusion, all require a sincere and ongoing commitment to spiritual life and practice. In order to mature our 'layastic' practice, we need to develop a palette of practices: mindfulness, loving-kindness, inquiry, reflection, precept practice, service, sutta study, etc.
I believe passionate engagement is the foundation of the spiritual path. Spiritual life blossoms when mindfulness is woven with a heartfelt sense of loving-kindness and compassion. With warm mindfulness as the basis of practice, our attachment to identity, roles and experience begins to loosen. As our experience and understanding matures, faith develops. This nourishes a devotion to practice which further deepens our insights.
It is precious to be born in the human realm and have an opportunity to practice and awaken. May we appreciate our inheritance and bring to life the teachings of the Buddha.
In 1987 Frank co-founded the Zen Hospice Project, the first Buddhist hospice in America. In 2004, he created the Metta Institute to provide broad based education on mindful and compassionate end of life care. He is a frequent keynote speaker for many healthcare organizations such as Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and others. He teaches at dharma centers around the world including the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, the Upaya Zen Center, and Rigpa's international centers and many more.
Fred von Allmen has studied and practiced under Tibetan and Theravada teachers since 1970 in Asia, Europe and the US. He has taught retreats worldwide for 25 years. The author of several Buddhist books in German, he is a co-founder of the Meditation Center Beatenberg in the Swiss Alps.
Gavin Harrison died on October 24, 2018, in Seattle, Washington. He was 68. “The realization of our True Nature is the birthright of all of us, and an ever-present possibility. We awaken to the sacred ground of Love, Awareness and Joy that was always there, perhaps unrecognized, yet abiding and full beyond description. This Truth of our Being reveals itself as Simple Silence, Infinite Wisdom and Boundless Compassion. The teachings and poetry of Awakening are invitations into the Truth of our Being. By neither bypassing nor transcending our humanness, but embracing it fully, the Love we are flowers and extends across the immensity of time and space touching the greatest and smallest of things.”
Gavin studied in South African schools and received his degree from the University of Witwatersrand. Although trained as a CPA, Gavin early on developed a deep connection with Buddhism, traveling widely to study and practice with a variety of spiritual teachers and communities. He became a vital part of the Buddhist community at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA.
Gavin published a memoir of his spiritual journey, "In the Lap of the Buddha" (1994) and a collection of his spiritually-based poetry, "Petals and Blood" (2014). Most recently, Gavin joined a spiritual community in Mt Shasta, CA, meditated in India at the ashram of Ramana Maharshi, and continued to teach in his beloved Hawaii. Gavin nurtured a close bond with the indigenous Zulu community of South Africa and fundraised for Woza Moya, an organization that supports AIDS orphans. Donations in Gavin's memory can be made to Woza Moya at P.O. Box 847, Ixopo 3276, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. www.wozamoya.org.za.
Gavin has been practising the Dharma since 2004, and teaching at Gaia House Meditation Centre since 2015. He is particularly interested in the role Dharma teachings and practices can have in responding to our unfolding ecological situation in a transformative way, and turning towards and awakening to the interdependent nature of our collective crisis. He originally trained as an aerodynamics design engineer, studied sustainable development, and has been influenced by the holistic perspectives of Charles Eisenstein and Ajahn Sucitto.
Right now I'm deeply involved with developing an urban meditation center in my community. It's important for me to sink my teaching roots into a commitment to my community, to ongoing relationships with people as they practice inside retreats and out of retreats. What are all the ways Sangha is relevant and applicable to our family life, our work, and our play?
Ongoing is my investigation of my own understanding about the assumptions behind what we teach. The graduate work I did in Buddhist studies greases the wheel for this type of reflection. Since part of the inquiry about freedom involves not being stuck in one position, I enjoy pulling the rug out from underneath what we, as teachers, stand on. In other words, to practice the practice.
At the core, what deeply motivates me is my compassion for the suffering in our world. Vipassana teachings, especially as we adapt the forms to an American culture, offer our society a chance to truly look at the turmoil caused by such behaviors as consumerism and individualism. Vipassana creates a different set of values by fostering a high degree of self-reflection on our underlying motivations and intentions, both as individuals and as a society.
Gina Sharpe is a founding teacher of New York Insight. She discovered the Dharma over 30 years ago and has studied and practiced in Asia and the United States. She was trained as a Retreat Teacher under the mentorship of Jack Kornfield. She teaches at Retreat Centers and meditation communities around the United States, including at a maximum security prison for women. She holds two meditation classes in Westchester County, New York.