Insight Meditation is a translation of the Pāli word vipassanā, literally “Clear Seeing.” As a style of meditation, it was created by American and European students of Thai Forest and Burmese Theravāda Buddhist teachers in the 1970s, and has woven valuable aspects of Western psychology and healing work into those beautiful, ancient streams of practice. I was invited to teach by my mentor, Jack Kornfield, in 2010, and attempt to offer Buddhist teachings in a way that is accessible and integrated with the social reality of 21st century life while remaining faithful to the renunciate core of the Theravāda system. I teach at East Bay Meditation Center, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Yoga Garden SF, Piedmont Yoga, and Yoga Tree. My primary meditation teaching is my Tuesday night Satsang, a warm gathering of sincere seekers. Satsang is offered fully on donation, and all are welcome.
Insight Meditation Satsang
Tuesdays 7:45-9:15pm **New Day!!**
Yoga Tree Telegraph, Berkeley
We sit for 25 minutes with simple meditation instructions given and then silence. We end the sitting with a short chant (lokaḥ samasta sukhino bhavantu), wishing all beings well. In the second half, I give a dharma talk and invite discussion on an aspect of practice, weaving between Theravāda Buddhist perspectives on formal practice and contemporary issues of psychology, relationships, and social justice.
Satsang is Sanskrit for “community of truth” and describes gatherings of seekers who meet to open their hearts and minds together through sharing wisdom and inquiry. My primary influences are the Thai Forest and Burmese satipaṭṭhāna traditions, but I bring in perspectives from Zen, Mahāyāna Buddhism, Hindu and Buddhist Tantra, and Haṭha Yoga as counterpoint. Recent teachings also are substantially influenced by the trauma resolution work that I practice (Organic Intelligence), which has shown itself as profoundly valuable for meditators and yogis, and the urgent work of social justice and anti-oppression awareness.
Beginners to meditation and contemplative practice are warmly welcome, especially yoga āsana practitioners curious about “the other 7 limbs” of Yoga, and anyone interested in how the paths of Buddhism and Yoga weave together with the powerful and necessary inquiry into Suffering of trauma and oppression that is the heart of social justice and resilience work.
My intention is for this to be a space of community, inquiry, and deep nourishment as we cultivate individual and communal awakening and liberation, especially through the extreme challenges of climate change, systemic racism, misogyny, and discrimination, and the rise of fascist ideologies as a backlash against multiculturalism and global neoliberalism. We need community, and safe spaces for spiritual practice, now more than ever if we are to find strength and wisdom to act in service of communal well-being.
May our practice be of benefit to all.
Satsang is offered completely on donation, as an expression of the ancient Buddhist tradition of dāna (“giving”). Our version of this ancient practice is sometimes called “Gift Economy”, recognizing the spirit of openness that underlies it, and its radical challenge to the capitalist model that reduces every experience to a price tag.
Your generosity allows me to offer practice events in this way, open to all, and supportive of an inclusive practice community. It also supports the studio to continue to offer donation classes and to value this model for spiritual practice, which is completely opposite to its traditional for-profit business model. If you are new to donation as a model for a class or event, you might reflect on how much you generally are charged for similar classes or events, and how Satsang is similar or different from those, as well as whether the donation model itself affects your feelings around offering money to a teacher or space. Gift Economy is a practice, and can be deeply transformative if we engage with it sincerely.
An all-donation structure also is a gesture toward creating a more radically inclusive community, as all interested practitioners are welcome to join, regardless of ability to pay. It is not just the support of those who need to come for free that motivates offering Satsang in this way, however, but the value I feel in resisting the overwhelming pressure within our neoliberal capitalist system to bring every human activity into the marketplace. These beautiful teachings were given to me in an open-handed, generous way, through a Gift Economy model, and I hope to honor that tradition by doing the same. Donations are collected after the group, and are split 50-50 between the studio and myself.
You can also support Satsang by donating to me directly. Thank you for your generosity.
Dāna for Monastics
Because the practice of Gift Economy is descended from the ancient Buddhist practice of dāna, and that practice is still the only source of support for renunciate monastics in the Theravāda tradition, I encourage students to give generously to monks (bhikkhu) and nuns (bhikkhunī), who truly sustain the Buddha’s unique teaching (sāsana) through the offering of their whole lives in service to the dharma. I consider support of monastics a form of supporting my own teaching, which wouldn’t exist without their example and guidance. Supporting the monastics can be joyful and deeply rewarding, and an expression of love for the practice and for this tradition.
Cultivating a relationship with the monastic tradition can be a powerful refuge and support for practice, and I encourage both casual and dedicated students to visit their centers, attend ceremonies, and discover the beauty of this ancient lineage. My family primarily supports monastics descended from Ajahn Chah’s Thai Forest lineage, based at Abhayagiri in Redwood Valley/Ukiah, and Āloka Vihara in Placerville. You can find info on visiting and supporting them on their pages.