The following teachers offer their dharma knowledge, insight and wisdom to the Benicia Sangha. We do not have a regular teacher but, instead, feel fortunate that we have the opportunity to benefit from the gifts of many dedicated teachers.
Tony Bernhard Tony is an ordained Chaplain and teacher. He maintains an active practice with inmates in Folsom Prison and hosts sitting groups in Davis. He sits on the board of the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies and teaches regularly around the Bay Area and Central Valley. His practice is non traditional, guided by his chaplaincy work in prison, his teaching and by his study of the early Pali scriptures. Visit Dharmaseed to listen to some of Tony's dharma talks.
Matthew Brensilver, Ph.D.) Matthew served as a Buddhist chaplain at the University of Southern California (USC) for four years and teaches about the intersection of mindfulness and psychotherapy at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA's) Mindful Awareness Research Center. Matthew was trained by Noah Levine and teaches at www.againstthestream.org/ (Los Angeles and Santa Monica). He is currently in the Spirit Rock/IMS teacher training program and is mentored by Gil Fronsdal. He conducts research on addiction treatment at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine. He has been involved with Spirit Rock Teen Retreats since 2008. Some of Matt's dharma talks are available at http://againstthestream.org/audio. (Clink on "Dharma Talks" on the left and scroll down until you see Matt's talks.)
Laura Burges Ryuko Laura Burges, a lay entrusted dharma teacher in the Soto Zen tradition, lectures and leads retreats at different practice places in Northern California. A teacher of children for over 30 years, she brings mindfulness practice into the elementary classroom. Laura co-founded the Sangha in Recovery Program at the San Francisco Zen Center and is the abiding teacher at Lenox House Meditation Group in Oakland.
Meghan Collins Megan Collins began Zen practice at Berkeley Zen Center in 1975, and today continues to visit there often, as well as continuing her practice at Clear Water Zen Center in Vallejo. For six years, until she moved out of the area, she was a pillar of our community here, having the job of finding and scheduling guest teachers. Having been head student at the fall 2005 practice period at Clear Water allows her to begin developing as a lay teacher. One of her chief interests, which she considers an important part of her Buddhist practice, is healing music. To this end, she plays her folk harp several times a month at hospitals and nursing homes.
Eve Decker Eve Decker is a nationally known performing artist and a long-term student of the dharma. She began practicing Vipassana and Metta meditation in the early 1990's. She trained in mindfulness based social action through the two-year Path of Engagement program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and has graduated from Spirit Rock's Community Dharma Leaders Program. In 2006 Eve released a solo CD, “Commentary on Perfections of the Heart”, ten original songs based on a Buddhist list of qualities that promote a contented heart. A review of the CD in Tricycle magazine said: “Decker’s melodies, and her luscious, inventive phrasing, give her songs the power of a transmission.”
Kevin Griffin Kevin Griffin is the author of One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps (Rodale Press 2004) and A Burning Desire: Dharma God and the Path of Recovery (Hay House 2009). A longtime Buddhist practitioner and Twelve-Step participant, he is a leader in the mindful recovery movement and one of the founders of the Buddhist Recovery Network. Kevin has trained with the leading Western Vipassana teachers, among them Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Ajahn Amaro. His teacher training was as a Community Dharma Leader at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County, CA. He teaches internationally in Buddhist centers, treatment centers, professional conferences, and academic settings.
Charlie Johnson Charlie Johnson is a retired chemical engineer. He teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), yoga/qigong, meditation, and the Dharma in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. He has been practicing meditation and yoga since 1972. Charlie has studied Tibetan Buddhism with Lama Lodu Rinpoche of Kagyu Droden Kunchab in San Francisco. More recently he studied the Theravada Buddhist tradition, practicing at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and is a graduate of Spirit Rock's Community Dharma Leaders program. He is also a certified yoga instructor.
Enrico Martignoni Enrico Martignoni practices Vipassana Meditation in the Thai Forest Tradition and is a student of John Travis of Mountain Stream in Nevada City. He trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction under the direction of Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli and in Contemplative Practice and Rituals in Service to the Dying with Joan Halifax Roshi and Frank Ostaseski. He is currently in the Heavenly Messengers Training Program at Spirit Rock. He received teachings in Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and other contemplative traditions. He and his wife, Itaka Martignoni, lead meditation groups and retreats in France and the USA. They also enjoy being of service as meditation counselors.
Mary Mocine Mary Mocine is the founder and abbess at Clear Water Zendo in Vallejo. She was trained at the San Francisco Zen Center and Berkeley Zen Center and was ordained by Sojun Mel Weitsman, former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. Rev. Mocine has also trained with Abbess Zenkei Blanche Hartman and former Abbot Zoketsu Norman Fisher, of the San Francisco Zen Center. She has spent three months on retreat at the Tassajara Zen Center, where she served as lead monk for a time. In addition, she has served in multiple capacities at the Berkeley Zen Center and has provided service to the Solano County Jail.
Ron Nestor Ron Nestor began practice with the Berkeley Zen Center (BZC), led by Sojun Mel Weitsman, in the early 70's. He chose Zen as his meditation path because he liked the emphasis on an everyday schedule of meditation as a part of one's daily activities, rather than special retreats, progression through different practices, or accumulation of conceptual learning. He was a resident of BZC for about ten years and held most of the possible practice positions including head cook, president, treasurer, coordinator, work leader, etc.
Wes Nisker West Nisker has practiced Buddhist meditation for over 35 years, working with various teachers in Asia and the west. He is the author of the bestselling books Buddha's Nature, The Big Bang, the Buddha and the Baby Boom; and Essential Crazy Wisdom. He is the founder and co-editor of the Buddhist journal, Inquiring Mind.Wes teaches at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and leads retreats and workshops internationally.
Walt Opie Walt Opie is a graduate of Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leaders’ training program. He has practiced intensive insight meditation, including many residential retreats, since 2005. He leads the weekly Berkeley Dharma & Recovery meditation group. In addition, he worked in the Spirit Rock Communications Department for seven years and is a published writer and photographer. Walt also currently serves as a volunteer with Buddhist Pathways Prison Project, bringing Buddhist practices into California state prisons.
Donald Rothberg Donald Rothberg, PhD. has practiced Insight Meditation since 1976, and has also received training in Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra practice and the Hakomi approach to body-based psychotherapy. Formerly on the faculties of the University of Kentucky, Kenyon College, and Saybrook Graduate School, he currently writes and teaches classes, groups and retreats on meditation, daily life practice, spirituality, psychology and socially engaged Buddhism. He is an organizer, teacher and former board member of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Donald has helped to guide three six-month to two-year training programs in socially engaged spirituality through the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (the BASE Program), Saybrook (the Socially Engaged Spirituality Program) and the Spirit Rock (the Path of Engagement Program). He is author of The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World and the co-editor of Ken Wilder in Dialogue: Conversations with Leadig Transpersonal Thinkers. To listen to some of Donald's dharma talks, visit http://www.dharmaseed.org/feeds/complete_teacher/55/
Erin Selover Erin Selover has been practicing Insight Meditation for over 15 years. She has taught meditation and yoga to corporate leaders, at risk youth and women in prison. Erin currently teaches meditation retreats regularly with Spirit Rock where she graduated from the Spirit Rock and IMS Teacher Training Program. She also works with leaders and activists across the country to use mindfulness and values based living to increase well-being and the greater good, has a part time psychotherapy practice and leads on-going meditation classes from her home studio in Berkeley, CA. To learn more about her go to www.erinselover.com. Heather Sundberg Heather Sundberg began teaching meditation in 1999, primarily to youth and families and graduated from the Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leader program in 2003. Next, Heather completed the four-year Spirit Rock/Insight Meditation Society Senior Teacher Training, facilitated by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Beginning her own meditation practice in her late teens, for the last 20 years Heather has studied with senior teachers in the Insight Meditation (Vipassana) and Tibetan (Vajrayana) traditions. She is one of a new generation of “home-grown” teachers, who did her entire early meditation training at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, under the guidance of eastern and western teachers. Retreat has been of central importance in Heather’s practice. She has completed an accumulated two years of silent retreat, and has sat 1-3 months of retreat a year over the last 15 years. She held the position of Spirit Rock Family Program Teacher & Manager from 2001-2010, and continues to teach youth and families as requested. She enjoys guiding rituals and life transition events. To better facilitate students in daily life exploration, she is currently training in a body-centered trauma therapy called Somatic Experiencing. She offers meditation counseling to students individually in person or by phone on a donation basis. For appointments, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2010, Heather spent six months traveling in Asia, including Thailand, India, and Nepal. She spent much of that time studying, sitting retreat, and learning about the cultures that gave birth to the Buddhist traditions she loves so dearly. Earlier that same year, Heather moved to the Sierra Foothills, and now shares her teaching time between her role as Teacher for the wider Mountain Stream Meditation community, and the Spirit Rock & Bay Area communities, as well as nationally. She began teaching as a Guest Teacher at Mountain Stream in 2007. To listen to some of Heather's dharma talks, visit www.dharmaseed.org.
Patrick Thornton, Ph.D. Our group's founding teacher, Patrick Thornton started the Dharma Gate Insight Meditation Community (now the Benicia Sangha) in 1994 at the request of medical professionals who had attended a six-week beginning meditation class he had taught. He began Vipassana practice with James Baraz in 1983, and was the first coordinator for Spirit Rock¹s Kalyana-Mitta groups. In 1992, after a month long retreat in France, he was invited by Thich Nhat Hahn to take lay ordination in the Tiep Hien Order of Interbeing and was given the name: Chan Bi Hahn (True Compassionate Practice: lit. to suffer compassion). Patrick's teachings integrate Buddhism with other faith traditions, finding relevance of practice to daily life, and encouraging a community practice. He believes that the role of a teacher is to be to inform, guide and inspire wholeness. Patrick now lives in Santa Rosa where he has a private practice bringing Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy into the therapeutic setting for individuals and groups.
Dennis Warren Dennis Warren is an instructor of meditation and of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Over 700 people in Sacramento have graduated from his eight-week trainings in these two separate but related programs. Both programs focus on integrating mindfulness, and its supporting psychology, into everyday life; enhancing professional, work and artistic skills; and helping participants enter into a new and more constructive relationship with chronic emotional, psychological and physical pain and reactivity. Dennis is an Associate Professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine Pain Division. He is a graduate of the training programs for health professionals in MBSR and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression Relapse. His workshops for professionals have been approved for continuing education credit for physicians, therapists, nurses, pharmacists, nursing home administrators, and attorneys. Dennis has nearly twenty five years of practice and residential retreat work in Insight (Vipassana) Meditation. He is a graduate of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center's training program for the development of community-based meditation instructors. Recently, he led a meditation retreat in Asia involving teaching and practice in Thailand, Northern India and Nepal. He is the founder and an instructor at Sacramento Insight Meditation. You can listen to some of Dennis' talks at the SIM website.