Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, commonly called Spirit Rock, is a meditation center in Woodacre, CA. It focuses on the teachings of the Buddha as presented in the vipassana, or Insight Meditation, tradition. It was founded in 1987 as Insight Meditation West, and is visited by an estimated 40,000 people a year. The San Francisco Chronicle has called it one of "the Bay Area's best- known centers for Buddhist meditation."
In 1975 the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) was founded in Barre, MA by a group of Western meditation teachers trained in Asia, including Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg. In 1986, after ten years at IMS, Kornfield moved to Northern California with his family and began hosting a Monday night meditation class in a private home in San Anselmo. Eventually the class expanded to a clinic and then to a local church. In 1987 a group of meditation teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area incorporated as Insight Meditation West, for the purpose of acquiring land and establishing a west coast Insight Meditation center. The group included Kornfield, James Baraz, Sylvia Boorstein, Anna Douglas and Howard Cohn.
In 1988, with funds from an anonymous donation, 412 acres of undeveloped land in the San Geronimo Valley, an hour north of San Francisco, was purchased from The Nature Conservancy in order to start a permanent meditation center, and the name Spirit Rock Meditation Center was formally adopted. In 1990 temporary construction trailers were erected to house the community meditation hall, administrative offices and caretaker residences. Construction for permanent replacement facilities is planned to begin in 2014.
The teachings at Spirit Rock focus on the practice of mindful awareness (also known as Insight Meditation or vipassana) as taught in the Theravada tradition. Teachings focus on training and quieting the mind, on the classic teachings of the Buddha as found in the suttas, and on incorporating the Dharma (or the teachings of the Buddha) into daily life. Retreats are modeled on those held for lay people in the Forest Monasteries of Thailand, including sitting and walking meditation, meetings with the teachers and the observation of silence by practitioners.
In addition to vipassana teachings, Spirit Rock hosts teachers from Zen, Tibetan and non-dual traditions as guest teachers throughout the year. Visiting teachers have included the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hahn, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, Maha Ghosananda, Anagarika Munindra, Kalu Rinpoche, Ram Dass, Pema Chodron, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Huston Smith, Adyashanti, Tara Brach, Alice Walker, Norman Fischer and others.
A portion of the classes, daylongs and retreats at Spirit Rock are organized as community-specific programs to promote diversity. These programs are referred to as Kindred Sangha and include Self-Identified People of Color, Women, LGBT-IQ community, Families, Young Adults, and Elders. Class offerings also address the application of Buddhist teachings to modern issues such as addiction and trauma. Spirit Rock offers scholarships to make classes and retreats available to those who cannot otherwise afford them.
The center is supported by fees charged for classes and retreats, and by donations. The paid staff runs the day-to-day operations of Spirit Rock Meditation Center with support from volunteers. Residential retreat managers are volunteers who rely on voluntary Dāna (donations) from participants to support their work. Teachers are supported by donations from the students, as is the practice in the Buddhist tradition.
Spirit Rock’s teaching programs are developed by the Teachers Council, a collective of teachers. A volunteer Board of Directors, composed of teachers and community members, is the central decision-making body for Spirit Rock. The work of the Board is supported by a number of committees.
Current Spirit Rock teachers (as of 2013) include Ayya Anandabodhi; Sally Armstrong; Guy Armstrong; James Baraz; Sylvia Boorstein; Eugene Cash; Debra Chamberlin-Taylor; Howard Cohn; Mark Coleman; Dana DePalma; Anna Douglas; Andrea Fella; Anushka Fernandopulle; Gil Fronsdal; Robert Hall; Will Kabat-Zinn; Jack Kornfield; Phillip Moffitt; Wes Nisker; Mary Grace Orr; Sharda Rogell; Donald Rothberg; Tempel Smith; John Travis; Spring Washam; Julie Wester; Diana Winston; and Larry Yang.
A number of Spirit Rock teachers also offer their teachings, or serve on the Board of Directors, at other meditation centers including East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California, the Modesto Almond Blossom Sangha in Modesto, California, Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California, Mountain Stream Meditation Center in Nevada City, California, and Aloka Vihara, a monastery in San Francisco.
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When she's not writing and speaking, Boorstein is the founding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, Calif.
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