The more I rest in present awareness, and don't separate myself out from life, the more I appreciate the impact that I have on others. Only when I am present am I sensitive to my connection to the world, am I able to feel how important it is to be non-harming in my words and actions. When I am lost in thought, I lose that simplicity and sensitivity.
I continually point toward this secret of the present moment, for if I am really present, I don't suffer as much, I don't cause as much suffering, and I am less afraid. I may experience intense pain or pleasure, but the degree of mental suffering lessens. Practicing mindfulness de-conditions the habits that prevent me from being centered in the present. This in turn gives me a more stable awareness, which allows me to recognize my inherent peace and freedom.
It is this taste of nowness--introducing people to the living quality of the present moment and its sense of freedom--that most engages me in my teaching practice. I find no evidence of suffering, in my mind, unless I remind myself of some event that is not in the present. Suffering arises when I am lost in my imagination, reviewing the past or fearfully anticipating the future.
I feel tremendous gratitude and love for the dharma, and the practice of awareness. Knowing my mind a little better, and being less preoccupied with my internal drama, makes me more available to the suffering of others. Consequently, I am moved to give to others rather than focusing on what I can get. In spite of being more attuned to suffering, staying present allows each day to become more joyful, compelling and intereesting. My desire to run from this moment, by running after an imagined, better future, or away from a past fear, has diminished. It is present wakefulness that helps me recover my capacity to live with balance and ease in the world.
Hugh Byrne, Ph. D. is a senior teacher with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. He completed a four-year teacher training at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and the Insight Meditation Society led by Jack Kornfield. Hugh is also trained in and teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and has completed training in Somatic Experiencing, a mind-body approach to healing trauma. He is a co-founder of the Washington Buddhist Peace Fellowship.
Hugh is the author of The Here-and-Now Habit: How Mindfulness Can Help You Break Unhealthy Habits Once and For All (New Harbinger Publications, March 2016).
Hugh has been on IMCW’s Board of Directors and a member of the Teachers Council since 2003. He teaches three weekly classes in Washington, DC, leads retreats and workshops nationally and abroad, and is available for teacher interviews. He is also one of four teachers for the Meditation Teacher Training Institute (MTTI).
Over the years of teaching, I've found a growing need for profound lovingkindness and compassion--a transformation of the heart--to underlie the insights and understandings that come out of the practice. An opening of the mind needs to be supported by compassion from the heart if the practice is to be integrated, fulfilled, and lived in our lives.
The value of mindfulness practice is discovered in the freedom we find through awareness. Without awareness, we repeat the patterns of fear and conditioning that keep us entangled individually and collectively. Without awareness, we suffer. With awareness, we can see the contractions of the mind, how the mind gets caught and how we can learn to let go. With awareness we can reawaken to the purity of joy and freedom that is fundamental to our true nature.
As a Dharma teacher, I simply remind others how it is possible to live in this world and find freedom. I listen to practitioners and try to remind them that it is truly possible to be free.
I try to convey that the wisdom and compassion we are looking for is already inside of us. I see practice as learning how to purify our mind and heart so we can hear the Buddha inside. In doing so, we naturally embody the dharma and help awaken that understanding and love in others we meet.
I try to use the formal teachings as a doorway for people to see the truth in themselves. I feel I'm doing my job when people look into themselves to come to their own deep understandings of the truth, access their own inner wisdom and trust in their "Buddha-knowing," as Ajahn Chah called it, which is different from their intellectual knowing.
The Buddha-knowing is a deeper place, underneath the concepts, which is in touch with the truth, with our seed of awakening. I want practitioners to have more and more confidence in, and familiarity with, that deeper place of knowing. It is accessing this dimension of our being that becomes the guide to cutting through the confusion caused by greed and fear. We have everything we need inside ourselves. We do not need to look to a teacher when we remember who we really are.
Jaya Karen Rudgard began meditating in the 1980s and practiced for eight years as a nun in the Theravada tradition with Ven. Ajahn Sumedho. A graduate of the IMS/Spirit Rock Teacher Training, she teaches insight meditation and mindfulness in the UK and internationally.
Jean Esther, MSW has been practicing meditation since 1975 and teaching in the dharma since the early 90’s. She is one of the Guiding Teachers at True North Insight in Canada and teaches locally in the Northeastern US. Trained in Jungian transpersonal psychology and Somatic Experiencing she has been a practicing psychotherapist in Western MA since 1981 with a specialization in the healing of trauma. Her passion is attuning to and supporting the liberating intersection of body, mind and heart and helping others of all ages do the same.
Jeanne Corrigal has been practicing since 1999, is a graduate of Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leader Program, and joyfully leads the Saskatoon Insight Meditation Community, in Canada. Jeanne is Métis, and one of her first teachers in loving presence was Cree Elder Jim Settee. She is a participant in the 2017-2021 IMS teacher training program.
Jessica Morey, MA, is the executive director and lead teacher of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education. She began practicing meditation at age 14 on IMS Teen Retreats. She has undertaken longer-term practice in Asia and the US, and worked in clean energy finance. She is a participant in the 2017-2021 IMS Teacher Training Program.