Teacher Training at Spirit Rock
The offering or teaching of meditation and Dharma (the practices and understandings of the Buddhist tradition) is considered a spiritual discipline in itself. Held as an act of generosity and compassion at every level, Dharma teaching allows the teacher to share that which has benefited their life, and in doing so, to deepen their own understanding and foster the embodiment of their own Dharma, and inspire a life of mindfulness and loving-kindness.
We understand the role of a Dharma and meditation teacher to be a calling – held with virtue, integrity and compassion, as a sacred trust. Those who are privileged to serve in this way are honored by this responsibility and consider it a blessing.
There are three basic levels of teaching and teacher training at Spirit Rock and the connected Insight Meditation communities.
Kalyana Mitta Group
The first level of teaching, called Kalyana Mitta or “spiritual friend”, is the co-leadership of sitting/meditation groups by experienced meditation students. Students who have done several years of committed practice, including a minimum of 5 or more week-long or 10-day retreats, and who wish to help share what they have learned with other meditators in their area, can start a Kalyana Mitta group. It is helpful to find another senior student to be a co-leader. These groups, which may focus on general meditation and Dharma teaching, or may have a specific focus, such as Kalyana Mitta groups for new parents, for those working with addiction, etc. To find out more about Kalyana Mitta groups in your area, or to start a Kalyana Mitta group please visit our website or contact Spirit Rock’s Volunteer Office.
Community Dharma Leader
The second level of teaching is called a Community Dharma Leader (CDL). Over the past 15 years, the Community Dharma Leadership program has established an invaluable foundation and accumulated experience in preparing and training leadership skills in service of sharing the Buddhadharma in our relationships- interpersonal, local sanghas, organizations, and various communities.
The Community Dharma Leaders program includes comprehensive training and competencies needed to:
- Bring Dharma values and sensibilities into leadership within lay practice, professional, secular, and community venues;
- Lead sitting groups;
- Teach beginning classes and daylong retreats;
- Develop community-based sanghas and dharma organizations;
- Expand access to the teachings beyond previously served populations;
- Embody the skills needed for attunement, empathy and sensitivity to the role of teacher, the communities being taught and within the context of team teaching.
- Facilitate rites of passage and develop competency with Buddhist ritual; and
- Explore community outreach to people and communities heretofore underrepresented.
The 204 graduates of previous CDL programs have played a significant role in the spreading of the Dharma over the past decade. They’ve created new Dharma opportunities for many different communities; they’ve created new meditation centers; they’ve supported senior teachers in the Dharma; and they’ve helped to bring the Dharma into the broad range of life experiences in the West. To find out more about the Community Dharma Leader program, you can visit the website (https://www.spiritrock.org/CDL).
Training to be a Retreat Teacher
The third level of Teacher Training is the training to become a retreat teacher. Almost every member of the Spirit Rock Teacher’s Council has completed this training.
Retreat Teacher Training is an intimate 4-6 year process that includes extensive study of traditional texts and contemporary Theravada teachings, a wide range of teaching skills and practices, mentoring and apprenticeship with senior teachers, as well as further training with meditation masters from a variety of lineages. For the past 25 years, Spirit Rock has sponsored these teacher training groups, and trained teachers across the country. Initially these trainings were offered by Jack Kornfield, and now they are run collaboratively by a collective of teachers from Spirit Rock, the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA and the Insight Meditation Center (IRC) in Redwood City, CA.
Students cannot apply for this level of training. Instead, every four to six years, retreat teachers from Spirit Rock and associated communities recommend their best candidates – students who they believe have the profound depth of meditation practice, the wisdom, experience, compassion, maturity and teaching temperament to join the next training group. Such candidates will almost always have done dedicated years of practice and a number of extended retreats, such as regular two-month retreats at Spirit Rock, three-month retreats at IMS, and, in many cases, periods of training in Asia.
These potential candidates are brought before the Spirit Rock Teachers Council and the training teachers from IMS for consideration. Among the pool of possible trainees, a group of 20 or so will be chosen to be invited into the next 4-6 year training. The selection will look for those with the most potential to skillfully carry, teach and embody the Buddhadharma, and will also look to select a diverse group that can support and serve students in communities.
Completion of the SR/ IMS/ IRC 4-6 year training culminates in an empowerment and recognition of the new teachers’ standing as a retreat teacher in the Insight Meditation Community. Depending on the need, some of these new teachers may be invited to join the Spirit Rock Teachers Council, or the IMS faculty. Others will teach in the many centers and communities established elsewhere.
Other Ways to Teach at Spirit Rock
There are other categories of teachers at Spirit Rock. These are Visiting Teachers, Assistant Teachers, Movement Teachers as well as Guest and Benefit Teachers. Visiting Insight teachers are established and well-trained Insight Meditation Teachers who are not members of the SR Teacher’s Council. Assistant teachers are those who are still in training to be retreat teachers. Movement Teachers are a group of experienced Insight Meditation practitioners who are also teachers of yoga, qigong, and mindful movement, who offer their teachings as part of retreats and classes.
Guest Teachers are experienced and respected teachers, friends from other traditions who understand and respect Insight Meditation and are invited by Spirit Rock’s Program Committee to offer complementary teachings that will be of benefit to Spirit Rock students, and the Spirit Rock community.