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Spirit Rock Board of Directors

Matthew Brensilver

Matthew Brensilver, PhD, served as a Buddhist chaplain at USC and teaches about the intersection of mindfulness and mental health at UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center and with Mindful Schools. He serves on the Spirit Rock Teachers Council, the Guiding Teachers Committee, and completed the Spirit Rock/IMS teacher training program and regularly offers retreats at Spirit Rock and the Insight Retreat Center. He spent years doing research on addiction treatment at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine and continues to be interested in the unfolding dialogue between dharma and science. Matthew is on the board of Buddhist Insight Network.

Dana DePalma

Dana has practiced Insight Meditation since 1993. She holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is the Spirit Rock Staff Dharma Teacher and is the dharma teacher for Spirit Rock's weekly "Meditation and Yoga" classes. She is a graduate of Spirit Rock's first Community Dharma Leadership Program and has completed the four-year Spirit Rock Teacher Training. She continues to be mentored by Jack Kornfield.

Randy Fernando

Randima (Randy) Fernando is a Co-Founder and Executive Director at the Center for Humane Technology, which is dedicated to realigning technology with humanity’s best interests. For 7 years he was Executive Director at Mindful Schools, a nonprofit that has brought mindfulness training to millions of children and tens of thousands of educators worldwide. Prior to that, Randy ran several award-winning projects over 7 years at NVIDIA, including authoring three books on advanced 3D graphics. He has been a dedicated Buddhist practitioner for many years. He has taught a daylong Spirit Rock with Matthew Brensilver: “Technology as an Existential Threat to Mindfulness”.

Jack Kornfield

Jack trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India and Burma. He has taught meditation internationally since 1974 and is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He is a founding teacher of the Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology, and is a father and activist. His books include A Path with Heart; Buddha's Little Instruction Book; Teachings of the Buddha; Seeking the Heart of Wisdom; Living Dharma; A Still Forest Pool; After the Ecstasy, the Laundry; The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace; The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology; and Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are.

Michelle Latvala, Executive Director

Michelle has served as Executive Director since 2011, and has been a practitioner at Spirit Rock since 2000. During her decade-and-counting as Executive Director, she has led the organization through periods of both stabilization and transformation, grounded in the Buddha’s teachings, including shepherding the 2014 capital build-out of the Community Meditation Center and Teacher-Staff Village; driving toward Spirit Rock’s 2016 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Plan and Teacher Training launch; developing 2018's Strategic Plan toward a second Training & Retreat Center; and pivoting Spirit Rock online during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Prior to Spirit Rock, Michelle was Vice President of Leader Development at Backroads, a worldwide travel company. In 2016, she was awarded the sole Excellence in Leadership Award by the Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership. She is a graduate of Stanford University.

John Martin

During his professional career, John Martin served as CEO of the San Francisco Airport (SFO) for 20 years, a role for which he won many awards, including the 2015 ACC Aviation Award of Excellence. He has also been devoted to dharma practice since 2001. His practice includes both long retreat practice and an engaged practice in the world. In his teachings, he emphasizes the aliveness of practice in everyday life, as well as the cultivation of the beautiful heart qualities (brahmaviharas). John teaches Vipassana, Metta and LGBTQI-themed meditation retreats. John's spiritual path has also included volunteer service work, including over 12 years as a hospice volunteer. He completed the SRMC/IMS/IRC 4-year teacher training in 2016, and now serves on the Spirit Rock Teachers Council and Guiding Teachers Committee.

Niki Mirghafori

Nikki Mirghafori

Nikki Mirghafori is an Iranian-American Artificial Intelligence scientist and Dharma teacher. She received her PhD in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in 1998 and has had an active career in academia and industry. She has directed international research programs, authored over 40 scientific articles, taught classes at UC Berkeley, and mentored post-docs and graduate students. She holds multiple patents and has served as the scientific advisor to Silicon Valley technology startups. Since 2003, Nikki has practiced in the Theravada tradition with a keen interest in intensive long retreat practice. She was instructed by her Burmese teacher, the renowned meditation master Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw, to teach jhanas and a detailed analytical method of vipassana in 2008. She is a Stanford trained compassion cultivation instructor, a UCLA certified mindfulness facilitator, and a graduate of the Spirit Rock/IMS/IMC Teacher Training. She teaches nationally, and in particular, at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Insight Meditation Center, where she also serves on their Boards.

Bill Park

Bill Park 

Bill Park joined DeepDyve, an online rental service for academic research, as Chief Executive Officer in 2008. Prior to DeepDyve, Bill served at Acxiom Corporation, a global leader in information management, where he led the company's data, digital and direct organization and oversaw all aspects of sales, services, development and operations domestically and internationally. Previously, Bill founded and served as chairman and CEO of Digital Impact, a leader in online direct marketing solutions for Fortune 1000 companies, which he sold to Acxiom in 2005. Before founding Digital Impact in 1997, Bill held numerous management positions at technology and enterprise software companies. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and earned an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Bill is on the Board of Advisors for the Asian Pacific Fund, was formerly an officer in Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and is a founding board member of the Korean American Society of Entrepreneurs. Bill is interested in everyday applications of mindfulness and has been coming to Spirit Rock for about 10 years.

Lyle S. Poncher

Lyle is co-founder of Voyager Management, a Los Angeles-based investment advisor. He has taught meditation and contemplative practice since 1972. In 1970, he was one of the original American students of Oscar Ichazo and taught the Arica system for more than 20 years. Since 1995, Lyle has studied with Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man, founder of Metivta, a Center for Contemplative Judaism, and has led many Metivta retreats and meditation programs. He has been attending Spirit Rock retreats since 2010 and has been enthusiastically practicing Vipassana since that time. He has a B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley.


Desmund Shirazi

Prior to joining Oaktree as a Portfolio Manager in 1995, Desmund spent eight years at Citicorp in credit research. While at Citicorp, he was responsible for reviewing the credit quality of prospective borrowers and monitoring existing loans. Desmund has since retired from the financial industry and lives in LA where he frequently attends retreats and classes offered by InsightLA. He has studied with Phillip Moffitt, has attended retreats at SR and served on a public company board and another non-profit boards.


Wendy Etsuko Siu

Wendy has been a practitioner at Spirit Rock for almost 20 years and is a graduate of the Dedicated Practitioner Program (DPP6). She previously served on Spirit Rock’s Diversity Council, Diversity Task Force, and Re-Visioning committee. A licensed clinical psychologist in private practice, Wendy has worked as an organizational consultant and as adjunct faculty for Bay Area educational and health organizations including The Wright Institute and Sutter Health. She focuses on multiculturally and spiritually informed psychotherapy, mentoring, training, and education. Wendy also has served as a Zen Hospice Project volunteer and has trained in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) at UC San Diego and Oxford Mindfulness Centre. Prior to becoming a psychologist, she worked for over a decade in the nonprofit sector in diverse Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area communities, providing research, education, and strategic planning for social justice-oriented organizations.

Board Emeritus/Emerita

Sylvia Boorstein

Sylvia has been teaching since 1985 and teaches both Vipassana and Metta Meditation. She is a founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and a psychotherapist, wife, mother, and grandmother who is particularly interested in seeing daily life as practice. Her books include It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness; Don't Just Do Something, Sit There: A Mindfulness Retreat; That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist; Pay Attention for Goodness' Sake: The Buddhist Path of Kindness; and Happiness Is an Inside Job.

Carolyn Zecca Ferris

(Board Emerita) Carolyn first joined the Spirit Rock board in 1987. She is an artist and lives in San Francisco near her children and grandchildren.


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