“When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself.”
—The Buddha

Buddhist Ritual Ministers Program

Celebrating Life Transitions: Buddhist Ritual Ministers

There are many important events in our lives that deserve recognition. We invite you to mark the occasion with the guidance of a Spirit Rock Buddhist Ritual Minister. Authorized to perform weddings, memorial services, baby blessings and other important ceremonies, Buddhist Ritual Ministers help you acknowledge life transitions, celebrate special occasions and bring ease to the heart in the tradition of Buddhist Insight Meditation practices. These ministers have been trained in a variety of ceremonies, and will be happy to work closely with you to find just the right ritual for your particular need.

Rooted in Tradition

Buddhist Ritual Ministers are rooted in the Vipassana tradition of Spirit Rock. Ritual Ministers have completed extensive leadership programs and are active in the Spirit Rock community with long-standing experience in meditation. They must maintain continuing education requirements and be residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. Buddhist Ritual Ministers represent diverse populations and may perform ceremonies and rituals throughout the Bay Area.

Please note

  • Ceremonies and rituals may not be performed on Spirit Rock property.
  • Ritual Minister training does not include pastoral care and does not authorize Buddhist Ritual Ministers to provide counseling services. If Ritual Ministers have received training in counseling from another training program, such as being a therapist or chaplain, this information is shared in their individual biographies.


Buddhist Ritual Ministers will not charge a fee to anyone in the Spirit Rock community. Community members are asked to provide a donation (dana) to the Ritual Minister for his or her service. Ministers may charge a fee to an individual who is not a member of the Spirit Rock community. When requesting the services of a Ritual Minister, please ask about fees.


Spirit Rock Meditation Center Buddhist Ritual Ministers


Bill Hart is the Chaplain for Laguna Honda Hospice and works with other hospitals in the Bay Area. His tradition is primarily Theravadan. He has been practicing since 1995 and has been leading a sitting group since 1998. He has been involved with the Spirit Rock Family program. He completed a year long residency in Clinical Pastoral Education at Sequoia Hospital (2005) and the Sati Buddhist Chaplaincy Program (2006). Gil Fronsdal is his teacher.



As an Indian woman, Pawan Bareja, PhD, was raised in a culture that emphasizes ritual. Thus she has a deep love and respect for ritual and its role in community. She has a body-oriented counseling practice based on Peter Levine's somatic experiencing (SE) work for coping with trauma and life changes, in which she incorporates mindfulness techniques. She is also an assistant in the SE Trainings, offering supervision and case consultation for new practitioners. Pawan is an active member of the Marin Vipassana Sangha and has assisted in the annual “Care Providers” daylong at Spirit Rock for several years, offering individual interviews for participants.


Kris Bailey

Kris Bailey has studied and practiced meditation intensively in a variety of traditions, in both monastic and lay settings throughout India, Southeast Asia and the U.S. She is a graduate of Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leaders and Dedicated Practitioners Programs, and a student of the ‘Diamond Approach’ with A.H. Almaas. For Kris, rituals and other life ceremonies manifest the deep state of grace and heartfulness that is within us all. Kris teaches insight meditation classes and daylong retreats (including young adults, Dharma Punx and LGBTQ events) and is co-leader of the San Francisco Urban Dharma Insight Meditation Community.


Tony Bernhard is one of Spirit Rock's Community Dharma Leaders. He sits on the board of the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies and on the Spirit Rock Program Committee. He hosts sitting groups in Davis and teaches regularly throughout the Bay Area.


Genevieve Buehler

Genevieve Buehler has practiced at Spirit Rock for the last 10 years. She has participated in many short and long-term retreats and is a graduate of the Dedicated Practitioners’ Program. She has also volunteered in the past for Monday Night Class at Spirit Rock and currently is a volunteer for the Family Program. She just recently completed a year of volunteering at Spirit Rock as the Dharma Friends (previously called Kalyana Mitta) coordinator and had the opportunity to lead a daylong at Spirit Rock in this capacity. She also facilitates a sitting group in San Francisco and completed training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction with Jon Kabat-Zinn. Genevieve has a degree in Nursing and in the Humanities and is a Hospice Nurse as well as a poet. She also has training in piano and enjoys composing improvisational pieces. Lastly, she's a new grandmother and considers this new role a very large part of her practice – happy, happy!


Charlie Johnson is a retired chemical engineer who now teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, yoga, meditation and the Dharma in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. He has practiced meditation and yoga since 1972. He has studied Tibetan Buddhism and for the last 10 years has practiced in the Theravada tradition at Spirit Rock and is a graduate of the Community Dharma Leaders Program. He is a certified yoga teacher, registered with the Yoga Alliance. Charlie leads the Friday Open Sangha at the East Bay Meditation Center and is a member of their governing board.


Bonnie O'Brien Jonsson, MS, has practiced Vipassana meditation since 1993. She has led over sixty “Year to Live” groups through a year-long process of living life fully with death as a guide. She teaches workshops at meditation centers nationally. Bonnie is the co-teacher of the Berkeley Wednesday Night Vipassana Community with Richard Shankman and teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. She also teaches mindfulness to women in prison through Buddhist Peace Fellowship and at other groups in the Bay Area. Her experience as a Ritual Guide for funerals, weddings, and other rituals, connects her with the community through love. She brings joy and passion to these practices.


Denah Joseph, MFT, has been involved in Buddhist practice for 30+ years. Her main teachers have been Roshi Philip Kapleau, Toni Packer, and Christina Feldman. She has also been a contemplative psychotherapist, supporting people in their healing and growth, using compassionate inquiry for three decades. In the past 5 years she has trained as a Buddhist chaplain, and currently works at UCSF Medical Center as the core chaplain on the palliative care service, serving people with advanced illness and at end of life. She views the provision of Buddhist ministerial support as a privilege, an opportunity, and a profound catalyst to deepen compassion.


Ronna Kabatznick, PhD, has been practicing Vipassana since 1985 and is also deeply committed to Judaism. She spent nearly two years on retreat in Thailand, under the guidance of two of the country's most highly revered forest meditation Masters. She subsequently received blessings and the authority to teach Vipassana to westerners. While in Thailand, Dr. Kabatznick helped tsunami survivors identify bodies of their loved ones and provided psychological and spiritual support to people gripped by grief. She is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF and a Board Member of The Center for Mindful Eating. She teaches classes primarily focused on Dharma and Depression and on Appetite and the Dharma throughout the Bay Area. Her private practice is based in Berkeley, California.


Evan Kavanagh

An Insight Meditation practitioner since 1995, Evan Kavanagh is a graduate of the Spirit Rock Dedicated Practitioners Program and the Sati Center’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. He has taught Insight Meditation at 12-step retreats, sitting groups and occasionally as a Guest Teacher at Spirit Rock. In these leadership roles he is mentored by Mary Grace Orr, a senior Spirit Rock Teacher.

Evan served as the Executive Director of Spirit Rock Meditation Center from 2000 to 2010. In his capacity as Spirit Rock’s first Ritual Minister, he has performed both weddings and memorials. Evan's spiritual path and his teachings are informed by 12-step literature (since 1993), Buddhist Dharma (since 1995), and by the Diamond Heart tradition (since 2005). He brings all of these rich traditions, his Buddhist presence, and his Christian upbringing to this important work.

Evan’s other activities include woodworking, improving the fixer-upper house he and his husband Andrew share, hiking in beautiful places, spiritual and meditation retreats, and time with his two dogs. Evan and Andrew live in San Francisco where they were married in 2004 (and again in 2008!).

For more information, see


Debra Kerr has practiced insight meditation since 1991. A graduate of Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioner Program and Community Dharma Leader Training, Deb also practices in the Dzogchen tradition. She has co-led two Kalyana Mitta groups for several years, and currently teaches meditation in long term care facilities in Oakland, where she also works as a speech pathologist. Deb loves designing individual rituals that bring a sense of sacred connection between people, with all aspects of life, and within each of us to our own deepest wisdom.


Naomi Newman has been a Vipassana practitioner for 32 years. She is a co-founder of A Traveling Jewish Theatre, where for the last 30 years she has worked as playwright, director and actress. Before that she sang on the concert-stage, acted in television and had a psychotherapy practice. In the late seventies and early eighties she was on the senior staff at The Center for the Healing Arts in Los Angeles, a pioneer in exploring the psychological and spiritual aspects of healing. The East Bay Express named Naomi the Best Actress of 2007. The San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum will be publishing a book documenting her life and work in the theatre for its Legacy History Program. She is a single mother, and has two daughters and two granddaughters. She lives in Mill Valley with her partner of many years, Barbara Borden.


 Eileen Philips

Eileen Phillips would like to join you in creating ceremonies for life events, including life commitments, marriage, baby blessings, house blessings, life thresholds, memorials and other special moments. Honoring the process of life and death as a sacred journey, she is an Inter-faith Chaplain offering spiritual care in hospice. She managed retreats for Mountain Stream Meditation Center and Spirit Rock for nearly ten years. Eileen graduated from Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leader Program and Sati Center’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Program. She leads groups, teaches meditation classes, and instructs Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction courses. "Everything is changing, so let's mark the occasion."


Maria Straatmann, a former scientist and businesswoman, has been a student of Vipassana meditation since 1996. She is a graduate of the Sati Center Buddhist Chaplaincy Program; trained as an End of Life Counselor with Metta Institute; and volunteers with Zen Hospice Project and West Marin Senior Services. In addition, Maria facilitates Commonweal’s Support Groups for People with Heart Disease. She is Program Co-Director at Insight Meditation Center and serves on IMC’s Chaplaincy Council. Maria lives with her husband near Pt. Reyes Seashore. She longs to write more poetry.


Adrianne Vincent is an Integrative Medical Educator, Counselor, and Buddhist Ritual Minister whose delight in celebrating life's sacred passages is inspired by over 30 years of Vipassana meditation practice, 40 years of yoga practice and her lifelong interdisciplinary study of nature and process. Raised in a multi-faith home, she grew up observing Jewish and Christian traditions; her capacity to integrate a variety of spiritual beliefs with depth and fluidity allows her to offer a ritual space that is meaningful for many audiences. She has also worked as a diversity educator and LGBTQ advocate, and welcomes all couples and families. Her extensive study of world religions combined with her background in therapeutic and healing modalities facilitate ritual participants to honor their backgrounds while exploring who they are, creating a ceremony which is unique and personal. Adrianne is based out of San Francisco, CA and Cambridge, MA where she runs her private practice, Vincent Counseling, and has just launched her company Unconditional Care.

For more information on her current projects, see: or