"When one thought ends, right before the next thought begins,
there is a tiny gap called 'now.' Over time we learn to expand that gap."

– Spring Washam

Dedicated Practitioners Program (DPP6)

Program dates: April 2017 – April 2019
Program currently underway - thanks to everyone who applied!


DPP6 is led by the core faculty of: Sally Armstrong, Bonnie Duran, Ruth King and Tempel Smith,
along with other senior vipassana teachers.

Become a part of a community that will challenge, broaden and vitalize your understanding and embodiment of central Buddhist teachings and mindfulness.

The Dedicated Practitioners Program is an innovative program for serious practitioners of Insight meditation to deepen understanding of the Dharma, strengthen practice, and integrate compassion and wisdom into our day-to-day lives.

In this program, we will study Buddhist suttas, traditional and contemporary texts and use the dharma, our meditation practice, and our sangha to understand ways suffering and freedom is created in our hearts, our lives, our communities, and the world. Integral to this program is an exploration of the gross and subtle manifestations of social suffering evidenced through innocence and ignorance, and its impact on personal and collective well-being and liberation. Our intention is to create a diverse and vibrant community of practitioners who support each other in waking up and in bringing more wisdom and compassion into the world.

This program, designed as an intensive lay practice period, offers a comprehensive curriculum on the Buddha's teachings over two-and-a-half years. In addition to attending all five 7-day training/residential retreats, participants commit to maintaining meditative practice, monthly coursework, monthly group meetings, and contact with a mentoring teacher.

Students who have participated in the past five programs have found that DPP has had a profound impact on their meditation practice, providing a focus and inspiration for deepening their understanding of Buddhism and bringing the dharma alive in new and often unexpected ways.

Recommended requirements for the program are 5 years of Dharma practice and 50 nights of residential retreat experience in the Insight Meditation (vipassana) tradition.

The retreats include periods of meditation with the teachings offered seminar-style--interactive, participatory and creative. They are not held in complete silence. Therefore, to practice developing a strong sense of community, instructions will be offered on mindful speaking and mindful listening to support us in working skillfully with issues that commonly arise in community.

Spirit Rock and the organizers of DPP6 are deeply committed to creating a community of practitioners from diverse backgrounds and cultures – a mix of races, genders, ethnicities, classes, sexual orientations, ages, and abilities – who will create safety, support each other’s dharma practice, and co-create what Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., called a truly “beloved community.” Before joining this program, please reflect on your interest and capacity to meet and interact with people who might have different histories, stories and views than your own, and on your willingness to engage and discover with others.

Five 7–Day Residential Retreats:

Our intention is to challenge, broaden and enliven your understanding and embodiment of central Buddhist teachings through in-depth study, reflection and practice.

Schedule of Retreats
April 9 - 16, 2017 Presentation Center, Los Gatos, California
November 9 - 16, 2017 Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, CA
April 19 - 26, 2018 -*new dates! Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, CA
November 8 - 15, 2018 Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, CA
April 27 - May 4, 2019 Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, CA

Topics include: 

  • Creating an inclusive and dynamic sense of community
  • Four Noble Truths
  • Eightfold Path  
  • Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  • Diversity, inclusivity and equity in our community
  • Worldly Dharmas: Sex, money, work, relationships, and community
  • Buddhist World Views and Cosmology
  • Dependent Origination and Karma
  • The Bodhisattva Path and Socially Engaged Practice
  • Socially engaged practice in our communities, for equality, inclusivity, the environment and for the benefit of all beings
  • Embodied Speech and Enlightened Activity
  • Five Aggregates and the teachings of Not-Self
  • Brahma Viharas and the Fullness of the Awakened Heart
  • Working with Emotions, Fetters and Entanglements
  • The kilesas: greed, aversion and ignorance in all their forms
  • Supports for awakening: the Seven awakening factors
  • Learning from the Suttas, and making them come alive
  • Freedom, Liberation and Nibbana

Learning Engagement:

Study Curriculum: Year-round, ongoing study of suttas, texts and contemporary Dharma writings with monthly study assignments for each topic.

Dharma Buddies: Scheduled Dharma discussions and reflections with study buddies.

Interviews: Regular half-hour interviews with a mentoring teacher, focusing on sitting practice, DPP homework, and personal dharma development and integration. Interviews may be offered monthly or every other month, in person or by phone at the teacher's discretion, and will be held on a dana basis.

Regular group meetings: Between retreats, periodic (monthly or every other month) group meetings will be offered. DPP groups may form in areas such as San Francisco, Marin County, the East Bay, Redwood City, Los Angeles, Seattle and Vancouver, BC, where students are located and teachers are available. If you do not live in an area near a DPP teacher, we will offer groups that you can participate in via conference calls. These groups will combine Dharma and text study with personal investigation into living and fulfilling our Dharma practice. There may be a small fee for some groups if rent needs to be paid for the meeting space, otherwise groups are held on a dana basis.

Sponsoring Teacher: Applicants need a sponsoring teacher. A sponsoring teacher is someone who currently teaches at the Insight Meditation Society, Spirit Rock, Gaia House or is a recognized vipassana teacher, knows you and your meditation practice, and is supportive of your application to DPP. To sponsor you, they need to allow you to list their name on your application form. We may contact them to provide a reference for your application. Note: This teacher may also be willing to be your mentoring teacher.

Mentoring Teacher: A mentoring teacher provides 6-12 practice discussions a year during the course of the DPP program. If you do not have a mentoring teacher, we encourage you to reach out to teachers who know you to see if they might be willing to mentor you in DPP. If you come to the program without a mentoring teacher, we will support you in finding one.

Communication: Because of the volume of mail that is sent out in DPP (homework, readings and other information), we use email and the internet for communication with students. To this end, we require that everyone who joins DPP has access to email and the internet, either through your own computer, through a DPP buddy, or through a family member or friend who would be willing to pass along all the messages related to DPP.

Core Faculty:

Sally Armstrong

Sally Armstrong began practicing vipassana meditation in India in 1981. She spent five years in England, where she managed a retreat center and was a founding member of the Sharpham meditation community. When she moved to California in 1988, she continued her dharma service at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in a number of roles, including executive director. Sally began teaching in 1996, and is one of the guiding teachers of Spirit Rock's Dedicated Practitioners Program.

Bonnie Duran has been practicing Mindfulness Meditation since 1982. She has taken teachings from many western teachers including Joseph Goldstein and Marcia Rose, as well as Tibetan teachers, Venerable Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. She is one of founders of The People of Color Sangha in Albuquerque, New Mexico and in Seattle Washington, is a graduate of the Community Dharma Leader 3 training program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and is currently in the Spirit Rock teacher training program. Bonnie is also involved in Native American spiritual practices and traditions. She is a contributor to Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín's book, Dharma, Color and Culture: New Voices in Western Buddhism , and has written for Turning Wheel: The Journal of Socially Engaged Buddhism.

Ruth King has practiced Vipassana since 1992. Mentored by Jack Kornfield and influenced by the non-dual teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, Ruth teaches at insight communities nationwide and the UK. She is a guiding teacher at Insight Meditation Community of Washington and is a core teacher in Spirit Rock Meditation Center's Dedicated Practitioner Program. Ruth designed the Mindful of Race Training : A Stimulus for Social Healing & Leadership, the 8-week course Mindfulness Practices for Living Well, and is the author of Healing Rage and The Emotional Wisdom Cards.

Tempel Smith teaches Mindfulness, Insight and Metta meditation with an emphasis on Buddhist psychology and mind-body awareness. He spent a year as a monk in Burma with Sayadaw U Pandita and Pa Auk Sayadaw. Tempel organizes the Dedicated Practitioner Program (DPP) and Living Dharma retreats for Spirit Rock and teaches classes in the East Bay.

Guest Faculty:


Pascal Auclair has been immersed in Buddhist practices since 1997. In 2006 he was invited by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein to join the teacher training program at Spirit Rock and the Insight Meditation Society (IMS). He is now enjoying teaching retreats at these two centers, and he is a co-founder of True North Insight Meditation Centre in Canada. His depth of insight, classical training, and creative expression all combine in a wise and compassionate presence. For more information, visit


The Program fee includes five residential retreats and is based on a sliding scale. Payment plans are available for all levels of the sliding scale. Scholarship support is available to help with payment of fees but it will be limited. Actual fees will be posted on the application, which will be downloadable from this page when it is available on June 15, 2016 after 12 noon PST.

All teachings and practice discussions will be offered on a dana basis.
Dana (pronounced "dah-na") is a Pali word meaning generosity. Dating back to the time of the Buddha, there has existed an interdependence between those who offer the teachings and those who receive them. The teachings are given freely, since they are considered priceless. Registration fees for this program cover food, rental, transportation, administrative costs, and other Spirit Rock expenses. A portion of these fees goes to the core teachers to cover the extensive administrative and programmatic work they do to prepare for and run the program, but apart from that support, they teach the retreats and groups, and offer practice discussions, on a dana basis. Residential retreat staff also offer their services on a dana basis. To allow the teachers and residential retreat staff to continue their dharma work, support from the students is needed. There will be an opportunity to contribute to teachers at the end of each retreat, and for groups and practice discussions.  Dana may also be offered to residential retreat staff at the end of retreats.

According to the Buddha, generosity, or sharing what we have, is one of the central pillars of a spiritual life. In the act of giving we develop our ability to let go, cultivate a spirit of caring, and acknowledge the inter-connectedness that we all share. The Buddha created a system to develop this quality of open-handedness whereby those who share the teachings are dependent on those who receive them. Monks and nuns go on daily alms rounds with a begging bowl, relying on the generosity of lay people for support in continuing their teaching and spiritual life.

It is the practice of dana that has kept the Buddhist tradition alive for more than 2,600 years in Asia, where committed supporters have given generously to establish networks of monasteries and retreat centers providing for millions of teachers and practitioners. As this ancient teaching moves to the West, we hope to keep alive this joyful tradition.

Testimonials from Past DPP Participants–

One of the things I've appreciated most about my practice on silent meditation retreats is the chance to just drop my habitual patterns of relating to people. Upon re-emerging into the world of social contact after a silent retreat, I have usually noticed subtle shifts in how I relate to people: over time, some of my habitual patterns have gotten weaker. With the interactive practices offered in the DPP, the shifts have been dramatic. Mindful interactive practices were for me a radical experience of authenticity in communication. Having experienced that level of authenticity and sharing in a safe environment, I find myself more willing to be authentic in daily life interactions. For me, the DPP has been as much about exploring community as about exploring the Dharma. The experience of trust and intimacy with such a large group of people has been extremely powerful.  – Rachel

One of the greatest benefits of the DPP program was the "Dharma Buddy" element.  For years I sat silent retreats with total strangers who now, thanks to DPP, are my closest friends. It doesn't matter who you choose to be your dharma buddy; each of us is a teacher and a student in our own unique way. I started out buddying up with an acquaintance who was in the program, and then a total stranger asked to be my buddy, so we became three. And then, during the course of the two years, I deeply connected with several other people who I adopted (or perhaps they adopted me) as dharma buddies. I speak on the phone or email those is distant cities, and we visit each other. Those who are local have formed a Kalyana Mitta (Dharma Friends) group that meets monthly. By the end of the program I had more than a half dozen close dharma buddies with whom I will undoubtedly continue sharing the dharma for years to come.  – David

As a parent, the DPP gave me the focus and permission to deeply commit to my practice for two years. While I was uncertain initially about the impact on my family, the depth of practice has deeply served us and I have come much closer to the parent I always wanted to be!  – Maureen

Participating in DPP has been one of the best experiences of my life. After two years of guided practice and study of the dharma, I feel confident and happy to go on with my life with a sense of meaning and connectedness. This is the greatest gift from life one can get.  – Alicia

Embracing the Challenge: a published article about the DPP

 We offer this program to meet the growing needs of lay practitioners in our sangha. The program adds another dimension to our practice, deepening and maturing the Buddha-dharma here in the West. We welcome and encourage your participation in the Dedicated Practitioners' Program. Please join us!



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