Bart van Melik

CMC's Guiding Teacher

Bart van Melik is the CMC guiding teacher. He has taught meditation classes and workshops since 2009, in the New York City area and in residential retreats worldwide. He offers meditation programs to diverse populations including incarcerated youth, homeless youth and families, veterans with PTSD and corporate workers. He has practiced many styles of meditation. Trained by Joseph Goldstein and Carol Wilson, who introduced him to the power of a relaxed awareness that allows us to meet life with kindness – especially in times of difficulty. Gregory Kramer taught him Insight Dialogue – a fully engaged relational meditation practice. From his wife Chantal and son Lou he continues to learn about unconditional love, patience and playing. He is a co-author of Still, in the City: Creating Peace of Mind in the Midst of Urban Chaos. His meditation instructions can be heard on the Meditation Studio App and on Dharma Seed. Originally from Holland, Bart is a graduate of the Spirit Rock/IMS Teacher Training, and the Community Dharma Leaders Program. He holds an M.A. in Psychology of Culture and Religion from Nijmegen University in The Netherlands. Bart is also fully matriculated as an Insight Dialogue Teacher. 

Wednesday Teachers

Rachel Hammerman

Rachel Hammerman teaches meditation and is an executive coach who helps people grow their business, set career direction and cultivate relationships with ease. She is a Meditation Faculty Member of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science and teaches Loving Kindness on Fridays at Tibet House in NYC. She graduated from the Nalanda Institute’s Contemplative Psychotherapy Program and received certification to teach Mindfulness by the International Mindfulness Teachers Association and by Mark Coleman and Martin Aylward’s Mindfulness Training Institute. Rachel is grateful to offer practices and teachings as she’s received them from teachers including Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Joe Loizzo, Bob Thurman and her dharma mentors, Oren Jay Sofer and Mark Coleman. She has a BA in Sociology from Tufts University. 

Peace Twesigye

Peace Twesigye is the Assisting Program Director of Buddhist Studies at Union Theological Seminary. Peace assists in designing and overseeing curriculum in Buddhist Studies, working directly with the Senior Director. Peace supports and creates spaces for contemplative practice that serve as a basis for students’ active engagement and service in community as well as supporting academic advisement of Buddhist students. Peace Twesigye organizes and manages public and private conversations and events as part of the Thích Nhất Hạnh Program for Engaged Buddhism at Union Theological Seminary to further expand its public offerings in understanding applied Buddhism. Peace also serves on the board of Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, and serves as a practice leader and teacher at New York Insight Meditation Center as well as enjoying the opportunity of offering programs in other spaces when invited. Peace Twesigye has two master’s degrees; the first in violin performance, and the second in education, with a specialization in students with disabilities, and is committed to the path of being a lifelong student.

Vera Ruangtragool

Vera Ruangtragool is the founder and director of the non-profit, Truly Well.  Believing that world peace starts with inner peace, she leads guided meditations in English and Spanish and brings people together through events that foster meaningful social connection in the US and abroad. Vera has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Spanish from UC Berkeley, a Master’s degree in Spanish Translation and Interpretation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and a Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University. As a lifelong Buddhist practitioner in the Theravada tradition, she learned meditation at a very young age and has developed her practice over 20 years.  Through her work and everyday interactions, Vera is committed to advancing peace and justice through individual, community, and systemic change.

Guest Teachers

Martin Aylward began dharma practice and study aged 19, spending several years in Asian monasteries and with Himalayan hermits. Teaching worldwide since 1999, Martin co-founded Moulin de Chaves, the retreat center where he lives and teaches in SW France; the Mindfulness Training Institute and the online dharma community Sangha Live. A husband and father, he integrates dharma into daily life with programs like Work Sex Money Dharma. His latest book is Awake Where You Are (2021).

Dharma Teacher Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist scholar, teacher, and writer, best known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. He considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. Through his writings, translations, and teaching, he engages in a critical exploration of Buddhism’s role in the modern world. He is the translator and author of numerous books and articles on Buddhism including the bestselling Buddhism Without BeliefsLiving with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, and After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age.

Devin Berry began practicing in 1999. His teaching is rooted in the Buddhadharma and mindfulness daily life practices. Devin’s training includes Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher training, the East Bay Meditation Center Commit to Dharma Program, Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioners Program, and Insight Meditation Society’s four-year Residential Retreat Teachers Program. Devin also co-founded both the Teen Sangha and Men of Color Deep Refuge Group at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland.  In addition, almost 20 years ago, Devin began some of the first mindfulness programs in SF Bay Area schools, including weekly mindfulness groups for youth.

Devin began working with youth over 25 years ago as a frontline advocate for marginalized youth living on the streets, in recovery and exploitation. Over the years Devin’s work has included leading wilderness camp programs for teens, Rites of Passage programs for tweens, and a summer camp for boys. 

After retiring from youth work, Devin co-created Deep Time Liberation, an ancestral healing journey that explores the impact of ancestral legacy and intergenerational trauma on Black Americans. He is passionate about the power of witnessing and storytelling as a liberation tool. Devin is a father and teaches nationally.

Tuere Sala is a Guiding Teacher at Seattle Insight Meditation Society and the founding teacher of the Capitol Hill Meditation Group. She is a retired prosecuting attorney who has practiced Vipassana meditation for over 30 years.  Tuere believes that urban meditation is the foundation for today’s practitioner’s path to liberation.  She is inspired by bringing the Dharma to nontraditional places and is a strong advocate for practitioners living with high stress, past trauma and difficulties sitting still.  Tuere has been teaching since 2010 and has a long history of assisting others in establishing and maintaining a daily practice.   

Leslie Booker (known as Booker) brings her heart, wisdom, and compassion to the intersection of social justice, yoga, and mindfulness. She has shared these practices with vulnerable populations in New York City since 2006, working in juvenile detention centers, residential treatment centers, and on Rikers Island. She travels nationally utilizing the foundation of Dharma and embodied wisdom practices to support the sustainability of front line Changemakers.

Booker is on faculty with the Prison Mindfulness Institute and Off the Mat Into the World, and teaches at Insight Meditation centers across the country. She is a co-founder of the Yoga Service Council at Omega Institute, the Meditation Working Group of Occupy Wall Street and Urban Sangha Project in NYC. Booker is a co-author of Best Practices for Yoga in a Criminal Justice Setting, a contributor to Georgetown Law report Gender & Trauma, and Sharon Salzberg’s book Happiness at Work. She is a graduate of both Spirit Rock’s Mindful Yoga & Meditation and Community Dharma Leaders trainings, and is currently in their 4 year Dharma Retreat Teacher training.

Joseph Goldstein is the co-founder and guiding teacher of Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, and helped established the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and the Forest Refuge. He has been leading meditation retreats worldwide since 1974, and since 1967 has studied under eminent teachers from India, Burma, and Tibet.  He is the author of Mindfulness, One Dharma, The Experience of Insight, Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom, and Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening.

Pilar Jennings is a psychoanalyst based in NYC with a focus on the clinical applications of Buddhist meditation practice.  She received her Ph.D. in Psychiatry and Religion from Union Theological Seminary and has been working with patients and their families through the Harlem Family Institute since 2004.  Dr. Jennings is a long-term practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism.  She is a Visiting Lecturer at Union Theological Seminary; Columbia University; and a Faculty Member of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science.   Her most recent book is To Heal a Wounded Heart: On the Transformative Power of Buddhism & Psychotherapy in Action.

Sharon Salzberg is co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. A student of meditation since 1971, she has guided meditation retreats worldwide since 1974.  Sharon’s latest book is Real Change. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and host of her own podcast, The Metta Hour. She is the author of the New York Times Bestseller, Real Happiness, and Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness.

Matthew Brensilver, MSW, PhD teaches retreats at the Insight Retreat Center, Spirit Rock and other Buddhist centers.

He was previously program director for Mindful Schools and for more than a decade, was a core teacher at Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. Matthew worked as a clinical social worker, serving severely and persistently mentally ill adults and adolescents. He subsequently earned a PhD from the Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at USC where he was a Provost’s Fellow. Before committing to teach meditation full-time, he spent years doing research on addiction pharmacotherapy at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine. Each summer, he lectures at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center on the intersections between mindfulness, science and psychotherapy. He serves on the Board of Directors at Spirit Rock.

Matthew is the co-author of two books about meditation during adolescence and continues to be interested in the unfolding dialogue between Buddhism and science.

Cara Lai spent most of her life trying to figure out how to be happy, or at least avoid total misery, which landed her on a cushion for the majority of her adulthood. Throughout many consciousness adventures including a few mind-bendingly long meditation retreats, she has explored the wilderness of the mind, chronic illness, the importance of pleasure, and lots of other things that sound too risqué to mention here.

In the past, Cara has worked as an artist, wilderness guide, social worker and psychotherapist, but at this point she’s given up on being an adult in exchange for an all-out mindfulness rampage. Her teaching is relatable, authentic, funny and sometimes crass, and is accessible for many people. She teaches teens and adults at Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, Spirit Rock, Insight Meditation Society, and UCLA; ultimately hoping to get woke enough to bend spoons with her mind in front of large audiences. And to help people be happier.

Andrew Olendzki, PhD, is the Director of Mindfulness Studies at Lesley University. He is a scholar of early Buddhist thought and practice with a special interest in Buddhist psychology and its relevance to the modern world. He was executive director of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, and senior scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. He has also held faculty positions at Amherst, Brandeis, Harvard, Lesley, and Smith.  Andrew was also a senior scholar at the Mind and Life Institute. His books include Unlimiting Mind: The Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism, and Untangling Self: A Buddhist Investigation of Who We Really Are.

Venerable Burin Thitakusalo (B.T. Bhikkhu) is the Executive Director of The Middle Way Meditation Institute, a New York-based global nonprofit organization that focuses on the promotion of inner peace education as a means to attaining world peace. Ordained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand since 2000, his quest is to bridge Eastern wisdom and Western science to serve humanity. Through his “World Peace through Inner Peace” project, he has touched people from all walks of life. He also travels globally to teach thousands of meditators from 30 countries on 6 continents.

nakawe cuebas berrios feels blessed to be able to study and journey through different healing and spiritual traditions in her life. The common thread between the many traditions that have touched her path has been the belief that health and wellness depend on a balance between the mind/heart, body, and spirit. The healing systems that she has studied are: Midwifery, Chinese acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine and yoga. Spiritually the practices are Lucumi (Cuba), with roots from the African Yoruba culture and indigenous ceremonies. These practices helped to strengthen her connection to the Earth and Cosmos. Her ancestral home is Puerto Rico, blending the Spanish, African and Taino Indian roots that flow from her ancestors, and give her guidance and strength daily. Her Nuyorican roots are honored by her experiences growing up in New York City.

By profession she has been a Midwife for 40 years and has worked doing home, hospital, birth center births and now works in a community health center in the Bronx providing services of midwifery/well women health care.

For over 20 years she has immersed herself in the teachings of the Buddha. She completed the IMS Teacher Training Program, studied in the Dedicated Practitioners Program and Community Dharma Leaders Program affiliated with Spirit Rock. She shares the Dharma by teaching on retreats and is on the Teachers Council of New York Insight. For 10 years she has served as a mentor with the BAUS Prisoner Correspondence course.

Oren Jay Sofer teaches mindfulness, meditation and Nonviolent Communication in secular and Buddhist contexts.

Oren has practiced meditation in the early Buddhist tradition since 1997, beginning his studies in Bodh Gaya, India with Anagarika Munindra and Godwin Samararatne. He is a long-time student of Joseph Goldstein, Michele McDonald, and Ajahn Sucitto, and a graduate of the IMS – Spirit Rock Vipassana Teacher Training, and current member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council.

Oren is the author of Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication and co-author of two books on teaching mindfulness to teens and adolescents: The Mindful Schools Curriculum for Adolescents and Teaching Mindfulness to Empower Teens.