Teacher Training Program

A More Diverse and Inclusive Refuge:
IMS’s Teacher Training Program

Note: Selection for the Teacher Training Program is by recommendation to, and invitation by, the IMS Guiding Teachers. There is no application process.

In August 2017, twenty meditation teacher trainees gathered at Insight Meditation Society to begin a new four-year Teacher Training Program (TTP). What distinguishes this cohort from previous teacher trainings is that 75% of the participants identify as persons of color, and the group also reflects a broad representation in terms of gender identity, age, country of origin, ethnicity and economic background.

This program marks a significant milestone in IMS’s efforts to foster a more diverse and inclusive community of retreat teachers and meditators.

At that initial training session “there was quite a celebratory energy, because this is something that has been coming into existence for quite some time,” said DaRa Williams, IMS guiding teacher and TTP core faculty member. “I would actually use the words ‘profound’ and ‘heart-opening.’ There was a lot of readiness, openness and willingness among the students, and for the teachers, it was a manifestation of two years of work.”

In addition to Williams, the program’s core faculty includes Joseph Goldstein, Kamala Masters, Rebecca Bradshaw, Bonnie Duran and Gil Fronsdal, with Carol Wilson and Guy Armstrong contributing. Visiting teachers over the four-year program include Sharon Salzberg and Ruth King.

TTP August 2018
Our Teacher Training Program (TTP) participants, teachers and support team at the end of the August 18–24, 2018 session at BCBS. Front row, L–R: Dawn Scott, Tara Mulay, Roxanne Dault, Jessica Morey and bruni dávila. Middle row: Dalila Bothwell (TTP Administrative Support), Devon Hase, Ven. Pannavati Bhikkhuni (visiting teacher), DaRa Williams (TTP Program Manager and teacher), Andrea Castillo, Vance Pryor, Kamala Masters (teacher), Neesha Patel, Guy Armstrong (teacher), nakawe cuebas and Rachel Lewis. Third row: Joseph Goldstein (teacher), Devin Berry, Yong Oh, Tuere Sala, Shelly Graf, Jeanne Corrigal, Nolitha Tsengiwe and Matthew Hepburn. Fourth row: Walt Opie and Jozen Tamori Gibson.

Since the program began, the trainees have met for four rounds of training, learning how to prepare talks about the Buddha’s teachings, translate and communicate those teachings for a more diverse, contemporary audience, and respond to issues arising from individual and collective trauma that they may encounter while serving their communities. Core teacher Rebecca Bradshaw observed, “This group of trainees brings in a freshness of perspective that’s really exciting.”

Significantly, the trainees are also building connections and friendships with one another and the teachers that will be an important source of strength and shared wisdom in the future. Rebecca added, “What’s fun to see is in this third round of the training is how much the trainees have bonded together and how much they support each other.”

Over the next few years, a rigorous curriculum, together with mentoring and further training sessions will deepen the trainees’ ability to transmit the Buddha’s teachings of liberation. On graduation in 2021, the new cohort of teachers will carry the collective wisdom of their varied life experiences and perspectives into insight meditation communities throughout the world.

Becoming an IMS Teacher

Trainee Jeanne Corrigal reflects on the impact her diverse cohort is already having on the wider Buddhist community.

Trainees Devon Hase and Roxanne Dault discuss how the program’s diverse cohort and teaching staff has cultivated a deeper understanding of the dharma and how to teach it.

This group of trainees is reminiscent of the early seventies when a few of us were in India, getting into the practice, and then coming back to the states see the tremendous growth of the whole mindfulness movement. And now, here’s another group of people, even larger, who’ll be going out to teach the Dharma in an even larger arena. This could be a Dharma wave—a new Dharma wave.

Joseph Goldstein