Visiting Teachers

Skilled and Compassionate Guidance Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center guided meditation retreats are led by the most skilled and capable teachers...

Skilled and Compassionate Guidance

Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center guided meditation retreats are led by the most skilled and capable teachers within various dharma and wisdom traditions. Our teachers have dedicated their lives to awakening and service. At our center each teacher brings their own unique and powerful experience of waking up in wild nature.  You will be in good hands with all who teach at Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center.


Amana Brembry Johnson

Amana Brembry Johnson is a Core Teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA and a Guiding Teacher for the center’s Spiritual Teacher and Leadership (STL) training.  Four decades of contemplative practice in multiple traditions contributes to a form of teaching, meditation guidance and mentoring, that offers a diverse range of access to practice.  Amana’s life work emerges from the intersections of spirituality, social justice, body awareness, and intuitive creativity.

Bill Morgan, PsyD

Bill Morgan, PsyD is a clinical psychologist who has been practicing meditation for over 35 years in both Zen and Vipassana traditions. He has participated in more than 6 years of silent retreats, and once lived in a Trappist monastery for 6 months. He has a private practice in two Boston locations. Bill is a board member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, a non-profit organization in Boston, which offers seminars, courses, retreats and a certificate program for mental health professionals. He is a contributing author to Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, a best selling text in its second edition. billandsusan.org

Bonnie Duran (mixed race Opelousas/Coushatta)

Bonnie Duran, PhD met the Dharma in 1982 when she sat a month in Nepal and learned Vipassana in Bodh Gaya India. Since then, she has taken teachings from many western teachers as well as Thai, Burmese, and Tibetan Monastic teachers. Bonnie attended the very first People of Color Mediation Retreat at Vallecitos decades ago and we are proud to have her sit on our Teachers’ Council today. Bonnie is a core-teacher of the IMS Teacher Training Program, the SRMC Dedicated Practitioners Program and is on the SRMC Guiding Teachers Council. Bonnie teaches long and short retreats at IMS, Spirit…

Brian Lesage

Brian has practiced Buddhist meditation since 1988 and has taught since 2000. He has studied in the Zen, Theravada, and Tibetan schools and was ordained in the Rinzai Zen tradition in 1996.  His training in Vipassana Meditation includes doing extended meditation retreats in Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, and India as well as numerous retreats in the U.S.  He leads retreats and teaches meditation courses nationwide.  Brian also has a private practice in Somatic Experiencing, which is a naturalistic approach to healing trauma.

Carol Cano

Carol Cano, M.A., began her practice over 30 years ago at Wat Kow Tahm in Thailand and has actively engaged in building communities and teaching Dharma internationally. Carol is Founder and Executive Director of Braided Wisdom, a BIPOC led cross-cultural mindfulness organization. She is a graduate of the 2017-2020 Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Teacher Training program and a teacher at Spirit Rock often. She is a core teacher and a former board member of East Bay Meditation Center. Carol co-founded Philippine Insight Meditation Community in the Philippines. Her unique teachings are deeply grounded in Basque, Native American and Buddhist influences…

Cheryl Slean

Cheryl Slean has been practicing Insight meditation intensively since 1995, including hundreds of days of silent retreat. She was authorized to teach in 2007, and has taught classes and residential retreats worldwide at Insight Community of the Desert, Seattle Insight, Against the Stream, Secular Dharma Foundation, New Life Foundation and others. In the secular mindfulness world, Cheryl has a Certification in Mindfulness Facilitation from UCLA and has taught at many health & wellness, addiction recovery and business settings as well as online with Mindful Schools. Cheryl is also a writer, filmmaker and climate advocate, and is currently Manager of Sustainability and Storytelling at…

Darine Monroy (Assistant)

Darine Monroy has been a student of Michele McDonald and Steven Smith since 2011. She has taught for Mindful Schools, has completed the Hakomi Comprehensive Training, and is studying herbal medicine. Darine was born and raised in Mexico, and meditation retreats have been among the most meaningful experiences of her life.

Dave Smith

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized Buddhist meditation teacher, addiction treatment specialist, and published author. His background is rooted in the Insight Meditation tradition and he was empowered to teach through the Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. Dave teaches residential meditation retreats and classes, provides trainings and consulting in both secular and Buddhist contexts, and works with students through his meditation mentoring program. He recently founded Rebel Saint Dharma and lives in Paonia, Colorado.

Don Usner

Don J. Usner, a thirteenth-generation New Mexican, grew up in one of North America’s most striking natural and cultural landscapes, where he developed a passion for the natural world and for diverse cultures. He studied Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Usner’s affinity for photography was greatly nurtured there and during his subsequent tenure on an ecological reserve in Big Sur, where he lived and co-authored his first book, The Natural History of Big Sur. Don returned to New Mexico to earn an M.A. in Cultural Geography and to write Sabino’s Map: Life in…

Dyanna Taylor

Dyanna Taylor has co-led media/film and unplugged retreats for twelve years and for the last eight co-led the Wisdom of No Technology retreats at Vallecitos.  A film director and veteran cinematographer for 39 years, she brings a uniquely personal angle for guiding this retreat.  The combination of her career in the film business with its personal and creative demands, her twenty nine year Buddhist practice, a year alone in an off-the-grid cabin on California’s coast and varied powerful wilderness experiences becomes the inspiration for this retreat.  Dyanna’s accomplishments on hundreds of films for clients in features, documentaries, and television garnered…

Elvina Charley (Diné)

Elvina Charley, Ed.S. is Diné (Navajo) school psychologist practitioner and integrates mindfulness as a part of serving children and youth. Charley has been practicing mindfulness since 2013, introduced to her by Bonnie Duran, Ph.D. as a way to heal from historical trauma. She found parallels between her Diné philosophy of life – Sa’ah naaghái bik’eh hózhóón and Buddhism. Charley continues to cultivate her practice through people of color retreat programs through the Insight Meditation Society and Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center. Charley received training through Mindful Schools to bring back mindfulness to reservation schools.

Erin Treat

Erin’s love for wild nature, her passionate commitment to serving collective liberation, and decades of working as a somatic bodyworker are all palpable in the way Erin shares the Dharma. Erin is Guiding Teacher at both Vallecitos and the Durango Dharma Center. Erin serves on the Spirit Rock Teachers Council and as core faculty of the sixth Community Dharma Leaders (CDL) Program.  She has also completed Thanissara and Kitissaro’s Dhammapala Training to bring forth an embodied bodhisattva ideal within the lineage of Theravada Buddhism. Erin was born and raised in the prairie of Fargo, North Dakota to a family of Irish,…

JD Doyle

JD Doyle(they/them) serves as Guiding Teacher at Insight Santa Cruz and was a Core Teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center for 5 years. They graduated from Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Teacher Training, the Community Dharma Leader training, and the Dedicated Practitioner Program. JD began studying and practicing Buddhism in 1995, at Insight Meditation Society and at Spirit Rock and continued with extensive retreat practice in Thailand and Burma in the Theravadan lineage. They are committed to celebrating the diversity of our human sangha, addressing the impact of racism on our communities, expanding concepts of gender, and living in ways…

Jennifer Berezan

Jennifer Berezan is a unique blend of singer/songwriter, producer, and activist. Over the course of ten albums, she has developed and explored recurring themes with a rare wisdom. Her lifelong involvement in environmental, women’s, and other justice movements as well as an interest in Buddhism and earth-based spirituality are at the heart of her writing. Her intense and personal approach to music as a transforming experience has brought her strong rapport with audiences from small clubs to large festivals throughout North America and Europe. Her ground breaking work as a recording artist and teacher has established her as a leading…

Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey

Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey’s teaching aims to inspire the skills, determination, and faith necessary to realize the deepest human freedom. He is a student of Michele McDonald and his approach is rooted in the tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma. As a teacher of Vipassana (insight) meditation within the broader context of Theravada Buddhism his teaching encourages an exploration of the relationship between ethics, insight, and action. Perpetually intrigued by the dynamics between inner and outer change, Jesse is a writer of numerous essays and author of Insurgent Heart: A Vipassana Manual for the Guerrilla Yogi. Links to his writing can be…

Jozen Tamori Gibson

Jozen Tamori Gibson (they, them) began formal meditation practice in 2004 through Sotō Zen while living in Japan joined by a Theravada practice in 2010. Jozen is a participant in the 2017-2021 Insight Meditation Society ( IMS ) Dharma Teacher Training program and serves on the New York Insight Meditation Center’s teacher council. With certifications and embodiment studies in Yoga, Qigong, Indigenous Focusing Oriented Therapy ( IFOT ) and Complex Trauma, Jozen lives to provide and nourish contemplative mind-heart-body alignment practices and spaces rooted in wellness, anti-oppression and interdependent liberation for all beings. Jozen honors the wisdom and compassion of…

La Sarmiento

La has been practicing Vipassana meditation since 1998. They are IMCW’s Board President the Guiding Teacher of the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ Sanghas, a mentor for the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program, a teacher with Cloud Sangha, and a contributor to the Ten Percent Happier app. La was the lead teacher for the Inward Bound Mindfulness Education Virginia Teen Mindfulness Retreats for 7 years. They completed the Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leader Training in 2012 and teach meditation retreats around the United States. As an immigrant, non-binary, Filipinx-American, La is committed to sharing teachings and practices that alleviate suffering, cultivate true…

Leslie Booker

Booker brings her heart to the intersection of Dharma, Embodied Wisdom, and Liberation. She speaks nationally on expanding our vision around culturally responsive teaching, and changing the paradigm of self and community care. Throughout her career, Booker has contributed to the advancement of her field both in theory and practice with NYC’s most vulnerable populations and taking her practice off the cushion. She is a co-founder of the Yoga Service Council at Omega Institute and the Meditation Working Group of Occupy Wall Street. Booker is a co-author of Best Practices for Yoga in a Criminal Justice Setting, a contributor to…

Lisa Kring (Assistant)

Lisa Kring is an LCSW (MSW- USC) and a committed practitioner of mindfulness meditation in the Theravada tradition for over 20 years, and a mindfulness teacher for over 15 years.  She began practicing studying clinically with Dan Siegel, which led to initial mindfulness training at MARC/UCLA with Diana Winston.  Presently, she teaches classes of all kinds at InsightLA in Los Angeles such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Awakening Joy and Mindful Self Compassion. Lisa has studied and practiced with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein, Sally and Guy Armstrong, Ven Analayo, Philip Moffitt, among others, and received teacher lineage transmission / authorization…

Mark Coleman

Mark Coleman is a senior teacher at Spirit Rock and has taught insight meditation worldwide since 1997. Mark is passionate about integrating meditation and nature and leads wilderness retreats through his organization, Awake in the Wild, as well as nature based meditation teacher trainings. Co-founder of the Mindfulness Training Institute Mark also leads year long mindfulness teacher trainings in the UK and US. He is author of Awake in the Wild: Mindfulness in Nature as a Path of Self-Discovery and Make Peace With Your Mind and his recent book From Suffering to Peace. He lives in Northern California and likes nothing more…

Michele McDonald

Michele McDonald has taught Insight meditation since 1982 and teaches extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Burma, and various locations around the world. Michele has been a quiet pioneer having being the first woman to teach a formal retreat in Burma, side-by-side with a senior monastic figure, Sayadaw U Lakkhana, Abbot of Kyaswa Monastery. Having worked with a wide range of Asian and Western teachers, Michele is most inspired by her practice with Dipa Ma and Sayadaw U Pandita and more recently in Burma with the Mya Taung Sayadaw. She appreciates teaching at many levels of practice and has enjoyed…

Pamela Weiss

PAMELA WEISS a Buddhist teacher authorized to teach in two traditions—Zen and Theravada. After living as a monastic at Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery for five years, she completed comprehensive training through Spirit Rock Meditation Center to become an Insight meditation teacher. She is currently a member of the Spirit Rock Teacher Council, a guiding teacher at San Francisco Insight, and a visiting teacher at the Brooklyn Zen Center. Pamela is an executive coach and pioneer in bringing Buddhist principles and practices into the workplace, and is the author of “A Bigger Sky: Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism.” She lives in San Francisco with her…

René Rivera

René Rivera is a meditation teacher, restorative justice facilitator, and leader, working and learning in all the spaces in-between race, gender, and other perceived binaries, as a queer, latinx, trans man. René teaches heart-centered, trauma-informed meditation, at the East Bay Meditation Center and other meditation centers. He has co-led the first residential meditation retreats for transgender, nonbinary and gender expansive people. René is a restorative justice facilitator for the Ahimsa Collective, working to heal sexual and gender based violence.

Ron Siegel, PsyD

Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D. is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, where he has taught for over 30 years. He is a long time student of mindfulness meditation who teaches internationally about mindfulness and psychotherapy and mind/body treatment while maintaining a private clinical practice in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Dr. Siegel is author of The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems; coauthor of Back Sense: A Revolutionary Approach to Halting the Cycle of Chronic Back Pain, coeditor of Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy: Deepening Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, and coauthor of a new guide for clinicians, Sitting…

Sebene Selassie

Sebene Selassie is a teacher & author who guides people to remember and trust their belonging. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Washington DC, she began studying Buddhism 30 years ago as an undergraduate at McGill University where she majored in Comparative Religious Studies. She has an MA from the New School where she focused on race and cultural studies. For over 20 years, she worked with children, youth, and families nationally and internationally for small and large not-for-profit organizations. She teaches classes, workshops and retreats regularly and is one of the most popular teachers on the Ten Percent Happier…

Shelly Graf

Shelly Graf has been practicing in the Insight Meditation tradition since 2003. They are a graduate of Insight Meditation Society’s four-year teacher training program and currently serve as one of the Guiding Teachers at Common Ground Meditation Center in Minneapolis, MN. Shelly has been a clinician and administrator in the Social Work and mental health fields since 2005. They have a special interest in waking up to whiteness as part of this total and fully integrated path of awakening. Whatever Shelly’s role may be, they will always be a grateful student of Buddhist Practice first.

Solwazi Johnson

Solwazi has been practicing and teaching Buddhism and mindfulness meditation for over 20 years, focusing on Vipassana since 2003. He has studied/practiced in Thailand, Burma, India, and South Africa. He is certified as a Community Dharma Leader by Jack Kornfield and Spirit Rock Meditation Center and a four-year Spirit Rock Teacher Training Program graduate. Solwazi worked for over 20 years as a health educator and national trainer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. He leads mindfulness meditation classes and retreats in the Denver metropolitan area. He is an ICF-certified professional…

Susan Morgan, MSN, RN, CS

Susan Morgan is a psychotherapist in private practice in Cambridge, MA. She consults with therapists who are interested in deepening therapeutic presence. Susan completed a 4-year silent mindfulness meditation retreat along with her partner, Bill in 2013. She has co-led retreats for psychotherapists with Bill for the past 15 years and together also lead small on-line study-practice groups or sanghas for psychotherapists. Lovingkindness and mindfulness of the body are integral to her mindfulness teaching. Susan is a board member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, a non-profit organization in Boston, which offers seminars, courses, retreats and a certificate program…

Syra Smith (Choctaw-Chickasaw)

Syra Smith is an artist, facilitator and mindfulness educator interested in deep ecology and manifesting a culture where we can turn toward fearless abundance and generosity. Her grandmothers are Choctaw-Chickasaw and include those among the first freed black African women to own land in her country. Syra’s studies and practices are deeply rooted in the heart and awakening more fully to the truth of freedom in our lives. A lifelong meditator and SF Bay Area native, Syra began her meditation practice as a teen in 1988 and has been practicing in the Theravada Buddhist tradition since 2009. She graduated East…

Thanissara and Kittisaro

From a London Anglo-Irish family, Thanissara started Buddhist practice in the Burmese school in 1975. She was inspired to ordain after meeting Ajahn Chah and spent 12 years as a Buddhist nun where she was a founding member of Chithurst and Amaravati Buddhist Monasteries. She has facilitated meditation retreats internationally the last 25 years and has an MA in Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy Practice from Middlesex University & the Karuna Institute in the UK. Thanissara is co-founder of Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, South Africa and has authored several books. Her most recent is Time To Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for…

Tuere Sala

Tuere Sala is a Guiding Teacher for Seattle Insight Meditation Society (SIMS).  She is a retired prosecuting attorney who has practiced Vipassana meditation for over 25 years.  Tuere is inspired by bringing the Dharma to nontraditional places and has often supported SIMS in unconventional ways such as answering letters from practitioners in prison; offering beginning classes at Angeline Women’s shelter and Jubilee House, a women’s transitional house; and facilitating workshops using nonviolent communication (NVC) to support a mindfulness practice.  Tuere believes that urban meditation is the foundation for today’s practitioner’s path to liberation and is a strong advocate for practitioners living with…

Victoria Cary

Victoria Cary has been practicing Insight Meditation and studying the Dharma since 2006. In 2017 She completed Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leader program and went on to become a fully empowered Dharma Teacher. In 2016 she co-founded the San Francisco People of Color Insight Sangha and continues as one of the core teachers. She is a San Francisco Bay Area Native. She left her workplace of 20 years in 2017 to deepen into the Dharma. Since then she has spent time in and out of intensive silent meditation practice, including a 3 month retreat at IMS, 6 week & 3…

Yong Oh

Yong Oh began meditating through the Soto Zen tradition and eventually transitioned to study, practice and teach in the Insight tradition. Yong serves as a teacher on the Dharma Council for the Durango Dharma Center and has sat on the board of directors since 2019. He also teaches for the Chattanooga Insight Meditation group, and has taught retreats at Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Yong is a graduate of Spirit Rock’s two-year Community Dharma Leaders program and the Sacred Mountain Sangha two-year Dharmapala training, taught by his primary teachers Kittisaro and Thanissara. He is also a graduate…