Teachers and Dharma Leaders

Teachers and Dharma Leaders


Guiding Teachers

Gil Fronsdal

Gil is the founding teacher, and a co-guiding teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California and the Insight Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, California. He has been teaching since 1990. Gil has practiced Zen and Vipassana since 1975 and has a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Stanford. He is a husband and father of two boys.

You can read Articles by Gil and see information on Gil’s Books on this site.
You may listen to Gil’s talks on Audio Dharma.

Andrea Fella

Andrea is a co-guiding teacher at the Insight Meditation Center and the Insight Retreat Center. She has been practicing Insight Meditation since 1996, and teaching Insight Meditation since 2003. She is particularly drawn to intensive retreat practice, and has done a number of long retreats, both in the United States and in Burma. During one long practice period in Burma, she ordained as a nun with Sayadaw U Janaka. Andrea is especially drawn to the wisdom teachings of the Buddha. Her teachings emphasize clarity and practicality. Andrea is also on the Governing Teachers Council at Spirit Rock, and she teaches residential retreats for IMC and other retreat centers around the country.  More information about Andrea on her website.

Dharma Teachers

Andrea Castillo

Andrea Castillo, born in Mexico City, has practiced Insight Meditation since 1998 under the guidance of Gil Fronsdal. Andrea has taught Dharma in Spanish at IMC since 2011 and more recently at Against the Stream in SF, and at Insight Santa Cruz. She completed a Ph.D. in the Humanities at Stanford University in 2009; she is also a graduate of the Sati Center Chaplaincy Training Program, and of the Dharma Mentoring Training Program taught by Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella. Andrea has served the Insight community by being on the board of the Buddhist Insight Network, and presently at the IMC board. She also teaches mindfulness in English and Spanish to various populations in the Bay Area.

bruni dávila

bruni dávila was born in Puerto Rico and came to the mainland in 1991. She has practiced Vipassana/Zen meditation since 1995 and at IMC since 2006. A student of both Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella, bruni teaches at IMC and in the wider Bay Area in Spanish and English. She graduated from the Sati Center Introduction to Buddhist Chaplaincy Training, the Dharma Mentoring Training and the Entering the Stream Program at IMC. Currently, bruni is in the IMC Local Dharma Leaders and the 2017-2021 Insight Meditation Society (IMS) Teacher Training Programs.

Diana Clark

Diana Clark, PhD offers dharma talks, sutta study and lovingkindness practices at IMC.  She was trained to be a residential retreat teacher by Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella. She has cumulatively spent more than two years in silent meditation retreats, has a Master’s degree in Buddhist Studies and is a graduate of the Sati Center Buddhist Chaplaincy program. She also has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and serves the dharma community by being the former treasurer of IMC and the current treasurer of IRC.

Ines Freedman

Ines first became interested in meditation through her yoga practice in 1970. She has been practicing Buddhist meditation since 1985, with Gil Fronsdal being her primary teacher. She is a graduate of the Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leader Program.  She is a member of the IMC Karuna Council and is past Managing Director of both the Insight Meditation Center and the Insight Retreat Center. She developed IMC’s Online Meditation Courses. She has experience with long meditation retreats including extended self-retreats, and has a special interest in working with meditation practices for those with chronic pain. She currently teaches retreats at Insight Retreat Center. She is a retired chiropractor.

John Martin

John Martin teaches Vipassana, Metta, and LGBTQI themed meditation retreats. He leads an on-going weekly meditation group in San Francisco and is the guiding teacher for the LGBTQueer Sangha at IMC. He has had a dedicated practice while being engaged in the working world and emphasizes practice for daily life. He also completed the SRMC/IMS/IRC 4-year teacher training in 2016.

Matthew Brensilver

Matthew Brensilver, PhD, is a member of the Guiding Teachers Executive Committee and the Teachers Council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He previously served as Program Director for Mindful Schools and for more than a decade, was a core teacher at Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. He lectures at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center about the intersections between mindfulness and mental health. Before committing to teach meditation full-time, he spent years doing research on addiction pharmacotherapy at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine and is interested in the unfolding dialogue between dharma and science. Matthew is the co-author of two forthcoming books on meditation during adolescence.

Max Erdstein

Max started practicing with IMC in 1999 just after graduating from Stanford. He has practiced Vipassana and Zen in America, Japan, Thailand, and Burma. He studied Buddhist chaplaincy with the Sati Center. He was trained as a Dharma teacher by Gil Fronsdal and is a graduate of the Spirit Rock teacher training program. With Gil he taught the first weeklong retreat at IRC in November 2012. He is a husband and father of two girls.

Nikki Mirghafori

Nikki Mirghafori, PhD, teaches and serves on the Board of Directors of the Insight Meditation Center (IMC) and Spirit Rock.  She is a Stanford-trained compassion cultivation instructor, a UCLA trained mindfulness facilitator, a Spirit Rock/IMS/IMC trained residential retreat teacher, and authorized by the renown Burmese meditation master, Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, to teach jhanas and analytical vipassana. Nikki has straddled the worlds of Dharma & technology as an Artificial Intelligence scientist for decades.

Local Dharma Leaders

Berget Jelane

Berget has been a student of the Dharma since 1986.  She is a graduate  of the SRMC Community Dharma Leaders Program and the Sati Center  Chaplaincy Training.   Recently, she was ordained by Gil as a lay Buddhist minister. As a psychotherapist, she uses mindfulness and other Buddhist principles in her work with people.

Chris Clifford

Chris Clifford has practiced meditation at IMC and other Insight centers since 1995.  She appreciates the integration of intensive meditation retreats with daily life Dharma practice and service.   She is a graduate of IMC’s Dharma Mentoring and Local Dharma Leaders programs.  She is an instructor for IMC’s various introductory classes and co-leads the Eightfold Path Program. She also manages retreats for The Mountain Hermitage in New Mexico and serves as the kitchen coordinator for Insight Retreat Center.   She is a retired software engineer.

David Cohn

David Cohn was a resident practitioner at the Zen Center of San Francisco’s three practice places, Tassajara Monastery, Green Gulch Farm, and the City Center, from 1970 to 1984, and was ordained as a priest in 1974. Since then he has carried on lay practice, became married and has a daughter and a grandson. He owned and operated two San Francisco restaurants from 1985 until retirement in 2009. He was a Zen Hospice Project volunteer for 20 years, and has been a Peninsula Hospital volunteer chaplain from 2002 to the present. He serves as board chairman and consultant for the Zen Center Everyday board, overseeing Greens. He practices now with Gil Fronsdal and the IMC and IRC communities, is an IMC board member, is on the IMC Karuna council, and is an IMC mentor.

Jennifer Lemas

Jennifer is an ordained Theravada, Buddhist Lay Minister. She has been practicing Vipassana meditation since 1997, with Gil Fronsdal as her guiding teacher. She is a graduate of the Sati Center Buddhist Chaplaincy Program and Upaya’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Program and is currently in Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioners Program. Jennifer has served as a chaplain/volunteer chaplain since 2010 at Bay Area Hospitals including Sequoia Hospital, San Francisco General and Mills Peninsula Hospital. She also leads the Buddhism and Recovery group at IMC.

Liz Powell

Liz Powell has been practicing Vipassana meditation since 2004. She is a graduate of the Dharma Mentoring Training Program and currently in Local Dharma Leader Training with Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella at IMC, as well as having completed the Dedicated Practitioners and Advanced Practitioners Programs at Spirit Rock. In IMC’s Youth and Family Program, she co-led programs for K-2 graders, 3-5th graders, an annual Family Retreat, and a Mindful Parents series for a number of years. She emphasizes mindfulness in daily life in her work as a Marriage Family Therapist, and enjoys retreat practice as well. She currently serves as IMC Program Director.

Maria Straatmann

A retired scientist and businesswoman, has studied in the Vipassana tradition with Gil Fronsdal since 1996. Maria serves as IMC Audiodharma Online Courses Coordinator/Teacher, and on its Karuna Council; she is a Spirit Rock Buddhist Ritual Minister. She emphasizes freedom through seeing things as they are and letting go of unskillful mind habits, on the cushion and especially in daily life.

Robert Cusick

Robert Cusick is a long time student of Gil Fronsdal. He was a Buddhist monk in Burma, trained by the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw. He also trained in the Soto Zen tradition at Tassajara Zen Center in 2001. He participated in the Diamond Heart program with Hameed Ali (A.H. Almaas), in the Sati Center’s Buddhist Chaplaincy training and completed the Dedicated Practitioners Program (DPP) at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in 2003, where he served as Retreats Program Manager. Robert is a certified Kripalu Yoga instructor, and sits on the board of directors at the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies.

Tanya Wiser

Tanya Wiser began her formal meditation practice in 2005 immediately following her first Vipassana retreat. She found the practice to be deeply healing and, because she works as a therapist, she wanted to share Mindfulness with her clients so in 2008 she was trained in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy as well as Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention. In 2011 she joined IMC’s Dedicated Practitioners Program (DPP4) and began to study the Dharma formally. In 2014 she completed her first month long Vipassana retreat and in 2016 completed IMC’s Dharma Mentor Training Program. She is a student of both Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella.

Terry Lesser

Terry has been teaching yoga and meditation at the Insight Meditation Center since 1995. Beginning in 1984 she trained primarily in the Iyengar style and is also certified in restorative yoga.  A student of Vipassana meditation since 1992, she is a graduate of the Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leader Program. She currently also teaches at the Avenidas Senior Center in Palo Alto. Terry sees hatha yoga as a moving meditation as well as a preparation for formal sitting — a path to awaken the body, calm the mind, and open the heart. Buddhist concepts blend with yoga philosophy to infuse the practice, as movement and breath are explored with attentiveness, curiosity, patience, and a compassionate, non-judgmental, playful attitude. Terry feels an especially treasured part of yoga at IMC is the welcoming atmosphere and support and companionship of sangha (community of practitioners).

Ying Chen

Ying Chen was born in China and came to US when she was in College. She took refuge with Venerable Ji Ru in 1995. She was exposed to Mahayana Buddhism early on. Since 2001, she was drawn to the Theravada tradition through sutta studies with Shaila Catherine and other Chinese dharma teachers and practitioners. In the past 13 years, she has been practicing primarily under the guidance of Gil Fronsdal. Ying is a graduate of the Sati Center Chaplaincy program. She is currently working as a part-time spiritual care volunteer in Kaiser Hospital and facilitates the Insight Meditation Center support group for people living with illness. Ying has a Ph.D in computer science and worked in technology companies for close to 20 years.

Family and Youth Programs

Hilary Borison

Hilary is a recent graduate of the Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher Training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness, and a graduate of the Chaplaincy Program through the Sati Center, applying both in her work as a grief counselor with Kara in Palo Alto. In addition she serves as a mentor in the Eightfold Path Program. Hilary teaches the Dharma Bodhis middle school program and co-facilitates the Women’s Circle of Mindfulness. She has been a student of Gil Fronsdal’s since 2004.