Sunday, January 4, 2015

6 Female Meditation Teachers/Leaders That Can Help You Develop a Mindfulness Practice

Here are six of the well-known women who have most influenced my meditation practice.  I have linked to their websites for you to learn more.  The links are in purple.

Sylvia Boorstein


I love Sylvia’s humorous story-telling style as she integrates her Jewish background and Buddhist teachings with basic mindfulness techniques. She also includes lots of stories about her family. I am most touched by her Metta (loving kindness) meditations.   Sylvia allows herself to be vulnerable throughout her work—we can see her as anxious, petty and depressed like the rest of us, making her work particularly accessible.

Sylvia is, like myself, a native New Yorker (perhaps that’s why I find her so relatable).   She has a master’s degree in Social Work and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Don’t let her education scare you though, she is as down-to-earth as anyone can ever hope to be. She has been a social and political activist her whole adult life. Sylvia’s first adventures in mindfulness meditation began in 1977 at a weekend long retreat and she hasn’t looked back since.   She teaches and guides meditations all over the country, has written several books (see her website for a complete listing ), many articles and has lead many, many Dharma talks (Buddhist lectures).

I am lucky to have her locally at Spirit Rock in Marin, California, where she is a founding member, teaching her weekly meditation class for the past 15 years and retreats.

You can join her (along with e) in an 11 segment online class, Everyday Life as Mindfulness Practice starting in January, 2015

Tara Brach


I first learned about Tara when I read her wonderfully gentle, self-affirming book, Radical Acceptance. Her meditations and Dharma talks are compassionate and warm. Tara has brought the issues of diversity, peace and environmental sustainability throughout the past 35 years including in the prisons and schools. I especially like her forgiveness meditation—helpful around the holidays when we tend to spend more time with family and friends. I also like relaxing to her calming and soothing meditation.

Tara received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology and completed a five year teacher training program at Spirit Rock in California. She founded the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C.

Pema Chodron


I often carry my pocket sized book The Pocket Pema Chodron with me--it has excerpts from Pema’s other publications on fear, destructive patterns, patience, kindness, warmth, and compassion. I also love When Things Fall Apart where she has helped me understand the Buddhist idea that the only way to deal with pain and not add to the suffering is to approach it with curiosity instead of constantly trying to push the pain away.   She has written many other books  and lots of papers. I highly recommend her article on the 5 reasons to meditate for an introduction to her work and to mindfulness meditation in general.

Pema is a Buddhist nun, novice since 1974 and fully ordained since 1981. She was the first director and is now principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada where she spends most of her time and energy.
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Eve Decker


I recently discovered Eve Decker and I am really glad I did.  Eve puts mindfulness, Buddhist teachings and other important issues to music in a way that is uplifting and inspiring.  She has a beautiful, powerful voice and is even more impressive in person.

Three of my favorite songs are Women's Bodies--"I stopped watching television, and looking at magazines but I still feel oppressed by our culture’s expectations of me...Don’t put me on a metal scale and tell me I’m not small enough...With furrowed brow you imply that if I’m not small I won’t be loved"

Getting Older--"I keep getting more grey hair and the lines around my eyes surprise me...Don’t have the energy I once had, a quiet night at home satisfies me...These changes could scare me, but why fear the truth...Each day is a miracle, this moment fresh and new...This body reminds me that all things must change..." and

Simple Truth--"The way I see it there are two choices...I can wait for all these voices to tell me I have made it...or I can love myself the way I am..."

Eve is a long term student of the dharma. She began practicing Vipassana and Metta meditation in the early 1990′s. She trained in mindfulness based social action through the two year Path of Engagement program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and became a certified meditation teacher there through the Community Dharma Leader Program.

I highly recommend visiting her website to hear her music, read her lyrics, and learn more about her.

Marsha Linnehan 


Marsha appeals to me because not only did she develop one of the most important therapies to date, but she didn’t want to “die a coward” and came out a few years ago as having lived the nightmare within the mental health care system as a young adult with what she later identified as BPD. You can read more about her experiences in this New York Times article.  She is also a brilliant researcher supporting the therapeutic value of her work with scientific data. You can read more about her research at either of these links. or (

I find the second edition of her workbook, DBT Skills Training: Handouts and Worksheets, although not yet scientifically tested as a self help book to be thorough and self explanatory and can see it being used with and without a DBT therapist.   Her descriptions of mindfulness in this workbook are very intuitive with or without a background in Buddhism.

Marsha is a Professor of Psychology, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington and the Director of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics. She is also a Zen mindfulness leader. I highly recommend taking a look at her work

Diana Winston


I first discovered Diana when I voraciously read her two books, Fully Present, the Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness (co-author Susan Smalley)—an accessible book about the science of mindfulness interwoven with the “art” of the practice and Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens as I tried to understand mindfulness meditation and the basics of Buddhism. I have also spent hours meditating to the podcasts on the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) website recorded from her free meditation groups she leads each week.

Diana Winston is the Director of Mindfulness Education at the UCLA  Semel Institute’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). She’s been teaching mindfulness since 1993 to both adults and adolescents. She regularly teaches at hospitals, corporations, universities, nonprofits, and schools. Although she has been trained in Buddhism, her meditations appeal to those of us who are looking for something more secular.

We would love to hear who has impacted your mindfulness practice in our comment section below!

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