IMPERMANENT
SANGHA
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IMPERMANENT SANGHA DHARMA TEACHERS AND STAFF 

Impermanent Sangha is a very small non-profit dedicated to Dharma and meditation in nature and wilderness. One of a handful of such groups in the U.S., our organization and retreats are run solely on a donation or Dana basis. No one is paid for administering Impermanent Sangha, and teachers and most staff receive only the Dana (donations) given by participants.


 Johann Robbins
 is the founder and director of Impermanent Sangha. He is a teacher of Mindfulness Meditation, also known as Insight or Vipassana. Johann has been meditating since 1974 with a focus on Mindfulness since 1997. He was asked to teach in 2008, and has completed the two year Community Dharma Leader teacher training program at Spirit Rock. His primary teachers include Shinzen Young, Eric Kolvig (who also helped found Impermanent Sangha and taught wilderness retreats for many years before his retirement), and Joseph Goldstein. His style is light and open, yet focused and clear.

Johann started backpacking as a teenager, and deepened his spiritual journey on solo wilderness trips in his teens and twenties. His passion is facilitating spiritual practice in nature, and he has guided and taught wilderness retreats in various traditions for over 25 years, including being a Vision Quest guide in the late 1990's.

 Johann also offers a variety of meditation classes, daylongs, and weekend retreats in Boulder. To find out more or join his Boulder email list go to BoulderMindfulness.org.  To read more about Johann's journey scroll to the bottom of this page.

 Peter Williams
 has been teaching wilderness and nature retreats with Impermanent Sangha since 2010. He has practiced meditation for 19 years in the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, including many months of intensive silent retreat, and has taught mindfulness meditation in Boulder since 2003. Peter is certified as a Community Dharma Leader by Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and teaches retreats in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. Peter also practices as a transpersonal psychotherapist in Boulder.

Peter has deep wilderness experience; he was an ecologist and wildlife biologist for 12 years, working with black bears, songbirds, beaver and wetlands, and also as an environmental educator for Massachusetts Audubon Society.

David Loy
 teaches Dharma in the Japanese Zen tradition as well as Insight. He began Zen practice in Hawaii in 1971 with Yamada Koun and Robert Aitken, and continued koan study with Koun-roshi in Japan, where he lived for almost twenty years. He was authorized to teach in 1988 and leads retreats and workshops nationally and internationally in places such as at Spirit Rock, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, Omega Institute, Cambridge Insight Center, Gaia House, Terre d’Eveil, and Dharma Gate Budapest.

David’s spiritual journey began when he lived for five years in a remote valley on Molokai, Hawaii. There he fell in love with backpacking, meditating in nature, and solo wilderness retreats. Meditating outside, in the wild, remains an important part of his path.

David is a prolific writer, whose books and articles have been translated into many languages. He is co-editor of A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency (Wisdom Publications) and has written many articles and blogs on Buddhism and ecology. He is very interested in the important parallels between what Buddhism teaches about our personal predicament, and our current collective predicament resulting from human impacts to the biosphere. Many of David's writings and videos are available on his Web site: davidloy.org and at ecobuddhism.org.

Hether Bearinger
was first trained as a whitewater guide in 1995 on the Arkansas River in Colorado, where she discovered her passion for rivers. In her career exploring rivers and guiding professionally, she has been manager and lead guide of Area Verde Expeditions, Antigua, Guatemala and later a guide on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. With almost twenty years of river and backcountry adventure experience, and as a trained Wilderness First Responder, she has logistics and expedition expertise, a dedication to stewardship and environmental education, and brings confidence and ease to highly changeable situations.

Most important to Hether is the path she started on as a teenager, to understand the spiritual truths that bring forth personal and group healing and transformation. Her devotion to a daily mindfulness practice of prayer and meditation deeply inform her life as a leader, educator, yoga teacher, and artist.  She has been on retreat with Impermanent Sangha for the past two years, training as a guide and furthering her own personal transformation.


Alice Robbins has been on the river with Impermanent Sangha each year since the retreats started in 2002, and provides a wealth of knowledge and experience. For the past several years she has been on staff assisting with trip and food preparation, kitchen management, and providing support for yogis and teachers. Alice is an experienced and avid boater, river guide, camper and hiker, and has a deep connection to nature and Dharma practice.

Alice is a "recovering" attorney, having recently retired from law, and now exclusively practices family law mediation.
      

A Note from Johann: My Personal Journey

Since I was a child being in nature has felt spiritual. This connection grew through my teens and twenties, fed by a daily meditation practice begun in college, and many long backpacks, often solo, into the Rockies and Sierras.

In the late 1990’s I trained as a wilderness Vision Quest guide, and also started practicing Vipassana meditation. My second retreat was with 
Eric Kolvig at a center in the mountains near Tucson. I told him I wished we were sitting outside, and he replied that he taught silent backpacking meditation retreats. I was excited that such a thing existed.

The following April I was in Arizona, on the trail with Eric and guides and longtime meditators Terry Gustafson and Betty Jo Black. For the next ten days our group silently hiked, camped and meditated, following winding trails down through numerous canyons to Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell. That retreat was a coming home for me, anchoring the Dharma and wilderness into my lifelong intention to experience the whole of what I am.

The retreat was beautiful and challenging. One day the wind grew stronger, until we were in a full-on sandstorm. I was filled with fear, which rose and fell with each gust. That night the wind got incredibly intense and I could not sleep. I lay awake, following each gust in my mind as it howled and moaned, like the breath of an angry god. After a few hours, focusing on wind and fear had concentrated my mind. At some point I started doing Metta (Lovingkindness) practice, which deepened the concentration, and the fear and aversion began to change into interest and pleasure.

At dawn I went outside and sat on a log, and suddenly everything let go; wind, sand, fear, discomfort, the sleepless night, the poor me; it all evaporated and there was simply a quiet awareness that had no subject or object. Later when thought and identity returned, fear and resistance stayed gone; the wind was just wind and the sand was just sand, and I felt grateful, safe and happy. That evening I helped make dinner, and as gust after gust blew out the stoves and swirled sand into the food we just kept dissolving into helpless laughter.

Since then, over many years of leading silent nature and wilderness retreats, I have seen how they foster deep practice on many levels. In wilderness the environment is pure Dharma, manifesting moment to moment. There is nothing “selfing”in nature, so it is easier to see through our own selfing.

Wild nature opens us to changing conditions we cannot control. We experience discomfort, inconvenience, danger and the reality of death, along with sublime beauty, perfection and power. Not Self, Impermanence and Unsatisfactoriness are everywhere in nature, which can make insight into them more accessible. Containing all of this is a profound limitless beauty and peace, the immensity of which continually encourages us to let go into gratitude and presence.

On retreat, backcountry travel becomes part of our formal practice. Whether paddling or hiking, movement is meditation that can become concentrated and rapturous. Paddling a river or hiking a trail is “going with the flow”, as canyon walls or mountain ridges glide silently by, constantly changing, as meditation deepens and deepens.

In nature all of us depend on Sangha in direct ways. Each retreat group is an interdependent life support system, with everyone taking care of themselves and each other mindfully and silently. Simple tasks become gifts to self and Sangha, manifesting love and connection, and creating deep physical and emotional safety.

The Buddha lived and practiced in nature, was enlightened in nature, and taught in nature. In that tradition I offer these retreats, in the hope you will be inspired, healed, loved, and awakened.


With Much Metta,


Johann Robbins