Who We Are & What We Believe
Right now, Guru is a bootstrapped project, recording meditations out of our apartments in Brooklyn, New York. We're writers, activists, artists, technologists, and meditation teachers, and we have a vision for what mindfulness can do if we bring our practice into ever crevice of our lives. We're Buddish, as they say, and ground our meditations in traditional teachings without forgetting that all the teachings around meditations are, at their core, invitations to explore and come to your own truth.
Wisdom is timeless
We don't need to reinvent the wheel when we teach meditation. The modern meditation movement has latched onto some of the least interesting benefits of meditation (stress relief and increased mental performance). To be sure, these are real reasons to cultivate a practice - and they're akin to eating cake just for the frosting. (Don't get us wrong - we love frosting!) But meditation has so much more to offer us if we root our practice in the philosophy behind mindfulness. Our audio-guided meditations will include not just meditation, but teachings and contemplations around Buddhist philosophy to help contextualize the experience of meditation and how it transforms our lives.
Ultimately, the practice of meditation and the exploration of our consciousness is a journey to understand ourselves and who we really are. As we travel this path, we develop a more spacious relationship with our minds, gaining freedom from being at the mercy of our whims and cravings and cultivating more presence to our experience of life.
This is the ancient promise of meditation, and by grounding our practice in these ancient teachings, we hope to provide an experience that unlocks this freedom in your life. We begin with the wisdom of old, and through practice, transmute it into being entirely your own. We awaken the wisdom within - the inner Guru.
Mindfulness does not leave anything out
You know that part about not reinventing the wheel? Well, that's mostly true, but the way mindfulness has been taught has evolved over the ages - by necessity and with skillfulness. As an example, Zen was developed in China (called Chan there) and Japan, as a distinct reaction to the unique attributes of their respective cultures - Samurai swordsmanship, calligraphy, and tea ceremonies were turned into mindfulness practices because they all previously existed in their culture.
We live in a different world. All cultures have their specific nuances, and being raised in a culture means our minds adopt an often unconscious set of beliefs about the nature of humanity and life itself. Mindfulness gently pulls these beliefs out into our conscious view, allowing us to see them for what they are, and eventually gives us the freedom to live into our own truth.
To take just one example of many, this is the process by which we recognize how deeply our psyches are affected by the constant bombardment of advertising, slowly undo their psychological programming, and get in touch with what we really feel - be it about body type and ideals of beauty, race, sexuality, and so on.
Our practice doesn't leave anything out - mindfulness can bring us insight in relationships, our work, our political situation, economic power structure, and so on. Wisdom and greater awareness from meditation are not limited to our personal lives, and we collectively create the conditions of our communities and society (more on that later).
And we'd be remiss if we didn't include one important note here: Mindfulness. Is. Uncomfortable. And that's kinda the point. Meditation is the practice of developing our minds to make it safe enough to get in touch with all the stuff we've been avoiding.
This is simultaneously unbelievably difficult and unbelievably fulfilling and joyful and amazing. Our hope with Guru is that we can help provide the space for this kind of practice, which brings us to our last pillar...
Meditation is not Just a solo activity
In every sense of the phrase, we're in this together. We are co-creating everything about our world, and meditation is a way to make that co-creation process more conscious. Meditation brings more equanimity into our own lives, and as we practice together, it brings more equanimity into our society - and lays the foundation for taking the most equanamous route to building the society we want. If we don't take the time to go inward, especially as changemakers, we don't see the ways in which we're perpetuating the psychological structures that we want so desperately to change. The political urgency of this moment makes meditation all the more important.
That idea can trigger guilt or shame (see above: meditation is sometimes uncomfortable), but that misses the point - meditation isn't about fixing ourselves. It's ultimately about uncovering who you really are. And it's taught across all introspective and wisdom and spiritual traditions that underneath it all lies a clear, sky-like mind and a pure, boundless heart.
Living in that realization is the journey, and, traditionally, practicing and sharing with other people has been a huge part of the process. It's a mistake to meditation is something we should be practicing alone - we're supposed to be doing it together! And so that's how we'll practice with Guru.
Susan Stainman - Co-Founder
Susan is a Susan, most of the time. When she's not Susan-ing, you can find her at her studio in Dumbo making her art or teaching meditation. Then again, you could argue that she's at her studio in Dumbo when she's most Susan-ning. It's all very confusing, this notion of identity.
Ravi Mishra - Co-Founder
Born in India, raised in California, living in Brooklyn, Ravi is desperately trying not to be a cliche, and failing. In his simultaneously best and worst hipster impression, he's combining his expertise (technology and entrepreneurship) with his deepest passion and cultural heritage (meditation and Buddhism) to try to create something that "helps people." When not being self-referential in an app bio, you can find him teaching meditation at the Dharma Den, running or biking around Brooklyn, or pursuing one of too many hobbies (current favorite: learning how to spin fire poi). He's been practicing in the Zen tradition for 9 years and is soon to be a student in the Mountains and Rivers Order Zen lineage.
Our Founding Teachers
Lama Rod Owens
Officially recognized by the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, Lama Rod received his teaching authorization after spending over 3 years in silent group retreat at Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery (KTC) outside of New York City. After completing retreat, Lama Rod served as the resident lama and program director for Kagyu DC (Kagyu Drupgyu Chödzong/KDC) in Washington, DC. Considered one of the leaders of the next generation of Dharma teachers, Lama Rod Owens has a blend of formal Buddhist training and life experience that gives him a unique ability to understand, relate and engage with those around him in a way that’s spacious and sincere. His gentle, laid-back demeanor and willingness to bare his heart and soul makes others want to do the same. Even when seated in front of a room, he’s next to you, sharing his stories and struggles with an openness vulnerability and gentle humor that makes you genuinely feel good about who you are, with all your flaws and foibles, you’re lovable and deserving of happiness and joy. He invites you into the cross sections of his life as a Black, queer male, born and raised in the South, and heavily influenced by the church and its community. Through his platform Unmasked, Lama Rod encourages conversations around things that affect us all but we’re scared to talk about like sex, race, identity, gender, class, power, and depression. Lama Rod is the Guiding Teacher for the Radical Dharma Boston Collective and also teachers with the Natural Dharma Fellowship, Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme), and will be completing a Master of Divinity degree at Harvard Divinity School in May where he has been focusing on the intersection of social change, identity, and spiritual practice. He has been published and featured in several publications including Buddhadharma, Lion’s Roar, Tricycle, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Spirit Magazine, and the book Real World Mindfulness for Beginners were he contributed the chapter on working with anger and difficult emotions. He is also heavily engaged in social change work and has just released a book with Rev. angel Kydo williams and Dr. Jasmine Syedullah entitled, Radical Dharma, Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. His current writing project is an exploration of intersectional masculinity and spirituality.
Shastri Ethan Nichturn
Ethan Nichtern is a Shastri, a senior teacher, in the Shambhala tradition. He is the senior teacher in residence for the NY Shambhala community and the author of several books. His most recent, The Road Home: A Contemporary Exploration of the Buddhist Path (FSG North Point) made several major lists of the Best Books of 2015. His next book, The Dharma of The Princess Bride: What The Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us About Buddhism and Relationships will be released on September 12, 2017. He is also the founder of The Interdependence Project, an organization dedicated to Buddhist-inspired meditation and psychology, transformational activism, mindful arts, and meaningful media. He teaches and lectures around the world and is based in New York City.
Want to help?
We need all the help we can get - whether you're a meditation teacher, software engineer, designer, audio/video expert, or generally interested in getting involved in any way. Drop us a line and tell us a little bit about yourself, and let's see if we can make some music - err, or meditations - together.