Sati Sangha is a non-profit organization with meditation communities in Santa Monica, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, CA. Our online and retreat community is international. We offer a variety of opportunities for learning an innovative approach to meditation which enables meditators to integrate the teachings of early Buddhism into their contemporary lives.
Meditators affiliated with Sati Sangha participate with diverse levels of involvement: some attend occasional events, others are members of a committed on-going meditation groups, and others are involved in mentorship. Our groups and retreats are open to anyone who is interested in meditation.
We rely upon participants’ financial generosity, creative thinking, and voluntary assistance with tasks. A Board of Directors (Sati Sangha Council) meets regularly to oversee larger decisions.
Sati Sangha Director, Lead Meditation and Dharma Teacher, and Council Member
I started seeking in my early twenties. Unsure what I was looking for, I experimented with many eastern practices and landed in traditional Chinese medicine studying and teaching Qi Gong, Tai Ji and Acupuncture for over fifteen years. Taoist philosophy led to Buddhist philosophy and psychology after a near death experience in 1998, and changed the course of my practice, teaching, and work with others. I trained and worked closely with the teachers in the Skillful Meditation Project (SMP) for another fifteen years and called it home. Recollective Awareness Meditation, put together by Jason Siff, developed and evolved internally along with my desire to continue learning and teaching Buddhadharma. Eventually, I had to leave the SMP home, too. Thirty years of listening, observing, teaching and being taught by patients and students; traveling to China, Nepal, Iran, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada integrating aspects of their cultures. I now teach where invited, mostly online, and in California. Being drawn to work with individuals and groups that want to deepen their stillness practice and value their own experience in meditation, I am able to do so on a regular basis. Retreats throughout the year with others, the shared time and attention focused on the dharma, is a privilege. I try to hold this all lightly, yet I cannot deny the sense of having ‘a calling’ rather than a job.
founder and lead teacher at Pine Street Sangha
Nelly Kaufer is the founder and lead teacher at Pine Street Sangha, a Meditation center in Portland, Oregon. Witnessing an intimate understanding of dharma along with a kind regard for the variety of meditative experiences, she teaches Reflective Meditation.
Nelly was introduced to Vipassana (Mindfulness) meditation in 1978 on retreats taught by Ruth Denison and began teaching women meditation soon there after, as there were no female teachers in her community at that time. She co-authored A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Renewal (HarperOne,1994), a book for which she interviewed women about their spiritual experiences. In the 1990s she completed a 3-year mindfulness teacher training with Jacqueline Mandell. Nelly met Jason Siff at a Buddhism and Psychotherapy conference in 2004, entered the Skillful Meditation Project teacher training several months later and completed this in-depth training in 2008. Nelly is a psychotherapist in private practice, integrating Buddhist psychology into her clinical orientation and in continuing education workshops for mental health professionals.
Janet Keyes has been practicing meditation for over 30 years. To both deepen her own practice and to find ways to bring the Dharma into her community, Janet helped organize and put on the Mount Tam Women’s Retreat for over twenty years. She wrote two books about that experience, both of which are available on Amazon: Our Own Teachers, which describes the retreat, and Dharma Camp, Twenty Years on Mt. Tam, a step-by-step workbook for people wishing to organize meditation retreats in a natural setting. She has also served for several as a volunteer chaplain in hospital and community health care settings.
A deep longing to teach the Dharma drew her to a two-year teacher-training program with the Skillful Meditation Project, which she completed in 2016. Janet is a householder, swimmer, singer, writer and occasional poet; her book of poems This Deliberate Life is no longer in print, but she hopes that eventually some of her poems and Dharma talks will find their way onto her website where a schedule of regular sittings, and retreats can also be found.
San Diego Sangha, CA
Like so many others of my generation, I first became interested in Buddhism by reading books by Alan Watts, the Beat Poets, and others. Then in 1975 I sat my first retreat and began actually practicing meditation, first in Rochester, New York, and then at the Zen Center of Los Angeles with Maezumi Roshi. Later, in 1983, my wife and I moved to San Diego to join Joko Beck when she opened the Zen Center of San Diego. I studied there for many years while maintaining a career in education and helping to raise a small family. Around 2012, after my retirement, I was looking for a fresh approach and joined the Skillful Meditation Project led by Jason Siff. After sitting several retreats, I joined a teacher training cohort, and now work with Linda Modaro to develop my skills in leading meditation groups in Reflective Meditation.
I think what really attracts me about this approach is the spirit of exploration and the quality of kindness to myself and others that seems to arise from the practice. I currently work with students in San Diego under Linda’s guidance. My other interests include a very strong engagement in the climate change movement as well as continuing to hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California and the canyons of Utah and Arizona as I have for years.
San Luis Obispo Sangha, CA
Wendy Liepman began practicing Recollective Awareness Meditation with Jason Siff in 1999. She has worked with Reflective Meditation teachers Linda Modaro, and Nelly Kaufer for over 4 years as well as teacher Mary Webster. She has attended retreats at Kairos House in Spokane Washington and Indralaya in the San Juan Islands and most recently at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. She facilitates monthly Reflective Meditation, which she often calls Reflective Insight Meditation, meetings in San Luis Obispo on the third Saturday of the month. She is also a singer-songwriter and plays music with her husband Bob as well as with the band Shadowlands.
I have been meditating since 1974, having learned Transcendental Meditation while living in a small rural town in southwest Washington State before attending my first 10-day Goenka retreat and discovering my deep affinity for early Buddhism. As a co-founder and for many years co-director of Cloud Mountain (a Buddhist retreat center near Castle Rock, WA) and Northwest Dharma Association (a Seattle-based consortium of Buddhist groups located throughout the Northwest), I had the opportunity and privilege of attending teachings and retreats with both monastic and lay teachers from many different Buddhist traditions (Theravada, Zen, Tibetan, Vipassana) – discovering with time and life’s lessons that basic (non-sectarian) awareness and insight practices seemed best suited to my temperament and understanding of the dharma. For many years I have been engaged in the study of Buddhist and Western psychologies, earning a Masters degree in counseling and completing psychoanalytic training. After meeting Jason Siff in 2005, I began attending retreats with teachers of the Skillful Meditation Project, and since 2016 have been involved in Sati Sangha’s online community, study groups, and teaching council. I currently live in Seattle where I have a private practice in psychoanalysis and offer meditation instruction and guidance.
Santa Barbara, CA
I was drawn to Buddhism as a young man — but, as Bob Dylan sang, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” — in response to a radical experience of “opening up” for which I had no framework at the time. Since I was already a bookish person, I sought out everything I could find to read on such discoveries, and Buddhism seemed to make the most sense. However, I studied for years without simply sitting still and seeing what happened. When I finally decided to “walk the talk”, I chose to study with Chogyam Trungpa who had famously — and infamously — brought Tibetan Buddhism to the West. His introduction to meditation lives in me to this day. As time passed I found a home in the Vipassana tradition as taught through the Insight Meditation Society with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. There I deepened my appreciation of the challenges and joys of solitude, clarity and discipline. Fifteen or so years ago I encountered the practice of Recollective Awareness through Jason Siff and my relationship to the Dharma became more radically personal and rich. For many years now I have been actively engaged with Linda Modaro’s teaching of Reflective Meditation, which has moved my understanding of the Dharma into deeper dimensions of feeling, creativity and honest self-awareness, with a focus on ethical living. I look forward to developing this deep and rewarding approach through my own practice and teaching. Currently, I am co-editor with Ramsey Margolis of “Creative Dharma, a newsletter”.
I believe Buddhist teachings and meditation practices can be highly useful in modern, daily life, and I’m dedicated to bringing these teachings to anyone who would like to learn them.
Going to the beginning of my Buddhist practice, I learned Buddhist meditation in 1981 under the guidance of Matsuoka, Roshi in Long Beach, California. He ordained me as a Zen priest in 1984, and I practiced in the Zen tradition for 30 years, also studying for several years with Jack Duffy, Joko Beck, and Robert Moore (Ji Bong) and their wonderful sanghas. I received inka, authority to teach, from Matsuoka Roshi in July, 1992.
I participated in the Skillful Meditation Project Teacher Training program for several years, and during that time I began teaching Recollective Awareness Meditation under the direction of Jason Siff and other senior teachers. I am currently a teacher of Buddhist meditation and am continuing my training with Linda Modaro. I am a licensed psychotherapist (LICSW), and counselor in Bellevue, Washington, where I’ve worked and lived for 20 years.
Website & Administration
Jennifer DeMarco created Marketing Clarity, LLC. in order to help small businesses understand the vast world of marketing. Within the many facets of marketing, she found a passion for web design and has been working closely with Sati Sangha to ensure a consistent, branded message is delivered across all media outlets.
In 2016 the Recollective Awareness Meditation community went through through some painful changes. While we experienced it firsthand as the dukkha and heartache of separating from friends and mentors, we also gratefully recognized the sukha and joy that we experienced from bonding with like-minded meditators, all of whom were drawn toward a peaceful path.
In our transition from centralized leadership to more widespread, independent sanghas and individuals, the glow of having a ‘special’ approach to meditation has worn away leading to new understandings of our practice as students, practitioners, teachers, together.
Currently, our orientation to meditation offers a developmental path, and while you cannot do it wrong, it does take time to trust the practice and participate in it wholeheartedly. We invite you to participate in ways that feel comfortable for you, encouraging your own voice, no matter how wobbly or distant; for it is in the process of expressing, being listened to, being seen, and being heard that the true strength of this practice is revealed.
We are currently calling our practice Reflective Meditation (RM). Recollective Awareness Meditation (RAM, RA) is an approach to early Buddhist meditation founded by Jason Siff with the Skillful Meditation Project (SMP).
The roots of this practice are found in early Buddhism, with focus on the teachings of Conditionality (Dependent Arising) and emphasis on learning through meditation, experience and reflection. This orientation to meditation has evolved from our personal meditation practice, past training and teaching in Recollective Awareness Meditation, and our current practice of Reflective Meditation. Recollective Awareness Meditation, as taught by Jason Siff, now evolves without our input. Due to his ethical breaches and the consequences to the community, Sati Sangha is no longer affiliated with him or the Skillful Meditation Project.
Sati Sangha Council
Sophie Davis-Cohen had been involved with Recollective Awareness Meditation as a student since 2009, and as a teacher trainee since 2014. She received her Masters in Social Work from Smith College in 2015, and completed her thesis on how Recollective Awareness Meditation functions as a self-care process for meditating therapists. Sophie and fellow teacher trainee, Marietta Skeen, co-facilitated a RAM sitting group for students at Smith College in the Summer of 2015. Since 2015, Sophie has facilitated a Reflective Meditation sitting group at her workplace, Psychological Care and Healing Treatment Center, working with clients experiencing severe mental illness, complex trauma, and other mental health issues.
Nina Asher is a clinical psychologist, child development specialist, and insight meditation practitioner. She has a psychotherapy private practice for over 30 years, using psychodynamic, relational theory in her work with adults, children, and parents. Her background as a pre-school teacher and coordinator of parent-infant/toddler groups led her to further her education, later becoming a psychologist. Although most of her patients are adults, she continues to love working with children and their parents.
Nina began a meditation practice a decade ago. She found that the dharma, and the gentle, acceptance of all states of being meshed beautifully with her work as a therapist. She integrates these teachings with natural ease with adults and children.
In recent years, Nina developed an ongoing interest into understanding how insight meditation and psychodynamic, relational psychotherapy inform one another. She has written personal essays, thought rolls, and poems as a way of expanding her awareness of meditation and psychotherapy.
Kim Henderson became a student of Recollective Awareness Meditation in 2008 and has continued a reflective practice ever since. Professionally, she is an author, writer, magazine editor and writing workshop leader. She wrote the award-winning environmental book 50 Simple Steps to Save the World’s Rainforests. Currently, she serves as executive editor of Beauty Store Business magazine. Formerly, she was the longtime editor of Healthy Living magazine, a national natural health publication. As a writing workshop leader, Kim helps writers discover a well of resources within by incorporating time in nature and informal meditation into the creative process. She has led a writing workshop/adventure in the Peruvian Amazon for the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research and hosts an ongoing writing group in the Los Angeles area. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Pouyan Afkary is an Emmy Award-winning Producer and USC graduate working with ICM Partners one of the world’s largest talent and literary agencies with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and London. Previously, he produced music videos, commercials, and non-fiction narrative content, as well as acting as the Finance Coordinator of Atlas Entertainment. He joins us at the Treasurer, and brings his financial skills along with a fresh view of meditation to our group.
Jennie has been studying Buddhism and practicing meditation for over ten years. She experimented with a variety of techniques until she discovered, and began training in, Shambhala Meditation in 2013. But when she found Reflective Meditation in 2015, she felt as though she’d found her ‘spot’. So far, Jennie has attended three Sati Sangha retreats and looks forward to many more. Jennie retired from a long career in the medical field in 2012, so she has more time to devote to her studies and practice and is grateful for the opportunity to serve on Sati Sangha’s Council.
Dr. Stacy Waneka
Dr. Stacy Waneka is a board-certified Family Medicine physician. She received her medical degree at the University of California, Davis, completing her residency training at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center. She has been in private practice in the Santa Monica area since 2000, and is currently on staff at Summit Health Group in Thousand Oaks.
Stacy spent part of her early life in Saudi Arabia and has since traveled extensively, including such adventures as trekking through Nepal and motorcycling across India. She also engaged in more serious ventures as when she provided emergency relief care to Kosovar refugees during the Bosnian conflict.
Being on the ‘front lines’ of witnessing her patients’ everyday aches and pains, she brings important perspectives to the Council; one being, how to make Reflective Meditation more accessible to local area medical professionals and their patients.
Advisor to the Council
A longtime fundraiser and organizational effectiveness consultant in the nonprofit sector, Amanda Navar has raised over 15 million dollars for arts, healthcare, social service, and education organizations throughout the country. A graduate of Stanford University, Amanda has a talent for helping organizations kick-start new initiatives, develop strengths, and creatively leverage resources to establish a solid foundation for long-term sustainability. Having worked with numerous organizations throughout her career, she has had the unique opportunity to observe the strengths and pitfalls that are common among nonprofits and incorporates this knowledge into her work. Amanda is passionate about community building and philanthropy, and loves the challenge of working with many different types of organizations and helping them reach their fullest potential. She currently serves as Director of Fund Development for Boys & Girls Club of the Foothills, and consults with nonprofits in the Los Angeles area on fund development, board development, and strategic planning.
Mariani Shuilan May
Advisor to the Council
Mariani Shuilan May has over 25 years of experience with all financial aspects of running a non-profit and will be on hand for any consultation the Council may need. She has also volunteered at Sacred Fire Community as their Financial Officer. Shuilan lives in Santa Monica where she has a garden of notorious merit, and shares her wisdom of plants and flowers with the community. She is currently enrolled in Los Angeles school of Homeopathy, studying Homeopathic Medicine and still finds time to meditate regularly. She has been very supportive of Reflective Meditation and has participated in a variety of events with Sati Sangha.
Advisor to the Council
Living on the rough rocky south coast of Wellington, New Zealand, with my wife and two cat companions, I’m often exhilarated looking across Cook Strait to the distant South Island mountains, and by this sky, sea, land and wind.
I’ve long been fascinated by the question of what it is to be human, studying anthropology and cognitive science. Once a systems engineer and management consultant, I’ve been practising and studying the cultures of movement and meditation since 1999, and now pursue full time my love of learning and teaching.
In 2011, I completed a Master of Arts in Buddhist Studies, supervised by Professor Peter Harvey, and am also a graduate in anthropology, business administration, corporate management, and religious studies, and was trained as an apprentice Buddhist Chaplain with the New Zealand Buddhist Council. www.buddhistcouncil.org.nz
A co-founder of the Healium Collective, a yoga studio and holistic health collective, where I lead a meditation practice group and teach Yin yoga. https://healium.co.nz
I am a student of Zen in the Diamond Sangha, and have been a student of Mary Jaksch Roshi for two decades. https://diamondsangha.weebly.com