Practice Leaders at Common Ground Retreat Center

Nancy Boler entered the practice of meditation through yoga. She was certified as a yoga teacher in 2000 at the Kripalu School of Yoga. She has been studying and practicing Buddhadharma since 2005 when she first found Common Ground Meditation Center and has been teaching Mindful Yoga at Common Ground since 2007. Nancy also completed a two-year Mindfulness Yoga Teacher Training at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and loves blending the worlds of yoga and meditation in her classes and practice. She has been leading yoga and meditation retreats for 15 years. Her aim is to do the work that connects us all and decreases suffering in this world.

Mary Clark became a committed meditation practitioner after attending a heart-opening Thich Nhat Hanh retreat over ten years ago. Retreat practice continues to be a source of enhanced mindfulness, ease and joy for her. She has guided a community group for Mental Health practitioners and leads meditation at a local prison. She has taught Mindful Self-Compassion at the center and at the University of MN health service, where she works as a psychotherapist. She is continually grateful to the dharma for enabling her to translate her direct experience into wise understanding, to all those who share their experience in a community of learning and is committed to contributing to communities of growth and transformation.

Phillip Cryan serves as Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, a union of more than 40,000 healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and consumer-directed in-home care across the state. He has been an organizer, activist, educator, writer and policy analyst in pursuit of social, racial and economic justice for more than two decades. Not coincidentally, he has been a meditator and student of the dharma a bit longer than that. After graduating from high school in 1997, he was invited by a friend to check out a Young Adults retreat at IMS, and has been hooked on the Buddha’s teachings ever since, practicing primarily in the Chan/Pure Land tradition of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua and the Thai Forest Theravada tradition of Ajahn Chah. He became an active member of the Common Ground community in 2013. He has led a monthly Common Ground practice group for organizers and activists since 2016 and is currently serving on CG’s board of directors as Secretary.

 

Moved by the Buddhist commitment to non-harming and aspiration to awaken, Tony Fernandez has made daily practice central to his life since 1998. He began practicing in the Theravadan tradition in 2000, sitting several residential retreats each year since then, led by a wide variety of lay teachers or monastics in the Thai Forest Tradition. Many of these he helped organize, as an officer and member of the original Board of Madison Vipassana (MVI) for more than seven years. Inspired by the teachings of Ajahn Sucitto, he tries to keep his own practice simple and heart-centered while committing to social justice and standing against oppression based on race, gender or sexual orientation.
He continues to assist MVI and frequently leads the Sunday night sitting group in Madison. For the last five years, he has taught weekly meditation groups in prisons with the Wisconsin Prison Mindfulness Initiative. Tony greatly appreciates his connection with the Common Ground community and guiding teachers. He is especially grateful for the opportunity to do independent practice at the beautiful Prairie Farm retreat center, and is honored to assist as a practice leader.

Tracey Ghilardi began practicing mindfulness in 2006 through her work as a psychologist.  She found Common Ground in 2012 and is deeply grateful for, and inspired by, this community.   Her retreat experience includes two practice periods at Kyaswa Monastery in Sagaing, Myanmar (Burma), which profoundly influenced her understanding of generosity.  Emotional healing and trust in the protection of the Brahmaviharas (loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, equanimity), both in daily life and on the path of deepening wisdom, are some of the fruits of the practice for Tracey.  She is dedicated to supporting one another’s work toward peace and wellbeing for all.

 

Dave Halsey has been practicing meditation and has been active in the Common Ground community since 2007. He served on the Common Ground Board of Directors for six years including serving as Treasurer. He has also served on various Prairie Farm Retreat committees beginning with the search for the property in 2013 and continuing to this day. Dave was a regular Practice Leader at Prairie Farm before the renovation began and has enjoyed many days of retreat practice there and in other retreat settings. Dave deeply appreciates the wisdom gained through practice in the peaceful, natural setting at the Prairie Farm Retreat. Dave is retired, is married with two adult children and lives in Minnetonka and Tucson, AZ.

Evelyn Kaiser began meditating in 2004 and has been practicing at Common Ground since 2010. A grateful student of Buddhist practice, she continues to find inspiration exploring a body-centered practice grounded in Lovingkindness.

Gabe Keller Flores has been part of the Common Ground community since 2008, when he was a high schooler falling in love with the Dharma. He served as Common Ground’s Office Manager and Admin Assistant for 6 years as well as serving on the Board of Directors. He facilitates the Millenials community group and the biannual conversation for Men and Masculine-identified folks, as well as offering Dharma talks at the Weekly Practice Groups when Mark and Shelly are away. Gabe is interested in an integrated, engaged Dharma that encompasses all of our being and all of our world in an ever-deepening exploration of wisdom and compassion.

Matthew King has sat a variety of teacher-led retreats at Insight Meditation Society, Spirit Rock, and Metta Meditation Retreat Center, including two 3-month retreats. He has also sat self-retreats at Prairie Farm and Kevala Retreat. His focus is on a relaxed and receptive awareness with the intention of opening the heart to love more fully. Matthew served as the retreat manager for the 2019 Common Ground Labor Day retreat and besides serving as a practice leader, he will be spending a number of months each of the coming years as a Caretaker at Prairie Farm helping to ensure retreatants have a space conducive to self-contemplation and an opening of the heart. When not sitting in formal practice, Matthew volunteers with the Wisconsin Prison Mindfulness Initiative, New Community Shelter, and Unity Hospice. He currently resides in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Roger Klisch started meditation in 1977 through the TM organization. A few years later Roger wasinitiated into the Himalayan Yoga Tradition tradition at the Center of Higher Consciousness in Minneapolis. Roger started Buddhist meditation at Common Ground in about 2007. Roger has attended many Common Ground retreats and other retreats including some 10 day jhana retreats. Roger has volunteered with Common Ground to support retreats, provide kirtan (chanting), and at the Prairie Farm Center in construction, maintenance, and practice leading. Roger is an electrical engineer by trade, and is soon to be fully into retirement.

Julie Meyer is deeply grateful for the Buddha’s path and a life centered on the practice of virtue, mindfulness and wisdom. She sat her first residential retreat in the Theravadan tradition with Madison Vipassana (MVI) in 2004. Since then she has sat more than 40 residential retreats, including five annual month long retreats at the Insight Meditation Society -Forest Refuge retreat center in Barre, MA. A particularly important teacher for her is Ajahn Sucitto, a monastic teacher in the Thai Forest tradition of Ajahn Chah. Julie served on the Board of Directors and in other leadership roles for MVI for more than 10 years. She is honored to serve as a practice leader at Prairie Farm, with deep gratitude to Common Ground for offering this rare independent practice opportunity.

Jen Racho is a grateful student of meditation and Buddhist practice. She has been practicing meditation since 2003 in the Japanese Soto Zen and Vipassana tradition. Her retreat experience includes a three-month practice period at Green Gulch Farm near San Francisco. She has served on the board of directors of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center and currently helps lead the People of Color and Indigenous Sitting Group at Clouds in Water Zen Center in St. Paul. Through meditation and the dharma, Jen has found a greater capacity for acceptance and love. She lives with her wife and dog in Minneapolis.

A life-changing adventure began when Robb Reed visited Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery in the French countryside in 1993. Thanks to the deep peace and joy which he experienced there over a quarter of a century ago, he embarked on the path of exploring the inner terrain of the body, heart and mind, allowing him to become a much happier, fulfilled person. He started his practice at the Minnesota Zen Center and in 2002 came to Common Ground. He teaches the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. He has also taught this course at Common Ground, to numerous cohorts of teachers through Minneapolis Public Schools, as well as to the staff at the Center for Victims of Torture. Since his retirement from teaching, Robb has delighted in taking 1-3 month retreats at the Insight Meditation Center and Forest Refuge. In 2015 he ordained as a monk in Myanmar for 6 weeks. Cognizant that mindfulness begins with body awareness, he is immersing himself more deeply into body-based practices including Qi Gong, somatic practices and yoga. Robb is so grateful to be supported by our Common Ground sangha as we continue our learning journey on this path of awakening.

Dave Redelman has practiced at Common Ground for since 2015 with retreats from one day to fourteen days plus one six weeks totaling 160 days. His focus is on connecting and sustaining awareness centered in the body which is often a humbling experience. He volunteered during the renovation of the retreat center on work retreats with Cory and will be involved as practice leader and caretaker. In our retreats, may we investigate and develop our skillful means of solitary practice supported and energized within a kind and generous community. Dave volunteers and is on the building committee at Common Ground. He also enjoys volunteering at Seward Montessori School. Dave has canoed in the Boundary Waters for many years recently taking annual fall trips spent in retreat. After retiring from a forestry career, he lives in Minneapolis.

Jane Reyer first took refuge in Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in 1983 and has had a committed, daily meditation practice since 2001. She left her environmental law practice and her home in Grand Marais in 2006 to become a Dharma bum, and has spent a total of seven years at various Zen and Theravadan retreat centers and hermitages, including four years at Tassajara Zen Center. She has been connected to the Common Ground community since 2008. Jane remains itinerant, but is currently living in Duluth and is temporarily facilitating Duluth Wild Waters sangha meetings. Jane is dedicated to the liberation and joy of all sentient beings.

 

Danielle Sewell has been practicing meditation since 2007 and was delighted to discover the Common Ground community when she moved to Minneapolis in 2013. Danielle was an early retreatant and volunteer at Prairie Farm prior to its renovation and helped the retreat center planning committee in its early stages. Danielle has since moved to Seattle but remains a devoted member of Common Ground’s global virtual sangha and returns yearly for retreat time and volunteering at the Prairie Farm center. Danielle is deeply inspired by the path the Buddha laid out and the possibility that it can lead not just to personal insight but more loving relationships and ethical communities.

 

Sarah Wilson started meditation through tai chi and qigong in her early 20’s. She started practicing vipassana and metta when started coming to Common Ground in 2010. Sarah has worked in the healing arts since 1991. She continues a daily practice in tai chi and qigong alongside dharma studies and meditationpractices. Sarah graduated from the Dharma Leadership Training program at Common Ground.

Assistant Practice Leaders

Pietro Ferrero was born and raised in Northern Italy and moved to Minneapolis in 2008 to pursue a postgraduate degree in engineering at the University of Minnesota. He started practicing meditation in 2012, during a challenging period in his life. Pietro is very grateful for being part of the Common Ground community since 2016 and having had the chance to sit at numerous residential retreats at both Prairie Farm and Metta meditation centers.
His greatest inspiration is the teaching of the Buddha about the truth of suffering and the possibility to end it. He’s deeply committed to follow the path of practice and he strongly believes that, regardless of one’s circumstances, the mind can be trained and the heart can be opened. Pietro is currently pursuing a two-year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program offered by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. He’s planning to graduate in February 2023.

Zenzele Isoke is Associate Professor & Chair of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She has practiced meditation since 2005 and has been an active member of the Common Ground Meditation Community since 2014. A mother of two black women, Zenzele designs and teaches university courses that integrate mindfulness of body and breath techniques with Black feminist thought to teach about race, gender, and empire for undergraduate students including Pleasure, Intimacy, Violence, and a new freshman seminar on Trauma and the White Racial Frame. Zenzele leads BIPOC meditation at the Yoga Room in North Minneapolis. She is also a founding member of BIPOC Sanghas for Direct Action for George Floyd and the Buddhist Justice Reporter, while co-facilitating BIPOC sitting groups at Clouds in Water Zen Center and Common Ground Meditation Center. She has completed three 9-day retreats, several one-day and half-day retreats, and several 4-day retreats at Common Ground Retreat at Prairie Farm.

Arleta Little has been practicing meditation at Common Ground for more than 18 years and has deep gratitude for the teachings and community at the center. She was introduced to Theravada Buddhism in 1993 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand, where she participated in intensive silent retreats at Wat Suan Mok and other temples. She has maintained both meditation and retreat as vital foundations for her spiritual practice. Buddhist teachings nourish her development along with the teachings and writings of Howard Thurman, Thich Nhat Hanh, rev. angel Kyodo williams, and others. Her practice also includes social justice work, writing, yoga and other liberation practices. She is trained in social work and public affairs and has worked in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors for over 20 years. She is a published poet and essayist and is currently working on a collection of daily meditations. She is a member of the BIPOC Sanghas for Direct Action, a network of BIPOC meditation practitioners that organized following the murder of George Floyd.

 

Common Ground Meditation Center