Biographies of our faculty

Teaching Staff and Advisors

Ven. Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche

 

Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche is a Tibetan monk and the director of the United States–based nonprofit, Katog Choling, a Tibetan cultural center. Khentrul Rinpoche oversees more than twenty practice groups across North America and in China, Australia, and South Africa, as well as a large retreat center in the mountains of northwest Arkansas. He is also the abbot of his family monastery, Katog Mardo Tashi Choling, in Tibet. There he established a Buddhist university, a three-year retreat center, a primary school, and other com­munity outreach programs. Khentrul Rinpoche’s principal root guru is His Holi­ness Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche. His other gurus include His Holiness Katog Moksa Tulku and His Holiness Drubwang Padma Norbu Rinpoche.


Khentrul Rinpoche is one of the few people in the world to hold three khenpo degrees—the equivalent of three PhDs—in Buddhist philosophy. Two of his degrees were awarded by the “Ivy Leagues” of Nyingma Bud­dhist universities Larung Gar in Tibet and Namdrol Ling in India. His third khenpo degree is from Katog Monastery, the mother monastery of the Katog Lineage. During the course of Khentrul Rinpoche’s exten­sive Buddhist education, he also took full ordination as a monk and spent several years in solitary retreat. Since Rinpoche came to the United States in 2002, he has learned the English language. In addition to his constant traveling, teaching, and other Buddhist activities, he now oversees and co-translates many translation projects to help make the Buddha’s teachings more available in the English language.

At Abiding Heart, Ven. Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche will teach the bardos of death on the child development course.

 
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Ven. Khenpo Sonam Tsewang

Khenpo Sonam Tsewang graduated from the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi and also studied at Namdroling Monastery, at the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute, where he was enthroned as a Khenpo in 2011. He has translated The All-Pervading Melodious Sound of Thunder: The Outer Liberation Story of Terton Migyur Dorje together with Judith Amtzis and is currently working on a new translation of Longchenpa's Treasury of Pith Instructions. He travels extensively with Khenchen Pema Sherab Rinpoche, serving as his translator. He also taught on Mahayana path at Abiding Heart Education, Nepal in 2019 and 2020.

At Abiding Heart, Khenpo Sonam Tsewang currently teaches Buddhist philosophy on our Foundation Studies courses and our Learning Theories and Methodologies course. He also advises on Buddhist related content in our courses.

 

Ven. Khenpo Sherab Tenzin

Khenpo Sherab Tenzin has dedicated more than two decades to studying and practicing Buddhism. He graduated from Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies in Rumtek Monastery. Moving to Benchen Monastery, he had completed a three-year meditation retreat under His Eminence Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. Today he serves as the Principal of Benchen School.

At Abiding Heart, Khenpo Sherab Tenzin currently teaches Buddhist philosophy and meditation.

Ven. Geshe Dorji Damdul

 

In 1988, Ven. Geshe Dorji Damdul joined the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, Dharamsala for formal studies in Buddhist logic, philosophy and epistemology. After 15 years of study in Buddhist philosophy he finished his Geshe Lharampa Degree (Ph.D.) in 2002 from Drepung Loseling Monastic University. He joined Gyudmed Tantric College for a year for Tantric studies.

In 2003, the Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama sent Geshe Dorji Damdul to Cambridge University, England for Proficiency English studies. He was a visiting fellow at Girton College, Cambridge University.

Geshe Dorji Damdul is appointed as the official translator to H.H. the Dalai Lama since 2005. At the same time, he has been involved in doing written translations of many texts from Tibetan into English. As assigned by the Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama, he visited the US in 2008 to work with Prof. Paul Ekman, a world-renowned Psychologist, on H.H. the Dalai Lama’s book “Emotional Awareness” which is co-authored by Dr. Paul Ekman of the University of California Medical School.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama also assigned Geshe Dorji Damdul as one of the chief editors for the textbook on Buddhist Science and Philosophy. He was also assigned, along with few other scholars, to work on H.H. the Dalai Lama’s book “Beyond Religion”, and the series of “Art of Happiness” books. Likewise, he is actively involved in critical editing works with other books of H.H. the Dalai Lama like “The Graded Path.”

Geshe Dorji Damdul was affiliated with Drepung Loseling Library where he served as the editor of Dreloma Magazine for eight years (1994-2001). Prior to that, he was the editor and contributor for 5 years for the journal “Tsekpa”, published by the Institute of Buddhist Studies. He wrote number of important papers for National and International Conferences held in Delhi University, and so forth. In 2004 – 05, he was assigned as the Philosophy Lecturer for the Emory University Study Abroad Program which was being held in Dharamsala, India, since 2001.

 
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Ven. Lama Shenpen Hookham

Lama Shenpen Hookham is a Buddhist teacher who has trained for over fifty years in the Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. She has spent over 12 years in meditation retreat. She produced a seminal study of the profound Buddha Nature doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism, for which she was awarded a doctorate from Oxford University and which is published as 'The Buddha Within' (SUNY press 1991). She is also the author of 'There’s More to Dying than Death' and the translator and editor of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche’s seminal work 'Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness' which has been translated into many different languages and is considered a standard text teaching meditation students to connect to the experience of Emptiness. She has recently published her autobiography: 'Keeping the Dalai Lama Waiting and other stories' and her newest book published by Shambhala Publications is 'The Guru Principle: A Guide to the Teacher-Student Relationship in Buddhism'  She lives in North West Wales, spending most of her time in semi-retreat and working with her students and on her writing.

At Abiding Heart, Lama Shenpen Hookhan teaches Buddhist philosophy and meditation on our Foundation Studies course. She also advises on Buddhist-related content in the curriculum studies section of our courses.

 

Ven. Ajahn Punnadhammo

Ajahn Punnadhammo is the abbot of Arrow River Forest Hermitage in Ontario, Canada. He has been studying and practicing Buddhism since 1979 and was ordained in Thailand in the forest tradition of Ajahn Chah (novice ordination Feb. 1991, higher ordination Feb. 1992).

Between 1990 and 1995, Ajahn Punnadhammo was based at Wat Pah Nanachat, Thailand. Punnadhammo is a Canadian, born Michael Dominskyj in Toronto in 1955. He began studying the Dhamma under Kema Ananda, the founder and first teacher at the Arrow River Center.

At Abiding Heart, Ajahn Punnadhammo will teach Buddhist philosophy.

 

Ven. Robina Courtin

Since being ordained as a Buddhist nun in the late 1970s at Kopan Monastery in the Kathmandu valley, Ven. Robina Courtin has worked full-time for her teachers Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche and their worldwide network of Buddhist activities, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition.

 

Over the years, Ven. Robina has served as editorial director of Wisdom Publications, editor of Mandala Magazine, executive director of Liberation Prison Project, and as a touring teacher of Buddhism.

 

Her life, including her work with prisoners, has been featured in the documentary films Chasing Buddha and Key to Freedom.

At Abiding Heart, Ven. Robina Courtin currently teaches the Shravakayana module of our Teacher Traning courses and module 1 of our Child Development course. 

 

Tamir Shtayer

Tamir Shtayer has been practicing Tibetan Buddhism for the past 20 years under the guidance of his teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. In 2005, Tamir trained for two-and-a-half years at the Lama Tsongkhapa Institute in Italy, in the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) programme, and, in 2006, he was ordained as a monk.

Tamir taught meditation for more than ten years in Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, and in Rinpoche’s centres in Bodhgaya, India. Tamir is now back in his native country, Israel, where he spends most of his time just being and offering guidance in meditation and support.

 

At Abiding Heart, Tamir Shtayer currently offers one-to-one support to our students, answering their questions relating to our Transformative Experiential Buddhist Foundation Studies topics and offering a listening ear to those who are in need of emotional support.

 
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Kabir Saxena

Kabir Saxena, born in Delhi in 1956 to an Indian father and English mother, is a Buddhist would-be-practitioner who is currently Spiritual Programme Coordinator and Instructor in Basic Buddhism at Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre in New Delhi. He is a student of Lama Zopa Rinpoche since 1980 and has been working in Rinpoche’s centres in the UK, Nepal and India during which time he also helped set up the Root Institute in Bodh Gaya 1987.

Kabir spent 18 years as a Buddhist monk and returned to lay life in June 2020.

Kabir considers himself inspired by his Guru Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s great compassionate activity, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s vision for Bhutan and Indian Buddhists, HH. Dalai Lama’s vision for education in India and the world, Samdhong Rinpoche’s radical vision for a saner planet and Jiddu Krishnamurti’s vision of Creative Discontent.

Kabir, a bachelor, lives in Delhi, but does not necessarily aspire to die there.

At Abiding Heart, Kabir currently teaches Buddhist philosophy.

 
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Dr. Meyrav Mor

Meyrav is a trained Waldorf kindergarten/primary teacher (1996 Waldorf Institute of Southern California) and completed an additional Waldorf primary teacher training with a focus on teaching additional languages (2004 Antioch New England Graduate School, USA). 

Meyrav completed her postgraduate in teaching early elementary education at the University of Brighton, UK. She has a Master of Education degree from Antioch New England Graduate School (2004). Meyrav received her Ph.D. (2017) from Bath University in the UK. Her doctorate studies focused on designing a transformative education and curriculum model for traditional communities that keep them connected to their spiritual heritage, natural environment and cultural knowledge.

Between 1996 – 2015, Meyrav set up the first two Waldorf schools in Nepal and two kindergartens in England. She has taught kindergarten (Israel, Nepal and UK), primary class 1-8 (Nepal and UK) and children with special needs (Nepal, UK). For the past 25 years Meyrav has been training kindergarten and primary school teachers in Nepal, India, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Israel, and the UK. At the same time, Meyrav has been developing curricula that cater to the heritage of communities around the world by interweaving transformative and experiential learning with culture and spirituality. Her work brings together the Waldorf methodology and the traditions of specific communities to help them transition to the 21st century without losing their spiritual heritage and valuable traditional knowledge. She has written two books about this subject: Fire in the Heart: A Teacher Training Manual for the Himalayan Region (2000), and Preserving the past, Reserving the Future: A Culturally Sensitive Early Childhood Curriculum for Tibetan Children in Exile (2003).

Meyrav came to Buddhism in 1997 a year after she moved to Nepal. She had the good fortune to receive teachings since then from many great Buddhist masters. From 2000, when Meyrav established the Tashi Waldorf School in Nepal, she has been developing a Buddhist curriculum for children from Tibet and the high Himalayas.

Since 2016 Meyrav’s sole focus has been on bringing together her wealth of knowledge and expertise to develop the Abiding Heart Transformative Experiential Buddhist Education approach for kindergarten through to class 8. This education approach, which includes curriculum design and content, and teacher training courses, can be used by Buddhist and non-Buddhist communities around the world. Meyrav is the director of Abiding Heart Education, which has bases in USA and Nepal where this new education approach and curriculum is offered to regional and international trainees through online and in-person comprehensive teacher training courses.

At Abiding Heart, Dr. Meyrav Mor teaches on the Child Development course, Learning Theories and Methodologies course, Biography Work, Curriculum Studies in the Kindergarten and Primary Teacher Training courses.

 

Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel has studied and practiced the Buddhadharma for 35 years under the guidance of her teacher and husband Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. She is the retreat master of Samten Ling in Crestone, Colorado and has spent over six years in retreat. She holds a degree in anthropology and an M.A. in Buddhist Studies. She teaches throughout the U.S., Australia, and Europe. She is the author of The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha’s Path to Freedom and The Logic of Faith: the Buddhist Path to Finding Certainty Beyond Belief and Doubt.

 

Elizabeth is known for her use of inquiry as a means to reach a place of genuine practice and awakening. She asks audiences to engage in the practice of open questioning with her while she takes a fresh look at all the assumptions and beliefs we have about spirituality. In particular, Elizabeth is fascinated with the Buddha’s essential teachings on the natural principle of pratityasamutpada, dependent arising. Audiences repeatedly comment on how her approach has reinvigorated their meditation practice and the way they relate to their lives as a whole.

At Abiding Heart Education, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel currently teaches Buddhist Philosophy.

 

Shlomo Shantideva Springer

Shlomo Shantideva Springer is a student of the Buddha-Dharma for about 25 years since he first met Buddhism in Geneva where he lived at that time. Through all those years Shlomo has practiced the Buddhim in the three main traditions of Chan-Buddhism, Theravada and Vajrayana. Currently he lives in Israel his homeland, and at time guiding people in the Buddhist study and practice according to the Pali Canon.

At Abiding Heart, Shlomo currently leads our meditation classes.

 
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Dr. Robert W. Roeser

Robert W. Roeser is the Bennett Pierce Professor of Caring and Compassion, and a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, in the College of Health and Human Development at Pennsylvania State University. He received his Ph.D. from the Combined Program in Education and Psychology at the University of Michigan (1996) and holds master’s degrees in religion and psychology (Holy Names College), developmental psychology and clinical social work (University of Michigan). He has held faculty appointments at Stanford University, Portland State University, and Penn State University.

 In 2005 and 2016, Dr. Roeser was a United States Fulbright Scholar in India; and from 1999-2004 he was a William T. Grant Faculty Scholar. From 2006 to 2010, he served as the Senior Program Coordinator for the Mind and Life Institute and a coordinator for the Mind and Life Education Research Network (MLERN). Since, that time, Dr. Roeser has served in numerous roles with the Mind and Life Institute and currently is a member of its Steering Committee.

Dr. Roeser’s main research interests are in the areas of human motivation, identity and learning; adolescence and early adulthood, schooling as a central cultural context affecting students’ academic, social-emotional and identity development; and the implementation and impacts of mindfulness and compassion training programs on parent, teacher and student outcomes with respect to health and wellbeing, teaching and learning, and the creation of compassionate and equitable learning environments in schools. He also has a deep scholarly interest in indigenous Asian Indian psychologies and related forms of pedagogy, and conducts developmental and educational research in India on efforts at holistic human development and holistic education based on these indigenous ideas.

His recent scholarly articles have focused on mindfulness in education, compassion in human development, and the need for new forms of holistic education to meet pressing global challenges.

At Abiding Heart, Dr. Robert W. Roeser currently teaches Developmental Science, Developmental Psychology and contemplative practices on our Child Development course.

 

Dr. David Vago

Dr. David Vago is Research Associate Professor and Director of the Contemplative Neuroscience and Mind-Body (CNMB) Research Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Vanderbilt University. He is core training faculty for the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation. Dr. Vago maintains a research associate position in the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Vago is also Research Lead for the mental health and well-being platform, Roundglass.

Dr. Vago has been practicing meditation for over 25 years with training in a number of traditions, including S.N. Goenka's style of Vipassana, contemporary insight and mindfulness training, Unified Mindfulness with Shinzen Young, and Dzogchen/Mahamudra with Choknyi Nyima Rinpoche.

At Abiding Heart, David Vago currently teaches Neuroscience on our Child Development Course.

 

Professor Stephen Gough

Stephen Gough is Emeritus Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Bath. His research focus has been to understand the ways in which people form beliefs and preferences about their relationship with the natural world. Since formal retirement in 2016, Stephen has retained a link to Abiding Heart, and also to the University of Iceland where he is a PhD supervisor. He has also served as a Director of Mountaineering Scotland.

At Abiding Heart, Professor Stephen Gough currently advises on the Learning Theories course, research methodologies, and curriculum studies.

 

Dr. Tawni Tidwell

Dr. Tawni Tidwell is a biocultural anthropologist (PhD, Emory University) and a Tibetan medical doctor, the first Westerner to have formally completed her Tibetan medical education in a Tibetan institution alongside Tibetan peers. Dr. Tidwell trained at Men-Tsee-Khang in north India and at the Sorig Loling Tibetan Medical College of Qinghai University in eastern Tibet; the comprehensive five-year medical program followed by a one-year internship and subsequent apprenticeships with senior physicians across the Tibetan plateau.

 

Previously at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and now at the Center for Healthy Minds (Madison, WI), Dr. Tidwell extends her work into an investigation of how Tibetan medicine understands physiologic, psychologic, pharmacologic and ritual paradigms of transformation—from childhood through the life course—and traditional modes of healing and resilience. In sharing Tibetan medicine with Western audiences, she facilitates understandings that emphasize the ecological relationships that sustain well-being, vitality and balance from within and without, starting predominantly in the developmental nexus and cultivated through critical cycles at each life stage.

At Abiding Heart, Dr. Tawni Tidwell currently teaches Buddhist Psychology and Tibetan medicine our Child Development course.

 

Dr. Elizabeth Swanepoel

Elizabeth has been a Steiner/Waldorf teacher for nearly 26 years and has worked in all three sectors of the Waldorf school system: As a kindergarten assistant, fifteen years as a high school English teacher in a large, well-established, independent Waldorf school in Johannesburg, and then as a Steiner primary class teacher. She has been a Steiner/Waldorf teacher trainer since 2004 and served as a deputy administrator at the school in Johannesburg.

 

Elizabeth holds a M.Ed. in Steiner/Waldorf education and a PhD in Tibetan Buddhism. She is the author of The Female Quest for Enlightenment: Western Nuns Transforming Gender Prejudice in Tibetan Buddhism. She has also published various papers in peer-reviewed academic journals.  Elizabeth currently works as a primary class teacher at the Waikato Waldorf School in Hamilton, New Zealand. She is the editor of SCOPE, the Anthroposophical Society of New Zealand's quarterly publication. Elizabeth is married and she has three children and two cats.

At Abiding Heart, Elizabeth Swanepoel currently teaches curriculum studies at our Primary Teacher Training course.

 

Dr. Robin Bacchus

Dr. Robin Bacchus was raised on a Biodynamic dairy farm in New Zealand.  After writing a doctoral thesis in Civil Engineering Robin sailed to Europe to attend Emerson College for 2 years and trained as a Waldorf Educator. Upon graduation, he became a High School teacher in Wynstones School, Gloucester (UK) and a founding High School teacher at Taikura Rudolf Steiner School in Hastings (NZ). After 12 years High School teaching, Robin taught a Lower School (class 1- 8) for 8 years.

Robin then became the director of Taruna College, a Preparatory Course for Waldorf School Teachers, for 17 years until retirement.  Students came from many parts of the world to immerse themselves in this course. As retirement loomed, requests for help came from teachers and schools in Asia for mentoring support. This led to 10 years and 40 trips to USA and mainly Taiwan and China, giving courses on Waldorf Education and specialty courses in Mathematics, Geometry, Science and Astronomy.

 

At Abiding Heart, Dr. Robin Bacchus currently teaches on the Learning Theories and Methodologies course, and Science, Geometry and Mathematics on the Curriculum Studies course.

 

Dr. Isabelle Onians

Isabelle received her doctorate in oriental studies from the University of Oxford (2002). She came to Kathmandu in 1990 as a volunteer teacher in a Tibetan monastery school and returned in 1992–1993 to study Tibetan and Sanskrit at Tribhuvan University.

Isabelle’s research and experience have focused on classical philosophical, religious, and literary texts. She has studied those texts in the context of exposure to and interaction with contemporary cultures, people, politics, and landscapes, principally along the Himalayas, in the Tibetan regions and neighboring areas, and in South Asia. Her dissertation examined an apparent paradox in Tantric Buddhism, using Indian and Tibetan sources. Isabelle was a founding member of the Clay Sanskrit Library team, preparing bilingual editions and translations of Sanskrit literature. In addition to managing and co-editing the whole series, her own volume is a 7th-century coming-of-age novel, a Sanskrit narrative of 10 young men’s experiential education and study abroad.

Isabelle has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at the Universities of Oxford and London and at Mahidol University in Bangkok. She has researched and lectured at institutions across the world and led a Royal Geographical Society Oxford University expedition to the Tibetan plateau.

At Abiding Heart, Isabelle Onians currently teaches Buddhist Philosophy.

 

Kathy MacFarlane

“I am a practicing kindergarten teacher in Titirangi Rudolf Steiner Kindergarten where I have been working for the past 30 years.

In the last 12 years, I have been privileged to share experience and understanding in China, Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand and now Nepal. This has broadened and deepened my appreciation of what is universal to child development and what is unique in every culture.

I am particularly interested in the healing aspect of Steiner/Waldorf early childhood education and the balance and joy into our children’s lives.”

At Abiding Heart, Kathy Macfarlane currently teaches curriculum studies in the Kindergarten Teacher Training Course.

 

Sangita Shakya

Sangita Shakya was born in a Buddhist family in Ason, Kathmandu, in 1979. Later, she became a trained Charya dancer under the guidance of Guru Prajwal Ratna Bajracharya.

As a member of the Dance Mandal group, she performed many Charya dances on national and international stages. As a Charya dance teacher, she has been teaching this traditional Charya dance in many Buddhist organizations since 2001 and has been teaching in Abiding Heart Education since 2018.

At Abiding Heart, Sangita Shakya currently teaches Charya dance on all our courses.

 

Swayambhu Ratna Shakya

Swayambhu Ratna Shakya, the founder member of Dance Mandal (Foundation of sacred Buddhist art of Nepal), was born in Kathmandu in 1968 into a Buddhist family of musicians. He learned classical singing under the guidance of Guru Nararaj Dhakal in 1991 and traditional tantric Buddhist song (Charya song) under the direction of Pandit Ratna Kaji Bajracharya in 1994.

 

He has participated in numerous national and international programs in France, Switzerland,  Germany, Italy, India, Japan, America etc. In 1998 , he was awarded "The Gaddi Aaharon Medal" of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev as a national singer. He has been teaching this traditional Charya song in many Buddhist organizations since 1997.

At Abiding Heart, Swayambhu Ratna Shakya currently teaches Charya songs on all our courses.

 

Sudarshan Suwal

Sudarshan was born in Nepal in 1963. The son of the artist Madan Lal Suwal, from age 11, Sudarshan began his journey as an artist specialising in classical Nepalese Buddhist painting. Over the last 16 years, he has been recognised as a national-level artist and listed in the universities of Nepal directories. He received many awards from the Royal Nepal Academy, the Nepal Association of Fine Arts and the Department of Cottage and Village Industries.

 

Sudarshan has vast experience in classical painting and over 40 years he painted more than 575 thangkas of various sizes, including decorative wall paintings for the famous movie "Little Buddha", directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. He also painted the wall painting in Vasundhara Temple at Swayambhu Buddhist Monastery, in Kathmandu. 

 

Sudarshan exhibited his work in Nepal, Denmark and Hong Kong, and he was invited several times to teach in Bhutan at Shechen Monastery. Over the years, he has had many students training under him in his studio in Patan, Kathmandu.

At Abiding Heart, Sudarshan Suwall currently teaches Thangka painting.

 

Ramila Rai

Ramila has been an Abiding Heart Education Handwork teacher trainer since 2018. She has been an accomplished dressmaker and had her own successful tailoring shop prior to joining our faculty. 

 

Ramila transferred her exquisite handwork talents and skills to children’s pedagogy. Together with our education trainers, Ramila designed the kindergarten craft of puppetry and toy-making courses content. She also designed and created costumes for the primary drama course and is teaching the Abiding Heart primary Handwork curriculum for class 1 to 8. She is halfway through the international Waldorf Craft Teacher Training Course for primary teachers. 

At Abiding Heart, Ramila Rai currently teaches handwork on our all courses.

 
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Paulina Perez Bemporad

"My name is Paulina Perez Bemporad, and my family is from Medellín, Colombia. I am delighted to be a First Grade Head Teacher at UNIS United Nations International School Junior School after teaching Second Grade at The International School of Brooklyn for the past nine years. I feel so fortunate to be part of such a diverse and inclusive school that is UNIS! I am a graduate of Bank Street College of Education with a Masters of Education in Early Childhood, Dual Language Learning, Special and General Education. I am passionate about inquiry-based teaching and the opportunity to inspire curiosity and positive educational outcomes for all children. I most enjoy immersing myself in different languages and experiencing people and their cultures. I have traveled to various countries such as Spain, Morocco, France, Italy, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, India, Nepal, Mexico and Colombia.  When I am not in school, I enjoy hiking in upstate NY, training in martial arts and supporting children's rights, animal welfare and environmental causes."

At Abiding Heart, Paulina Perez Bemporad currently teaches literacy for class 1-8 on our Primary Teacher Training course.

 

Kristin Powers

Kristin Powers is a sculptural installation artist focused on the varied visual languages distorted through our mind’s eyes.

Holding a BFA in Ceramics from Rhode Island School of Design, Powers is a current MFA candidate ‘22 in Sculpture at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. 

Kristin is a Waldorf Highschool Art Teacher and Mentor, working with students and teachers in training. She co-founded Trikeenan Tileworks in 1990, an artisan ceramic tile and glazed brick manufacturer. Born in Chicago, raised in England and Canada, Powers is now based in Boston teaching experiential art remotely in China and Nepal, as well as conducting research and curriculum planning.

At Abiding Heart, Kristin Powers currently teaches visual arts and transformative experiential arts on all our courses.

 

Yolanda Navarro

Originally from Barcelona, Yolanda has worked as a primary and high school teacher, education consultant and teacher trainer in the USA, Spain and Brazil for 23 years. Her experience includes: leading immersive language programs at the IB International School of Brooklyn and at the Brooklyn Waldorf School in NYC; designing and facilitating teacher training programs at Port Chester Public Schools in NY, Sunbridge Institute in NY, and Escola Rudolf Steiner in Saō Paulo; mentoring language teachers and developing language curricula.

 

Yolanda holds a B.A from the University of Barcelona, an education degree from School of Waldorf Pedagogy in Madrid, and is certified in Applied Positive Psychology, Life Coaching and Facilitation. When she is not at school, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, immersing in nature, creating art and traveling the world.

Yolanda Navarro has been Abiding Heart's bilingual teaching expert, advising us over the past four years on the development of a sound trilingual classroom from kindergarten to class 8. 

 

Marianna Bauko 

Marianna Bauko has been a Eurythmy (a meditative form of movement) therapist and teacher for the past twenty five years. She completed a four-year Steiner/Waldorf teacher training in Hungary and then continued to be trained as a Eurythmy pedagogical teacher. After several years of teaching in Budapest, Marianna  trained in Eurythmy therapy in Dornach, Switzerland. 

As a therapist, Marianna worked in South Africa, Hungary, Switzerland and Scotland with children and adults with special needs and in an anthroposophical hospital with seriously ill patients. Currently, Marianna is working as a Eurythmy teacher and as a therapist in the Edinburgh Steiner School with children from kindergarten through to high school. Her therapeutic work focuses on helping children in their learning using mindfulness, movement, speech, and music. Marianna's therapeutic work supports children to be able to reach their potential in a healthy way, working with their constitution, with illnesses, unbalances, mental and emotional difficulties, and learning hindrances through the art of this meditative form of movement, Eurythmy.

 

At Abiding Heart, Marianna Bauko has been teaching meditative movement connected with speech and sound. Marianna also forms meditative movement sequences specifically designed for the Abiding Heart Primary curriculum, which she teachers on our primary teacher training course.

 

Bina Gurung

Bina Gurung has a bachelor degree in education from Tribhuvan University, Nepal and a master’s degree in education from The University of Applied Research and Development, New Zealand. She completed her teaching diploma in Montessori education at St Nicholas Training Centre in London in 1986. In 1997 Bina obtained a Montessori diploma in teaching children with special needs from the Montessori Centre – Teacher Training College in London.

 

Bina started her career in education working for 10 years as a radio journalist and newsreader that included running education and community programmes. Bina has been a kindergarten teacher since 1986, teaching in the International American and French schools in Kathmandu for 13 years before setting up her own successful Montessori kindergarten, Keatketi Bari, which she has been running for the past 21 years. In  2003, she founded the Kaasthamandap Vidhyalya school, also in Kathmandu. The school, which has about 1000 students, follows the Bank Street progressive approach to education and is highly regarded in Nepal.

 

Bina is an experienced teacher trainer and runs her own teacher training programme. She set up a training centre in a beautiful semi-rural location just outside the city. She has been an inspiration and a model to many in her commitment to educating and caring for children. 

 

At Abiding Heart, Bina currently teaches aspects of the Montessori approach to kindergarten with a focus on literacy, numeracy, and teaching additional languages. Bina also lectures on the Learning Theories and Methodologies course.

 

Norbert Bohler

Norbert has been studying and practicing Buddhism since 1978. He met his first teacher Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche near Darjeeling in the Himalayan foothills who taught him the foundation of the Buddhist View and meditation. Originally from France, Norbert settled in Sydney Australia in 1983 and was involved with the local Sydney Buddhist Kagyu centre and organising the visits of eminent teachers of the Kagyu tradition, such as, Tai Situ Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche.

For 12 years, Norbert studied with Bokar Rinpoche at his yearly seminars in his monastery in Mirik, in the Indian North East India. These seminars were designed specifically for committed students of Buddhism, who don’t have the possibility to enter long retreats, but can nevertheless be introduced gradually to a deeper level of understanding and practice over this period. The yearly seminars were followed by a commitment to daily meditations, with specific instructions that seminars attendees practiced during the year, coming back to the next seminars for further teachings and instructions.

With discipline, it was possible to have a full active life with career and family, while at the same time being able to tread the whole Buddhist Path from its foundation to its highest levels.

For many years Norbert worked as a community educator with disabled people, mainly adults with cerebral palsy.

In 2004, Norbert entered a three years solitary retreat focusing on the instructions that he had received over many years from his teachers. On the completion of the retreat, he trained as a Buddhist chaplain and worked for 6 years in a maximum-security prison, as a pastoral carer, chaplain, and spiritual counselor for inmates and staff.

Norbert lives in the Blue Mountains and focuses on his Buddhist practice, bushwalking and trying to improve his Tibetan calligraphy practice.

 

At Abiding Heart, Norbert currently teaches Buddhist philosophy.

 

Marcia Dechen Wangmo

For 17 years, Marcia lived at the feet of one of the greatest Tibetan Masters of meditation, Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, at the epicenter of unfolding events of Dharma that crossed many oceans.

Marcia [Dechen Wangmo] has followed many great lamas, some of the best of this century such as Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Her experience as an American amidst this older generation of lamas is quite important for Dharma students from the West.

Marcia Dechen Wangmo, AKA Marcia Binder Schmidt, is a renowned Buddhist translator, editor, and writer who, with Erik Pema Kunsang, created Rangjung Yeshe Publications. (www.rangjung.com). They have translated and produced over sixty-two titles that have been translated into fifteen different languages.

 

Marcia now teaches around the world sharing her humor, practice advice, and human approach to traditional Tibetan Buddhist practice.

At Abiding Heart, Marcia currently teaches Buddhist philosophy.

 

Shannon Harriman

Shannon has M.S. Education from the University of Southern Maine and a B.A. in Environmental Science and Biology from Middlebury College.

 

Shannon has been working since 2002 as an instructor and programme director with Where There Be Dragons, an organisation that offers immersive intercultural programs focused on fostering care and connecting people to themselves, to others and to the earth.  For 20 years she worked with American university students in Tibet, India and Nepal developing an accredited college curriculum, teaching yoga, and creating a safe emotional container for students to navigate their evolving values and sense of place in the world. Following her time in the field, Shannon helped to steward Dragon’s adult international education programmmes, facilitating courses for adult students and educators. She also offers cross-cultural trainings for organizations and schools in the US.

 

Shannon’s education background extends to developing nature-based education programme for kindergarten and primary school age children. Together with her husband they facilitate nature awareness programmes for children between the ages of 5 and 12 on a piece of land that they steward in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Shannon is also a home-schooling mother to her 7- and 9-year-old children, a certified yoga instructor, and a nature connection mentor.

 

Shannon took refuge in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition with the Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche in Sarnath India in 2003, seeking out his annual teachings throughout the years that followed.

 

At Abiding Heart, Shannon Harriman is currently a facilitator on Becoming: Nurturing Families - Abiding Heart’s parents' contemplative corner.  

 

Torey Hayden

Born in Montana, Torey Hayden has spent most of her adult life working with children in distress. Now living in the UK, she provides counseling and advice services to several child-oriented charities.

 

Torey is the author of numerous internationally best-selling books about her experiences as a special education teacher and therapist such as "One Child", "Ghost Girl" and "Invisible Girl". She has also written three novels and three children's books, including "Ziji" and "Ziji and the Very Scary Man" with Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

At Abiding Heart, Torey Hayden is currently the lecturer for our As It Is: Understanding Children with Special Needs course.

 
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Elizabeth McDougal (Tenzin Chozom)

Tenzin Chozom is a Canadian who trained in a traditional education as a Tibetan Buddhist nun in India and Tibet for eighteen years. Following that, she completed a PhD on the modernisation of Tibetan Buddhist practices. Elizabeth currently lives in Sydney, translating for the Gebchak lineage and teaching mindfulness at a natural health college.

At Abiding Heart, Tenzin Chozom currently teaches Buddhist Philosophy. 

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Dr Gay Watson 

 

Gay Watson was born and brought up beside the sea in Sussex, UK. After a varied career as a researcher for television, running and curating a gallery and craft shop, parenting and farming, she returned to study in mid-life, gaining an BA Hons degree followed by a D.Phil in Religious Studies from SOAS, University of London. Simultaneously she trained as a psychotherapist with the Karuna Institute of Core Process Psychotherapy. Bringing these various strands together she has written extensively about Buddhism and psychotherapy and, more recently, art. The Resonance of Emptiness; A Buddhist Inspiration for a Contemporary Psychotherapy (1998), her published thesis was followed by Beyond Happiness, Deepening the Dialogue Between Buddhism, Psychotherapy and the Mind Sciences (2008), A Philosophy of Emptiness (2014),  and Attention, Beyond Mindfulness (2017). She is a wife, mother and grandmother.

At Abiding Heart, Dr Gay Watson teaches in our Child Development course. 

 
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Emma Hart 

Emma Hart is a PhD student in Developmental Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research broadly focuses on structural inequity, the development of self-regulation and executive function skills in young children, and parenting. She investigates the ways in which structural pressures associated with social inequity, and structural supports created to combat these (e.g., universal pre-k), affect healthy, joyful child development and parenting. Her work questions the extent to which isolated programs and policies can have long-term effects on children and families without addressing more fundamental sources and consequences of oppression. In 2019, she spent a semester of college in Nepal studying Tibetan socio-political, religious, linguistic, and cultural realities through SIT. She loves to travel, and finds infinite joy and satisfaction in exploring New York City, where she resides. 

At Abiding Heart, Emma Hart teaches on early childhood in our Child Development course. 

 
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Heather Moody 

Born in Canada, Heather Moody trained as a nun at Namdroling Monastery in South India for 16 years. She graduated  as a Loponma from Ngagyur Nyingma Nuns’ Institute in 2012. She then served as a translator and teacher in the Palyul Lineage for four years, and also taught at Rigpa Buddhist College in Pharphing, Nepal. Since that time she has earned a master’s degree at Harvard Divinity School and is currently pursuing a doctorate at the University of Virginia.

At Abiding Heart, Heather Moody teaches Buddhist Philosophy. 

 
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Lucila Machado

Lucila Machado trained as a lawyer and a teacher before moving into Biographical Counselling. As a teacher Lucila trained as a main stream primary teacher and a Waldorf kindergarten teacher. She taught kindergarten at the Waldorf School in Edinburgh for 15 years and also trained teachers for many years in the Edinburgh Steiner Teacher Training course.

 

Lucila received training in Biographical Counselling from the The Biography and Social Development Trust. She has been practicing as a biographical counsellor for the past 10 years and has a successful private practice. She feels that her training has been life transforming and has prepared her to meet others in their totality, keeping in view what is unborn and eternal in them and to guard and encourage the awakening of their creativity.

At Abiding Heart, Lucila teaches on the Child Development course.

 
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Kathryn O'Connor

Kathryn O’Connor is an educator/teacher trainer whose main focus throughout her career has been in the field of Early Childhood Education. She has been a teacher of young children for over 25 years. She holds a Masters of Science in Education from Bank Street College of Education, a BFA in Textile Design from Moore College of Art and a Post-Baccalaureate Art Education Diploma from the School of Visual Arts.

 

During the course of her career she has had the very good fortune of teaching Kindergarten and Preschool at some of the best Child-Centered, Progressive and Reggio-Based schools in New York City, such at the Dalton School, The City and Country School, The 14th Street Y Pre-School and most recently, the Tribeca Community School. Her work as a Teacher-Trainer has included mentoring the many assistant and student teachers that have been placed in her classroom over the years. At the City and Country School, she helped create and co-led “The Block Connection Workshop”, an outreach course for Head Start Educators in NYC. Since 2013 Kathryn has been traveling to the Tsok Nyi Gechak School in Chobar, Nepal – where she leads workshops and trainings with the wonderful educators there, and most recently, she has been part of the Leadership team for the Wunderled Certification Program – mentoring teachers in this year-long program.

 

Kathryn has been a student of Tibetan Buddhism since 1991 – when during a round the world, backpacking trip she reconnected again with the teachings at the Boudha Stupa in Nepal. Since then she has had the good fortune to study with some of the greatest masters of the lineage and she is deeply grateful to her main teachers, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, Tulku Urygen Rinpoche, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, and Tsok Nyi Rinpoche for the incredible gift of the Dharma they have shared.

 

At Abiding Heart, Kathryn O’Connor is currently a facilitator in the Becoming: Nurturing Families - Abiding Heart’s Parents' Contemplative Corner - leading The Lotus Child: Being a Young Child (3-6) Workshop with Ramila Rai. She is also a guest lecturer on the Learning Theories and Methodologies course, sharing her extensive, experiential knowledge of Progressive Education.

Support Staff 

 
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Sarmila Rai 

Sarmila Rai is from Bhojpur, Nepal. Sarmila has been a member of Abiding Heart since 2017 and since then she has been involved in projects which care for the wellbeing of children, assisted teachers with their classes and offered support to local schools. Sarmila is currently training to be a kindergarten teacher at Abiding Heart Education. She likes working at Abiding Heart as it  has boosted her confidence and made her appreciate her culture and traditions. She feels that working at Abiding Heart has helped her to develop life skills. Sarmila's plan is to be a good teacher and help nurture children to be the best they can be.  

At Abiding Heart, Sarmila Rai is responsible for our Kindergarten Resources Project and is our Outreach Programme Facilitator.

 
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Sonam Choden Thakuri

Sonam Choden Thakuri is from Gorkha, Nepal. Sonam is currently training to be a primary school teacher at Abiding Heart Education. She feels that Abiding Heart Education is very much different than how she was taught and she likes how it focuses on the mind, heart and hand which make it very experiential and transformative. She believes Abiding Heart Education can make a great impact on the world. Sonam also works at Abiding Heart. She likes working at Abiding Heart as it gives her an opportunity to work on her inner-self and helps her become a better version of herself. 

 

At Abiding Heart, Sonam Choden Thakuri is our Outreach Facilitator and is responsible for our Primary Resources Project.

 

Jack Morton

Jack Morton is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He has a degree in business management and experience in running a small business.

 

Jack found Buddhism in 2020 and has since had a profound interest in Buddha Dharma. He believes that education that fosters love and wisdom in children is a profound way to achieve long lasting happiness for everyone.

 

At Abiding Heart, Jack Morton works as our Administration Coordinator.