Jim Bedard (Varindo)
As a child growing up in a Christian home, Jim Bedard was quickly labelled a “doubting Thomas.” He questioned everything. In his mid-twenties, his spiritual angst led him to the experiential practice of meditation: Christian meditation, Transcendental Meditation (TM), and then Buddhist meditation.
In 1980, Jim began practicing Zen with Roshi Kapleau of the Rochester Zen Center. Jim practised with Roshi Kapleau and his dharma heirs for the next 20 years. After completing his formal training in Zen, Jim spent several years practising with senior Vipassana teachers in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.
Jim has been leading retreats and offering private instruction for over 20 years. Today, Jim offers a balanced, direct approach to practices that point directly to the heart of the Buddha’s teachings.
Eric Berger (Jasudho)
During his childhood Eric often wondered about the purpose of life and why there was so much suffering in the world. He also knew he wanted to be a doctor and practiced cardiology for almost 30 years.
After years of deep spiritual yearning. Eric began practicing in the Zen tradition, where he stayed for 27 years, He found his training in Zen to be beneficial and transformative. Eric retired early to allow more time for spiritual practice and attending retreats. He is also a sanctioned Tai Chi teacher with many years of experience.
After completing formal training in Zen his attention turned to the Early Teachings of the Buddha, (Theravada). Eric has learned Pali and has attended multiple retreats with well-respected Western Vipassana teachers.
Margo McLoughlin has been a student of Theravada Buddhism since 1986. She served on staff at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and completed her Community Dharma Leader training through Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. She is also a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School. Margo has been translating, adapting, and performing stories from the Buddhist tradition for a number of years.
For more, please visit Margo’s website.
Community Dharma Leader
Chris has been interested in spiritual practice for decades. He has been meditating regularly, attending meditation retreats, and steadily integrating mindfulness practice into his daily life for over 20 years. Prior to his retirement, Chris spent many years in social work and community service where he spent countless hours engaged with others in the struggles and strengths of being human.
Chris has played an active role as a volunteer with SIMT since its inception managing numerous retreats and serving on the board of directors. In 2021, Chris completed his training as a Community Dharma Leader. He continues to serve our community by giving Dharma talks, leading non-residential retreats, and offering guidance.
Suzanne Senay’s childhood experiences of altered states of consciousness led her to take a course at University in Christian mysticism. Though not a Christian, she was fascinated by the accounts of meditation practice given by John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, and Meister Eckhart. In graduate school in philosophy, she focused on questions about the nature of mind. Then, in the 1990’s, she was introduced to Zen meditation. She became more serious about practice after having a stroke and intuitively feeling that meditation would help her cope with the aftermath. After practicing in a number of different lineages, she dedicated herself to the Theravada Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah when she discovered Satipañña Insight Meditation in Toronto in 2017. Suzanne is on the Board of Directors at SIMT and is pleased to be participating in the Leadership Training Program.
For as long as she can remember, Susan has been fascinated by the question of how the mind works and how we can use this understanding to lead lives that are happy, fulfilling, and free. Although she was raised Catholic, this curiosity motivated her to read about various spiritual traditions, and in the early 1990s to study and practice Buddhist meditation in earnest. This practice deepened and accelerated over time and led her to meditate regularly and attend retreats. At the same time, she began her studies in psychology and eventually completed her doctoral degree. In 2014, she was able to merge her personal experience with the benefits of meditation with her professional work as a clinical psychologist, by facilitating mindfulness groups. Susan is on the board of directors at SIMT and is delighted to be deepening her understanding through the Leadership Training Program.
Upasika Eleanor, PhD (a.k.a. Dr. Eleanor Pontoriero) has been a practising Buddhist since 1985. She took formal refuge and lay precepts in the Mahayana, and then the Theravada traditions. She continues daily and formal dhamma practice, including retreats with both monastic and lay teachers in the Ajahn Chah and Sayadaw U Pandita lineages. Eleanor continues to engage in dhamma, sutta, and Pali study with Theravada monastic and lay teachers.
Eleanor is a long-time member, (kalyanamitta) and facilitator with Satipanna Insight Meditation Toronto. Since 2002, she has taught religious ethics, women, human rights, and peacebuilding in a comparative context at the University of Toronto. She is a certified facilitator in secular mindfulness and mentors youth groups engaged in UN and UN Women grassroots projects for peace, equity, and development locally and globally.
Upasika Eleanor is a member of Buddhist-Christian Studies, and Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women. As a not-for-profit endeavor, she guides devotional, contemplative, and meditative practices in Buddhist and interfaith contexts in the community.