A Meditation Center in the Theravada Buddhist Tradition

AIMC Dharma Leadership

Erin Treat, Guiding Teacher

Erin currently serves as a guiding teacher for Albuquerque Insight Meditation Center. She is also the guiding teacher of Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center, and sits on the Spirit Rock Teacher Council. She serves as resident teacher and board member at the Durango Dharma Center.

Her approach to sharing the dharma is influenced by her love of wild nature, her passionate commitment to serving personal and collective liberation, and her ongoing experience as a student of the Diamond Approach by A.H. Almaas.

Kathryn Turnipseed, Senior Community Dharma Leader

Kathryn found the dharma in 1995 when working with anti-war and civil society organizations in Bosnia and Croatia. She graduated from the Community Dharma Leader Program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in 2012, and completed the Integrated Study and Practice Program at Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in 2013.

Kathryn is passionate about individual and collective liberation and is committed to fostering an inclusive sangha, where everyone feels welcome. She also teaches at Santa Fe Vipassana Sangha, is a GreenFaith Fellow, and serves on the board of the Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center.

Brian Lesage, Supporting Teacher

Brian Lesage has practiced Buddhist meditation since 1988 and has taught meditation since 2000. He has studied in the Zen, Theravada and Tibetan schools of Buddhism. He was ordained in the Rinzai Zen tradition in 1996. His training in vipassana meditation includes doing extended meditation retreats in Myanmar (Burma), Nepal and India as well as numerous retreats in the US. He leads retreats and teaches meditation courses nationwide. Brian also has a private practice in Somatic Experiencing, which is a naturalistic approach to healing trauma. You can also visit his website for Somatic Experiencing at www.liberatingawareness.com.


Spiritual Friend Facilitators

Steve Katona began Buddhist study and practice in 1989 in the Zen tradition. His study emphasis was the development of wholesome service and retreat practice within the context of Buddhadhamma. Steve also practiced in the Goenka Vipassana discipline for five years and then became a student of the Mahasi style Vipassana tradition. Over the last four years, Steve has spent more than a year on silent retreat between Tathaghata Meditation Center in California, and the Panditarama Vipassana Meditation Center in Lumbini, Nepal, under the primary tutelage of the Venerable Sayadaw U Vivekananda. Steve’s approach to practice: How do I bring the skills of meditation and the insights I’ve realized into daily life? How do I support a wholesome life through the timeless tradition of the Buddha’s teachings? Steve invites you to ask him what this means: HAIETMOBA.

Betsy Vanleit sat her first 7-day Vipassana retreat in 1982, and was hooked for life. She has practiced and studied Theravada Buddhism at retreat centers and monasteries in North America, England, and Southeast Asia. She has also worked with Zen and Tibetan teachers. Betsy has taught mindfulness in pain clinics, hospitals, and psychiatric settings. She continues to be amazed at the ways that the dharma transforms daily life and relationships.

Tam Saimons has practiced insight meditation at AIMC since 1996, and has spent more than 200 days in retreat, including residential retreats of one month or longer. Their influential teachers are Steve Armstrong, Kamala Masters, Eric Kolvig, and Ajahn Amaro. Their interests include practice in natural settings, the Dhamma of daily life, and the investigation of disparities related to white and heteronormative supremacy. Tam is dedicated to using the wisdom and compassion practices of the Dhamma to support the liberation of all beings.

Emjae Jeanne likes to share the dharma because the dharma has proven to be a reliable source of joy and support for her. She first found Vipassana in 1995, and truly felt like she had come home. She was a regularly irregular practitioner until 2006, when she began a consistent meditation practice. She is inspired by the compassion of complete acceptance for each moment as it is, while always aspiring for peace, freedom, and awakening for all beings.

Fred Herman has practiced meditation for 40+ years; the last 18 of that in the Vipassana tradition. He has done many retreats with many teachers over time and experiences great joy in sharing his experience of the dharma with our community. He loves to share how the practices of awareness, kindness, and compassion can enhance our sense of common humanity, personal healing, and liberation.

Chris Benitez is in long-term recovery from addiction and began meditating in late 2012. He was introduced to the Dharma by “Hardcore Zen,” by Soto Zen monk, Brad Warner, a punk rock bassist who unintentionally became a Zen monk. One chapter centered on punk rock and the rest was a hardcore crash course on Buddhist philosophy. Chris has been sitting every day since, and has sat with Tibetan, Zen, and Theravadan teachers. He has been facilitating peer-led dharma study groups and Buddhist recovery groups since 2014. In March 2018, he completed Facilitator training with Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society in Los Angeles. He is very interested in the work of Generation X Buddhist Teachers like Noah Levine, Vinny Ferraro, and JoAnna Hardy, and their ability to reach people (like himself) who may not otherwise have been exposed to the dharma.


Community Dharma Leaders

Karen Waconda-Lewis is a native from Isleta/Laguna Pueblo. After initiation into the Native Medicine, she brought the Native Medicine into an urban American Indian health clinic in Albuquerque, NM, and continues to expand the program to local hospitals, Indian Health Service, VA Hospital and surrounding organizations. She joins Western Medicine with Native healing in preventive health, mental health and overall well-being.

Karen is a graduate of Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leader training, and regularly provides dharma teachings with integration of native teachings throughout NM, nationally and at Insight Meditation Society-staff and teacher training. She has interconnected the native teachings with Vipassana teachings into ceremonies, sweat lodges, and into her community at Laguna Pueblo. At Laguna Pueblo, the ancestral teachings of mindfulness complement the Buddhist teachings at the Detention Center at Laguna Pueblo, giving insight and wellness to the inmates and families. She is co-founder of the Annual Indigenous and Native Healers’ Silent Retreats and Albuquerque POC and Allies Sangha. She is also founder and director of Center for Native American Integrative Healing, LLC and Wa’Kanda Retreat and Spa both located in Albuquerque, where other indigenous healers practice their traditional medicine and extend it out to the community.

Mark Pugsley started Vipassana dharma practice in 1993 with the SN Goenka community in Shelburne, MA, and continued in this tradition by traveling in 1997 to Igatpuri, India, and Nepal. Since 1998, Mark has attended retreats at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS), Spirit Rock and Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. His principle dharma teacher is Eric Kolvig. He has a private psychotherapy practice and is a co-founder of the Center for Relationship and Sexual Recovery (CRSR). He also teaches at the University of New Mexico in the field of Organizational Learning. Mark has been a member of the Albuquerque Insight Meditation sangha since moving to Albuquerque in 2003, and he completed the Community Dharma Leadership Program in May 2017.

Valerie Roth began Buddhist practice 30 years ago in a 1986 graduate program in East/West Psychology. She has continued studies and practice in Hawaii, on the Navajo Reservation, in New York, and in New Mexico. Valerie completed the Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leadership Program in 2008. She lives in Silver City, New Mexico.