Luminous Mind Sangha’s mission is to foster awakening and its embodiment in worldly life, through the application of authentic, rigorous Buddhist and modern practices.
Tina Rasmussen, Ph.D., Guiding Teacher
Tina’s warm style, bright clarity and supportive presence helps students recognize their deeper nature, both on the cushion and in daily life. She has a decades-long commitment to cultivating her own and others’ deep spiritual unfoldment while functioning in an embodied, worldly life.
Dr. Rasmussen learned to meditate in 1976, at age 13. In 2003, after many years of practice in Buddhist and modern non-dual traditions, she was drawn to undertake an intensive year-long solo retreat during which a profound awakening to Reality occurred. In 2004, Tina took refuge with Tibetan Dzogchen teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and was initiated into the Nyingma lineage. In 2005, Tina attended a 2-month retreat with Burmese meditation master Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, who ordained her as a Buddhist nun and gave her the dharma name “Ayya Pesala.” During the retreat, Tina became the first Western woman to complete the entire detailed Samatha path in this lineage.
As an offering of gratitude to the dharma, Tina, along with Stephen Snyder, wrote the book, Practicing the Jhanas, which was later published by Shambhala Publications. In 2007, Tina became the first Western woman authorized by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw to teach.
After these life-changing experiences, at first Tina felt a strong pull to become a “cave yogi” and turn away from householder life to abide in the peace of Truth. However, over time, the possibility functioning from realization while living in the dynamism of the modern world became a more compelling life’s path. Tina then began participating in the Diamond Approach, a contemporary wisdom path designed for householders, that integrates the psychological and the spiritual into one continuum for living “in the world but not of it.” Tina has been studied by Yale Neuroscience Lab for research on the effects of meditation on consciousness and the brain, has been featured in “Awakening Women,” Non-duality Magazine, Conscious TV, Buddha at the Gas Pump, Buddhist Geeks, GuruViking, After Awakening, the Imperfect Buddha, Rick Hanson’s Wednesday Meditation, and others.
Dr. Rasmussen now leads retreats and offers spiritual guidance and mentoring to practitioners worldwide. She has a Ph.D. in human and organizational development, and worked as an executive coach and consultant in the business world for more than 25 years. She is also the author of several published books on humanistic business practices.
Jennifer Wheeler, M.A., Spiritual Friend (Kalyanamitta)
Jennifer’s role with Luminous Mind Sangha is that of a spiritual friend (kalyanamitta, in the Buddhist tradition). She brings to her work with others the understanding derived from her spiritual experience and from her formal and academic training, as well as a sincere curiosity in and heartfelt appreciation for the unique way in which spirituality unfolds in each individual.
Jennifer began meditating in 1998 and received her first formal instruction in 2001 at a Japanese Zen temple. She practiced subsequently in the Vietnamese Zen tradition, in which she was authorized as a lay Dharma teacher and then took ordination as a monastic. During that period, she also received a master’s degree in Buddhist Studies.
While training as a lay Dharma teacher, Jennifer found Tina and Stephen’s book “Practicing the Jhanas,” which ignited her passion for samatha meditation. That led her to attend retreats with Tina and Stephen and other lay and monastic Buddhist teachers.
After finding that not all her experience could be contained within the Buddhist tradition, Jennifer set out to explore other pathways, including Advaita Vedanta and the Diamond Approach, in which she continues to be a student.
Jennifer has practiced many forms of meditation in addition to samatha: concentration and open awareness meditations in the Diamond Approach, the brahmaviharas of the Buddhist tradition, chanting and recitation, and movement meditations, among others. As her own path unfolds, she is exploring meditations that help to stabilize her realizations and support deeper and more ongoing access to the ground of being, including embodiment practices.
Currently, she sits daily. Group retreats and solo retreats allow deeper immersion. Much of Jennifer’s spiritual exploration takes place in her home in a small town in South Carolina, where she stays close to the land and enjoys her neighbors, family, and the animals with whom she shares her life.
Marisa Mohrer, LMSW, MPH, Teacher-in-Training
Marisa (she/her) sat down to formally meditate in the midst of an overfilled graduate school schedule. As a therapist trainee in community mental health committed to reducing human suffering, she first learned about the psychotherapeutic applications of mindfulness to support her clients. Marisa was surprised when she began to experience meditation firsthand, and noticed the potent effects of focused-attention and heart-based practices. After completing a dual Master of Clinical Social Work and Public Health degree at the University of Pennsylvania, she undertook a period of intensive silent meditation training.
During this time, Marisa grew intimate with the vast landscape of the human experience and human suffering. Through the rigorous engagement of meditative practices, she gradually began to peel back the layers of ingrained concepts that overlay a more fundamental, unified reality. At that point, the infinite nature of mind and reality opened up, powerfully shifting her identity and her perception of all that exists. Her book, Songs of Awakening, describes this experience. Captured in Marisa’s book are teachings that point directly to the capacity, within us all, to realize the shared nature of consciousness. This experience galvanized her unwavering commitment to meditation, not only as a practice, but as a way of life.
Marisa is training under the guidance of Tina Rasmussen, Ph.D, for authorization in the lineage of renowned scholar and meditation master Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma. Marisa is committed to the deepening embodiment of what she has experienced through meditation. She combines this commitment with her passion for trauma sensitive mindfulness and evidence-based trauma therapy modalities. Marisa is currently completing a postgraduate fellowship as a trauma-focused therapist at the Trauma Institute and Child Trauma Institute in Northampton, Massachusetts.
We want to express our deepest thanks to the many volunteer organizers who have sponsored, organized and managed our events over the years. The events wouldn’t have happened without them, and we are grateful for their generosity in spreading the dharma. We also want to express our sincere thanks to the volunteers who have edited, improved, listened to, transcribed, and generally improved our audios, videos, and transcripts on this website, as well as our Facebook page. The those media wouldn’t be available today without them, and we are grateful for their generosity in making those offerings presentable. Many thanks to our volunteers:
- Jose Luis Poveda Alfaro
- Simon Beck
- Greg Davies
- Bryan Duffy
- Thomas Jedensjo
- June Kramer
- Andrea Magoni
- Tomislav Maric
- Adam Murray
- Gael SB
- Andrea Serafino
- Jennifer Wheeler
- Virginia Williams