Our community of advisors
To help design and spread Learning Circles, our small intimate groups that meet regularly to meditate, study, and support one another in practice, we have created two advisory boards. Our Strategic Advisory board is comprised of leaders from around the country who are experts in spreading meditation and organizing community. They generously share what they have learned in their work with us. Our Community Advisory board members are leading Learning Circles in their communities, ground testing the model and helping us evolve it.
Learning Circle Strategic Advisory Board
Aaron Stern, president and founder of the Academy for the Love of Learning, is a musician, teacher, and internationally recognized consultant on learning.
As the Academy’s creative and educational leader, Stern designs and directs the Academy’s core curriculum and faculty, guides program development, and offers select trainings in depth facilitation and diverse aspects of the Academy’s pedagogy.
During the early 1980s, Stern served as Dean of the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. It was here that he began to focus on learning and educational processes, developing creative, experiential curricula that won national acclaim.
It was during that time that Stern re-met his mentor, musician Leonard Bernstein, and the two embarked upon an intense 10-year collaboration. Stern had already begun to imagine a new institution focused on learning and their conversations and shared experiences further informed Stern in his quest to find ways to awaken, nurture, and sustain a life-long love of learning as a means to becoming more fully human. This early work laid the foundation for what is now the Academy for the Love of Learning, founded by Stern in 1998.
Today, Stern conducts programming in Santa Fe, consultancies and seminars throughout the United States and other parts of the world, and serves as a member of the Board and Fellow of the Mind & Life Institute, co-founded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Joshua Gorman is a writer, speaker, changemaker, community builder, and a leading voice championing the paradigm-shifting role of the Millennial Generation. He is the founder of Generation Waking Up, an organization that ignites young people to bring forth a thriving, just, and sustainable world. Through speaking, workshops, and leadership trainings, Joshua has the opportunity to connect with thousands of young people each year.
He self-designed a major titled ‘Global Youth and Social Change’ at George Mason University and supports youth-led projects and movements internationally. He is a founding member of Youth Passageways, a network of individuals and organizations working in the fields of youth and community development, contemporary rites of passage, intergenerational collaboration, and cultural renewal. A student of human development and transformational education, Joshua specializes in the experiences, knowledge, and skills that people need to thrive in the twenty-first century.
Currently, Joshua is working on a number of projects relating to the future of religion, spirituality, and secular culture with a focus on Millennials and the religiously unaffiliated called ‘the Nones’. He is a co-founder of Thrive East Bay, a new kind of purpose-driven community bringing people together at the intersections of science, spirituality, and social change.
Joshua lives in Oakland, California where he is completing a book titled Generation Waking Up: The Rise of Global Millennials and A Thriving New World.
Kalia LydgateKalia Lydgate is Dream Corps’ National Coordinator for the #LoveArmy. Kalia is a cultural creative interested in building new models that make the old obsolete. In 2007, Kalia co-authored the first-in-the-nation legislation to fund green jobs training programs in Massachusetts. From 2009-2012, she co-led a green jobs program in New Bedford, Mass., that developed innovative, whole-systems solutions for environmental, economic, and social justice challenges. During that time, she served as a Mayoral Fellow for the City of New Bedford, where she developed partnerships between the city, the local utility company and grassroots organizations to increase access to livable-wage jobs in the Green Economy. Kalia has developed environmental and climate justice curriculum for a number of after-school and summer programs using hip hop and creative expression to teach and engage young people. For the past five years, she has been immersed in sustainable agriculture and alternative economies at the local level. Since 2013, she has worked with the Olohana Foundation to restore traditional Hawaiian agroforestry practices as part of a climate adaptation and food security strategy. Kalia graduated from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a degree in Social Ecology. She is a mother, kitchen herbalist, spoken word artist and salsa dancer.
Marianne is co-founder of The Engage Network. She incubates, researches, and advises on building decentralized, people-led networks. This practice marries the best online organizing strategies with a unique, small circle approach to build field that emphasizes building a deep network of love and trust. Current and past partnerships include: the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, Greenpeace International and Mobilisation Lab, Sierra Club, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy/SEIU International, Farm Sanctuary, Everytown for Gun Violence/Moms Demand Action, as well as co-designing Off the Mat Into the World - the largest yoga and social change non-profit organization and network.
Prior to co-founding The Engage Network, Manilov spent 25 years in organizing. She co-founded several c3 and c4 efforts, including The Center for Commercial-Free Public Education, which brought the corporate takeover of public schools onto the national agenda and created grassroots networks in 23 states.
Marianne writes on social change and has been quoted extensively in the media, including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Nation. She has appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, the BBC, and Good Morning America. Her own inner practices include dance and meditation.
Konda Mason is a social entrepreneur, earth and social justice activist, and spiritual teacher. Her current work speaks to the intersection of the next economy, social justice, and spirituality. She is the Co-Founder and former CEO of Impact Hub Oakland, a beautiful co-working space that supports socially engaged entrepreneurs and changemakers. She is the Project Director of the Runway Project Oakland, a micro-lending fund for African American entrepreneurs intended to close the “Friends & Family” gap funding that is often unavailable to them. Additionally, Konda is the co-founder of the annual COCAP (Community Capital) conference in Oakland, with a focus on “Building the We Economy.” Konda is also one of the co-founders and co-facilitator of The Well-Being In Business Lab–Oakland, a cross-sector initiative guiding prominent business owners, non-profit leaders, and government officials to a deeper level of intention within themselves and their businesses.
An avid Earth activist, Konda leads annual eco-tourism trips to the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador in order to wake people up to become active stewards of this vital earth ecosystem that is being threatened by the extractive oil industry. Ms. Mason is an accomplished filmmaker and artists manager, and the recipient of an Academy Award nomination and a Grammy Award winner. Konda holds a Permaculture Design Certificate, is a certified Kripalu yoga teacher and a vipassana meditation teacher. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Good Work Institute and Spirit Rock Meditation Center, where she is in a four-year Dharma Teacher Training with Jack Kornfield as her personal mentor.
Konda’s work is fueled by a passion to witness in her lifetime a world that is environmentally regenerative, spiritually fulfilling, socially just and economically equitable.
Ms. Mason is honored to be on the Advisory Board of the Namchak Foundation’s Learning Circles.
Rachel is a dedicated and passionate educator and dancer as well as the founder and director of Embodied Dance, Embodied Youth, and Embodied Life LLC. Her deep passion is to empower others and build community, as well as to inspire an embodied and compassionate life through dance, movement, and mindfulness practices. Her enthusiasm for teaching has inspired both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education. She has been working with school-aged children and adolescents for over 18 years. She holds secondary teaching certificates in five different states in addition to certificates and training in Spirituality, Health, and Healing; Reiki; Mindfulness Fundamentals; The Power of Awareness Mindfulness Training; Learning to Breathe: A Mindfulness Curriculum for Adolescents, and Multi-Cultural Sensitivity and Awareness.
Over the years, Rachel has been committed to traveling, training, teaching, and organizing local and destination events to bring people, schools, and communities together through social dance, mindful movement, healing and empowerment work, and meditative practices. Additionally, she enjoys collaborating with budding Zouk communities to assist them in cultivating vibrant Zouk scenes, as teaching and dancing Brazilian Zouk is one of Rachel’s greatest dance passions.
Joe Previte received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and now works as a digital marketer/web developer. He’s been meditating since 2013 and now leads a virtual learning circle via Google Hangout. Fun fact: he used to be Wilbur The Wildcat, the mascot at his university.
Ashley Taraban is an oil painter who creates energetic landscapes. She dispenses with the traditional concept of the landscape as the representation of concrete forms and transforms the genre to lyrically express both visible and unseen realms of existence. Such paintings give expression to sprits and elements of the natural world coexisting with sensate reality. She explores her own understanding of and relationship to nature and energy, which translate visually as a dialog between the micro and macro cosmos. Within the paintings, small clusters of lines and dots reference subatomic particles and cells morphing to interact with larger organic shapes. Colors cross the sensory barrier and become feelings and states of being. Where pure energy becomes matter and cycles back again, the landscape allows the viewer an awareness of the presence of a transformative energy. Her paintings are visual representations of how the energies of nature are conducting and making themselves manifest in the material world, reflecting dynamic processes rooted in nature and shared universally below the threshold of consciousness.
Ashley graduated with a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Born in the Bay Area, Jay moved to Vancouver, BC, at the age of 11 where he then spent the next 13 years of his life. He’s now back in San Francisco to begin his career, but more importantly, to continue to learn more about himself and the world. Jay is looking forward to learning methods to make those around him live fulfilling lives, while doing so for himself along the way. Feel free to reach out to him to chat, he always is open to lending an ear!
Armando Davila is an artist, organizer, educator, facilitator and thought leader. He has worked throughout the progressive sector in a variety of roles from solar installer, teaching artist, conference organizer, campaign manager, workshop trainer and mindfulness instructor. He currently sits on the steering committee for the Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force in the Bay Area. He is also busy developing One World 1. The idea that humanity’s best survival strategy is a unified one. Reach out to collaborate.