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Community Dharma Leaders Program (CDL7)

January 2025 – January 2027
with Noliwe Alexander, Kate Johnson, JD Doyle, and devon hase

PROGRAM DATES: January 2025 – January 2027

Retreat 1: January 18-25, 2025 (7 nights) at Spirit Rock
Retreat 2: June 13-20, 2025 (7 nights) at Spirit Rock
Retreat 3: January 2026 (dates TBD) online
Retreat 4: June 2026 (dates TBD) at Garrison
Retreat 5: January 2027 (dates TBD) at Spirit Rock


  • A minimum of five years of practice
  • A minimum of 30-40 nights of residential Vipassanā and/or Mettā retreat practice (may include 10 nights of online retreat)
  • A depth of practice that includes familiarity and understanding of foundational Buddhist teaching
  • History of daily and/or regular ongoing practice
  • Commitment to ethical integrity (sīla) and practice of the five lay precepts
  • Completion of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility training(s)
  • An expressed interest in or demonstration of the desire to make diversity, social and climate justice, and/or human and animal rights central to their Dharma teaching and leadership.
  • An embodied presence resulting from the realization and application of key Dharma principles and practices
  • Fortitude and resilience in the face of individual, collective and intergenerational traumas
  • Social and emotional competencies (such as self-regulation, strong coping and problem-solving skills, and positive social connections)
  • Strong communication and leadership skills
  • Strong relationship to their Dharma mentor and local Saṅgha
  • The desire to be of service to the Dharma out of gratitude, humility, and compassion
  • The ability to dedicate time and energy to the program


Noliwe Alexander, Kate Johnson, JD Doyle, and devon hase are the core co-leaders for the CDL7 program. Together, we bring a depth of personal practice, teaching experience, and leadership and commitment to diversity from past CDL programs.


We live in a complex, demanding and divisive world. As an antidote to personal, socio-political and environmental suffering, Buddhist teachings can provide a wise, loving, generous ground from which we can respond to the profound challenges of our time—climate change, immigration, animal rights, growing economic disparity, and entrenched systems of racism, misogyny and oppression.

CDL will develop the next generation of dharma leaders with the capacity, resilience and needed skills to carry the dharma forward. This training will cultivate the inner resources to skillfully address these and other issues. Grounded in ancient Buddhist wisdom, graduates of CDL will learn to embody, articulate, share and cultivate the dharma within diverse, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural communities, so that it is accessible for all who seek refuge.

The foundation of the training is rooted in the Early Buddhist, Theravada tradition, and the program is designed to encourage innovative ways to live a life of dharma and to integrate and offer these timeless teachings within our contemporary world.

CDL provides training for future dharma leaders who reside both nationally and internationally. Our aim is to support the dharma in becoming fully accessible. This includes the participation of young adults, communities of color, a more inclusive class structure, and other underrepresented communities.

This is a Spirit Rock, Theravada-based training program to develop community leaders. Priority will be given to those supporting leadership within Theravada communities.


The CDL7 teaching team is in the process of shaping the program, which will involve comprehensive training in leadership skills and dharma competencies, including the ability to:

  • Develop community-based sanghas and dharma organizations
  • Lead sitting groups
  • Teach beginning classes and daylong and weekend retreats
  • Facilitate rites of passage and develop competency with Buddhist ritual
  • Embody attunement, empathy and sensitivity within the role of teacher, the communities being taught, and team teaching
  • Expand access to the teachings through outreach and engagement with underrepresented communities
  • Create and cultivate diverse, culturally competent sanghas
  • Lead affinity groups and cultural sanctuary spaces within existing sanghas
  • Integrate Buddhist practices and perspectives into work and leadership beyond dedicated dharma spaces
  • Articulate the teachings based on a strong knowledge of the suttas
  • Connect classic teachings to contemporary issues in ways that are clear and skillful for people in daily life
  • Develop relational skills, empathy, sensitivity and clarity in both dharma teachings and communications with students
  • Develop team and collaborative teaching
  • Build capacity for meeting and managing conflict, individually and organizationally
  • Identify community needs and values, and design community structures and practices that align with them


  • Two years of training
  • Five retreats (four in-person and one online)
  • Monthly small group meetings on Zoom
  • Mentor meetings every two months


Upon completion of this training, participants will be qualified to:

  • Serve in leadership roles in their local Saṅghas (including serving on boards and committees)
  • Teach Dharma classes (both online and in person)
  • Teach daylong and weekend retreats (note: not residential retreats)
  • Lead affinity groups and cultural sanctuary spaces within existing Saṅghas
  • Integrate Buddhist practices and perspectives into their work and leadership beyond dedicated Dharma spaces

Please note that this two-year program is not for training residential retreat Dharma teachers. It is a training intended to build community and leadership through bringing together a diverse group of candidates who show passionate commitment to their local Saṅghas, and who wish to grow in Dharma service within them. (That said, many who enter the four year Retreat Teacher Training completed Community Dharma Leader training first, and continue to serve in their local communities as well as teaching longer residential retreats.)


  • Attendance at all five retreats
  • Completion of comprehensive homework and participation in online and dharma study groups between retreats
  • Check-ins with dharma “buddies” in the program
  • Maintain regular contact with mentoring teacher(s) and program peers
  • Practice of real-time dharma leadership
  • The practice of Dana (generosity) to support program teachers
  • Completion of a yearly evaluation of one’s personal development and activities within the dharma, to be shared with a teacher/mentor who will consult with the CDL teaching team
  • Interest and commitment to educate and increase individual awareness of structural oppression, internalized oppression and privilege (class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.)


It is required to have a mentoring relationship with an experienced dharma teacher or dharma leader. Program participants must check in with their mentor at least once every two months, or more. Mentors listen to recordings of selected dharma talks, answer questions, and provide feedback to participants. The mentor relationship is on a Dana basis, and participants are asked to agree to an acceptable arrangement with their mentor prior to the program.


  • The candidate will serve a geographic region or set of communities with no current dharma leadership or teachers.
  • The candidate needs to further training in order to assist an active teacher or to support an existing dharma community.
  • The candidate will reach a population not currently served (or underserved) by the existing teaching community, for example: youth, young adult, communities of color, Spanish speaking communities, seniors, prisons, LGBTQIA+ communities, veterans, etc.
  • It may be helpful for participants to have participated in Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioner Program or other Dharma Study Programs at centers such as BCBS, NY Insight, and EBMC, or other Insight Centers which have held multi-year deepening dharma study programs with authorized teachers. However, participation in any of these programs does not guarantee acceptance into the CDL program nor are they a requirement for acceptance into CDL.
  • It will also be helpful for participants to have been educated in or actively engaging in undoing racism or other structural oppression work, and to have competency in some trauma or resiliency intervention


Applicants must be nominated by a mentor, and then will receive an invitation to apply. Mentors are teachers trained at Spirit Rock, IMS, Insight Meditation Center, or Gaia House, or graduates of the Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leaders program. Nominations will be accepted until January 15, 2024.


Participation in CDL requires a financial commitment. Payment plans are available for all levels of the sliding scale. Scholarship rates are available but will be limited.

Upon acceptance to the program, you will be asked to pay a minimum 25% deposit or you may choose to pay in full. The remainder of any unpaid balance may be divided into 12 monthly installments* that will start from date of acceptance through the first year of the program. Installments can only be set up on credit cards. All program fees are to be paid in full by the end of the first year of the program. *Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis for those with extreme financial hardship.

Please consider the amount you would be able to afford in order to participate in CDL. We ask you to select the highest possible level of program fees that meet your needs, as your generosity allows for those with lesser means to attend.

Standard Sliding Scale:

  • Benefactor - $16,475
  • Sustainer - $12,875
  • Basic - $9,250

Scholarship Sliding Scale:

  • Reduced Rate - $7,350
  • Mudita/Karuna Scholarship Rate - $5,450
  • BIPOC Scholarship Rate - $5,450

Tuition includes:

  1. Accommodations and meals at all five residential retreats.
  2. All handouts and program materials.
  3. Access to online community building groups.

Tuition does NOT include:

  1. Financial offering (dana) for teachers.
  2. Transportation costs to/from your home to each retreat site (Spirit Rock, or Garrison Retreat Centers).
  3. Mentor teacher support (dana) for individual meetings with your mentor teacher in your area.


Please email us.


Noliwe Alexander

Noliwe Alexander has been a student of Vipassana meditation for over 20 years. Throughout this time of deep devotion to the Dharma, Noliwe has become a dedicated practitioner, meditation teacher of various retreats and sitting groups, day-longs and class series programs. She dedicates her BuddhaDharma practice and teachings to the BiPOC, LGBTQIA+, At Risk and Elder communities. She is a graduate of Spirit Rock's CDL4 program, EBMC's Commit 2 Dharma program in 2010 and is a graduate of Spirit Rock Teacher Training from 2017-2020. Noliwe is the founder of Peace At Any Pace, Inc. a non-profit organization that offers a Journey to Healing from Intergenerational & Ancestral Trauma retreats and Elder & Youth programs, which are exclusively for people from the African Diaspora. Noliwe is a wisdom keeper and humbled by the presence of her ancestor’s spirit that lives within and walks beside her.

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Kate Johnson

Kate Johnson is a meditation teacher, facilitator, writer and mama. She has practiced Buddhist meditation in the Insight lineage since her early 20’s, and was authorized as an independent dharma teacher through Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s four-year retreat teacher training. Kate began facilitating organizational training and retreats after co-founding the Meditation Working Group at Occupy Wall Street. She later joined the faculty of MIT’s Presencing Institute, and went on to work at Buddhist Peace Fellowship, where she designed online programs integrating spiritual and political education and practice. She is the author of the book Radical Friendship: Seven Ways to Love Yourself and Find Your People in an Unjust World.

As a consultant, Kate works with leaders and organizations committed to equity, sustainability, and the practice of wise relationships, using awareness-based and embodied practices to support communication, strategy, and culture. As a meditation teacher, she regularly offers courses and retreats integrating relational spirituality, social justice, somatics and creativity. Kate also coaches a handful of dedicated meditation practitioners in private study to clarify and deepen their practice. In her off hours, she can be found exploring Philly with her kid, sipping tea with friends, and looking for all manner of good trouble.

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JD Doyle

JD Doyle (they/them) served as Core Teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center, where they co-founded the Alphabet(LGBTQIA+) Sangha, and as Guiding Teacher at Insight Santa Cruz. They graduated from Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Retreat Teacher Training in 2020. They teach at sanghas across the US and in Canada. JD began studying and practicing Buddhism in 1995, at Insight Meditation Society and at Spirit Rock and continued with extensive retreat practice in Thailand and Burma in the Theravadan lineage. For over twenty-three years, they worked as a public-school teacher. JD holds a BS in Environmental Studies from Cornell University, a bilingual multicultural teaching certificate from UC Santa Cruz, and a Masters in Language and Literacy and Sociocultural Studies from the University of New Mexico. They are committed to celebrating the diversity of our human sangha, transforming the impacts of racism on our communities, expanding concepts of gender, and living in ways that honor the sacredness of the Earth. For more info: www.heartmindteaching.com.

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devon hase

devon hase loves long retreats. Cumulatively, she’s spent four years in silent practice in the Insight and Vajrayana traditions. Since discovering meditation in 2000, she has put dharma and community at the center of her life: she spent a decade bringing mindfulness to high school and college classrooms and now teaches at the Insight Meditation Society, Spirit Rock, and other centers around the globe. She enjoys supporting practitioners with personal mentoring, and her friendly, conversational approach emphasizes relational practice and the natural world. Along with her life partner nico, devon co-authored How Not to Be a Hot Mess: A Buddhist Survival Guide for Modern Life. She continues to spend a good part of the time in wilderness retreat in Oregon, Massachusetts, and elsewhere. For more, visit www.devonandnicohase.com.

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