Against the Stream Teachers



Noah Levine – Founding Teacher, author of Dharma Punx, Against The Stream, The Heart of the Revolution and Refuge Recovery, is a Buddhist teacher, author and counselor. He has created a Buddhist approach to addiction recovery called Refuge Recovery, that includes peer lead meetings as well as a professional treatment center. He is also the founding teacher of Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, with centers in Los Angeles and San Francisco and over 20 affiliated groups around North America. He teaches meditation classes, workshops and retreats internationally. Noah holds a Masters degree in counseling psychology and lives in Los Angeles.

JoAnna_Harper JoAnna Harper – Guiding Teacher Los Angeles, has been exploring and practicing multiple traditions since 1999. In 2005, her focus landed on Buddhism and Vipassana meditation, which is the premise for most of her current teaching. She teaches; adult and teen weeklong silent retreats, day longs and weekly classes, and works with at risk youth and non at risk youth in institutional and school settings. Helping communities and individuals that don’t typically have access to the traditional dharma settings and building multicultural community is top on her list of priorities. She is an empowered teacher in the Spirit Rock, IMS lineage. She is the grateful mother of CJ and Harris – her main inspirations.

Vinny_FerraroVinny Ferraro – Guiding Teacher San Francisco, is the Senior Trainer for Mindful Schools in Oakland, California and his work was the subject of MTV’s If You Really Knew Me, He is a Dharma teacher and a nationally recognized leader in designing & implementing interventions for at-risk youth.
In 1987, he began volunteering his time to be of service. He went on to to help establish Dharma Punx in the mid 90’s.
In 2001, he began teaching for Challenge Day, teaching emotional intelligence and other social skills, eventually becoming their Training Director, and leading workshops to more than 100,000 youth. He then became the Training Director for the Mind Body Awareness Project, a non-profit that teaches meditation to the incarcerated.
He is a Guiding Teacher for Against the Stream, and for 11 years has led a Friday night meditation group in San Francisco. He doesn’t like talking about himself in the 3rd person.

Stancavage SamMary Stancavage has practiced meditation, yoga, and cultivated a spiritual practice for over 30 years. She began studying with Noah Levine in 2005, and in 2009 completed his first teacher training program. She currently serves as Director of Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. In January 2016 she became Executive Director of the Mind Body Awareness Project.  She has taught meditation at recovery centers in Los Angeles, has co-facilitated Year-to-Live groups since 2008, and has a weekly class at ATS. She completed the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at the Sati Center and served as volunteer chaplain at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Mary sits on the board of the Buddhist Insight Network and CLUE-LA. In addition, Mary has a Masters from UCLA, and worked as an archaeologist in the Middle East.

Matthew_Brensilver (1)Matthew Brensilver, PhD, served as a Buddhist chaplain at USC for four years and teaches about the intersection of mindfulness and psychotherapy at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. Matthew was trained by Noah Levine and teaches at Against the Stream. He is currently in the Spirit Rock/IIMS teacher training program and is mentored by Gil Fronsdal. He conducts research on addiction treatment at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine.

sleanCheryl Slean has been practicing Buddhist meditation since 1995. She was authorized to teach in 2007 and has offered mindfulness meditation and dharma at many venues including Seattle Insight, Against the Stream, Michael’s House, Refuge Recovery, Mindful Schools, Swedish Hospital, Santa Monica Hospital and Insight Community of the Desert. She’s received teacher training from Rodney Smith, Noah Levine and the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). Cheryl is also a writer, filmmaker and educator working in the arts and sustainability, and is executive producer of VisionLA, Climate Action Arts Festival. For opportunities to practice with Cheryl, please click here.

davesmithphotoDave Smith is a Buddhist meditation teacher, addiction treatment specialist, experienced speaker, and published author. Dave is trained to teach Buddhist meditation by Noah Levine. As a long-time Buddhist practitioner and recovering addict, Dave has been working closely with recovering addicts for over six years. He has extensive experience bringing meditative interventions into jails, prisons, youth detention centers and addiction treatment facilities. He is the founder of the Against the Stream Nashville Meditation Center and teaches over 300 meditation classes and workshops a year. Dave recently relocated to Los Angeles. For opportunities to practice with Dave, please click here.



shannonfowlerShannon Fowler has been on a spiritual path for more than 20 years. She has been sitting and studying meditation with Noah Levine and the Dharma Punx since 2005. In 2015 Shannon graduated the ATS teacher training cohort. She has led meditation groups in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Shannon has co-facilitated Year-to-Live groups, Young People’s groups, Refuge Recovery groups, and facilitated the occasional weekly class.  Shannon is the CoFounder of the Refuge Recovery Centers substance abuse treatment facility.

GeneLushtak2-6-150x150Gene Lushtak has been practicing meditation for nearly 20 years. Inspired by his experiences with multiple month-long retreats, he moved to Thailand to ordain as a monk in 2004. Since returning to the U.S., Gene has continually explored how to integrate the teachings into ordinary, daily life. He completed Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leader Training and taught mindfulness in grade schools as part of InnerKids in Los Angeles. He has led numerous ongoing meditation groups, and currently teaches with Against the Stream and Mindful Schools. He is certified in Somatic Experiencing – a therapeutic modality that emphasizes nervous system regulation. Gene co-leads our Monday night group and has been teaching in our sangha for the last 10 years.


rogersJoseph Rogers Joseph Rogers has been sitting and studying meditation with Noah Levine and the Dharma Punx since 2005 and is a member of the ATS teacher-training cohort. Especially interested in meditation as an outgrowth of recovery work, he has been teaching mindfulness and meditation practices to teens with substance abuse issues since 2007 and helped found the Refuge Recovery weekly groups at ATS. Joseph is obtaining his MDiv in Buddhist Chaplaincy from the University of the West and works as a professional healthcare chaplain.

denisedinoviDenise DiNovi is a long-time practitioner and a graduate of the ATS 5 year teacher training with Noah Levine and Vinny Ferraro. A recurring teacher at ATS, she is one the core teachers for the Living the Suttas class in Santa Monica, and is also a teacher at the Pacific Lodge Youth Services in Woodland Hills. Denise was instrumental in starting the Teen Group at ATS and has been involved with getting Refuge Recovery off the ground. Denise is also a movie producer


mikezittel1Michael Zittel is a Buddhist meditation teacher, meditation mentor, and a therapist intern at Refuge Recovery. With over 30 years of personal practice and training in Mindfulness and the Dharma, his teaching values balancing Dharma theory and making meditation practical to today’s life. He has studied Vipassana with Shinzen Young  since ’98, and is a Senior Facilitator in that tradition. He has studied Tibetan, Zen, and Theravada lineages in retreat settings in Asia and the U.S.; and studies Buddhist Suttas under Venerable Dhammananda of Maithri Vihara. In 2015 Michael was empowered to teach meditation and Buddha Dharma by Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society founder Noah Levine. He currently teaches classes, leads workshops and intensive series at ATS. Michael has extensive experience working with individuals mentoring their meditation practices in methods that genuinely respects one’s innate ability to awaken. Private mentoring sessions are available via Skype/Facetime. 310-800-8043.


frank bairdFrank Baird identifies as a postmodern Buddhist polyatheist. He was introduced to Buddhism by the 1972 TV show “Kung Fu”. His study and practice have improved since then. He is dedicated to helping people cultivate inner peace, live more fulfilling lives and be active contributors to their communities and the world. He is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, a UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) Certified Mindfulness Facilitator, and founder of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence  ( You can find out more about Frank at

valerieValerie Cusson is a high school special education teacher working with At-Risk students in San Bernardino. She came to meditation through yoga and began walking the Buddhist path in 2002. She completed Facilitator training with Noah Levine and JoAnna Harper in 2012. Valerie also leads a weekly sitting group in Redlands, with the Brahma Viharas as a central practice.

dansigerStephen Dansiger, PsyD, MFT has been a practicing Buddhist since 1989.  Steve practiced in the Zen tradition for most of that time, including numerous retreats and a one-year residency at a Zen Buddhist monastery. He has taught mindfulness for over 20 years in a variety of settings, including meditation centers, schools, businesses, government agencies and treatment centers. He now teaches classes regularly at Against the Stream Meditation Society in Los Angeles, and also leads short retreats and workshops locally and nationally. He is the Clinical Director of Refuge Recovery Centers which he helped start with Noah Levine. He also created their treatment model, the MET(T)A Method. He is the author of Clinical Dharma: A Path for Healers and Helpers, and (with Jamie Marich) EMDR and Mindfulness for Trauma Focused Care (coming Summer 2017). More about Steve can be found at

mollie favourMollie Favour began her interest in Buddhism in her twenties. She took vows and studied with Thich Nat Hanh in the eighties. Then she became a student of Charlotte Joko Beck for 11 years, until Joko died. The last several years, Mollie has been involved at ATS where she has completed a year of facilitator’s training with Noah Levine.

jason ryterband - headshot 2015 800x1131 copy Jason Ryterband is a mindfulness facilitator and musician from New Jersey. He began meditating in 2008, seeking relief from anxiety and loneliness, and he quickly became fascinated by the intersection of meditation and the relational world. These days, he provides science-informed mindfulness tools to help individuals develop emotional intelligence, access their creativity, and deepen their connections to others. Jason has trained extensively with meditation teachers Shinzen Young and George Haas.  He is a certified meditation facilitator through Against The Stream, and he is currently enrolled in a year-long mindfulness facilitation training through UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. Jason’s offerings include ongoing classes in LA and online, mindfulness workshops for organizations, and one-on-one meditation mentoring for individuals. Sign up for his free 7-Day Meditation Challenge or a free one-on-one mentoring session at his website:

ericashehaneErica Shehane has had a dedicated practice since 2008. She completed a year of committed compassion practice and a year-long facilitator training with Noah Levine. She played an instrumental role in developing and launching Against the Stream’s Insight on the Inside program and has been a facilitator for ATS’s Young People’s Group and People of Color Group. She has Masters degrees in Social Work and Public Health and is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). She currently works at a large non-profit in Los Angeles, conducting community based research to support grassroots organizations, public sector agencies and philanthropic foundations.

stevelevittSteve Levitt. After years of acting in and then writing Hollywood Film, Steve has learned a little about suffering and the end of suffering.  He is honored to be in the middle of his teacher training under Noah Levine, Vinny Ferraro and Joanna Harper.

eileenyEileen Ybarra began studying Buddhism and sitting meditation in 2004 when she attended a two day non-residential retreat in L.A taught by Trudy Goodman and Noah Levine Since 2004 she has studied with Trudy Goodman, and since 2006 has primarily studied with Noah Levine. She has also studied with Gil Fronsdal. Her profession is public librarianship, a meaningful practice of service and mindfulness which she is grateful for. Currently, she is a facilitator for the monthly People of Color (POC) meditation group where she leads guided meditations and group discussions. She has completed two year-long practice/study groups with Noah Levine, and has completed a year-long sutta study group with Gil Fronsdal, and has completed the Against the Stream Facilitator Training with Noah Levine.



kisulabikKusala Bhikshu (teaches the 4th Sunday of the month)  is an American born monk ordained in the Zen tradition of Vietnam. He began practicing meditation in 1979 and received full ordination as a monk in 1996. He lives and works at the International Buddhist Meditation Center in the Korea-town section of Los Angeles, and has an extremely busy schedule teaching throughout Southern California.  The Rev Kusala has taught in Juvenile Hall, to youth groups, college students and churches. He facilitates meditation and discussion groups on Buddhism and social action. He is also an accomplished musician and plays blues harmonica and ukulele, and has written several Buddhist songs. (When we’re lucky, he plays for us on Sunday mornings.) Rev Kusala also maintains a website Urban Dharma, which is a compendium of the best of Buddhism in America, and is an invaluable resource.

Deborah Eden Tull, founder of Mindful Living Revolution, is a Zen meditation/mindfulness teacher and sustainability consultant. She spent seven years as a monk at a Zen monastery and teaches the integration of compassionate awareness into every aspect of life. Her teaching style is grounded in experiential learning and an unwavering commitment to personal transformation. Eden also teaches for UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Practice Center and also facilitates The Work that Reconnects, created by eco-philosopher Joanna Macy. More info


Lopön Chandra Easton is a teacher and translator of Tibetan Buddhism, focusing on the lineage of Machig Labdrön and Lama Tsultrim Allione. She has taught Buddhism and Yoga for 15 years and co-translated Sublime Dharma: A Compilation of Two Texts on the Great Perfection. She is currently on the Tara Mandala Bay Area coordinating committee, through which she teaches and organizes events in the Bay Area. Visit and


 Michael W. Taft is an author, editor, meditation teacher, and neuroscience junkie. He is currently a meditation coach specializing in secular, science-based meditation training in corporate settings and one-on-one sessions. Michael is the author of several books, including the upcoming The Mindful Geek, and Nondualism: A Brief History of a Timeless Concept, Ego (which he co-authored), as well as the editor of such books as Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson and the upcoming The Science of Enlightenment by Shinzen Young. From Zen temples in Japan to yogi caves in India, Michael has been meditating for over thirty years and has extensive experience in both Buddhist and Hindu practice. Michael is a senior facilitator in Shinzen Young’s Basic Mindfulness system. He currently lives in Berkeley, California, and is founding editor of the popular mindfulness meditation blog Deconstructing Yourself.