Seattle Dharma Pioneers Joel and Michelle Levey
Develop New Ways to Inspire and Engage

Written by: Joel and Michelle Levey

All My Relations sangha members with Leveys in Seattle

All My Relations sangha members with Leveys in Seattle. 
Photos by: Maka Chu, Joel Levey, Steven Sieden, Albert Zeman 

After more than 40 years of offering teachings and retreats in the Seattle area, Hawaii, and around the world, we’re continuing to offer these ancient teachings while adapting them to the needs of these times.

All My Relations Clear Bead Sangha in Seattle

Many of you know us as founders of the All My Relations HumanKind Clear Bead Sangha in Seattle, and the WisdomAtWork.com programs for people in many walks of life.

The Leveys with their beloved teacher Sakya Dagmola Kusho at Sakya Monastery, Seattle, who has guided them for 45 years

The Leveys with their beloved teacher Sakya Dagmola Kusho at Sakya Monastery, Seattle, who has guided them for 45 years.

On a more human level we’re Joel and Michelle Levey, a couple inspired by the Bodhisattva spirit. For the past 36 years we have offered a wide array of inner transformational teachings in the Pacific Northwest, and with communities and organizations around the globe.   

In Seattle we are delighted that our dear dharma sister, Lama Samten Bryn Dawson, has kindly stepped in to lend her wisdom and support to guiding the Seattle sangha.

Lama Samten, a wise, young, Western woman lama, completed a traditional three-year retreat in the Karma Kagyu tradition, and has recently returned to the Seattle area after years of serving as resident teacher at the Natural Dharma Fellowship at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in New Hampshire.

In Seattle we offer a weekly Tuesday evening “Meditation and Dharma Dialogue” at our sanctuary near Green Lake. We meet from 7:30 p.m. to about 9 p.m., welcoming a widely diverse group of dharma friends including many elders and young people, people of color, and members of other local meditation groups and contemplative communities.

Our Tuesday evening meditations in Seattle usually include periods of guided and silent meditation, and readings or teachings of dharma texts. We also include dharma dialogue, integrative small-group reflection circles and other relational practices, announcements and networking, and dedication of merit.

The Dalai Lama warmly greeting Michelle Levey at the Mind and Life Conference in Marina Del Ray, California, in 1989

The Dalai Lama warmly greeting Michelle Levey at the Mind and Life Conference in Marina Del Ray, California, in 1989.

Our sangha is very Rime (pronounced Ree-May) – a Tibetan  tradition signifying “non-sectarian” – which draws inspiration and teachings from diverse dharma lineages. Our style of practice, teaching, and dharma exploration weaves together views, practices, and insights from our study with many respected teachers from all three yanas (vehicles) of the Buddha’s teachings.  

The “All My Relations Sangha” has a unique place in the mandala of Northwest dharma centers, in that we strongly encourage our dharma friends to attend teachings by many other teachers, and to bring what they are learning back to our sangha, for reflection and integration.

We helped to establish many of the local dharma centers and also taught there. As elder dharma guides with between us a century of intensive study with many great teachers from different lineages, we often weave insights and anecdotes into our teachings that help to illuminate essential dharma teachings.

Our sangha also hosts occasional “Deepening in the Dharma Salons” on weekends, to provide more in-depth dharma studies and to build community.

We also lead a yearly family-friendly, partially silent, five-day retreat every summer at Indralaya on Orcas Island, north of Seattle. This is a chance to explore the connections between meditation, nature and community. This year’s retreat is Aug. 29 through Sept. 3.

Dharma Talk

Dza Kilung Rinpoche and Leveys teaching together in Seattle, on the bodhisattva path.

The Meditation and Medicine Sangha we co-founded in Seattle 15 years ago continues to flourish. Composed of contemplatively oriented health care providers, this sangha originally emerged from a program we offered at the University of Washington Medical School, for physicians interested in meditation and clinical practice.

With travel in mind we have recently formed a partnership with friends who founded Seattle-based Ponte Travels to guide dharma-based wisdom adventures to Bhutan and Thailand. We will be returning there in September 2018.

Many of our Northwest students have accompanied us to explore these inspiring dharma realms, and these adventures have offered a wonderful expansion of our dharma activities and teachings.  We are fortunate to have taught in, and have teachers from, both Bhutan and Thailand where the dharma is so vibrantly alive within their cultures. 

The Dalai Lama has been very supportive of our dharma efforts. In 1985 he said,

“You are presently engaged in work that has great prospects for bringing the dharma to a very wide section of people who may not under ordinary circumstances come into contact with these teachings. I am very pleased about the work that you are doing and send you blessings and prayers for your success.”

All My Relations Sangha in Hawaii – Dorje Dechen Ling

While our primary sangha is in Seattle, for the past 22 years we have also been developing a most precious eco-dharma mandala of practice on the Big Island of Hawaii. We are fortunately far from the recent lava flow, and in an extremely beautiful, safe, culturally rich and beloved part of the Big Island.  

The Leveys with members of their Dharma Learning Expedition, in the Catalan region of Spain

The Leveys with members of their Dharma Learning Expedition, in the Catalan region of Spain.

In Hawaii we now have an opportunity to expand our mandala of practice with the availability of a beautiful 3.4 acre parcel for sale adjacent to our land, on the northern tip of the Big Island. We’re hoping for dharma friends as our new neighbors!  This lot is a profoundly beautiful, serene, private, and pastoral oasis on the slopes of the North Kohala Mountains, with sweeping views across the ocean, deeply conducive to quiet practice.  Our land is very far away from the region with the eruptions.  For info, please contact us:  Levey (at) WisdomAtWork.com 

Dza Kilung Rinpoche, a well-known lama based on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, in 2012 named our property Dorje Dechen Ling, which means “Land of Indestructible Great Bliss.”  

After sitting Hawaii’s first vipassana/insight retreat in 1975, with Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, and Steven Smith, we have been blessed to lead retreats and practice at many retreat centers around the Hawaiian Islands. While we guide weekly practice when we are on the Island, we also offer guided sessions of intensive dharma practice in numerous locations around the island including Wood Valley Temple, Vipassana Hawaii, and Paliaku Peace Gardens.

The Leveys gaze over the Pacific Ocean from their Hawaii sanctuary

The Leveys gaze over the Pacific Ocean from their Hawaii sanctuary.

We also guide adventure-based dharma periods of practice exploring the wide spectrum of natural wonders that the Hawaiian Islands and wisdom traditions have to offer.

Right now we’re offering a position at our sanctuary for a dharma-oriented caretender and “Zen gardener” – with house and stipend.  It’s an ideal position for a nature-loving, contemplative gardener and landscaper, be they individual or a couple.  If interested please quickly contact us at Levey @ WisdomAtWork.com 

Streaming the Dharma

While we travel around the world our work also has been spread by the internet. We were among the very first dharma teachers to work with eMindful in launching some of the first on-line mindfulness programs in the world, and have since expanded this work in many different ways.

The Leveys’ Taiwan sangha visits the Leveys’ home in Hawaii with local Hula teacher Lea Lawrence

The Leveys’ Taiwan sangha visits the Leveys’ home in Hawaii, with local hula teacher Lea Lawrence.

After the success of Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” program, the company asked us to develop their follow-on program for Googlers who were hungry for deeper experience in mindfulness and other mind-fitness practices.

Called Google’s global “Mindfulness and Meditation Laboratory,” this pioneering program in 2012 offered live classes at Google facilities in Kirkland, a small city directly east of Seattle.

This was linked to a live video meet-up with teams streaming in from 24 sites around the globe. This was one of the largest web-based learning programs Google had offered up to that time.

Over time Google sites around the globe went from having sessions guided by experts from afar, to sitting with other Googlers at different sites via Google Hangouts, to having Googlers lead weekly sessions at their own sites, to having daily meditation sessions lead by Googlers at nearly every Google site.

All meetings at Google are encouraged to begin with a “gPause,” a guided meditation or moment of practice to help participants become fully present.

Author: Joel and Michelle Levey

Joel and Michelle Levey are early pioneers in bringing dharma teachings into organizations, higher education, medicine, government and sports arenas around the globe. While based in Seattle and Hawaii, they have worked with NASA, the British Parliament’s Mindful Nation Initiative, Google, MD Anderson Cancer Research Center, the World Business Academy, and hundreds of leading organizations.
The Leveys have studied closely with The Dalai Lama, Dipama, Chagdud Rinpoche, Lama Tharchin, and many others. In 1988 they were fortunate to sit the year-long shamatha retreat with Gen-Lamrimpa at Cloud Mountain Retreat Center.
Their books are available in 14 languages and include: “Mindfulness, Meditation, and Mind Fitness,” “Living in Balance: A Mindful Guide for Thriving in a Complex World,” and “The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration, and Meditation.