by Jackson Hart
The Buddha said the path to awakening was one of rebellion
– Against The Stream
Enrique is a teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Against The Stream Buddhist Meditation Society in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, USA. He has been practicing the tradition of Vipassana meditation for the past 9 years but is not your typical teacher of Buddhism. Seemingly covered with tattoos from head-to-toe, Enrique looks like a figure one may not feel particularly inclined to approach, had you not met him before. He is yet another great example of why you should not judge a book it its cover!
When he sat cross-legged and began to speak he was anything but intimidating. To the contrary, his words were filled with love, compassion and a deep-rooted sense of empathy for those of us in recovery. He spoke of the importance of learning to sit with and feel not just comfortable feelings in life, but the uncomfortable and challenging, as well.
Enrique comes from a troubled past of gangs and substance abuse himself, but found refuge through the Against The Stream Meditation Society. Against The Stream (ATS) was founded by Noah Levine and the Dharma Punx, a group of struggling youth and adults influenced by the punk rock music scene before finding a successful path to recovery through mindfulness and Buddhist practices. ATS is heavily influenced by the writings and teachings of Jack Kornfield.
The LA Times calls ATS a “unique incarnation of Buddhism infused with punk rock’s anti-establishment ethos.”
Against The Stream is now a fully-blown meditation movement in the USA, with centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. The group is shaping the foundations of what is being called American Buddhism. ATS sees American Buddhism as a chance to build a Buddhist tradition that can relate to the people of the modern era. At the same time, the society is devoted to breaking away from the economic & political corruption, sexism, racism, anti-secularism, caste systems, idol-worshipping and mythology that have entered some sects of Buddhism. Instead they focus their teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path to enlightenment.
At ATS there is no hierarchy of monks or life-long commitments to celibacy or shaving one’s head. On the contrary, teachers at Against The Stream are known for their punk hairdos, tattoo-covered bodies and use of profanity and jokes about drugs or sex in their Buddhist teachings. Teachers like Enrique show that ATS is a meditation community that greets people of any background with open arms and seeks to create a movement of mindfulness and peace that we can all relate to.