President and Board Chair
Julie was drawn to the Buddhist teachings in 1995 and has been an active member of the Sacramento Buddhist Meditation Group since 1997. She has had the honor of serving on their Board and participating on their scheduling committee for two terms. She also served as a founding member of the Sacramento Dharma Center Board. In 2000, she participated in a retreat with the monks and nuns from the Thai Forest Tradition, lineage of Ajahn Chah, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since that time she has actively participated with the monastic and lay community of Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley and the early establishment of Aranya Bodhi Hermitage in Jenner. She has been profoundly moved by the multiple Bhikkhuni ordinations that have taken place here in central California and feels deeply privileged to serve the Aloka Vihara Community through the Saranaloka Foundation.
Treasurer and Board Member
Susan is a founding member of Sierra Insight Sangha in Placerville and first met the sisters in July 2013, when they were on a tour of rural areas searching for a site for the future monastery. She helped to introduce the nuns to the community, and worked on The Rural Vihara Search Team to help find the property now known as Aloka Vihara. She has been practicing since 2007 and has been most inspired and influenced by the teachings of the Ajahn Chah lineage. Susan’s work career as the founder (with her husband, Greg) of the first winery in El Dorado County has given her broad business and board experience that she sincerely hopes will be of benefit to the Saranaloka Board. To be asked to be a part of this unfolding of the Dhamma in the West – in Placerville no less – was irresistible.
Robert’s first encounter with Buddhism was through the Soto Zen tradition of Shasta Abbey in the early 1980s. He started exploring other Buddhist practices and attending some Vipassana retreats in the early 1990s. At the opening ceremony of the Meditation Hall at Spirit Rock he heard Ajahn Amaro chant the Dhammacakka Sutta and was totally entranced. That led to visits to Abhayagiri and eventually a year-long stay at the monastery as an anagarika. Robert met up with the nuns at Aloka Vihara when he volunteered to help build the yurt platform. He is pleased to be a member of the board and looks forward to helping out the nun’s community in any way he can.
Secretary and Board Member
White Salmon, Washington
Hitesi Cyndia began meditation in 1995, and in 2004 began practicing in the Theravada tradition. Since then she has practiced intensively, including over a year of formal, silent practice, under the influence of the Ajahn Chah lineage, and in the the Ven Pau Auk Sayadaw’s lineage. Hitesi met the sisters in 2008 and managed their first retreat at Hidden Villa, before they moved to San Francisco the following year. It was at that time that she became interested in taking robes and studying with the sisters. While waiting for that opportunity to manifest, in 2009/10 she was resident at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery and afterwards spent several months living with the Aloka Vihara nuns in San Francisco. She received the Pali name Hitesi from the abbots at Abhayagiri, and has taken dependence with Ajahn Pasanno. Currently she spends her spare time mostly with Dhamma-related endeavors, including serving on boards, retreat managing and related projects. She also works part-time in SF at her husband’s business, Dharma Merchant Services. She recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest, to be close to her new grand-daughter.
Diamond Springs, California
Leslie was first captivated by Buddhist wisdom’s path to liberation in her 1987 reading of Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones.” In 1989 she traveled to Taos to study writing and meditation in the Zen tradition with Goldberg. The wide star studded sky of New Mexico and the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo mountains awakened her love of the Three Refuges. She continued practice pulling weeds in the gardens of Green Gulch, slowly walking the grassy hills of Spirit Rock to Thich Nhat Hahn’s mindfulness instructions, and studying with various wise teachers at Spirit Rock. Travel as a spiritual pilgrimage led her to India to the Ganges River and Bodh Gaya, Thailand’s Golden Buddha, Ireland’s monastic settlement Skellig Michael, Cambodia’s Ankor Wat and Thom, France’s Chartres Cathedral and other sacred places.
Leslie’s devotion to the cultivation of wisdom and compassion guides her work as a psychologist in Placerville. Parenting and partnership continue to be integral paths of practice for Leslie. She and her husband of 37 years, Russ, enjoy their adult children, Olivia and Connor. Russ has reinvented his life from an excavation contractor to a social worker. Together they enjoy creating sacred spaces for transformation. They are delighted to contribute to Aloka Vihara and are deeply grateful for a monastic community 12 minutes from home.
Tara Mulay found the Buddhadharma in 2003, and ever since then she has taken increasing joy in daily and intensive retreat practice, as well as in service. She was honored to serve on the planning committee and board of San Francisco’s Mission Dharma, including as its first board president, from 2010 to 2018. In 2016, she co-founded the San Francisco People of Color Insight Meditation Group and she continues as one of its core leaders. Tara has felt the profound benefit of the presence and teachings of the Aloka Vihara Bhikkhunis in California, and she is honored to support the further establishment of the Bhikkhuni Sangha as a member of the board.
Tara brings over 20 years of experience as criminal defense appellate attorney, which has both informed and catalyzed her Dharma practice. Currently, Tara is a participant in the 2017-2021 Insight Meditation Center Teacher Training Program, an initiative that is focused on expanding inclusivity in the Dharma in the United States ‘to foster a refuge that better reflects the reality of our world in all its diversity and cultural richness’.
San Francisco, California
Nils Heymann, originally from El Salvador, spent his formative years in Minneapolis and spent most of his 20’s as a monk in the Western monasteries affiliated with the Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho communities. He teaches art and Spanish to a diverse group of San Francisco High School students and he shares the Dhamma whenever and wherever he is invited to do so.
San Francisco, California
Trip met the sisters in San Francisco in 2010 and was moved by their teachings and their desire to build a nuns community in California. He has been practicing in the Theravadan tradition since 2004, including for a brief time as a monk in Burma. He serves on the Board of San Francisco Insight, where he also leads sitting groups and teaches meditation classes. He is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco and a former attorney. He feels very grateful to be able to serve Saranaloka and the Aloka Vihara community.