Administration

Mitra Council Office

The Mitra Council Office (MCO) supports the projects and activities of the Mitras, Nalandabodhi’s senior Western teachers. The office helps the Mitras to oversee and develop Nalandabodhi’s three Paths, provides support for special projects, and assists the Mitras in their work as spiritual advisors for Nalandabodhi’s many activities.

The staff maybe contacted through mitrasecretary1@gmail.com.

Mitra Council Staff

David Palmer, Mitra Council Chief of Staff

David became a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in 2012 and began working with the Mitra Council Office in 2018.  David provides direct support to the Mitra Dean and indirect support to other Mitras through communication between Mitra Council, Mitra Council Staff, and other Nalandabodhi International entities with an aspiration to engender clarity with a spirit of warmth supporting the Paths of Study, Meditation, and Mindful Activity.  David has also been involved with the Retreat Organizing Committee for Sangha Retreat since 2016.  He is a residential mortgage underwriter living in Vancouver, Canada and has a Bachelor in Asian Studies/Chinese language from the University of British Columbia. 

Tara Stepenberg, Mitra Council Communications Secretary

Tara has been on a Buddhist path since 1978 and became a student of Dzochen Ponlop Rinpoche in 2010.  She is a multifaceted movement specialist and dancer, integrating her Buddhist practice with her view and process as a performer and movement co-journeyer (particularly with Authentic Movement and Laban Movement Analysis).

Michael Hennessy, Director of Online Study

Michael Hennessy first encountered Ponlop Rinpoche in 1980 in Boulder, CO, when Rinpoche was traveling with His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, and has been a student of Rinpoche’s since 2004. Michael works with the Mitras to support the online study path, and administers Nalandabodhi’s online Learning Management System. Michael teaches Computer Science at the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR, where he and his wife raised their three children.

Stephanie Johnston, Director of Practice Instructors

Stephanie Johnston has been practicing Tibetan Buddhism since 1985 and has been under the guidance of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche since 1996. In addition to being the Director of Practice Instructors, she serves as Director of Nalandabodhi Publications and has been an active faculty member of Nitartha Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies since 1998. She is chronically curious about practice, creative expression, and the amazing heap of self .

Nick VailPath of Meditation Communications Director

Nick earned a Master of Arts degree in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Language from Naropa University. He became a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in 2004, and then served as Manager of Nalanda West and Co-Director of the Nalandabodhi Seattle sangha for several years. He has been teaching philosophy and meditation for fifteen years. Nick enjoys connecting with nature, meditating, Tai Chi Chuan, archery, foraging, gardening, brewing, playing the guitar, and spending time with his family.

Kim McMeans, Path of Meditation, Emerging Nalandabodhi Groups

Kim has been interested in Buddhism since 1987 and a student of Ponlop Rinpoche’s since 1993. She has served in the mandala as an administrator for many years in Nalandabodhi Canada. She is looking forward to engaging with new groups to assist with nurturing the Path of Meditation.  A long time ago, she attended the University of British Columbia and received her BEd and MEd. A retired elementary school teacher and administrator Kim enjoys walking and taking photos in unfamiliar cities, baking with sourdough starter and hanging out with her family and friends. Kim has lived in Hong Kong, England, and Mexico and has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe, Central and South America, Africa and North America. Vancouver, Canada is home. 

Alannah Wells, Path of Meditation, Meditation Resources

Alannah has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1983, training in both Theravada and Vajrayana traditions.  In 2004 she became a student of Ponlop Rinpoche and has served locally as a PI & facilitator of meditation classes and as a centre director in Vancouver for the last four years.  Alannah has a background in dance and movement therapy as well as work in the non-profit sector.  Alannah enjoys all dance opportunities, and is interested in Lujong, Restorative Yoga & various forms of body/mind healing. 

Christian Monks, Path of Meditation, Classes and Curriculum

Christian made a connection initially to Ponlop Rinpoche in 1995 and, after years of travelling and schooling, became his student in 2011. Christian works with the Mitra Council supporting the intro meditation classes; he lives in Vancouver with his family and works as a counsellor. When free, Christian values being the in the garden and nurturing nature’s colours and creatures.  

Ellen Balzé, Director, Path of Mindful Activity

Ellen became a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in 2015 and began working with the Core Path of Mindful Activity Team in 2018. She is a clinical psychologist with a background in organizational consulting, and is trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a form of psychotherapy based on Buddhist teachings. She has benefited greatly from opportunities (and reminders) to pause, relax, and reflect while collaborating with other East Coast Nalandabodhi members and folks across Nalandabodhi on retreats and other projects. She also enjoys baking bread and caring for succulents.

Rosemary Bakker, Core PoMA Team

Rosemary became a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche in 2004 and in 2014 began working with the Mitra Council to expand the Path of Mindful Activity. Rosemary is an interior designer and gerontologist and hosts a Nalandabodhi practice group in the Hudson Valley, New York.  She is excited about the rich and varied opportunities the Path of Mindful Activity offers, including mindful awareness of daily life in our relationships with each other, the changing seasons, and the environment.

Genko Blackman, Core PoMA Team

Genko is a member of Nalandabodhi, and a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche since 2013. Also a practitioner in the Rinzai Zen tradition since 1983, she is fully ordained in that tradition and teaches at Puget Sound Zen Center, as well as Buddhist groups in the state prison system. When there is time, she enjoys practicing Japanese tea ceremony and gardening.

Midori Nakamura, Core PoMA Team

Midori has been a student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche since 2006 and currently serves as a core member of the Path of Mindful Activity team. She is excited to share the joy of service and how the ordinary activities of work, relationships, and home life are all part of a dharma path. She brings to the Path of Mindful Activity her role as a DPR Office staff member and a little bit of Japanese tea ceremony studies.