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About

George Haas   |   Mentors

Founded by George Haas in 2003 and named the Best Online Buddhist Meditation by Los Angeles Magazine in 2011, Mettagroup uses Vipassanā, or insight meditation, as a way to help students live a meaningful life. Drawing from 2500-year-old Buddhist teachings and John Bowlby's Attachment Theory, the Mettagroup techniques serve as a model of how to connect with other people, and how to be completely yourself in relationships with others and with work.

Commonly referred to as "mindfulness," Vipassanā meditation is focused on living more peacefully, compassionately and wisely. Derived from the Theravada school of Buddhism, the techniques are widely acknowledged as effective ways to manage pain, stress, compulsiveness and are often used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Most Mettagroup students begin with Morning Meditation, a guided meditation held via conference call six days a week with founding teacher George Haas. In addition, we offer several intensive courses throughout the year, as well as multiple retreats every year and ongoing one-on-one mentoring with experienced teachers. Read more in our classes section, or sign up for our newsletter and we'll let you know about courses and special events.

George Haas

George moved to Los Angeles from New York to work in film and photography. In 1992 he began practicing Vipassanā at Ordinary Dharma in Venice, and studying Buddhist texts extensively. In 1998 he began study with his current teacher, Shinzen Young, at Vipassanā Support International, where he is now a senior facilitator.  He began teaching meditation in 2000, and along with his daily Morning Meditation and full schedule of one-on-one students, he continues to teach regularly in Los Angeles, and to hold several intensives and retreats per year.

 

George's Path

 
 

George began his own path with a period of lightweight spiritual seeking (and heavy-duty drug and alcohol use). In 1978 he embarked on a serious exploration of the eleventh step of the Twelve-Step tradition, working primarily with concentration to reduce the anxiety of living sober. Subsequently, he began walking the Red Road (traditional Native American spiritual practices) and reading Buddhist texts in the 1980s to help make sense of the mounting AIDS crisis.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with addiction, Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process is a program specifically designed to help students heal from addiction and addiction-related issues. Read more about the Meditation Interventions for the Addiction Process intensive or the pre-recorded download version.

 

On Teaching (In GEORGE'S Own Words)

I try to embody the characteristics that I find helpful in a teacher when I teach myself. What may not be obvious is that I teach irreverently. This comes from making sense out of the world while growing up in a household where the façade presented to the outside was so different from what went on inside. Along the way that dissonance created an extreme sensitivity to the negative side of what Gregory Bateson et al. so eloquently dubbed the double-bind (two conflicting demands, neither of which can be ignored nor escaped).

Imagine the profound shift in consciousness I experienced through the insight that a double-bind is not always malevolent. That my hard-won sensitivity could be put to good use in meditation, clearing away the distortions of my lose-lose view which had until then prevented me from experiencing the world the way it is. (Think of the kōan by Zen Master Hakuin—a benevolent double-bind—”Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?”)

Do not get me wrong. I am not a Zen practitioner. When I began sitting Vipassanā twenty years ago at Ordinary Dharma the locus was the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hahn (the last of my approach/ abandonment episodes). I found the overlay of Zen “harshness” unhelpful, even in its tempered form. I am not a Tibetan practitioner, I find the elaborate ritual unhelpful.

I practice what we call in the West “Vipassanā,” or “Insight Meditation,” in a distinctly North American form. Most of my training has been with Shinzen Young and I advocate his approach. I am a senior facilitator at Vipassanā Support International, Shinzen’s retreat organizing entity.

I love the teachings of Mahasi Sayadaw, and use the map in his manual Progress of Insight in my teaching. I am a linear thinker and prefer a systems approach. I am also dyslexic and prone to obscure connections.

I believe in the power of kindness to transform our perception of the world from a cold brutish place that justifies a closed mind into a warm loving one where we live with a wide-open heart. Half of what I teach is how to be kind, how to develop compassion so you can empathically connect with the people around you and, through that connection, deepen the meaning in your life.

I am an enlightenment-oriented teacher. I mean that I think that conventional classical enlightenment (at least stream-entry) in this lifetime is a worthwhile goal for your meditation practice and completely doable. You might be thinking if he got all of that from Shinzen and Mahasi why not just go to the source? Study with Shinzen, find somebody who studied with Mahasi (1904-1982) and study with them (I encourage that). There is a whole world of skilled meditation teachers and traditions out there available to you. Pick the teacher and the teaching you can connect to. You know if you can connect by trying to connect.

- George Haas, Founder of Mettagroup

Mentors

Jason Ryterband

Jason is a mindfulness facilitator who provides practical, relationship-centric guidance, leveraging mindfulness tools to cultivate empathy and enrich interpersonal connections. Using a combination of traditional Vipassanā meditation techniques and modern psychological research, Jason empowers people to move toward more secure, authentic ways of being in the world. He has trained with meditaion teachers Shinzen Young and Deborah Eden Tull, and he has practiced 5Rhythms movement meditation with Kate Shela since 2011. Since 2008, he has logged over 2500 hours of formal practice and more than 100 days of silent retreat.

 

Blake Shields Abramovitz

Blake has been meditating seriously in the Vipassanā tradition for five years, during which time he has attended fifteen silent residential meditation retreats, and trained closely for four years with George Haas. He is also a yoga teacher at Exhale Venice, and views the two modalities, yoga asana and seated practice, as facets of one integrated spirituality. Fascinated by the possibilities of linking Buddhist meditation technologies with contemporary understandings of psychology and attachment theory, he is excited to be a part of Mettagroup, a truly cutting edge approach to healing, and to awakening.

 

ZACH OLDENBURG

Zack Oldenburg is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with years of experience working with substance abuse and trauma. Zack is deeply interested in the intersection of addiction, attachment theory, and meditation. He believes that meditation coupled with an awareness of attachment strategies and a template for healthy relationships can transform our experience of ourselves and the world we live in. He believes deeply that by addressing our own relational trauma and forming supportive relationships as adults that we can go a long way towards making the world a kinder and more habitable place for everyone. 

 

Harmony Urmston

Harmony works as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker where she has supported people though the change process in relation to addiction, self-harm, mental illness, medical conditions, gender and sexuality exploration, childhood trauma and relational challenges. She has found in working with clients, and in her own life, that no single intervention is as powerful a tool as the practice of mindfulness. She has been mediating for over ten years and has attended many silent retreats since 2012 when she first sat with George and heard him say “I love you, keep going.” She has personally experienced the wonder of radical change and growth and loves the collaborative process of supporting others while they push into this deeply human process.