Sangha News – July 2015

In This Issue

This summer issue spotlights reflections on the Charleston tragedy and an announcement about a diverse teacher training starting in 2017. There’s news about our facilities – the Retreat Center dining room expansion, energy efficiency and plans to improve Shanti House. We’re also offering our latest wallpaper image, three new recipes and updates on IMS teachers. As well, you can check out retreat spaces available, and job and volunteer openings.

Front view of IMS in the summer
Sunlight and green were especially welcome this year after the long winter.

Reflecting on the Charleston Tragedy

From Executive Director Linda Spink: Since our last issue, killings of unarmed black people by police have sadly continued in many places across the US. Then, almost three weeks ago, came word of the tragedy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. On behalf of IMS, I want to extend sympathy and lovingkindness to all individuals, families and communities affected in any way by this devastation.

After much reflection throughout our organization, we at IMS see this latest heartbreak as more than the result of one deeply-disturbed individual with easy access to guns, acting on his delusion and killing nine people.

While these facts are true, putting the event into its historic context is just as important. This is the latest attack in this country by white men on black churches.

Many of us remember the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, that killed four girls. Yet, acts of violence against black communities in their places of worship go back hundreds of years. We are reminded that this happens not only in the South, but in many places across the nation. It includes the 2008 burning by white men of the predominately black Macedonia Church of God in Christ, in Springfield, MA, nearby to IMS, following the election of President Obama.

The Charleston attack is a clear call for our collective, continued dedication to undoing racism. May our commitment here at IMS to untie the knots of racism and to better understand its causes only grow stronger. May our voices join those bringing greater visibility to what needs to change. And may we nurture wisdom and compassion so that, together, we can uproot the greed, hatred and delusion in our world.

IMS Training

Increasing POC Leadership in Our Sanghas

As leaders in Western Vipassana, IMS and Spirit Rock Meditation Center have undertaken various initiatives over recent years to support inclusivity and diversity in Western Buddhism, so that we can better serve our multicultural world.

Together, our two organizations have come to realize that in order to significantly increase the multicultural diversity of our community of meditators, the teaching body must reflect the multiplicity of these life experiences.

So we are very pleased to announce that teachers Gina Sharpe and Larry Yang will be the lead teachers for the next joint IMS/Spirit Rock teacher training program, to start in January 2017. Given the urgent need for diversity in our teacher body, our goal for the 2017 teacher training program is to significantly increase participation from many diverse communities.

During the four-year program, Gina and Larry, joined by founding and senior teachers from both centers, will instruct and mentor these trainee teachers, as they join our 100+ graduates of previous teacher trainings in offering the Dharma at our centers and beyond, into the future. We are hopeful that this program will also be connected with other insight meditation centers. It is envisioned that this initiative will spark movement toward increasingly diverse training programs.

As with all previous joint IMS/Spirit Rock teacher training programs, participation is by invitation only. An IMS/Spirit Rock Selection Committee will carefully review all nominations from teachers, and then issue a limited number of invitations to individuals to apply for this program. We hope to meet an estimated program size of 20.

More information will be made available as we move forward with excitement toward the 2017 launch.

Gina Sharpe and Larry Yang
Teachers Gina Sharpe and Larry Yang.

Dining Room Project Underway

Work has begun on improvements to the Retreat Center dining room! This project, made possible by our community’s generosity, started last month and will be completed in the early fall. The plan is to have it finished by the start of this year’s Three-Month Retreat in September.

We’re expanding the main dining hall to give more seating for every meal. We’re also putting in an additional tea station to offer greater accessibility, installing an acoustical ceiling treatment to soften sounds on opening and closing days, and building a new deck for outdoor eating.

Dining room progress
Framing goes up for the outer walls of the expanded Retreat Center dining room.

Increasing IMS’s Energy Efficiency

As part of IMS’s efforts to increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption of nonrenewable fuels currently needed for our heating, ventilation and lighting systems, we recently conducted an energy evaluation.

This involved energy consultants inspecting our centers. They brought along a thermal imaging camera to help identify areas of energy loss. These places can often be found in the building envelope, where gaps and holes allow cold air to penetrate and heat to escape. (Some of our buildings are quite old and, while very solid, weren’t necessarily constructed with energy sustainability in mind.)

Sealing the envelope is one of the improvements we’re undertaking as a result of the assessment. Other steps, such as installing LED lighting and exploring alternative energy sources are in the works.

Through all of these actions, the sustainability of our facilities and systems will steadily improve.

Chipmunk on rocks at IMS
A chipmunk finds refuge.

Upgrades to Shanti House

Shanti House – formerly the Annex – is an important Retreat Center dormitory: its 48 bedrooms house about half of our retreatants. Yet this building hasn’t had a significant upgrade in 20 years, and the interior is showing its age.

The time has clearly come for improvements. We’re currently in the midst of an endeavor to raise $90,000 to give this dorm some much-needed care.

Our plan is to remove worn carpeting throughout and install hardwood floors, update lighting to reduce energy consumption, and give all the interior surfaces a new coat of paint. We’ll also modify the doors to soften the noise of their closing.

When making changes to any of our facilities, our intention is to create the best retreat environment possible, while at the same time lessening the impact on our environment.

So far, we’re happy to say we’ve reached over 40% of our goal. With your continued help, we look forward to making Shanti House a more welcoming accommodation.

More Recipes

For all of you who enjoy our Kitchen’s tasty, nourishing vegetarian meals, three new recipes have been added to our website – Carrot and Quinoa Soup, Vegetable Ragout, and Creamy Polenta. Happy dining!

New recipes for July 2015
(L-R): Carrot and Quinoa Soup, Vegetable Ragout and Creamy Polenta.

New Note Cards

We are once again offering note card sets for sale, available on course closing days. Each set features five beautiful IMS scenes.

New IMS note cards
One of the images featured in the new note card set.

Dharma Updates

The Passing of a Remarkable Elder

Pioneering teacher and remarkable Dharma elder Ruth Denison passed away peacefully in her home on February 26, 2015, attended by a small group of friends and students. She was 92.

Born in what was then East Prussia, Ruth immigrated to California as a young woman and studied with major spiritual teachers in several traditions. Later she became one of only four Westerners who received permission to teach Buddhist meditation from Burmese master Sayagi U Ba Khin.

Ruth led courses at IMS from the time we opened our doors in 1976 until her last teaching visit to the Retreat Center in 2011. She also founded Dhamma Dena Desert Vipassana Center in Joshua Tree, CA, and was the first Buddhist teacher in the US to lead an all-women’s meditation retreat.

Ruth’s fearless teaching style and sense of adventure inspired many of us. Through her strong emphasis on awareness of body sensations, she communicated to her students a deep understanding of the Buddha’s teachings on the Three Characteristics – anatta (no-self), anicca (impermanence) and dukkha (life without wisdom, or suffering).

Thank you, Ruth, for your lifelong dedication to the Buddha’s teachings, and to sharing them with so many others on the path to liberation.

Passing of Ruth Denison
Ruth Denison at IMS: (L-R) Teaching in the Retreat Center’s original meditation hall in 1984, touring the Forest Refuge in 2011, and with IMS co-founder Joseph Goldstein that same year.

Larry Rosenberg Retires from IMS

Beloved teacher Larry Rosenberg, 82, retired from IMS earlier this year. After recovering from a year of ill health, he is now focusing his energy on teaching at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, which he founded in 1985. He had taught at IMS for 35 years, as well as serving as one of our guiding teachers for 15 years, and it was with deep regret that he found it necessary to withdraw from teaching here.

Larry learned from many Eastern teachers and spiritual traditions before discovering Theravada Buddhism. He says that as soon as he sat at IMS and experienced the simple, direct form of practice taught here, he felt he had found his home.

His teaching is now centered on responding to a world in crisis. Contemplative practice, he feels, is vital before – and while – engaging in social activism. He asks his students, “Have you taken care of your own greed? Of the anger that’s inside you? Work on that first, and any action you undertake on behalf of others will then be far more effective.”

A New Weekly Column from Sharon Salzberg

IMS co-founder Sharon Salzberg now offers a weekly post on Krista Tippett’s On Being blog. The topics of her pieces range widely over the experience of simply being human, including Does Creativity Have to Come from Suffering? to When Fear Arises.

Meditation, Mindfulness and Spirituality

Sharon Salzberg is also highlighted in a recent CBS news feature on the mindfulness revolution.

Dipa Ma’s Blessings

Amita Schmidt, the author of Knee Deep in Grace: The Extraordinary Life and Teaching of Dipa Ma, has put together a wonderful short video about Dipa Ma, a primary teacher of many of our own teachers, including IMS founders Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield.

Dipa MA and Munindraji
Dipa Ma (L) with Munindraji – both were early teachers who greatly inspired IMS’s founders.

New Title

Gaia House teacher Rob Burbea has a new book out – Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising. In the foreword, Joseph Goldstein writes, “Rob Burbea, in this remarkable book, proves to be a wonderfully skilled guide in exploring the understanding of emptiness as the key insight in transforming our lives.”

Program Highlights

Recent Retreats

At the Forest Refuge, it’s been a delight to host a range of visiting teachers over the last few months.

Sayadaw U Jagara
Sayadaw U Jagara guided retreatants during March.
Winnie Nazarko and Caroline Jones
April’s teachers were (L-R) Winnie Nazarko and Caroline Jones. Caroline will be officially stepping into the Forest Refuge Teacher-in-Residence role later this year.

At the Retreat Center, bhikkhunis (fully ordained nuns) Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Santacitta taught this year’s Monastic Retreat in late April.

Bhikkhunis meditating
(L-R) Ayya Santacitta and Ayya Anandabodhi in the Retreat Center meditation hall.

The East Coast’s 13th People of Color Retreat was held at IMS in late June. It was led by Larry Yang, Sharon Salzberg and JoAnna Harper.

Teachers from the people of color retreat
The full teaching team for the 2015 People of Color Retreat: (L-R) Leslie Booker (yoga), JoAnna Harper, Larry Yang, trainee Devin Berry and Sharon Salzberg.
People of color retreat group photo
On the closing day of the People of Color Retreat, participants and teachers gathered in the meditation hall for a celebratory group photo.

Retreat Space Available

At the Forest Refuge, some spaces are still available from August onwards.

For experienced people of color meditators who are unable to afford IMS’s usual fees, we are offering a You Choose rate for a one-month stay.

Check here for the Forest Refuge 2015 and full 2016 schedules. For more information, contact our office – please email or call us at 978-355-2063.

Visit our Audio page to download or stream recent Forest Refuge teacher talks.

At the Retreat Center, there are openings in three future courses.

Later this month, IMS will host our second retreat for our LGBTQI gender-queer community. An Undefended Heart and Mind will be held July 31 – August 5. Arinna Weisman and Jean Esther will teach, with John Martin assisting.

Then in December, Annie Nugent and Deborah Ratner Helzer will guide retreatants in Cultivating a Wise Heart, December 15-20. For this course, there are a limited number of fellowships for educators available, as well as some You Choose fee spaces for younger meditators aged 18-26.

Christina Feldman, John Peacock and Chris Cullen will return, January 16-23, 2016, to lead Mindfulness, Insight, Liberation: The Foundations of Mindfulness-Based Modalities and Research. This retreat is specifically designed for professionals involved in mindfulness-based approaches who wish to extend and deepen their personal experience of insight meditation. Educators, clinicians and researchers engaged in teaching or training in this field are welcome to attend.

Serving Our Sangha

Job Openings

We are currently seeking applicants for a Retreat Center Cook to join our Kitchen team. This role involves preparing delicious and healthy vegetarian meals for everyone who comes to our centers. If you’re interested in working at IMS, and have the necessary experience for this position, please apply.


We still have a number of openings for month-long Working Guests in our Kitchen department. These positions are designed for those who want to explore living and working among our friendly staff, while integrating meditation practice with the activities of daily life.

One recent volunteer described their experience in this way: “As a Working Guest I was in a unique position to use daily situations to support and deepen my practice. I loved getting to know the staff and taking advantage of all the dharma opportunities available at IMS.”

If you’re available to be here in July, August, September or December, please consider applying.

Wishing You Well

May our communities be safe. May our world be peaceful. May our practice benefit all.

Wishing You Well
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