February 1, 2013

Sangha News – February 2013

In This Issue

This issue features an audio interview with IMS teacher Kamala Masters, who shares with us ways to keep our practice alive when we’re home from retreat. There’s also an important announcement about IMS’s leadership, a diversity accomplishment, a fun time-lapse video showing the rise of the new Retreat Center dormitory, news of the latest teacher training program, as well as retreat space available and current job openings.

Practical Wisdom for Everyday Mindfulness

From Bob Agoglia, IMS Executive Director:Recently I spoke with meditation teacher Kamala Masters. Kamala was first introduced to meditation while raising young children. Unable to undertake longer-term retreats during those years, she was grateful to learn from one of her teachers how to use daily life tasks for deepening awareness.

In this interview, she points out that there’s no point in trying to replicate the retreat environment at home, since its silence and simplicity are so very different from the demands of our busy daily schedules. But what we can do is bring the qualities of mindfulness and wisdom that we’ve cultivated on retreat into our everyday activities. In this way, practice permeates all aspects of our lives.

Download or stream Sky’s inside view of life at the Forest Refuge.

Kamala will offer an insight meditation course, Awareness and Dhamma Wisdom at IMS’s Retreat Center, August 2-11, 2013, together with Deborah Ratner Helzer and Mark Nunberg.

IMS News

Passing the Baton

Also from Bob Agoglia: A poignant moment has arrived in my life: I will be retiring from my position as IMS’s Executive Director in late July.

My decision to retire was not taken lightly. While I look forward to spending time with my young grandsons and pursuing many interests, I’ll miss the frequent contact that I’ve been fortunate to have over the last seven years with members of the IMS community. You have all inspired me with your practice and your dedication, both to the path of awakening and to IMS itself.

I’m happy to announce that our Board of Directors has appointed Linda Spink to succeed me. Linda will bring much talent and great heart to this role. She’s been serving on the Board since 2007, so is already familiar with the organization from both a governance perspective and as a retreatant. Her extensive professional experience, organizational wisdom and years of practice will benefit IMS significantly. She and I will overlap for a time in July so that continuity of leadership and direction can be maintained.

Linda Spink
Linda Spink


Bob continues: I started sitting at IMS more than three decades ago. Since my very first retreat, this has been my refuge and spiritual home. For the last 11 years, I’ve been honored to serve on the Board and for the last seven as Executive Director. To have this opportunity for right livelihood has been a great blessing.

Over these years, it’s been exciting to witness the tremendous growth of interest in meditation and the path to liberation. IMS now holds many more retreats varying in duration and themes. An ever-increasing number and diversity of people are coming through the doors of both our centers, to be taught by an expanding group of excellent teachers from around the world.

The improvements to our facilities over the last few years are a gift from our community of supporters that can be enjoyed by us all. At the Retreat Center, the foyer, the lower walking room, the bowling alley corridor and the dining room have all been refreshed and renovated. Right now, work on our beautiful new dormitory proceeds rapidly, and once the Catskills renovations are completed by late summer, we will have accomplished our vision of being able to offer single rooms for every IMS retreatant.

While I’m proud of the changes that I’ve overseen while in a leadership position at IMS, I’m acutely aware that these developments rest on two factors that have sustained our centers from the very start: the steady commitment of our teachers and the open-hearted generosity of our sangha.

I will be leaving IMS with a heart filled with gratitude and metta.

Racial Diversity in the 2013 Three-Month Retreat

For the very first time in IMS’s history, more than a third of all those attending this fall’s Three-Month Retreat will be people of color. This represents a milestone for our community and perhaps for the broader Western sangha as well. At this stage, more than 50 people of color will participate in the course – 18 are sitting for the entire three months, 16 for the first six weeks and 18 for the latter half.

For some time now, we’ve consciously endeavored to expand the diversity of our community, so that the wide range of voices present in our society is included in shaping IMS’s culture and future.

Concerning racial diversity in particular, one area stands out – there is an urgent need for more teachers of color. And yet, even before senior teachers might extend invitations to apply for teacher training, qualified meditators must have sat longer-term retreats. In the insight tradition in which IMS is rooted, this is considered an essential component in developing the skills required to help others work to deepen wisdom and compassion through meditation.

But for many people of color, a longer-term retreat – of six weeks, three months or more – would be impossible
without substantial financial aid. An initial generous grant from The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation For American Buddhism was recently supplemented by an outpouring of generosity from some IMS friends; these gifts have allowed us to go forward with this opportunity. We should note that all this is in addition to the usual levels of financial assistance we offer for all our retreats, regardless of retreatants’ race or ethnicity.

For IMS, making longer-term practice more accessible to all is an exciting next step in the flourishing of the dharma.

Diversity at IMS retreat

Construction Progress

Throughout the winter, work continued on the exterior of the new Retreat Center dormitory, the enclosed walkway that connects it with the Annex and Catskills, and a new stair tower at the end of the Catskills.

In January, windows and roofing were installed and a black high-tech coating was applied to all outside walls. This coating stops air and moisture from penetrating the building envelope, resulting in greater heat efficiency and dampness prevention.

Panorama of new IMS construction
A panorama of the new construction.

When spring arrives and the weather is warm enough, siding will be added. But for now, the exterior is considered ‘buttoned up,’ allowing for interior work to proceed in earnest. Individual rooms in the new dormitory have been framed. Rough plumbing, electrical, heating, sprinkler system and ventilation work has been completed, and some bathroom fixtures have been installed. Now, insulation, soundproofing and drywall are being put in place.

We’ve been pleased to hear from our retreatants that they’ve found construction noise to be much less noticeable than anticipated.

New dorm room framing
Framing of new dormitory rooms.
Sitting area framing
On the second floor, a small sitting area will overlook the grounds.

Happy Birthday!

Valentine’s Day marked IMS’s 37th birthday. To celebrate this milestone, cooks at both our centers offered delicious and beautifully-decorated cakes to retreatants, teachers and staff.

IMS 37th birthday cake

New Forest Refuge Bells

The Forest Refuge recently acquired two bells made from recycled steel. After they were hung in place, IMS co-founder Joseph Goldstein, together with one of our cooks, conducted a celebratory initial ringing. The sound is lovely and resonant – the bells’ exceptionally high quality material makes for rich, sonorous tones. The Forest Refuge cooks are continuing the tradition of ringing the bells each day to announce that lunch is ready.

New Forest Refuge bells
Cook Lisa Marselle (L) and Joseph Goldstein (R) ring the new Forest Refuge bells for the first time.

Website Resources

Did you know that IMS’s website offers a range of resources in addition to retreat information and registration? You might like to take a look at our recipes section – more dishes have been added over the last few months.

Spinach and Ricotta pie & chilequile
Two favorite IMS meals: Spinach and Ricotta Pie and Chilequile.

You can also check our weather page if you’re coming on retreat, or explore historical photos (it’s fun to see how our teachers looked in the early days!), or listen to a wealth of audio offerings.

Ven. master Mahasi Sayadaw
One of the photos in our ‘Virtual Tour’ IMS 1976-1986 shows revered Burmese meditation master Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw (center, back row) conducting a teaching authorization ceremony in 1979 with IMS’s three founders (L-R, front row) Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, and Jacqueline Mandell-Schwartz.

New Teacher Training Begins

An important aspect of the future of insight meditation is underway – a new four-year Teacher Training Program has just started. Altogether, 26 dedicated practitioners from around the world will be instructed and mentored by senior IMS and Spirit Rock teachers.

Teacher trainees Feb 2013
(L-R) Back row: Trainees DaRa Williams, Jaya Rudgard, Ñaniko Oren Sofer, Matthew Brensilver, Kate Janke, Brian Lesage, Alex Haley, John Martin, Tim Geil and Brent Morton with teacher Phillip Moffitt. Middle: Teacher Jack Kornfield with trainees Max Erdstein, Erin Hill-Selover, Anne Cushman, Beth Sternlieb, Christiane Wolf, Nikki Mirghafori, Alexis Santos, Keri Pederson and JoAnna Harper. Kneeling: Teacher Andrea Fella with trainees Erin Treat, Susie Harrington, Bonnie Duran, Bart van Melik, Emily Horn, Vinny Ferraro and Jill Shepherd.

Program Highlights

At the Forest Refuge

Winnie Nazarko and Gloria Ambrosia
Winnie Nazarko (L) and Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia (R) guided Forest Refuge retreatants throughout January.
Akincano and Andrea Fella
This month, Akincano (L) and Andrea Fella (R) are offering the teachings.

To download or stream recent Forest Refuge teacher talks and morning reflections, click here.

At the Retreat Center

MLK day retreat at IMS
The year started with a Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend retreat led by Spring Washam (L) and Mark Coleman.
The popular Metta course at IMS
Despite a significant snowstorm that began on opening day, a full house of retreatants overcame weather obstacles to travel to IMS for the popular Metta (Lovingkindness) course offered by Sharon Salzberg (L), Mark Coleman (C) and Gina Sharpe (R).

Retreat Space Available

At the Forest Refuge, there are openings for a personal retreat coming up in March, and from July onwards. Contact our office for more information: please email or call us at 978-355-2063.

At the Retreat Center, space is still available in our annual Women in Meditation course, offered by Christina Feldman, Narayan Liebenson Grady and Maddy Klyne, March 8-15.

Carol Wilson and Steve Armstrong will help us train in awareness and wisdom throughout their retreat, Through Dhamma Eyes, March 29 – April 7.

Openings are also available in a weekend insight meditation course, Awareness, Pure and Simple led by Maddy Klyne and Chas DiCapua, April 19-21.

Participants in Kindhearted Awareness, taught by Rebecca Bradshaw and Greg Scharf, April 26 – May 1, will explore infusing mindfulness with kindness. This will help us to connect with and accept all life’s experiences.

Serving on Staff

If you’re interested in deepening your practice while working with others with similar values, please consider joining our staff. We currently have two openings: one for a Facilities Worker to help us support retreats and care for our buildings and grounds. The other is a part-time position (20 hours per week) for an experienced  Administrative Assistant to support the activities of our Human Resources department and Executive Director. Both offer optional housing on-site.

Job openings February 2013

Wishing You Well

As winter in IMS’s neck of the woods gives its last hurrah for this year, IMS extends warm wishes to all our friends across the globe. May our world be peaceful. May our hearts be at ease. May our practice benefit all.

Wishing you well