June 1, 2013

Sangha News – June 2013

In This Issue

This issue features an audio interview with IMS guiding teacher Narayan Liebenson Grady, who shares her insights on keeping our hearts open, even in the midst of tragedy or loss. As well, our soon-to-be Executive Director Linda Spink tells us a little about her path to IMS. Other highlights include photos of a blessing ceremony at the Forest Refuge for its 10th anniversary, construction developments at the Retreat Center, and a fun name-our-dorms survey. You can also find out about our new diversity resources page, and check on retreat space available.

Sustaining Open-Heartedness

From Bob Agoglia, IMS Executive Director:IMS guiding teacher Narayan Liebenson Grady lives in Watertown, MA. This was one of the areas directly affected by the search for the suspects following the Boston Marathon bombings in April. I asked Narayan how our meditation practice can help us in the face of traumatic public or private events – how can we remain compassionate and engaged, and live with an open heart?

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

Sustaining open-heartedness

IMS News

A Path with Heart

Linda Spink, IMS’s new Executive Director, will be stepping into her role on July 15. Here she shares a little about her professional background and the path that led to this new chapter in her life.

From an early age, I was drawn to helping others. Looking back, it seemed very natural for me to become a community mental health social worker. In search of more adventure, I joined the Peace Corps and served as a volunteer in Mauritania. Over the past 22 years as an organizational development consultant, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with people from all over the world and to have served as the CEO of an employee-owned company.

Nearly a decade ago, I was looking for tools to develop more effective leadership, both for myself and to offer my clients, so that we could deepen our emotional intelligence and be more present. I met someone who taught such practices for leaders, and who also happened to be an insight meditator. One day she said to me, “If you’re serious about this practice, Linda, you have to go to IMS.” And I responded, “Great. What’s IMS?”

So in 2006, I came for my first retreat. Right away I just knew that this was home – the sitting and tranquility were something I had longed for. I recognized that if I could develop the ability to drop into stillness and presence more often, more quickly, and more deeply, I could lead from a place of greater centeredness. This same centeredness is a resource for all of us.

I’ve traveled to over 60 countries, and it’s been an amazing life. Now I want to stay grounded, deepen my practice, and work in an organization I’m passionate about, together with people I truly respect. And that place is IMS. The thought that I will be connecting on a daily basis with teachers and staff is very exciting. Their dedication to both the practice and service to yogis continues to inspire me.

I’m looking forward to meeting many of you!

Linda Spink
Linda Spink

The Forest Refuge Celebrates 10 Years

Last month marked the 10th anniversary of the Forest Refuge, IMS’s center for longer-term retreat practice. Since the facility opened in May 2003, over 1,500 retreatants have participated in more than 3,200 personal retreats, for a total of over 84,000 days of practice under the guidance of experienced teachers.

A ceremony to honor the occasion was led by Ayya Medhanandi Bhikkhuni, Ajahn Punnadhammo and Ayya Nimmala Bhikkhuni, the teaching team for the Retreat Center’s monastic course, together with IMS co-founder and guiding teacher Joseph Goldstein and Forest Refuge teacher-in-residence Sky Dawson.

Forest Refuge 10 year ceremony
Traditional offerings of flowers, incense and water were placed near the Forest Refuge meadow Buddha, where the ceremony began.

Construction Progress

The new Retreat Center dormitory has just been finished! Some participants in this year’s People of Color Retreat, which starts June 15, will be the first to have accommodations there.

Now the Catskills renovations can begin. They’re due for completion in early September.

New grounds at IMS
The new dormitory stands ready for its first occupants. The surrounding grounds will soon be seeded and landscaped.

Name the Dorms!

Now that the new dormitory is completed, it needs a name. So we’re inviting suggestions from our community, both for this building, and also for possibly renaming our other two Retreat Center dorms – the Annex and the Catskills. Put on your creative caps and use this short online survey to let us know what you come up with!

We’ll be reviewing all ideas received by June 23 and will let everyone know when a choice has been made.

More Tranquil Meals on Retreat

Over the last few years, IMS has undertaken several much-needed improvements to the Retreat Center. Thanks
to our community, the new dormitory is finished, and two other significant projects will be completed
by the end of the year: the Catskills renovations and a fully accessible front entrance.

Now it’s time to address a final area where a change will directly impact the quality of retreat life
– the Retreat Center dining room. Relieving crowding at meals, especially during full retreats, is
the goal of IMS’s current Spring Appeal.

Our vision for this space includes three major elements:

  • An all-season extension to the existing dining room, providing sufficient seating at tables for every meal, even during full retreats.
  • A deck with tables and seating that can be used during the warmer months.
  • An acoustical ceiling treatment to reduce noise, especially on opening and closing days.

Expanding the dining room will allow greater ease of movement during meals, better supporting the quiet and tranquility of retreat life. Once sufficient funds have been raised, the extension itself will be built and the entire project finished. Work will be scheduled to minimize impact on retreatants, so that courses can continue uninterrupted.

For more information on this project, visit our website.

Dining room foundation
This spring, we made use of equipment and crews already on site for the new dormitory construction to excavate and install the foundation for the dining room extension.

Diversity Resources

Please check out the new Diversity Resources page on our website. As part of our efforts to actively undo racism and promote diversity across our community of practitioners, teachers, staff and Board members, we’ve started a list of relevant resources. On the new page, you can find various books, films, videos, a dharma talk and audio interview that address issues of race in both Buddhist communities and in the US in general.

Is there any material that you’d like us to add? Please send us your suggestions – email sanghanews@dharma.org.

Publication Changes

IMS’s annual print publication, Insight Newsletter, was for many years the primary way that our community learned about upcoming retreats and other news. But increasingly, our sangha now relies on our website and social media for up-to-date developments and course information.

Because of this shift, the need for a substantial print publication has significantly decreased. So this fall we’ll be making a change: instead of publishing a printed newsletter, we’ll be postal mailing a smaller publication that simply contains the Retreat Center and Forest Refuge course and teacher schedules for the following year. This leaflet will provide easy reference, while at the same time allowing for considerable savings in production costs, and also reducing impact on the environment.

Look for the new 2014 IMS schedule in your mailbox this September.

Research on the Effects of Meditation

A couple of years ago, IMS supported a research project conducted by Elizabeth Hoge, MD and her team by helping to recruit retreatants for their study on metta or lovingkindness meditation. Dr. Hoge, who is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, recently informed us of results. They indicate that individuals who regularly practice metta have longer telomeres than age- and gender-matched individuals who don’t meditate, and that this effect was even stronger in women. (Telomeres are parts of chromosomes that usually shorten
with age, and can shorten even faster with chronic stress.)

The abstract of their published paper concludes, “Although limited by small sample size, these results offer the intriguing possibility that LKM [lovingkindness meditation] practice, especially in women, might alter RTL [relative telomere length], a biomarker associated with longevity.”

This is the first time that telomere length has been associated with any type of meditation practice. Dr. Hoge plans to extend this research by examining other biomarkers associated with health. She also asked IMS to communicate her gratitude to all the study participants.

Research on meditation effects

Teacher Talks and Interviews

MS co-founder and guiding teacher Joseph Goldstein recently gave a talk titled Buddhism: The Essential Points, filmed in Geneva at Meditation Centre Vimalakirti.

Joseph was also interviewed by the Buddhist Insight Network for the summer issue of their journal Heartwood. There he looks back over the last 20 years of the insight meditation movement in the West and considers the foundations that are being laid down now for its continuation.

At last year’s People of Color Retreat, Bonnie Duran, one of the course’s teachers, spoke about dukkha (often translated as suffering) and its cessation. Her talk addresses colonization and racism as examples of dukkha experienced by people of color in this country. Listen to her talk, Dukkha: Focus on People of Color.

Program Highlights

At the Forest Refuge

Goldstein and Dawson
Joseph Goldstein and Sky Dawson have been guiding retreatants at the Forest Refuge since early May.

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

At the Retreat Center

Liberation of the Heart and Mind
Over the past two weeks, (clockwise from bottom right) Michele McDonald, Rebecca Bradshaw, Greg Scharf and Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey taught Liberation of Heart and Mind.

Retreat Space Available

At the Forest Refuge, space is available for a personal retreat from July 1 onward, except for the period November 9 – December 8, 2013. Contact our office for more information: please email or call us at 978-355-2063.

Next year, in addition to our experienced lay teachers, two respected monastics will be offering the teachings at the Forest Refuge: Sayadaw U Vivekananda for six weeks (May 15 – June 30) and Bhante Khippapanno for the month of July. To see the complete 2014 teaching schedule, check our website.

At the Retreat Center, just a few places remain for the weekend course Unplug, Tune In, Connect, with Chas DiCapua and Dori Langevin, July 6-9. The next available openings are in late August and early September: first up is a weekend retreat, Your Life Is Your Practice, led by Narayan Liebenson Grady and Michael Grady, August 23-25.

The Labor Day course, Uncovering Innate Freedom, with Pascal Auclair and Anushka Fernandopulle will take place, August 30 – September 2. This will be followed by a four-day retreat, Cultivating a Wise Heart, taught by Annie Nugent and Deborah Ratner Helzer, September 4-8.

In January 2014, IMS will offer a retreat specifically designed for professionals involved in mindfulness-based modalities. Educators, clinicians and researchers engaged, teaching or training in mindfulness-based approaches are welcome to attend Mindfulness, Insight, Liberation: The Foundations of Mindfulness-Based Modalities and Research, January 10-17, led by Sharon Salzberg, Christina Feldman and Mark Coleman.

Staff Opening at BCBS

Just down the road from IMS is our sister organization, the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS). They would like to let IMS’s community know that there is a position immediately available in their Buildings and Grounds department. They are seeking a sincere dharma practitioner with a maintenance and landscaping background to join their staff and live on site. If you are multi-talented, committed to service, flexible and self-motivated, and interested in this job, please consider applying!

Stone stupa at BCBS
The beautiful stone stupa on BCBS’s grounds.

Wishing You Well

As the summer season grows in warmth and light, may the lives of all be touched with lovingkindness and generosity.

Wishing you well June 2013