“Go forth, O Bhikkhus, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world….” — Narada Thera, The Buddha Dhamma
Board Member Bios are below the August and July meeting summaries.
Summary of minutes of the VIMS Advisory Board meeting of August 8, 2017
The central focus of this meeting was a big one: “What is the structure and function of VIMS?” That question will be the focus of the Board’s next retreat.
As VIMS becomes increasingly involved in the community, as it aligns itself with the work of various other organizations, as it observes the needs of the VIMS community, as individuals within the sangha become active in social justice efforts, we ask ourselves, “what are our functions?” We gather to meditate together. We gather to study the Dharma. Increasingly, we are “engaged” in the community. Who speaks for us? Who makes policy for us? Who guides our actions?
Valley Insight has a board, whose role is fiscal, and a teacher team that “holds the dharma.” The board and teacher team are part of the “sangha” of members who attend sits and events, such as retreats and social gatherings, who travel to the prison in Berlin with Doreen, and who are engaged with organizations like the Upper Valley Interfaith Project.
As individuals within our sangha involve themselves in the political work of other organizations, to what extent does VIMS become officially involved? Is it within our purview to raise money for other organizations such as UVIP, which is engaged in efforts to help immigrants in the community who are threatened with deportation? If our guiding teacher sends a letter to the Valley News about our prison work or about our resistance to the efforts of the Trump administration, does that letter speak for all sangha members? When she signs a letter supporting immigrants in the community, does it, need it speak for all of us?
The complexity of these questions attests to the important concerns of our members and to the urgency of the times we live in. As we examine these questions, we welcome the opinions of all members of our sangha and the larger community. We invite sangha members to attend our board meetings, held the second Wednesday of every month, to write to us, to let us know their thoughts and concerns.
Summary of the Advisory Board Meeting of July 12, 2017
Members of our sangha are always welcome to attend board meetings as an observer. We meet on the second Wednesday of each month from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. The venue is usually Gina Sonne’s home in Norwich. If there’s a change, we will post it.
VIMS will be highlighting the work at the Berlin Prison Sangha by: the showing of the film Dhamma Brothers on September 15; presenting the UVIP Micah award for 2017 to our prison sangha volunteers; and raising money for the program as described in Doreen’s recent fundraising letter.
The Retreat Team is getting ready for our next retreat, to be taught by Ajahn Jayanto on September 9, at St. Barnabas Church in Norwich. Michael Stoner is working on publicity for a newsletter and website announcement. Gina Sonne and Claudia Brandenburg have generously volunteered to be co-retreat managers. Other retreats and a sangha social are being planned.
VIMS has had a volunteer accountant for the past six months. She has simplified the monthly reports and other processes to make them easier to understand and use. Since she can no longer work on a volunteer basis, the Board is considering hiring her. A committee of Board and sangha members is also being formed to work with her to develop a budget for the coming year, from which priorities can be identified.
Brief Board Member Bios
Geri was an English professor at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, for 37 years before moving to the Upper Valley. She directed a number of writing programs, and created and co-edited a journal about children’s books called The Lion and the Unicorn, which is now published by Johns Hopkins UP. In 2006, she and a colleague received a program fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Northampton, MA to introduce contemplative modes of teaching into the curriculum. She brought meditative practice into all her classes–which students generally loved–and she led faculty development seminars on the subject until she retired. She has published several essays on this work with meditation and is now writing a book–and trying not to be attached to the outcome! She is married to a retired political science professor and administrator. She has 2 grown children and is the proud grandparent of 2 little ones.
Shortly after taking a meditation class around 2008, I stumbled into the opportunity to attend an 8 day retreat at IMS with Tara Brach. I remember having no expectations, then overhearing an experienced yogi anticipating the “suffering” to come, and wondering “What have I signed up for?!” The retreat was wonderful and I felt I had found a “home” that had eluded me since childhood. Practicing on my own and learning to trust my own experiences and understandings during the first few years was important to me, but I yearned for the support and meaning of a community of practitioners. It took a while for me to discover VIMS which is a distance from my home and family in Canterbury, NH. VIMS, our sangha and our wise teachers are a wonderful gift in my life. For many years I worked as a social worker on a team providing comprehensive healthcare to children from low income families in Manchester, NH. Loving my job and the agency where I worked, I never expected to retire and paid lip service to “when I retire I will find more time to practice….” That time arrived unexpectedly. Joining the VIMS Advisory Board is a way to deepen my connection to sangha and a way to respond to this gift in my life.
Terry writes, “I was raised Catholic. Was going into a Carmelite Convent until I was 18 and decided the nunnery was not for me. Things I have done since then: worked as a medical secretary for around 4 or 5 years; married a doctor (celebrating our 62nd anniversary); raised 4 wonderful kids and 7 grandchildren; got a Masters in Special Ed and taught for 15 years; graduated from the Barbara Brennan School of Hands On Healing; licensed as a therapist in Shiatsu and practiced for 10 years; traveled to Guatemala for a month each year for 12 years with my husband and a group of medical students; traveled to Honduras while serving on the Board of ACTS for 5 years; walked The Camino in Spain 250 miles in 2001; served on the Board of Willing Hands as director of Nutrition for 8 years; left the Catholic Church about 20 years ago and became a Buddhist.”
I grew up in a Philadelphia Quaker family and attended a Quaker School which means I started ‘sitting’ as an infant. In my early teens I began looking for something to do with the silence other than reflecting on what was being spoken in Meeting for Worship or following my wandering mind. When I was 13, I found the 10,000 Songs of Milarepa. I was fascinated and began fifty plus years of academic and personal exploration of Buddhism. I dropped out of college after a year and ended up in San Francisco, working for an anti-poverty action agency and visiting the SF Zen Center. I subsequently volunteered for the draft, spent two years in the Army including a stint as a Chaplain’s Assistant. Then back to school where I majored in Comparative Religion, spending my senior year writing a thesis on ‘20th Century Salvation Schemes’. I then taught Quaker History and Eastern Religion courses in a Quaker high school in Philadelphia and studied for an MA in Counseling before moving to Vermont and eventually becoming Director of the Public Arts Program of the Vermont Arts Council. Subsequently I turned a hobby in computers into the rest of my life’s employment, owning my own software company for the last 25 years of my work life.
Woven through my professional work was an ongoing exploration of the Dharma. A mongrel of sorts, I spent moments in time at the SF Zen Center, Karme Choling, Tassajara, Green Gulch, Spirit Rock, Upaya and most recently a week in California attending the regular daily events at Gil Fronsdal’s IMS Redwood City. I feel so fortunate to have found the Valley Insight Sangha. My motivation in joining the VIMS Board is to contribute my time and whatever experience I have accumulated to the Sangha’s benefit.
Mindy grew up in New York State. During her undergraduate education in New Paltz, NY, she studied biology but held a strong interest in anthropology and ceramics. It was during her time in New Paltz that she learned and was inducted into Transcendental Meditation. This began her meditation practice and interest in the dharma. Eventually her studies became concentrated in a concern and passion for women’s health issues, especially the preservation of normal pregnancy and birth care. She attended the University of Pennsylvania where she received her Master’s Degree in Nursing and Midwifery. Mindy had the privilege of practicing nurse-midwifery at DHMC from 1984 until her recent retirement in July 2015. In 1991, Mindy began taking yoga with Doreen. The space in the barn where classes were held felt sacred, as did Doreen’s presence and teaching. Involvement with VIMS grew from there. Mindy served on the board of VIMS from 2008 – 2010, and is happy to be returning now. Mindy lives in West Lebanon. She is the very proud mother of two grown daughters, and at the time of this writing is patiently awaiting the birth of her first grandchild. Mindy is happy to have more time in her life now to continue to pursue her interest and hobby in creating handbuilt functional pottery.
Gina joined the VIMS community in the spring of 2013. My spiritual seeking really began with my father’s death when I was barely 6. Being aware of mortality at an early age informs one’s life in a powerful way. Learning of the value of silence in community was a tremendous gift from the Quaker community which I joined in the early 90’s. My spiritual search was accelerated when I took a position with Hospice of the Upper Valley in 1992 as volunteer and bereavement coordinator. (Actually replacing Doreen) It was during this time that I was introduced to Buddhism and studied with mentors like Stephen and Ondrea Levine, Frank Ostaseski and Joan Halifax. Service in community has always been a strong component of my life and I really look forward to putting the Path into practice through working on the Sangha Board.
AT THE CENTER OF THE SANGHA
The Advisory Board is the hub of our many volunteer activities. Since VIMS’ inception in the mid-’90s, we have had a steering committee of some sort. In 2002 this group began meeting regularly. At the time of our incorporation as a not-for-profit organization in 2006, an official Advisory Board was defined. It has met monthly ever since. This core group continues to shape our direction, advise our teachers, help administer our classes and sits, and support VIMS’ retreats. Approximately thirty five sangha members have served on the Advisory Board. We offer a deep bow of appreciation to these dedicated individuals.