For information about the United Valley Interfaith Project and our campaign for immigrant support, please go to the new UVIP page on this website: valleyinsight.org/uvip/
Valley News Letter to the Editor August 16, 2017
Buddhists Make Call to Action
Valley Insight Meditation Society is a local group practicing in the Buddhist insight tradition, one of the main sources of the secular mindfulness teachings so prevalent in our world today.
In the earliest teachings, mindfulness is not simply a way to meditate or a skillful way to attend to a task. It is part of a system carefully designed to lessen our tendency toward quick reactivity and to foster a harmonious society. Within this ethical context, mindfulness opens the space to think clearly and plays a strong role in our active engagement in the world. This understanding underlies a recent “Unprecedented Call to Action” formulated by Buddhist communities and teachers nationwide. The full document can be found at www.lionsroar.com/stand-against-suffering/.
“(We) call on Buddhists and all people of faith to take a stand against any policies of the new administration that will create hardship for the most vulnerable in society.
“Buddhism does not align itself with any party or ideology. But when great harm is at stake, (we all) must take a stand against it, with lovingkindness, wisdom, calm minds, and courage. … People of all faiths are needed on the front lines now, resisting policies that will cause hardship and offering a new and positive vision for our country…
“(Mindfulness teachings) are not an excuse to turn away from the suffering of the world, nor a sedative to get us comfortably through painful times. … We remember that peacefulness does not mean passiveness …
“Some will march and engage in direct action. Others will support community wellbeing through other ways.”
Along with three weekly meditation groups, Valley Insight offers a long-standing meditation program at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Institute in Berlin, N.H., and is actively involved in the work of our local Show Up for Racial Justice group. We are members of the United Valley Interfaith Project, a strong and effective local political action group. We invite you to join us.
Doreen Schweizer, Guiding Teacher,
Valley Insight Meditation Society
News from the United Valley Interfaith Project UVIP, by Mary Boyle (written June, ’17)
Sangha member Mary Boyle spoke with VIMS’s UVIP co-representative, Karen Summer, for a summary of recent UVIP news. Board Member Terry Lyons is our other rep.
Valley Insight is a member of an important organization of fifteen faith communities that work together toward social and economic justice, the United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP). UVIP’s executive director has taken a new job, so Rod Wendt, former president of UVIP’s Executive Council, has agreed to serve as an unpaid executive director of the organization. Rod’s major focus will be to secure grants. Grants are becoming more difficult to obtain as many funders have changed their criteria since the November election. Individual donors have become increasingly important. Your support is needed more than ever!
The issue of Sanctuary for undocumented people is being energetically addressed by local activists, and, as engaged Buddhists, VIMS plans to stay active as this work takes shape. More than ten people from VIMS attended the Hanover Friends-sponsored information forum on immigration protection, held in April. Along with keeping the subject alive in your thoughts and discussions with others, here are 2 ways you can be involved in the effort: (1) Accompaniment — going with undocumented immigrants to their ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) appointments. The next “accompaniment” action will be in early June in Durham, NH; (2) Rapid Response hotline (in planning stage) — be part of a phone network that would quickly mobilize support so that ICE actions are documented and publicized. The goal is a hotline that immigrants could call for help when they are confronted by ICE in their homes or work places.
On an organizational level, the April forum addressed the idea of a “Sanctuary Network” to provide physical support for undocumented workers. All attendees were asked to ask their faith communities to enter a process of “discernment” about whether or not there is energy in the UV to work on this network. The VIMS Advisory Board and the Teacher Team both support our ongoing engagement in this local sanctuary movement. For more information, please contact Karen Summer karen.summer2[at]gmail[dot]com.
The Valley News article about the April 8 Community Forum is here.
Community Forum on Immigration: What About Sanctuary?
Saturday, April 8th, 10 AM – 3:30 PM
Hanover Friends Meetinghouse, Hanover, NH
Open to the public. All are welcome.
10:00 AM–12:00 PM Immigrant Voices and Stories
12:00 PM–1:00 PM Light Lunch and Informal Discussions
1:00 PM–3:30 PM Sanctuary Movement and Legal Perspectives
Confronting Racism Around and Within Us On January 28, ’17 Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Upper Valley Vermont-New Hampshire, and Upper Valley Young Liberals hosted a program in which panelists presented their perspectives on race and racial justice in our Upper Valley community, in Vermont and New Hampshire, and across the nation. 160 people attended this event. VIMS, Hanover Friends Meeting, and the Meriden Congregations Church were supporting organizations. A few weeks later, Peg Meyer offered a class that investigated systemic racism called “Waking Up White. Details here.
United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP): Priorities in the Post Election World
UVIP held a gathering on January, 17, 2017 to discern and prioritize the most effective ways to assist those in need in our communities. Participants in this grassroots organizing project included representatives from UVIP member groups as well as other interested individuals. Two questions were posed: How do we reach people who need help most in order to understand their concerns? And, who are our allies (i.e. which organizations are already working on the problems)?
Participants attempted to assess areas where help might be needed. These could include those without healthcare, the elderly or disabled, those recently moved to the area, people without shelter or transportation. How can we meet those who are hurting? It was clear that deep listening needs to happen before next actions can be decided.
As a sangha, how do we want to engage with those in need? Do we want to consider holding a discernment gathering modeled after UVIP’s? Can we participate in person-to-person listening sessions in order to hear the stories of those who are hurting. UVIP is planning formal training.
Might VIMS consider joining New Hampshire Voices of Faith (led by the New Hampshire chapter of American Friends Service Committee) in weekly vigils at the New Hampshire Statehouse? Carpools leave Lebanon CCBA parking lot most Thursdays at 7:30 a.m. sharp and return by 12:30 p.m. On January 19 they stood to vigil in opposition to an anti-labor “Right to Work For Less” bill. On January 25 they stood in support of a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage. On January 26 they stood in vigil in support a variety of family-friendly measures. The premise of the vigils is that we are visible to remind legislators that we are here, we care, and we believe in the power of moral witness.
Check out the AFSC – New Hampshire State House Watch newsletter by Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty: “…published to bring you information about matters being discussed in Concord including housing, the death penalty, immigration, and labor rights. We also follow the state budget and tax system, voting rights, corrections policy, and more.” People can subscribe by emailing the address below and asking to be added to the list. Mail to: email@example.com. Questions? Please contact Terry Lyons firstname.lastname@example.org or Karen Summer email@example.com
Creating Long-lasting Change
United Valley Interfaith Project News:
An interview with Karen Summer, VIMS co-representative
One December 8, Mary Boyle sat down to speak with Karen Summer, VIMS co-representative to the United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP). Valley Insight is one of fifteen faith-based member groups belonging to UVIP, and the two discussed UVIP’s central premise, current aims and actions, future plans, and––spoiler alert–– the appointment of one of VIMS’ advisory board members as new co-representative to UVIP.
About UVIP: Projects within UVIP revolve around social change, such as aging with dignity and economic justice (for example, fighting predatory lending and increasing the minimum wage). The UVIP website states: “We believe that when people come together with common values to build grassroots power we have the ability to create real, long-lasting change.” This grassroots organizing has the purpose of raising people’s awareness so they will take the lead on their own and by their own engagement serve to tackle an issue. United Valley Interfaith Project is “an organization committed to changing the world through the process and techniques of community organizing.” (UVIP website).
Current UVIP Actions: UVIP’s most current action has to do with homelessness; in particular, there is great concern for a camp of homeless individuals living behind the Hannaford Supermarket in West Lebanon. On December 7, the Lebanon City Council approved a new ordinance meant to supersede the existing State of New Hampshire ordinance, a criminal trespass law. This new ordinance is meant to soften the process of how to deal with the homeless, however, many feel that it will continue to criminalize homelessness. It does not solve the problem. The bigger issues are the lack of affordable housing and the lack of continuing mental health care. Through its network, UVIP gathered ninety-five signatures in two days for a petition to the Council, asking them to not pass the ordinance during the winter months and also mobilized citizens to demonstrate at the City Hall before the Council met.
What’s next? The UVIP’s Executive Council and members of the Social Justice Team will meet in mid December to talk about what projects would be most needed as Donald Trump takes office and the Republican-majority New Hampshire Legislature convenes. There is a nationwide effort among other grassroots organizations to reassess and reprioritize goals; namely, to find ways to bring in people who are hurting and provide sanctuary for them. Further conversations will be how to effectively implement these efforts.
A celebratory note: Advisory Board Member Terry Lyons is now the UVIP co-representative with Karen Summer for VIMS. Our thanks to Terry and Karen for taking up this important work and representing Valley Insight.
Advocating a National Food Policy: Read researcher, Dartmouth professor of sustainability, and sangha member Anne Kapuscinski’s article about the importance of a national food policy that is “coordinated across all relevant federal agencies, aimed at promoting healthy and affordable food, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity for all.”
Valley Insight 2016 Micah Award Nominees Announced
Valley Insight is one of the fourteen faith communities of the United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP), which holds an annual ceremony, the “Micah Awards,” to recognize and celebrate the important work being done in our regional community toward social and economic justice. Those selected serve as representatives of the heroism present in each of our lives. All of us really are “heroes” in that we all are dealing nobly with the many challenges that face us as a people––individually and collectively––as best we can. We all understand at a deep level that we are not alone in this world, and we are all doing our best to walk harmoniously with those with whom we share the world. The true spirit of this award acknowledges this shared sense of community while honoring groups and individuals who can inspire and affirm our efforts.
Each UVIP member group choses one such example of “heroism.” In bestowing our 2016 Micah Award, VIMS celebrates the local chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ). We nominate three people from our Dharma community for this year’s award, the group’s co-founder Carol Rougvie, planning committee member Peg Meyer, and Diane Root, a very active member. In doing so, we bow to the work of all those heroes who have been active in the courageous explorations that are at the heart of this group’s activities, and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Carol, Peg, and Diane as administrators and as workers.
SURJ works towards racial justice in these ways:
- They hold an outdoor vigil each Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Green in Hanover, across from the Hanover Inn, where they hold signs and banners encouraging an awareness of racial inequity in our country and support for racial justice.
- They meet monthly for a discussion group called “Difficult Conversations about Race,” in which, through sharing their experiences as well as relevant articles, they examine the depths of their own and the culture’s sense of white privilege.
- Periodically, they host film showings and speakers to raise awareness in the greater Upper Valley Community. All are welcome to these events. For more information on these and other activities, please go to their Facebook page or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are grateful for the deep and honest self-searching process that is enabling those within SURJ––and all the others they encounter––to wake up and “see clearly” what is real. They do this so that we can all walk more fully and authentically together, aligned with one another as a people, to meet whatever life asks of us. The group’s work is bridging gaps and opening our hearts to the almost insurmountable history of racial prejudice that has brought our country to a standstill. Their work also opens us to the truth of other disabling prejudices––sexual, gender, religious, intellectual, and more––which threaten human civilization at this time. We recognize their strong determination to take direct action in the alleviation of suffering––and to do so with wisdom and compassion.
Valley Insight is part of the United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP). Find more on UVIP and its projects here and its campaigns for the moral economy immediately below this article and on their website here. The UVIP Senior Stories Project was highlighted in a four-week photographic exhibition at the AVA Gallery this summer titled “Take Another Look: Aging with Dignity.” The exhibit also appeared at the Cornish Fair.
UVIP was named by Community Access TV (CATV) as their 2016 “Organization of the Year”. CATV’s Executive Director Bob Franzoni pronounced UVIP a “notable community partner whose involvement has allowed us [CATV] to reach a wider audience.”
A schedule for upcoming Demonstrations for the Moral Economy, focusing on the Fight for $15 will be posted soon.
Taking Action for Economic Justice and Aging in Community
Please help spread the word within the VIMS community
VIMS is one of sixteen faith communities that make up the United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP). UVIP concentrates on direct action across lines of religion, race, class, and geography by building collective power to influence decision-makers. Our current campaigns are for economic justice and aging in community. As UVIP addresses these wider concerns, we are engaged in the following activities:
- Promoting Fight for $15 (a living wage of $15/hour) by demonstrating in Claremont and Lebanon on alternate Saturdays from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
- A UVIP organizer testified in Concord on February 16 in favor of a Temporary Workers’ Bill of Rights, which will be voted upon this session.
- Participating in an ongoing economic justice campaign called “Five-Minute Friends” which gives actions that can be done in five minutes.
- UVIP-trained interviewers have recorded life stories from more than 100 seniors. We have a partnership with ReThink Health in which the seniors’ data will be aggregated to produce system changes with the goal of enabling seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible.
We need people to spread the word about UVIP within our sangha! Please contact Valley Insight’s rep to UVIP, Karen Summer (email@example.com), for further info.
Changing Climate, Changing Minds – Some Highlights This Dartmouth symposium, held April 8 & 9, was sponsored by eight local community organizations, of which Valley Insight was one. Doreen Schweitzer, Valley Insight’s guiding teacher, served on the core organizing committee. Goals for the conference were to “combine insight and creative thought with a third aim: wise action. Reflection reveals what we can and must do in response to climate change, but its realization is collective action in league with all beings.” It was a remarkable evening and day in which the featured speakers and audience members brought forward stories that combined personal growth and experiences of connecting that bolstered their commitment to activism.
Three questions focused the discussions. (1) How do we face difficult truths about climate change without retreat to denial or despair? (2) How do we act in urgency without compromising wisdom and compassion? (3) How do we align local interests with the global necessity to address climate change?
The most frequent suggestion from the presenters and others in the audience was that action is the antidote to despair. David Loy, Buddhist teacher and activist, reminded us that when we act, we must do so without attachment to the result. There is a reinforcing cycle in which fearlessness––not averting our gaze––leads to acts of imagination, leading to collaboration, and then to community, which strengthens fearlessness.
Keynote speaker Terry Tempest Williams, author and passionate environmental activist, described her new company, which purchased oil and gas leases at a recent federal auction. The company plans not to pump, but to keep the oil in the ground. Terry conveyed her astonishment and antipathy that the U.S. government was auctioning land in Utah on the edge of a national park for drilling rights at $2/acre; then later in the day at $1.50/acre. She urged us to hold public lands as sacred spaces, saying, “We lose nothing by loving.”
Dr. James McCarthy, lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on “Assessment of Global Climate Impacts,” said that we are now at a time when we must take political action, despite our incomplete knowledge of the best tools to use. Dr. McCarthy stated that there are many causes for optimism. College students are absolutely dedicated to making a difference; China leads the world in building new solar and wind capacity; Iowa is 30 percent dependent on wind for its electricity.
David Loy asked us to consider that climate change may not be the real problem. Our economic system exploits the natural world for the goal of profit, with the deluded idea that money satisfies all desires. We are sacrificing the natural world (real wealth) to maximize something that has no value, in and of itself. The ecological crisis is forcing us to see the world as one. He continued, in the Buddhist terminology, saying that we have institutionalized the Three Poisons: Greed is the prime mover of our economic system in which individuals and corporations are addicted to short-term, very narrow considerations; Hatred is embodied in military systems; Delusion is the basis of corporate media and advertising. David suggested we all consider becoming involved in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s One Earth Sangha. We need to bring serenity and a nonattached mind to today’s social and economic crises. We do the very best we can, not knowing if what we do will make any difference whatsoever. Civilization as we know it is coming to an end.
The Reverand Sally Bingham, president and founder of Interfaith Power & Light, delivered an impassioned talk which focused on global warming as the moral issue of our time. She echoed Pope Francis in saying that we are the gardeners of the planet. We have an important role in stewardship of creation. She encouraged us to get involved in the Regeneration Project, the Interfaith Power and Light, to support the EPA’s Green Power Plan and to read Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change. We need to approach civil disobedience as an expression of religious faith – and be sure to vote!
David Loy ended by reminding us to strengthen our inner stability, citing Thich Nhat Hanh’s allegory that if a boat is in trouble, one calm person in the boat can save all. Crises will come, David continued. What kind of choices will we make at those times? Audience members suggested that we should talk calmly with others, even if they don’t believe that humans are changing the climate; and address climate change among poorer communities by focusing on saving money and improving health through cleaner air and water; and by going into the woods as an antidote to despair.
See the Sustainability Cafe for further programs on climate change and activism. Details here. Audio files of the Symposium will be available in the future.
Addressing Climate Change
People’s Climate March
September 21, 2014 in New York City
VIMS is part of the world-wide network of teachers and sanghas who are concerned about climate change; acting on this commitment, several people from the Valley Insight Sangha attended the People’s Climate March, an action designed to encourage world governments to address the looming planetary crisis.
Ecological Buddhism, a Buddhist Response to Global Warming is a deep website on climate change emphasizing Science, Wisdom, and Solutions.
Here’s a song for the Climate March and beyond:
Sing for the Climate
One Earth Sangha, another Buddhist site with layers of content, is for teachers and practitioners.