Buddhist Teachings and Meditation in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire & Vermont
Valley Insight Meditation Society
Valley Insight Meditation Society is a spiritual refuge for all who seek freedom of mind and heart. We offer weekly sitting groups suitable for beginners and more experienced meditators; non-residential retreats; and instruction in meditation and mindfulness practice — all rooted in the ethics, concentration and wisdom teachings of Insight (Vipassana) Buddhism. These practices help develop awareness and compassion in ourselves, giving rise to greater peace and happiness in the world. Our teachers and formal practice are closely aligned with that of Insight Meditation Society (IMS) and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS) in Barre, MA, and Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA.
In-Person Sits and Events; Vaccination and Mask Policy – announced August 22, 2021
In mid-March 2020, we moved all our sits and other events to Zoom so we could continue to nurture our practice and provide a sense of sangha during lockdown. Many people have taken advantage of our virtual Dharma Hall since then and quite a few regulars live elsewhere and are able to be a part of our sangha through our online connection.
We didn’t want to lose the ability to offer an online experience, even as we planned a return to in-person events. So for months, a small group from our sangha has been planning how we can offer hybrid events (online + in-person). Earlier this year, a generous donor came forth to help to make that vision happen. Our goal is to offer the best experience possible for both those joining via Zoom and those attending in-person, recognizing that a hybrid format will require us all to adapt to a few changes to make it work.
Here’s where things stand right now, as of September 12, 2021:
- We are experimenting with a hybrid model: some people will be meeting in person and others will join through our online Dharma Hall.
- The first hybrid meeting of our Thursday sit occurred on August 12 and they are continuing weekly.
- The Tuesday sit met twice as a hybrid, after which Lee Steppacher, the teacher, and the peer leaders decided to suspend the hybrid format and resume only Zoom sits for the autumn.
- The Monday sit will meet online for at least the next two months while the Hanover Friends Meeting House, where the sit has been held, is under construction.
- We plan to hold some events as hybrids; some will be in-person only; and others will be online only. For example, the fall book group, which will begin meeting on September 16, will be held online only.
While we were making our plans for gathering in person once again and exploring configurations of laptops and webcams to allow people to join remotely, the Delta variant emerged. Suddenly it became more challenging to do things in-person. We had to ask how we could help ensure the health and safety of people who attended in-person events while medical professionals and public officials are warning us about a renewed COVID-19 surge. Last week the Valley Insight board and teachers came to an agreement about what we’ll do for the near future, with the understanding that we’ll continue to monitor public advice and respond as we need to.
Vaccination and Mask Policy for Everything We Do in-Person as of August 22, 2021:
Valley Insight Meditation Society requires everyone who attends an in-person sit, retreat, or other Sangha event to be fully vaccinated; to maintain social distancing; and to wear a mask indoors at all times except while eating or drinking. People who are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness (such as cough, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, sore throat, or fever) should not attend in-person sits or other events.
We’re aware that conditions are changing in our region regarding the rapid rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant and In consideration of the policy of not causing harm to our fellow beings, we want our events to be as safe as possible. We follow CDC guidelines and may change our requirements or cancel in-person sits and events if we need to. And we’re committed to re-evaluating our decisions as more information becomes available. We expect everyone to be guided by their concern for others and their own level of comfort when choosing whether or not to attend an in-person event.
Some explanation: We spent a lot of time talking about this policy. We know that there are many people in the sangha who are fully vaccinated. Some people feel comfortable being with others in a closed room for a period of time without masks; others do not. Some people are vaccinated but are very careful gathering with other people because of pre-existing conditions. Others are vaccinated but have children or grandchildren who are too young for vaccinations and they’re concerned about protecting them. Some people don’t want to be vaccinated at all for various reasons. Others can’t be vaccinated.
We also know that right now, the areas of New Hampshire and Vermont where most of our sangha members live are COVID-19 hotspots right now. We all believe that, in light of the precept of not harming others, the least we can all do is ensure that people who attend our in-person events can feel comfortable that others are also vaccinated and, when indoors, are wearing masks. And we are committed to offer a hybrid option for as many of our events as possible, so that people who don’t feel comfortable gathering with others in a group, for whatever reason, can join in.
If you have any questions or concerns about these policies or our approach to sits and other events, please contact one of the teachers or Michael Stoner, board president.
From the Board (Charlene Gates, Joel Lazar, Sue McGilvray, Carol Rougvie, Mindy Schorr, Michael Stoner) and the Teachers (Peg Meyer, Doreen Schweizer, Lee Steppacher, Karen Summer)
And a reminder
May we continue to find refuge in curiosity, kindness, beauty, space, breath, gratitude, and one another. This is a time to practice patience, restraint, and evoke a “settled back” feeling as much as possible. We are all in this together.
- Weekly sits: Monday , Tuesday , and Thursday We publish weekly updates and login information for each sit. To be added to the list for a sit, email Karen Summer for Monday; Lee Steppacher for Tuesday; and Doreen Schweizer for Thursday.
- Daily Gatherings for Refuge and Clarity, weekdays at 7:30 AM (Eastern time); details here.
- Insight Dialogue Retreat on Zoom: Saturday, October 23 with Jan Surrey and Marsha Lawson. More info here.
Valley Insight Meditation Society is committed to offering a safe, welcoming environment for people of all races, cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, classes, religions, abilities and ages in which to practice meditation and to explore the ideas put forth in the Buddha’s teachings. We recognize that all people hold unexamined beliefs, assumptions, fears and prejudices about others, and especially about those who seem different from themselves, and we acknowledge that these beliefs are a great source of suffering for individuals and societies. We strive for inclusivity, kindness and generosity toward all, in our programs and in our hearts.
- Prison Sangha: Consider joining us for our regular visits with the prison sangha at the New Hampshire Department of Corrections in Berlin or volunteer to be a letter-writing correspondent with an inmate.
- Join our Support Sangha: Volunteer to join a circle of care for sangha members who may need temporary help. Details
- Join Valley Insight: Consider becoming a member of Valley Insight. Learn about other ways to be involved in Valley Insight.
Our intention is to provide opportunities and support for exploring the teachings of Buddhism and practice of vipassana, also known as insight meditation. Wise and careful training of attention can lead to a more peaceful, steady mind and kind heart. This path helps us find the way to wisdom and compassion in the midst of our complex, stressful lives. We welcome all who are interested.
VIMS is a member of the United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP). More information here.
Board of Directors: Michael Stoner is Valley Insight’s president and Sue McGilvray is our treasurer. Charlene Gates, Joel Lazar, Carol Rougvie and Mindy Schorr complete the board. Brief bios are here.
A VIMS Lending Library is open in The Barn on Green Street in Lebanon. The library has over 150 books, CDs, and pamphlets. Details