As a bee gathering nectar
Does not harm or disturb
The color and fragrance of the flower;
So do the wise move
Through the world.
–– Dhammapada, Verse 49
Nina Swaim died peacefully and comfortably at 3 a.m. on Thursday, October 15 in the warmth of her own home, surrounded by family and friends with her husband and her beloved dog both steadily by her bedside. She had had a massive stroke earlier in the week and was rushed to the hospital. When it became clear that she would not recover, she was brought home, where she was lovingly supported through her dying.
Nina was a beekeeper. She was also a sage who moved through our world wisely, kindly, with clarity of vision and a strong, sharp discernment. She engaged in meaningful action “without harming the fragrance or the color of the flower” that is our valley. She enhanced our community in many, many ways. You can find a full obituary here.
Nina was a cofounder of VIMS; she stirred the soil and planted some of its earliest seeds. In 1992, she sat a work retreat at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. While there she discovered the beauty, clarity, and accessibility of Taraniya Gloria Ambrosia’s Dhamma teaching. She asked Taraniya to teach in the Upper Valley; Taraniya agreed. When she got home, Nina asked her yoga teacher, Doreen Schweizer, to help create a weekend retreat format; Doreen agreed. Douglas Smith and Maggie McGuire got involved, and VIMS –– first known as the Vipassana Sangha of the Upper Valley –– was gradually born. The four of us began to meditate together regularly, and we planned what became twice-a-year nonresidential weekend retreats. Taraniya led both retreats for the first two years. When she let us know she could come only once a year, Nina, Maggie, and Douglas asked Doreen to teach the second retreat. She agreed and so we continued …
To Nina we offer a very deep bow of gratitude. “Done is what needed to be done.” Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu.
A gathering to commemorate the life of Nina Swam will be held Sunday, November 1, at 1 p.m. at the Seven Stars Center in Sharon, Vermont. All are welcome. Condolences can be sent to her husband Douglas Smith, PO Box 65, Sharon, VT 05065.