Our Teachers

Our Dharma teachers offer a variety of experience and background and share a common deep practice and love of Dharma.

Doreen Schweizer, MSW, SENIOR TEACHER

Doreen is the senior teacher for Valley Insight Meditation Society (VIMS). She is one of the founders of VIMS and has been teaching classes and retreats with the group since the early 1990’s. She also mentors individual practitioners and periodically writes reflections for the VIMS newsletter.

Doreen began study in the Vipassana/Insight Buddhist tradition in the early 1990’s after practicing various forms of meditation since 1969. She has practiced extensively with IMS and Spirit Rock teachers, as well as with nuns and monks of the Western Order of the Ajahn Chah Thai Forest Tradition. In 2003, she completed the Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leaders Training; she is grateful to Jack Kornfield, her sponsoring teacher; Taraniya Gloria Ambrosia, her mentoring teacher, and James Baraz and Ajahn Amaro, the lead teachers in the program, for their strong encouragement and support to her development as a teacher. Andy Olendzki at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies also provided clear direction for her understanding and practice in the early Buddhist tradition and how these teachings can be applied to our daily lives in a secular age. The loving kindness and compassion practices have long been a foundation to her own life and to her work with the community and individuals as a psychotherapist. Currently, she is influenced by the teachings of the Venerable Bhikkhu Analayo on the early Buddhist mindfulness trainings, as well as by his understanding of their relationship to compassion and emptiness.

An important part of Doreen’s practice for 5 years was caring for her elderly mother who died in early 2013. Buddhist teachings and practices sustained her efforts. The strong presence of the Valley Insight practice community encouraged her faith. Doreen’s own understandings and teachings are now grounded in this faith in the abiding experience of joy in relationship and in the truth of old age, illness and death.

Doreen has been an active member of the Upper Valley since 1972. She was diagnosed with acute leukemia in 1976 and during the time of her recovery, helped start Hospice of the Upper Valley. She was the executive director and a social worker for the organization. Along with being guiding teacher for VIMS, Doreen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice with an office in Norwich VT. Email: doreen.schweizer@icloud.com


Karen has led Monday’s 5:30-7:00 pm meditation and dhamma study group since Sept, ’17. She has had an ongoing meditation practice since 1994 when she began sitting with Tara Brach’s sangha in Washington, D.C. She still remembers the “Ah-h!” experiences of reading Buddhism Without Beliefs, then A Path With Heart. Continued practice encouraged her to include mindfulness techniques in her work at the time as an out-patient nurse in psychiatry. She has taught three Introduction to Insight Meditation courses since January, 2016.

She returned to the Upper Valley in 2000 and immediately began to sit regularly with Doreen Schweizer and attend her dharma classes. She has attended 32 courses of 3 or more days at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, many retreats at Insight Meditation Society, and numerous at-home retreats, especially since March, 2020. In the past 8 years, she has had the privilege of undertaking 4 separate retreats, varying in length from 21 to 28 days. She is in the second of a four-year commitment as a student to meditation teacher Heather Sundberg. Among her other favorite teachers are her friends in Valley Insight, Doreen Schweizer, Peg Meyer, Ajahn Sucitto, Venerable Analayo, and Gil Fronsdal. Ongoing interests are connecting meditation practices to neuroscience and developing emotional and cognitive resources to live with grief and losses of climate change.

Karen participated in the meetings in 2002 that resulted in the founding of Valley Insight’s Advisory Board and was a strongly committed and very active member of the board until 2014. She viewed service on the board as a tangible way to live the dharma. She is a graduate of Vassar College and has a B.S. in Nursing from the U. of Maryland. Email: karen.summer2@gmail.com


Peg has investigated and practiced meditation in many different traditions and settings over the years. When she began meditating in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition in 2000 she found her home; and in June of 2013, she completed several years of effortful work with and graduated from the Integrated Study and Practice Program (ISPP) at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS).

In April, 2017, Peg graduated from the Community Leaders’ Program administered by Spirit Rock Center in California. Several hundred people apply; it was an honor to have been invited to join. Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia is Peg’s mentor. Taraniya was one of Peg’s teachers in her ISPP course and a former VIMS “non-residential guiding teacher.”

Beginning in 2019, Peg joined the teaching team for Barre Center for Buddhist Studies 10-month online course, Entering the Path.

Peg has a masters degree in nursing from Yale University and is a retired nurse practitioner. Having completed an internship with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at U. Mass Medical, she has enjoyed teaching mindfulness to both Hanover High School teachers and students. Peg is also a long-time yoga practitioner and is a certified Kripalu yoga teacher. She is committed to working on issues of social and racial justice. She has been teaching with Valley Insight for seven years. She has also been an Interim Guiding Teacher for VIMS, an Advisory Board member and a retreat manager for many of our daylong and weekend retreats. Peg has happily taught many Introduction to Meditation courses for Valley Insight. Email: meymrgrt@gmail.com.

Lee Steppacher, TEACHER

Lee has a combination of skills and interests that draw her to offering mindfulness in nature retreats, including more than 25 years of meditation practice. She gravitates to the direct simplicity of Vipassana (Insight) practice. She completed a two-year teacher training in Awake in the Wild with Mark Coleman and continues to be inspired and guided by Mark’s work bringing mindfulness into nature. Lee had a fulfilling career with both EPA and the National Park Service and Awake in the Wild has enabled her to bring meditation and environmental interests together in a meaningful way. She has offered a number of opportunities for the Valley Insight Sangha to bring their practices into nature, including small group walks, day-long retreats, and a self-guided walk. Lee completed a two-year meditation teacher training with Bill and Susan Morgan, Vipassana teachers, and continues to work very closely with them as part of a small sangha. She leads the Valley Insight Tuesday evening sitting group once a month and also brings her practice to life as a palliative massage therapist at the Jack Byrne Center for Hospice and Palliative Care. Email: shepstep@comcast.net

Michael Stoner, TEACHER

I’d been exposed to Buddhism earlier in life and was open to both the practices and to many Buddhist teachings but resisted the religious context in which the teachings were usually embedded. In 2006, I began meditating regularly and, seeking to deepen my meditation, attended a retreat led by Jack Kornfield. By that time, causes and conditions were such that I was able to experience the Dharma in a much different and deeper way and began to understand it viscerally and intellectually. At a retreat with Jack a year later, I took refuge. I became active in Valley Insight shortly after I discovered the sangha. Teachers who currently inspire me include Akincano, Steven Batchelor, Christine Feldman, and the faculty of Bodhi College; Bhikkhu Analayo; Gil Fronsdal; Joseph Goldstein; Sayadaw U Tejaniya; and Doreen Schweizer. I was certified as a mindfulness meditation teacher by the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program (MMTCP, founded by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield) in 2021. Email: mstonervt@icloud.com.

Subhadra Srinivasan, TEACHER

Subha has been practicing in the vipassana (insight meditation) style of mindfulness since 2007 with Valley Insight Meditation Society. Her practice was transformed by a loving-kindness (metta) retreat in 2008 at Insight Meditation Society (IMS), Barre, MA. Since then, metta has flavored her practice and life in profound ways, especially as a parent and an educator. She is a recent alum of MMTCP program (class of 2023) and offers courses on mindfulness and loving-kindness. Subha believes that relaxation and kindness important when we enter the space of meditation, and her teaching style inclines towards gentleness and allowing our experience to unfold while practicing letting go of control. Her guiding teachers have been Doreen Schweizer, Michele McDonald, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield and Stan Eisenstein. You can find her guided meditations and writings on her website.

Joel Lazar, TEACHER

Joel has engaged in various forms of contemplative practice since 2010 and has immersed deeply in the vipassana (Insight) tradition since 2017. He has trained as a teacher of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and also as a Koru Mindfulness instructor. Guided by Donald Rothberg’s vision of the “engaged spiritual life,” and enriched by three decades of service as a primary care clinician, Joel understands Dharma practice to nourish our capacity to respond with greater wisdom, resilience, and compassion to the challenges of both our inner and our outer worlds. In addition to leading Thursday sangha sessions on an intermittent basis, he facilitates the Valley Insight Social Justice Affinity Group in its monthly meetings, and he coordinates our prison sangha program at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin, NH. He also teaches occasional mindfulness classes in the local community.

Joel’s practice has been richly informed by such Theravada and Insight teachers as Joseph Goldstein, Gil Fronsdal, Christina Feldman, Ajahn Succito, and Doreen Schweitzer. He has also found inspiration in the Engaged Buddhism work of Zen teachers David Loy, Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, and Thich Nhat Hanh.

Email: joellazar0121@gmail.com

Other Teachers: VIMS has hosted quite a few visiting teachers since the early 1990’s and will continue to do so. We are very grateful for their generosity in traveling here to share the Dhamma. Of these teachers, the one who has been most influential in the development of our community, has been Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia, who served as our Advisory Teacher from the mid-1990’s until April of 2013. Thank you.