The Black and Buddhist Summit live from February 18th – 25th, 2021 !

This free online event will explore what Buddhism can teach us about race, resilience, transformation, and spiritual freedom. Over 20 leading African-descended Buddhist teachers will offer their wisdom and insights about Buddhist teachings, being Black practitioners, and the possibility of a truly representative American Buddhism.

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Responding with 2020 Vision to the Climate Crisis

On January 11, 2020, six members of the Valley Insight community participated in a conference at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting in Norwich, Vermont.  Close to 150 people gathered to hear key-note speaker Reverend Jim Antal, author of Climate Church/Climate World. He talked about the need to join and support one another in seeing clearly and acting wisely, right now; especially in three arenas: 1) pointing out and protesting the specific projects, attitudes, and actors that are “making the climate situation worse”; 2) constructing and celebrating a new ways of relating to the world and one another, and moving forward; and 3) educating ourselves and others even as we root ourselves in our spiritual (wise and compassionate) understanding.

A follow-up to this initial conference was held February 9 and VIMS board president, Michael Stoner and Doreen Schweizer attended.  We had a presentation on Green Burial by a Vermont organizer. Cremation takes an enormous amount of fossil fuel! There are policies underway in both Vermont and New Hampshire, which will allow simple and shallow body burials. We learned ways to encourage this and other important, wisdom-based projects such as town climate emergency initiatives and rapid response teams. Involvement with this group, like our involvement with the United Valley Interfaith Project, is helping VIMS act on and expand our understanding of Engaged Buddhism, which includes being actively in environmental and other social justice issues through clarifying our ethical understanding, taking a position, and at times, engaging in actions. You will find indication of this in the March 2020 issue of the newsletter. See especially, the four-part pop-up course on MINDFULLY FACING CLIMATE CHANGE with Bhikkhu Analayo. (For information and to register, contact info@ValleyInsight.Org.) And there is the April daylong with Oren Jay Sofer to be held on April 26.  

Poet and Sangha Member Anne Shivas read a poem as part of the first conference.  She has kindly allowed us to publish the poem below in The VIMS newsletter and on our website. Anne, who teaches poetry writing nationally and internationally, was inspired in writing this poem by the Extinction Rebellion acts of civil-disobedience in London in April 2019.

Bailing Out in the Anthropocene;

by Anne Shivas, April 2019

They lose their way and to another

offer of a credit card, bank or payday loan,

lottery ticket, casino vacation,

frack blast, pipeline and the next high,

they say, thanks, but no thanks.

There are no more signposts, 

and they want to retreat 

from pharmaceutical ads,

 gut-punching political news,

hospital,  post office, bank closures, 

negotiations going nowhere, local

militia, pieces of petri-dish meat. 

It is getting late 

and with another rise in sea level, 

mega-monsoon, glacier calving,

near extinction, raging wildfire,

ton of plastic in the sea, gargantuan

hurricane and gene-designed kid they wonder

if there is a get-out clause, a way to divest

from the time and though there is a thin ribbon 

of light on the horizon will it be bright enough

to see what calls their own names, our own names, 

enough to set our stride to advance and gather 

and scoop, to say to this other, 

yes, and yes and yes?

Anne Shivas, a longtime member of the VIMS community, is originally from Scotland. She published her first book of poetry, Whit Grace in 2017, of which she writes that “the title poem is a long poem about our place in the universe, and the grace described is that of the movement of a snake part of my broader vision, one that does not raise the human above the rest of nature.”


Frederick Douglass Reading in Lebanon, July 3, 2019

Three organizations: VIMS, SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice in the Upper Valley), and UVIP (United Valley Interfaith Project)—with strong support from the City of Lebanon—hosted a reading of Frederick Douglass’s speech “What to the American Slave is Your Fourth of July.” This powerfully insightful speech was given by the escaped slave Douglass in 1852 at the invitation of the Ladies Abolitionist Society of Rochester, NY.

The event was held on the Green in Lebanon, NH, and community participation in our shared reading was tremendous. Close to 120 people attended and more than 50 read aloud the 54 paragraphs of the speech. Among the many, many voices we heard reading Douglass’s words aloud were city officials, a New Hampshire State Representative, two students and their teacher from Crossroads Academy, and many VIMS people. The Black Heritage Trails Association coordinated our event with other such readings held across New Hampshire at that same hour, noon, on July 3rd. A total of 11 towns participated.

The speech, while important historically, also has clear, direct, and important messages for us today.

Douglass says,

“ . . . your boasted liberty [is] unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery. . . . There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States, at this very hour. . . .

“. . . notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery.”

Hooray and thank you to the many VIMS people who helped realize this opportunity to mindfully face “the truth of the ways things are,” as well as to share in our nation’s collective despair and the compassion of hope.

Here’s a copy of the speech as Douglass gave it and the edited copy, which is the one we used at the reading on July 3