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Mindful : October 2017
AT A GLANCE When visitors to the Insight Medi- tation Society approach the retreat center, they’re hit with an unexpected image: a New England brick man- sion, with its classical portico and white columns, and the ancient word “metta.” In the Pali language the word means “loving-kindness” or “love.” The center’s founders salvaged the five letters of “metta” from signage for the property’s former occupants— Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament— and “metta” became the greeting for visitors to IMS’ tradition of insight meditation. “ We had a big debate about that,” says Sharon Salzberg, one of the cen- ter’s cofounders. That was forty-one years ago, when Salzberg, Jack Korn- field, and Joseph Goldstein were con- verting a defunct Catholic novitiate into a Buddhist meditation center. “ Why should we have a word up there that no one understands?” “But someone will call for direc- tions, and whoever answers the phone will describe a large brick building with white pillars and this word— ‘metta.’ And then they’ll ask what it means,” Salzberg says. And so the training begins. Unlike many retreat centers whose broad mission translates into an even broader agenda of activities, work- shops, and amenities, IMS maintains a singular identity as a silent retreat center, located on a bucolic tract of land, steeped in the tradition of mind- fulness and compassion training, and welcoming to all. “At IMS you can make a friend of silence,” Salzberg says. “It’s very supportive, because teacher contact is always available.” While the teachers and the retreats topics vary—from Founded 1975 What’s offered Retreats range in length from weekend to three months Accommodations Single rooms Program Calendar Year-round Fun Fact When the founders were look- ing for a place to establish a meditation center, they visited Barre to visit the site for IMS and were struck by Barre’s town motto: “Tranquil and Alert.” How fitting! PHOTOGRAPHSCOURTESYOFCOPPERBEECHANDINSIGHTMEDITATIONSOCIETY Barre, Massachusetts dharma.org Insight Meditation Society the “Teen Retreat” and the “People of Color Retreat” to “Awareness, Insight, and Liberation” and “Emptiness: A Meditation & Study Retreat for Expe- rienced Students”—the daily structure and core culture remain constant: group sittings, mindful movement, group Q & A sessions, and evening talks. “Even though you are silent, you don’t feel isolated,” Salzberg says. “You feel as if you are part of this interesting community.” At its core, IMS seeks to equip the retreatant, the beginner and the expe- rienced alike, with confidence in and clarity about the skills of mindfulness and compassion. For Salzberg, it’s that simple: “I want people to walk away thinking not just ‘Wow, that was an amazing experience! When can I go back?’ but also ‘What can I do every day to reawaken or reinforce the things I understood here?’” → October 2017 mindful 45