Sacred Earth Sangha at New York Insight Meditation Center
Meets 2nd Monday evening of every month
Please join us for an evening of teaching, meditation, and discussion as we create a community around deep practice and conscious engagement of the challenges of the climate crisis.
Currently, our world is a hot mess both ecologically and politically. We can react to our planetary crisis with fear and aversion playing out the same old patterns of separation and domination (right and wrong, us vs them, rational solutions for unfathomably complex problems). Or we can respond with intimacy and imagination, exploring with compassion and wisdom new ways of being.
Join New York Insight’s Sacred Earth Sangha (SES) in 2020 as we explore what it means to meet our current reality with kindness and clarity, compassion and wisdom. Now through August will be exploring the Buddh’as Eightfold Path as a map for cultivating intimacy and imagination in response to our present moment. We will make space for individual and collective grief and joy — becoming intimate with our experiences. We will also explore the imaginal — looking at the innovative and beautiful responses of humans and non-humans to our global challenges.
Come, join us in seeing clearly in 2020.
Monday, March 9, 2020, 7-9pm: Wise Speech (Part 1) – Sebene, Lin, and Jon
In the next two monthly sessions, we will cover Wise Speech in two parts. The first part in March will focus on the exploration of “Who” and “What” – who are we talking to internally and externally when it comes to climate change? Who are we having conversations with? Who are we NOT having conversation with? Who gets to set the conversation about climate change and be in the conversation? Who decides what problems and solutions to be talked about? As we explore our views of what are wise and true, how do we examine our positions and relations with the breadth of our consciousness and the power dynamics that have influenced our views? With what qualities do we hold these views?
In April, Part 2 of the Wise Speech, we will focus on “How” to speak our views and to have wise speech in different scenarios. We invite you to join us in this rich exploration.
Monday, April 13, 2020, 7-9pm: Wise Speech (Part 2) – Sebene, Lin, and Jon
Monday, May 11, 2020, 7-9pm: Wise Action – Jon and Lin
Location: New York Insight Meditation Center, 28 W 27th St., 10th Floor (between Broadway and 6th Avenue)
All are welcome. No previous meditation experience is required.
This was a freewriting exercise that came out of the Breathe.Read.Write workshop offered by Lisa Freedman. I gave an instruction of a 10-minutes tree meditation. After we meditated with a tree, Lisa read the poem “I Trust the Wind and Don’t Know Why” by Wyn Cooper, then she asked us to write from the voice of the tree that we just spent time with.
“I am not a sissie. I’ve been standing here in this noisy, bustling urban environment for a long time. Even though they’ve tried to contain me at roots, put hard concrete on top on my roots, I keep expanding. I go deeper, finding water and nutritions where human don’t reach and interrupt my natural freedom. I dig deeper into them and I bring them back through my body and reach upward.
Yes, it’s hard sometimes. The wind blows, and I don’t get support from my fellow tree family in a natural way, but I am growing and thriving. Even if it means I have to stretch sideways, and be twisted. Yes, I am growing and defying gravity, like a snake slithering in air. I branch out in the direction of the sun. I ask for help. And here I am, while humans are panicking over a new virus, I’ve stood here and watched many pandemic come and go. It shall pass too.
Ah spring, yet another winter survived. How nice to feel the birds singing again on the branches. I can’t wait for summer to come and flower. Oh sweet spring rain, help me grow stronger and taller…”
Do you know there are approximately 230 different species of birds can be found in Central Park? Some are year round and some would stop by during the spring and fall migration season. Join Lin Gordon (nature meditation teacher) and Stephen Roylance (retired science teacher) in taking an early morning walk through Central Park, where we will listen to the sounds within and without.
Who: Lin Gordon and Stephen Roylance
When: 8:15am-10:30am, Saturday, May 2, 2020
Where: Meet at 72nd St and Central Park West entrance
Public Transportation: 72nd St station, 1, 2, 3, B or C by Subway
Registration Fee: Sliding scale from $15, $20, to $25.
No prior meditation or birding experience needed.
Organic bug/tick repellent
Stephen has been birding since he was 10 and has since birded around the North and South America. He has witnessed birding migration patterns changing due to climate change. He first confronted the tragic relationship between birds and the destruction of the environment with the extinction of the Dusky Seaside Sparrow in 1987. Since then, he’s seen a decline of too many bird species. His personal experience in seeing this decline has led him to get in touch with the very real grief we all experience when we understand what climate crisis means for our planet. This grief, he believes, is the touchstone to action, but only if we allow ourselves to access it.
Theme: How to Keep an Open Heart in a Challenging World
Every season has its unique gifts. As a season for reawakening and renewal, spring provides us a unique opportunity to see the world with fresh eyes and to feel the wonder of the earth as it comes back to life.
To help you come into a deeper rhythm with the natural world, Lin Gordon and Lee Steppacher will weave nature-based meditation practices throughout this silent weekend retreat. We will spend extended time outdoors and participate in guided meditation and mindful walks to open our sense of awareness, and sinking deeply into our connection to the world around us.
We will explore practices to: – Develop a receptive presence, contemplative and intimate relationship with nature – Reconnect with our sense of wonder, joy, and love – Sit and walk in nature emphasizing opening to our sensory awareness – Find resilience in the natural world and in ourselves – Meditate on sunrise, trees, night sky, fire and more
Specific practices will be chosen based on weather, location and the group, but will include foundational mindfulness, movement and wisdom practices that are particularly aligned with being in nature.
The weekend will be held primarily in silence, allowing you to cultivate the capacity to be present. There will be opportunities for limited discussion and questions, and talks will be offered as guidance. Guided body movement will also be offered daily.
Activities will not be strenuous, but significant time will be spent outdoors. Appropriate outerwear will be needed.
This weekend is appropriate for people with all levels of experience. No prior meditation experience needed.
Location: Eastover, Lenox, Massachusetts
Date: Friday, May 8, 2020 (arrivals at 3pm) – Sunday, May 10, 2020 (ends at 12pm)
(You can stay extra nights at the retreat center after the retreat ends. You just need to book separately.)
Lee has a deep meditation practice of over 25 years, and has a combination of skills and interests that draw her to offering mindfulness in nature retreats . She gravitated to the direct simplicity of the Vipassana (or Insight meditation practice) tradition, and was fortunate to live near Insight Meditation Society where she has been going to annual retreats.
She has completed the “Awake in the Wild” Nature Meditation Teacher Training program in 2017 with Mark Coleman from the Spirit Rock Meditation Center. She currently is studying with Bill and Susan Morgan and teaches at the Valley Insight Meditation Society in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Lee had a fulfilling career in environmental planning and protection with both Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Park Service, where she was responsible for resource-based watershed protection for various locations in New England. Since retirement, Awake in the Wild has enabled Lee to bring her meditation practice and environmental knowledge together in a meaningful way.
Lin is a meditation teacher and has studied insight meditation under the guidance of Jonathan Foust and Mark Coleman. In stillness and silence, she discovers the transformative power of mindfulness practices to help live a life of flow, joy, grace and gratitude.
In the last few years, Lin was particularly moved by the power of nature meditation to connect with a deep sense of well-being, love, wonder, resilience, and interconnection with all beings. Our human-centric worldview dissolves, and we realize we are but a small part of a greater intelligence. Lin was inspired to share nature meditation as a doorway for personal transformation as well as a form of environmental activism.
She graduated from Mark Coleman’s Awake in the Wild Nature Meditation Teacher Training in 2017 and has since taught at New York Insight Meditation Center and around the country. She currently participates in Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Community Dharma Leaders Program (CDL6), which deepens her skills in sharing the Buddhist teachings with diverse communities.
Besides meditation, Lin is a kundalini yoga teacher and a reiki practitioner. She’s deeply influenced by group dreamwork and studied with Jeremy Taylor. Out in the world, she has been a digital marketer for tech and media industries, and currently serves on the Board of the New York Insight Meditation Center.
She holds a BA from Barnard College, and an MBA from NYU.
“This retreat will be spent meditating outdoors in the natural beauty and mystery here at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch. Whether it is during sunset meditations, listening to the soothing sounds of the river, or sitting graced in the stillness of the aspen trees, we will open to the profound serenity and wisdom of nature.
This silent retreat is grounded in the practice of Mindfulness – the capacity o be present to ourselves and our environment. Participants will learn to bring this receptive presence to develop a contemplative relationship with nature. By cultivating an inner quiet and curious spirit we can learn from nature as a perennial teacher. The natural world reveals timeless Dharma teachings that support a natural letting go and a wise relationship to all experience.
Participants will also discover how meditative time outdoors leads to beautiful states of joy, peace, wonder, love and connection with oneself, each other and the larger web of life.
On the retreat there will be guided nature-based meditations, mindful walks, Dharma talks on meditation and nature and group meetings with the teacher. There will be time to relish in the silence outdoors and to explore the wilderness of Vallecitos both in solitude and as part of the group.
To support a depth of meditative awareness, complete silence is maintained throughout the retreat except during meetings with your teachers and group discussion.
This workshop is appropriate for beginners and experienced meditators who are curious about meditation, mindfulness and how to deepen your insight practice and open your connection to the mystery of the natural world. Be prepared for unexpected delight, mystery, silence and illumination.”
Did you know that increased sunlight triggers birdsongs? As the days get longer and life wakes up from the winter slumber, it’s time to go outdoors and enjoy the aliveness of Earth’s renewal. Join us for our pre-Equinox celebration with a day of park volunteering, nature practices, poetry, and free-writing.
Come at any time between 9:30am-1pm to volunteer and celebrate this local park by helping with gardening and maintenance. Come see early spring blooms and learn about composting. No gardening experience needed and there will be light refreshments provided by the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association (SPNA).
After volunteering, you can join the Breathe.Read.Write workshop from 1-3pm. We will begin with a nature meditation guided by Lin. After that, Lisa will read a short poem and invite you to free-write (just let the pen move, non-stop) in response to it. Then we will listen to each other. Close listening is the day’s main activity — listening to the plants, the garden, the sky, the poetry, ourselves, and each other.
Who: Lisa Freedman
When: Saturday, March 14, 2020
9:30am-1pm: “It’s My Park” Day – Volunteer at the park. Gloves and tools provided, no experience necessary. Refreshments served.
1-3pm: Breathe.Read.Write – Bring paper/your favorite journal and a pen or pencil.
Where: Stuyvesant Square Park (West Side), 16th Street & 2nd Avenue, picnic tables on the south side of the park
In case of rain, we will go to Sunburst Cafe (206 3rd Ave, corner of 18th St. and 3rd Ave) for Breathe.Read.Write. at 1 pm.
Public Transportation: Take the 4, 5, 6, N, R train to 14th Street Union Square
Registration Fee: No prior registration necessary. We requested a suggested donation of $20 at the event.
No prior meditation or writing experience needed.
Lisa Freedman received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the New School, where she now offers courses including “It Starts in Silence: A Meditation and Writing Workshop” (in collaboration with the Rubin Museum) and “Writing and Activism.” She started her writing practice about 30 years ago as a way to make sense of confusing events in her life and in the world. When she got serious about her daily meditation practice five years ago, she started to feel more at ease with mystery.
Sitting, singing, and sharing stories around a bonfire is how humans connect with each other for millenniums. In this winter, build a fire in your yard or a camp ground. Invite your friends and neighbors over to join you in taking in the warmth and light.
To begin the practice:
Take in the gratitude into our heart. The warmth of friendship.
Let’s first close our eyes and tune into our senses.
Can we hear the fire? The crackle of sparks. Can we smell the fire? The burning wood, the smoke. Can we feel the fire? Can you put your hands or feet near the fire? The warmth, the flickering flame that goes here and there.
After a few minutes, when you are ready, you can open your eyes. Notice how bright the fire is. How ephemeral are the flames, how the smoke swirled. Notice the bright red wood coming through the blackness, shimmering.
Contemplate that what we think of being burned and destruction of the wood, is actually the release of the sun’s energy from the wood. It’s part of a process, a change of state, that is no different than snow melt into the river. It’s the sun giving us warmth and energy in a different form. In nature, we see that death and life are intimately linked. There is no separation.
Consider that we are made of this element. We have the fire in our belly. We convert the sun’s energy into our own warmth through the food we eat – plants that we grow. The sun is within us, sustaining us. See if we can take the warmth of fire and sun into our body and feel it in our cells. Remember that in the long, dark winter nights, we still have the sun to give us warmth and sustaining us. It’s still giving us light through the fire.
Fire is an element of transformation. You can use something that symbolizes what you would like to let go of, and throw that into the fire. Alternatively, you can also generate a list of your dreams. Call in your ancestors and spiritual guides, visualize your dreams and feel into your body what it’s like bring those dreams to life. Ask the element of fire to light the path that would lead to your dreams, then place that list into the fire physically or symbolically.
In the final moments of this meditation, let’s take in the warmth and light of the fire, take in the gratitude that in the cold winter nights, even when the sun is not present as long during the day, we always have the sun within us, and remember that the universe is life giving and life sustaining.
“Walking mindfully on the Earth can restore our peace and harmony, and it can restore Earth’s peace and harmony as well. We are children of the Earth. We rely on her for our happiness, and she relies on us also. Whether the Earth is beautiful, fresh and green, or arid and parched depends on our way of walking. When we practice walking meditation beautifully, we massage the Earth with our feet and plant seeds of joy and happiness with each step. Our Mother will heal us, and we will heal her.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Enjoy a summer day in the peaceful beauty of the Hudson Valley. This guided, meditative hike takes the scenic route along the Long Path—into the Rockland Lake State Park and up Hook Mountain (698 ft). Enjoy expansive vistas only 1.5 hours outside of the city, and an extraordinary space designated by the New York Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area.
Take a walk into the woods to connect with nature and ourselves. We’ll integrate sitting and walking nature meditation throughout the hike. Some examples of practices may include the following, but actual practices will vary based on location and weather.
Sensory and Tactical Awareness
Non-Conceptual Awareness: Letting go of existing concepts and focus on direct experience
Expansive Awareness: Dissolving into the sky
Four Elements: Contemplating the elements of air, earth, water and fire
Most of the hike will be observed in silence. John Muir said, “In every walk in Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Silence is a critical ingredient for introspective and transformative experiences. Turning our attention inward allows us to become receptive to both of our outer and inner experiences. Allow your senses to come alive and watch your sense of separateness fall away in nature. The dynamic outdoor conditions will be a perfect container for mindfulness practices.
The hike will be approximately from 10am – 3pm, with stops for meditation practices and an hour long lunch break. It’s a relatively moderate hike, but there are sections where you need to go up and down, so hiking shoes and a pair of hiking poles will be handy.
Who: Lin Gordon
When: 8:15am-3pm, Saturday, July 25, 2020
Where: Rockland Lake State Park, South Entrance on Route 9W and Lake Road (parking lot #4). Valley Cottage, NY. (299 Lake Rd. Valley Cottage, NY, 10989). There is a picnic table under a big tree near the toll booth of the parking lot.
Public Transportation: Coachusa.com (Weekend schedule)
From 42nd St., Port Authority: Leave on the 8:15 am bus going to Rockland Lake. Gate 220. You can buy tickets on the bus if you ran out of time to buy it at the ticket window.
From George Washington Bridge Terminal: Leave on the 8:40 bus going to Rockland Lake.
Destination: Rockland Lake (Lake Road and Route 9W) in Valley Cottage, NY
Please make sure that you leave ample time to get to the bus gate. You can get ticket on the bus or from the window on the ground floor.
Arrival Time: Bus arrives approximately at 9:35 a.m. After arriving, walk across the street (Route 9W) and walk into Rockland Lake State Park, South Entrance. Keep walking along the path for 2 minutes, we’ll meet a picnic table right next to the park lot. Restrooms will be available.
Return Trip: The bus runs hourly and arrives at pickup at approximately 25 minutes past each hour. Bus station is right across where they drop off in the morning.
Drivers: Expect an $8 parking fee. Arrive by 9:45 a.m. and drive into the Rockland Lake State Park, South Entrance on Route 9W and Lake Road, Valley Cottage, NY. (299 Lake Rd. Valley Cottage, NY, 10989). There is another parking lot about a mile further north on Route 9W (parking lot #2). Please make sure you’re at parking lot #4. South Entrance parking lot is an open space with a lots of picnic tables and a large building complex.
We aim to start the hike at 10am and will walk to the trailhead together from the parking lot.
Who: Sebene Selassie, DaRa Williams, and Lin Gordon
Date: Saturday, November 23rd, 2019 | 10:00am to 5:00pm
Location: New York Insight Meditation Center
Many of us speak of nature as if it is something external, having nothing to do with us except when we “visit it”. Nature is “out there” or in “the wilderness.” Dharma, which is often referred to as truth or teachings, can be translated as nature. Dharma as nature is everywhere, in and around us. Whether we are aware of it or not, We are always in connection to this truth, that we are this sacred earth.
In this daylong program, we will take time to reconnect to our bodies, hearts and minds remembering that we are nature. Centering land and ancestors, we will cultivate meditative awareness to sense the sacred connection to earth that is always present when we open to it. We will explore how this understanding can support us in our lives, in relationship/connection, our work, and especially in our response to our current planetary crisis. We will use the elements (earth, fire, water, air), movement, music, poetry and relational practices to support healing our wounds of separation.
Drawing on the indigenous wisdom of the Buddhadharma as well as from other traditions, participants will be invited to share their innate and ancestral ways of knowing the truth of our undeniable interconnection.