On July 8th we had an extraordinary celebration marking the 30th anniversary of the Insight Meditation Society. Even though we had moved in on Valentine’s Day 1976, the weather in February in New England seemed too challenging for a party that size. July was perfect.
Early in the day I was touched to see a line of monks and nuns from Burmese and Thai lineages line up to be served food… a tradition thousands of years old, still happening now. I was amazed to have friends come up and, asking if I wanted to see a picture of their son (whom I had last encountered when he was in the womb) whip out a picture of a strapping 21 year old who looked like a football player. Twenty one and a half years had gone by in a blink. I was continually grateful for the fact that people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in decades, all wore name tags. Where does the time go?
I was 23 when we started IMS. These 30 years have brought joys, sorrows, disappointments, triumphs, times buoyed by a distinct feeling of doing good, times burdened by a concern that the world, ruled by greed, hatred and delusion, is spiraling downhill nonetheless. Throughout it all there have been the people – those who have come to meditate, to be on staff, to serve on the Board.
The Buddha talked about life being like an echo, a rainbow, a drop of dew on a blade of grass, a flash of lightening in a summer sky. He described life as being like a dream. A day like July 8, where the past seemed translucent instead of solid, and the present moment couldn’t be held onto, while the future beckoned into the next ephemeral unfolding, was a living example of those images.
After lunch we all (about 500 people) went to a tent on the edge of the property for a series of presentations. I was scheduled to speak last. The first speaker was our State Senator, Stephen Brewer, whom I had voted for many times but had never met. He came to present us with a good citizenship award, which was a wonderful gesture on the part of the town. Senator Brewer turned out to be a warm, funny, articulate speaker. He spoke about how our world is broken, about how the world needs places like IMS and people like the people who come there, people who seek another way, who are committed to kindness and compassion. I felt like he said everything I was going to say! He cut to the chase of what the day was celebrating and what the place is ultimately about: a refuge from the messages we get all the time of separateness, of how we don’t need one another, of how we can control our lives and even the lives of others if we cling hard enough. A refuge that provides not only the vision of another way to live, with wisdom and awareness and caring, but the practical tools for making it so.