International Insight Meditation News
January 2017
Heavenly Messengers and Spiritual Friends

Greetings from Auckland, New Zealand!


I always find this time of year quite strange.  As I write this, I feel to be hovering in the limbo space between Christmas and New Year, one celebration gone and the next not quite here. 
Same with the calendar: 2016 has rushed by, and now suddenly there's a different year looming into consciousness.  Like many people, I hope it will be better than the last one, but more than ever now, it's clear that hope alone is not enough.


Heavenly messengers

Over the last few months, I've often felt quite overwhelmed by the obvious strengthening of the forces of greed, hatred and delusion around the world, and the resultant misery for so many people. 
As a strategy to avoid getting lost in overwhelm though, I've been trying to see the global leaders who epitomise these negative energies as "heavenly messengers." 
In the story of the Buddha's own life, it's said that he began to wake up from delusion after coming into contact with four heavenly messengers: a sick person, an old person, a dead person, and a spiritual seeker.  The first three shook the Buddha-to-be out of his complacency, and the fourth, the spiritual seeker, showed him a way out of the hedonistic life he'd been living.
When I notice myself sliding into aversion in response to the latest calamity, I've been trying to use it as a reminder to re-orient to the good, to look for whatever actions I can take - however seemingly insignificant - to strengthen wisdom and compassion.


Daily metta chanting: cultivating compassion and strengthening spiritual friendship

For example, just after Election Day in the USA, a friend of mine suggested a practice of taking a few moments of silence every day at 11 a.m., and in that silence to bring to mind all the people in the world who are working to overcome negative energies, as well as the people who are currently suffering from them.
I've modified that practice a little, so that every morning at 11 a.m. when my alarm goes off, I stop whatever I'm doing for a moment, then chant just a few lines from the Reflections on Universal Well-being, a traditional Buddhist chant:

May everyone abide in well-being,
in freedom from hostility,
in freedom from ill-will,
in freedom from anxiety,
and may they maintain well-being in themselves.
May all beings be released from all suffering.
And may they not be parted from the good fortune they have attained.

There's an audio recording of the Amaravati monks and nuns chanting the whole chant here:

Spiritual friendship

Although these few seconds of chanting might seem insignificant in comparison to the global suffering that inspired it, it's felt surprisingly encouraging to have a daily moment of connection with friends around the world, as well as a moment to offer compassion to those who are currently facing challenging life circumstances.
And just recently, in a newsletter from IMS, Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg also suggested that we need to strengthen spiritual friendships as a support for overcoming injustice and intolerance.  Their message is below, and it's inspired me to make spiritual friendship the theme of this newsletter.

Message from Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg
co-founders of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts

It’s clear that our world is facing significant challenges. Many of us are asking ourselves, how do we remain resilient in the face of upheaval? How do we keep an open heart in the midst of division? And how can our compassion fuel effective engagement?
Never has our meditation provided a more important foundation for appropriate response and wise action. The Buddha's words that hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone, challenges us to find that place of love within ourselves, particularly at those times when it seems most difficult. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., HH The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu all exemplify this possibility, reminding us that these are not simply words to admire but to put into practice as best we can.
There is no particular hierarchy of compassionate action. We will each find our own way to respond and engage with the suffering in the world. But this is also a time when sangha, our companions near and far on the Buddha’s path to liberation, can provide a vital source of support and inspiration. We encourage you to nurture spiritual friendships that strengthen courage and resolve, so that injustice and intolerance can be called out and addressed. These friendships are precious. They help sustain us as we seek ways to embody our practice in our daily lives and undertake sustained action.
birthday cookies while assisting on a retreat at Spirit Rock July 2016, with
Joseph Goldstein, Kamala Masters, Annie Nugent, DaRa Williams

Other teaching news from around the world




Bhikkhu Anaalayo study and practice retreat, July 2018

I'm happy to report that we've found a suitable venue for this retreat in New South Wales:
St Mary's Towers 415 Douglas Park Drive Douglas Park NSW 2569
This is a Catholic retreat centre just over an hour from the centre of Sydney, set in 500 acres of bushland, and it has a mix of historic and newer accommodation buildings, all with single rooms.
Once we have the costs of the retreat finalised, I plan to send out registration info for it in the next month to everyone who has signed up for the pre-registration list.
Although the initial registration list is full, Bhikkhu Anaalayo has agreed to offer a second retreat so if you're interested in that, please sign up on the waiting list for it here:
(NOTE: these retreats are intended for experienced meditators so there is a pre-requisite of having attended at least four nine-day insight meditation retreats)


Newcastle May 2017

After spending almost two delightful weeks teaching in Newcastle in November, I'm happy to be returning again in May 2017 to offer a range of workshops and events for both the insight meditation and Insight Dialogue communities there.  With each visit to Newcastle over the last few years, I've been inspired to see how the dedication of a few can bring benefits to many ...
breakfast with the Newcastle team: Susan Burgoyne and Donna Lavell

New Zealand


Auckland Insight

Similarly in Auckland, the community is growing and the Insight Auckland team has decided to increase our group meetings to weekly instead of fortnightly, starting from Thursday 19 January 2017. 
With the extra meetings, we'd like to increase our pool of volunteers who facilitate the group each week.  Volunteer facilitators are not expected to be experienced meditators or to have in-depth knowledge of the teachings and the role has been structured to make it as simple and stress-free as possible, so if you're interested in supporting the group in this way please talk to any of the current facilitators.

New four-day retreat in the Auckland region

The Auckland Insight team have decided to add a four-day retreat to the 2017 calendar, to be taught by Jill from 17-21 May 2017.  The venue for this has not yet been finalised but will be in the Auckland region.  As this is a community-supported event, we are looking for volunteers to help make it happen.  Please contact Yvonne if you'd like to be part of the team.

Seven-day retreat with Greg Scharf (and Jill), Te Moata

Greg Scharf will be returning to New Zealand in September 2017 to teach his second retreat with Jill for Auckland Insight, this time at Te Moata in the Coromandel.
Jill's retreat at Te Moata in 2016 was well-attended even though it was in the middle of winter, and the two-week retreat with Greg and Jill in Australia in September is already full, so this retreat will probably fill too.  Please register soon to avoid missing this opportunity to practice with a very dedicated and deeply-experienced insight meditation teacher.
dinner with some Auckland Insight people and friends:
Paul, Viv, John, Miriam, Violet, Maree



Five-day metta retreat, IMS

I'm very much looking forward to returning to IMS in a couple of months to teach a five-day retreat with Oren Sofer, a friend of mine from the IMS/Spirit Rock teacher training group who I've known since 2003, when we sat our first three-month retreat together at IMS.
This retreat is already two-thirds full so if you're interested in attending, please register soon.
More info here:

Later in 2017 I plan to return to the US to sit a one-month retreat at the Forest Refuge with Sayadaw U Vivekananda, then teach and visit friends in the very dedicated dharma communities of Austin and San Antonio, Texas, and Bellingham, Washington.
coffee with Rosie, Nic and Beth
at a recent Insight Dialogue teachers' gathering in New Hampshire

Teaching highlights for 2017 and beyond

A summary of some of the teaching I have planned for the next two years, organised by date (longer retreats in red).
For details of these and other events, please go to the Teaching menu on my website:


4-8 January 2017 - four-day insight meditation retreat with Graham Wheeler
Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre, New South Wales AUSTRALIA

9 January - 29 March 2017 - twelve-week study and practice course

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies ONLINE

19-26 February 2017 - seven-day insight meditation retreat
Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre, New South Wales AUSTRALIA
17-22 March 2017 - five-day metta retreat with Oren Sofer and Devin Berry
(2/3 FULL)
Insight Meditation Society, Barre, Massachusetts USA
22 April - 7 May 2017 - various workshops and non-residential retreats
Newcastle, New South Wales AUSTRALIA

17-21 May 2017 - four-day insight meditation retreat
venue TBA Auckland NEW ZEALAND

6-10 July  2017 - various workshops
Austin and San Antonio, Texas USA

22-23 July  2017 - weekend workshop
Bellingham, Washington USA

23-27 August 2017 - four-day insight meditation retreat with Gawaine Powell-Davies
venue TBA, Sydney, New South Wales AUSTRALIA

1-15 September 2017 - two-week insight meditation retreat
with Jill Shepherd and visiting US teacher Greg Scharf

Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre, New South Wales AUSTRALIA

23-30 September 2017 - seven-day insight meditation retreat
with Jill Shepherd and visiting US teacher Greg Scharf
Awakening our Natural Wisdom

Te Moata Retreat Centre, Coromandel NEW ZEALAND

29 November - 3 December 2017 - four-day insight meditation retreat
Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre, New South Wales AUSTRALIA



2-11 February 2018 - co-teaching nine-day insight meditation retreat
East Coast USA

24 February - March 3 2018
seven-day insight meditation retreat with Gil Fronsdal and Oren Sofer

Insight Retreat Center (IRC), California USA

July 14-29 2018 - two seven-day study retreats led by Bhikkhu Anaalayo
assisted by Jill Shepherd

St Mary's Towers, Douglas Park New South Wales AUSTRALIA
October-November 2018 - co-teaching six-week retreat
East Coast USA

December 2018 - co-teaching one-month retreat

East Coast USA

In celebration of spiritual friendship, I hope that there'll be an opportunity to practice with you again somewhere in the world, soon ...
with best wishes,
Copyright © 2016 Jill Shepherd, All rights reserved.

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