Mindful healing

Two upcoming events address spiritual experience and confronting grief.


The Native Earth Teaching Farm in Chilmark will play host to two special daylong events during the next couple of weekends. On Saturday, Nov. 5, a group from Vermont and Boston called the Mobile Monastery Chautauqua Tour will offer a drop-in Day of Mindfulness. On Saturday, Nov. 12, the rustic farm will host a Community Grief Ritual. Both events will feature multiple workshops, sessions, and activities, with an aim of providing a thoughtful, spiritual experience to participants.

“We’ve been wanting to serve as a small community center,” says Rebecca Gilbert, co-owner of the farm, which offers numerous agricultural learning experiences. “We’re trying to involve as many kinds of events as this space is suited to.”

Speaking about the Day of Mindfulness, Gilbert describes the event as incorporating a “cornucopia of Buddhist-inspired practices,” and she notes, “You certainly don’t have to be a Buddhist to attend.”

The Mobile Monastery Chautauqua is described on its website as “a spiritual community on wheels that organizes events and builds community connections” and “a traveling troupe of spiritual teachers bringing wisdom and compassion across the land.” The Day of Mindfulness will include massage, guided meditation, movement flow, interpersonal meditation, and sound meditation. The latter will be led by Vineyarder Anna Marden, who recently started offering sound bath experiences on-Island. A sound bath is a form of meditation that aims to guide you into a deep meditative state while you’re enveloped in soothing ambient sound. Marden was instrumental in bringing the Mobile Monastery to the Vineyard. She (along with Marcia Conlon from Boston) will be facilitating the Grief Ritual.

Autumn Turley, founder of the Mobile Monastery Tour, says that this is the second year that the group has traveled across the country to bring events to various communities, starting on the West Coast and concluding in the Boston area after their visit to the Vineyard. She explains that the four members all attended the Monastic Academy in Vermont. “This sprang from our training at the academy,” she says. Turley is a longtime practitioner of modern monastic practices. The other members bring a wealth of experience in a variety of spiritual practices. 

Both events will take place under the protection of the farm’s greenhouse, with the possibility of expansion into the fields depending upon the weather. Attendees are encouraged to wear warm, comfortable clothing, and bring blankets and pillows if they choose. People can drop in at any time during the Day of Mindfulness, while full participation in the 4-and-a-half hour Grief Ritual is recommended.

Marden explains that the Grief Ritual event is appropriate for any type of grieving, not just bereavement for a loved one. “It’s an opportunity to honor our own ancestors and also the ancestors of this land,” she says. “It could also be a way to honor any type of grief, any type of grief you want to honor. It doesn’t have to be a loss in the original sense. I started it because there was such a sense of collective loss during the pandemic.”

Gilbert adds, “The grief ritual doesn’t have to be for people who have died. I have been suffering from grief over climate change, and watching the Island erode in ways that are heartbreaking … Halloween time is the time of the dead. It seemed like an appropriate time to be doing grief rituals.”

The event will encompass ancestor veneration, therapeutic writing prompts, sound healing, movement, discussion circles, meditation, a fire pit, and altar building. People are invited to bring items such as a photo or a stone, or anything that reminds them of a loss, for the altar building. Marden adds that both events will include a movement element. “We’ll be moving through our emotions and experience movement meditation.”

She only recently started offering sound bath experiences to the public. During her time studying in London, she was inspired by various yoga and meditation classes, as well as women’s circles that she participated in while there. “When I finished grad school and came back I realized that I was missing doing that,” she says. “I really wanted to share that offering.”

Marden studied various instruments involved in sound baths, now utilizing a gong, crystal singing bowls, Koshi chimes, and an ocean drum. “I try to create a layered soundscape that induces a relaxing meditative effect,” she says. “Recently, I felt called to share the experience with my community because I have gotten so much out of it.”

Previously the Native Earth Teaching Farm has hosted concerts with Haitian musicians, a pregnancy group, and Women’s Circles. Gilbert hopes to collaborate with various individuals and groups on future events, and plans to bring back the Grief Ritual next year.

Mobile Monastery Chautauqua Tour presents A Day of Mindfulness on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 1 to 5:30 pm. Drop in anytime or stay the whole day. The event is offered by donation. The Community Grief Ritual takes place on Saturday, Nov. 12, from 1 to 5:30 pm. Suggested donation is $44 to $77. Rebecca Gilbert will also accept barters, and will not turn anyone away for lack of funds. Register in advance as attendance will be limited: iriescrystals@gmail.com. Both events will be held at the Native Earth Teaching Farm, 94 North Road, Chilmark.