Have Faith: My happiness is intertwined with yours

Island Insight Meditation Community welcomes all to the practice.

Buddha in the garden. —Jill De La Hunt

Editor’s note: My colleague Allison Roberts wrote this wonderful piece on meditation and mindfulness, and we’re happy to share it with you. C.B.

I met my husband shortly after he’d moved out of the Rochester Zen Center in upstate New York, where he’d spent a year living and working. We had a Buddhist wedding ceremony, and over the years we’ve each sat (meditated) more or less regularly. Admittedly, he is more dedicated to his practice than I am. I’ve been contemplating getting back into meditating, even though it’s tempting to distract myself with a myriad of activities, and to avoid the discomfort (impatience) of sitting in silence. Sometimes it helps to be surrounded by a community of people practicing together, especially when you’re returning or just getting started. So I reached out to Island Insight Meditation Community to learn more about them.

Island Insight Meditation Community (IIMC) is a small group of practitioners who meet regularly, live and online, to practice together on the Vineyard. IIMC offers regular meditation, teaching and study, and discussion opportunities. Though they are rooted in the teachings of the Buddha, one doesn’t need to identify as a Buddhist, and there is no formal membership.

A little background on Buddhism: History.com defines Buddhism as a faith that was founded by Siddhartha Gautama — the Buddha — more than 2,500 years ago. Buddhism is considered one of the major world religions, though it is a nontheistic faith, with no god or deity to worship.

“I’m saying this with humility; in Buddhism we recognize that we all experience dis-tress and dis-ease in our lives,” Jill De La Hunt, IIMC lay-ordained Buddhist chaplain and dharma practice guide, said. “Ultimately everyone wants to be happy, and my happiness is intertwined with yours. We’re all connected. Right now, we’re all bearing witness to a lot happening in the world, and we’re all experiencing stress together. Obviously at very different degrees, but we are not separate. What the Buddha taught started with a basic set of teachings, the Four Noble Truths.”

According to the PBS article “Buddhism: An Introduction,” the Four Noble Truths are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.

“In the first Noble Truth, it’s often said that in life, there is suffering. This dharma has a bit of a bad rep, often misunderstood to mean that all of life is suffering. And although there is suffering in life, the second Noble Truth looks at it more casually — why is this?” De La Hunt explained. “It’s because we are trying to hold onto something when everything is changing. We want something we don’t have, or we have something we don’t want, etc. The third Noble Truth reflects that it’s possible to heal that, and possible to change individually and collectively. And then the fourth Noble Truth is the path of, ‘OK, then how will we do that?’”

People come to meditation practice for a variety of reasons. “Lots of us come to this because we’re hurting in some way. So we’re looking for relief,” De La Hunt said. “Mindfulness is a very valuable way to help with that. The Buddhist path really emphasizes that by fully experiencing both joy and sorrow, you can alleviate your fears, and make wiser decisions about how to alleviate your own suffering and the suffering of others. It’s not the passive practice people think it is. Once you are making decisions out of wisdom, not out of fear, you can decide how you want to be in the world, and what actions to take. Buddhism is eminently practical. Ultimately we realize that ‘my suffering is your suffering.’ So how do we relieve suffering in skillful ways?”

“I came from a Vipassana insight meditation orientation,” Jane Katch, a member of IIMC’s steering circle, shared. I wasn’t sure what Vipassana meditation was, so I looked it up and found the following in Healthline: In Vipassana meditation, you simply observe your inner self instead of consciously trying to control the experience, focusing on feelings, thoughts, and sensations without judgment. “I found Island Insight because I was looking for something in that tradition. The group that we have is really comfortable, and available for a wide range of meditation.”

I’ve tried a few forms of meditation, and what I’ve found is that the practice itself — no matter which form — gently pulls me back in the room, reminding me to stop having imaginary arguments with people, or wishing I had smaller feet, or better eyesight, or that my mom was still alive. But one of the greatest things meditation has taught me is that I am not an island unto myself. All living beings reside in the same world, and what benefits one of us benefits us all. By avoiding what is real and true — good and bad — I’m ultimately causing my own suffering, and rendering myself unavailable to others. Understanding ourselves, accepting impermanence, and connecting to others is how we wake up.

IIMC offers live, online, and hybrid meditation sessions. They meet live once a month at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard in Vineyard Haven. IIMC also holds dharma talks on various topics related to the teachings and the community. For more detailed information, visit their website: islandinsight.org.