The Contemplative Speaker series will feature four wonderful and diverse speakers who represent different faiths. Each will speak for about an hour on the theme of contemplative practice within their given tradition, followed by questions and meditation.
On March 26, Ryushin Sensei will give a talk titled “What is Meditation? The Zen
perspective on waking up to reality. He is the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, and
entered residency in 1992. Before becoming a resident, he worked as a pediatrician and
On April 2, Amer Latif will speak on the topic of Muslim contemplatives;
how they have understood and practiced the basic notions of worship/ remembrance of God in the Qur’an and Hadith. He is a professor of religion at Marlboro College, interested in questions of beauty and meaning, inspired initially by the writings of Rumi.
On May 2, Rabbi Joshua will speak. He is a rabbi, writer, and builder in Bennington,
Vermont. Recently he organized a celebration of the holiday Sukkot, including the
raising of a timber-frame structure called a sukkah. He is very interested in kindling the
role of art in Jewish life.
In late May, Brother Stavros will speak. He entered monastic life in 1966, and is one
of New Skete’s original founding brothers. He studied philosophy at Catholic University
and languages at Georgetown, and now oversees the liturgy and general order of New
Skete’s churches. He often hikes on the Appalachian Trail.
We hope that the Speaker Series will a) enrich conversation and thought on campus by
bringing fascinating people into our community and b) support a larger initiative to raise
awareness and start a dialogue concerning the role of religious/spiritual/contemplative
life on campus. We are particularly interested in providing resources and support
systems for students interested in contemplative life, including (through a different
project) a space for student refuge, contemplative practice, and reverence.
Last weekend our group took a field trip to visit the Sukkah behind the Bennington Museum. We have been looking at Sukkahs as a design inspiration for the project and have been particularly interested in the timber frame approach. We spent a bit of time walking around the structure, seeing what feelings it evoked and how it related to the surrounding space.
After visiting the sukkah, our group decided to take a ‘Polar Plunge’ at the Tubs on Mt. Anthony Rd, a waterfall in North Pownal, VT. After exploring the pools, we- Emma, Rachel, Sam and Glennis- all stripped down to bathing suits and climbed up the frigid, snowy, slope. One by one, we then jumped into the freezing water below. The water is about six or seven feet deep and so we were all fully submerged before running back to our towels.
The water was quite the wake up call. I, (Glennis) felt exhilarated and, of course, cold! The water wasn’t as frigid as I thought it would be, but I was not prepared for just how cold my bare feet would get in the snow. A thrilling introduction to the spring time and to our work together as a group!
While climbing, (more like slipping), up to the ledge where we jumped, I felt myself second guessing this decision. Then as my feet froze in the snow at the
top waiting to jump, the sheer insanity really began to set in. But thankfully, Sam jumped and we all followed after.
As we were walking around before the plunge my mind would not let go of a line from my very favorite poet, Mary Oliver, from her poem, Evidence. I feel like it fits perfectly with my thoughts and feelings about the plunge.
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”
A reflection on the work from the winter:
No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.
“How often already you’ve had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.”