Donor Spotlight: A Conversation with Guy Armstrong – Insight Meditation Society

Donor Spotlight: A Conversation with Guy Armstrong – Insight Meditation Society

Guy Armstrong holds a singular place within the IMS sangha. For almost 5 a long time, he’s been an integral a part of the group, contributing to its creation, development, and evolution. His involvement started when he sat a six-month retreat at IMS in 1977 and has continued ever since. Over the years, he has labored as a member of workers, taught many retreats together with greater than 20 years on the crew main the Three-Month, and served as a member of our Board of Directors and as a Guiding Teacher. Guy, and his spouse and fellow IMS teacher Sally, have been donors all through the years as properly, contributing to initiatives and applications near their hearts, together with the development of the Teacher Village, and supporting younger individuals in deepening their dharma apply.

Here, Guy speaks with IMS’s Raquel Baetz about how he got here to the apply, why it’s necessary to him and Sally to be IMS donors, and the significance of this establishment on the earth.


Tell us a bit about your background, together with when and the way you first got here to Vipassana apply and IMS?

Throughout my grownup profession, I’ve gone forwards and backwards between service work and technical work. I’ve a Bachelor’s in physics and a Master’s in laptop science. But I’ve at all times loved working with individuals. After I graduated from school, I labored as a pc programmer for a 12 months, after which I spent a few years within the Peace Corps in Malaysia as a highschool teacher. I got here again from that and went to work once more within the tech business with Hewlett Packard. During that point, I found perception meditation, and I received that bug in a giant means. And truthfully, I then spent about 12 years being what we name a “dharma bum,” orienting my life round apply and dealing simply sufficient to maintain going.

That was once I got here to IMS. I sat retreat for six months, after which I got here on workers for almost two years, and shortly after that I completed up my laptop science graduate diploma. Right after that I went to Thailand and have become a monk for a 12 months.

When I received again from Thailand, I settled in England as a result of a dharma group was forming there round Totnes, Devon. My teacher, Christopher Titmuss, invited me, and Sally Clough, who was then only a pal, to start out the group. We had been the primary two individuals on the Sharpham Community. While beginning the group and dwelling there, Sally and I received collectively as a pair. A 12 months later, we had been married.

As we had been forming the dharma group, I began instructing at Gaia House which was close by in Devon. That’s once I began instructing retreats—round 1984/5. Sally and I stayed in England for 5 years, after which determined to maneuver again to the States. My work visa was operating out and I’d at all times liked California, so we ended up settling in Woodacre as a result of Spirit Rock had simply been purchased. Sally labored at Spirit Rock, and I went again to work within the tech business at Microsoft. I spent 5 years there to avoid wasting cash, after which received again into my real love, which was dharma apply and repair. I began instructing once more at Spirit Rock and IMS—this was the mid-90s—and I’ve been concerned with dharma instructing ever since.

What was that very very first thing that launched you to perception meditation?

I had been focused on Buddhism in my school years and did loads of studying, together with The Way of Zen by Alan Watts. When I used to be dwelling in California after the Peace Corps, I met a teacher who was instructing perception meditation and I received actually focused on that. After a few years of day by day life apply, I did my first retreat, which was in New Mexico with Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, and Jack Kornfield. That was ’76—the identical 12 months IMS was based. I fell in love with the apply. So, I gave up my job, sublet my residence, and moved to IMS to take a seat a retreat for six months. This was after only one 10-day retreat. I used to be actually taken with the apply.

What affect did that first retreat at IMS have on you?

It was life altering. I used to be lucky to be there at a time when Joseph and Sharon had been round so much, so I had an excellent reference to them as academics. And I used to be impressed by their beings and their teachings.

I keep in mind listening to Joseph discuss on the 5 hindrances and realizing, “This is the common human situation.” This is just not my specific downside or my specific dukkha. These are the forces of thoughts that we’re all coping with. That took an enormous quantity of particular person strain off my apply, and it allowed me to work with issues in a extra goal means.

And being in retreat for some months, the focus continued to deepen. I began to get what the Buddha was pointing to along with his emphasis on impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and never self. I began to know the importance of a few of these transformative insights.

What made you determine to turn out to be a teacher?

It was sort of pushed on me to let you know the reality. I got here again from Thailand, the place I had spent a 12 months as a monk, and settled in Devon, England. Christopher Titmuss gave me the invitation to start out a dharma group—with Sally. I moved in and a 12 months later, he mentioned, “I received this invitation from Germany to show a retreat, however I’m not capable of go. Why don’t you go?”

I mentioned, “Me? I’m not prepared to show a retreat.”

He mentioned, “Oh, it might be such a disgrace if these individuals didn’t get to have a retreat.”

So, I assumed, “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.” So, I went to Germany and led my first retreat.

How did that go?

Nobody knew me as a teacher at the moment. The organizers let me know that solely 4 individuals had signed up. So, they requested me if I nonetheless needed to come back or if they need to cancel it. And I mentioned, properly, if 4 individuals wish to apply, I’ll go. So, I made the preparations, purchased my ticket, and flew to Germany. By that point, two of the individuals had canceled, so I led per week’s retreat for 2 individuals.

It was a really humble starting, nevertheless it gave me the texture for what I would want to do to guide a retreat, and all of it went fantastic. Things simply grew from there.

This previous 12 months was your final instructing the Three-Month Retreat after greater than 20 years. What are your ideas round transitioning off of that instructing crew and leaving it within the palms of a brand new technology of academics?

It actually felt just like the time for me to do that—and Sally and Carol Wilson felt the identical. I be ok with the crew that’s there to hold it on. We have a powerful group of academics who’re dedicated to carrying it ahead. And there are loads of newer academics developing who can be invited to hitch the instructing groups going ahead. So, I believe the Three-Month Retreat is in fine condition by way of the standard of instructing that may proceed to be provided there, and the inspiration that it’ll present.

In my case, the opposite factor is that I’ve began to take pleasure in instructing a specialised set of teachings centered across the themes of vacancy and consciousness. This is new territory for lots of established Vipassana practitioners. I discover it rewarding to have the ability to open up these themes—which have loads of depth and potential for freedom—to practitioners who haven’t encountered them earlier than. Sally and I are instructing a month-long on the Forest Refuge this 12 months on these themes. It’s turn out to be very rewarding for me to supply the Dharma on this means.

You’ve been deeply concerned with IMS in lots of capacities, together with as a donor. Can you inform us about a number of the initiatives and applications you’ve given to through the years which have been near your coronary heart?

When we discuss donations to IMS, it’s at all times Sally and me each as a result of we share that luck to have the ability to supply to IMS on this means.

There are actually two issues which have been near our hearts. The first is supporting younger individuals in deepening their dharma apply. Both Sally and I began our meditation paths in our 20s. She began in India, and I began at IMS. At that point, the day by day fee at IMS was $7.50 a day. That’s why it was attainable for me as a twenty-something to come back to IMS and spend six months in retreat, as a result of it simply wasn’t that costly again then. Sally went to India to start out her meditation apply, and it was very cheap to reside in India and Nepal as a customer wanting to interact with meditation.

We each assume that if we had been in our 20s now, there could be a lot greater monetary hurdles to our with the ability to stick with it long-term meditation apply. So, one of many issues that we’ve been doing is providing scholarships to the Three-Month Retreat for younger adults. We hope that over time IMS will be capable of create an endowment to hold these scholarships into the longer term. That’s most likely our past love by way of the sangha members who we wish to help.

The different factor that we’re dedicated to is enhancing or increasing the bodily facility. So, the second factor that we received concerned with at IMS was this excellent alternative to construct new teacher housing. Both of us have been concerned in instructing at IMS for a very long time, so we’ve spent months at IMS in several types of teacher housing. We realized that, as much as that time, academics had been housed throughout all these totally different areas, and we typically wouldn’t see one another fairly often. We thought it might be great if we might gather the entire instructing crew collectively—housed shut along with a central assembly room the place everybody might hang around and focus on what must be accomplished for the retreat.

About 5 years in the past, a parcel of land got here up on the market one property over from IMS and it had a surprising outlook. So, we contributed to the Teacher Village, and we additionally served on the design committee for that undertaking.

I stayed on the Teacher Village for the primary time this previous fall once I taught the Three-Month Retreat. I liked being there, and all of the issues that we had imagined have in reality labored out. We had an amazing house for teacher conferences. Teachers would cross paths usually throughout the day, and I believe all that contact introduced us nearer. The senior academics had been in additional contact with the newer academics and so loads of casual mentoring might happen due to our shut bodily proximity.

For me, one of many stunning issues a couple of group is crossing paths in sudden methods over the course of your day by day actions. The Teacher Village supplies this shut connection for the instructing crew. When the instructing crew is getting on properly and is in concord, I believe the yogis actually get loads of profit. They choose that up. This is what actual dharma friendship could be like, and I believe that heat actually carried out to the yogis.

Are there every other applications or initiatives you wish to point out?

Because I get older and decreasing a few of my instructing work, one of many issues I take into consideration is the technology that may carry the Dharma ahead. There are a number of ways in which I hope to have the ability to mentor newer academics and trainees that may assist them turn out to be established academics in order that they will carry the work ahead. The Dharma that IMS provides is likely one of the issues the world actually wants. I believe IMS as an establishment has an excellent understanding of easy methods to carry it out, and we proceed to want a contemporary provide of latest academics to try this work. I hope to have a hand in shaping a few of that going ahead.

Why is it so necessary to you to proceed to contribute to IMS?

I’ve large religion in our apply—of what we provide at IMS—to remodel the world for the higher. When I step again and take a look at all of the organizations that I’ve are available contact with, I believe IMS brings as a lot gentle into the world as any group I can consider—an undiluted gentle of knowledge, compassion, love, and generosity. When I take into consideration a legacy by way of monetary giving, it’s the place I really feel Sally’s and my donations can have the best affect.

We belief the management and the imaginative and prescient within the group, and we expect that it has the best potential to hold the readability of the Buddha’s teachings into the longer term once we received’t be right here. IMS represents one thing so worthwhile and distinctive within the Western dharma world that we wish to assist put it on an excellent footing going ahead.



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