The Insight Meditation Society

Insight Meditation Society

  • Name of Center: The Insight Meditation Society
  • Address: 1230 Pleasant Street, Barre, Massachusetts 01005
  • Phone Number: 978-355-4378 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              978-355-4378      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
  • Website:
  • Contact Email:
  • Tradition(s): Predominantly Theraveda
  • Technique(s): vipassana, metta, jhanas, etc.
  • Teacher(s): Varying. Most well-known teachers include Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg.
  • Cost: On a sliding scale; a week runs from US$200-700, with "scholarships" available for those who can demonstrate need.
  • Accommodations: Retreatants get a shared dormitory room, shared bathrooms and showers.
  • Facilities: A large meditation hall (recently renovated), dining room, kitchen, and several walking rooms. There is a small "Yoga Room" with some physical therapy and hatha yoga equipment; one of the walking rooms, houses a number of yoga mats and I believe converts into a yoga studio on some retreats offering "optional yoga" or "optional qigong".
  • Physical Setting: In rural Massachusetts, on a wooded lot with three miles of walking trails. The center points out that they suffer all four seasons there.
  • Food (Vegetarian/Vegan/etc.): Food is served buffet-style. Breakfast is oatmeal and various seeds and fruits, with a "special needs" alternative grain; lunches vary and are vegetarian, and probably better than what's available in your workplace cafeteria. Dairy-free and wheat-free meals--which I gather are also nightshade free--are prepared based on the number who request them, though it tends to much simpler fare: e.g., millett and tofu as opposed to tempeh with peanut sauce. The evening "tea meal" offered is actually fairly heavy (e.g., corn chowder and crackers), though on longer retreats will often be a smaller assortment of crackers, spreads, and fruit.
  • Retreat Length(s): From weekends to three months.
  • Typical Schedule: Wake-up bell at 5 am, followed by sitting, then breakfast and a work period, then sitting and walking, lunch, more sitting and walking, atea meal followed by sitting and a talk, then sitting and walking until about 9 PM, with the hall remaining open after that.
  • Issues of Taboos around attainment, real practice, disclosing insights, etc.: There's a heavy psychological bend interested in integration and using wisdom in daily life.
  • Issues of Rites/Rituals: Chanting at least once a day, often in Pali, may accompany retreats, and bowing is very common.
  • Issues of Proper Dress: The orientation is Western, although as mentioned bowing is common; IMS advises against "rustling" fabrics and suggests modest clothing.
  • Issues of Etiquette: Some people bow to images and teachers, some do not.
  • Issues of Language: Most of the teachers are native English speakers.
  • Health Issues: Only over-the-counter homeopathic remedies are on the premises, though requests for runs to drugstores or elsewhere are available; the nearest major medical center is about forty-five minutes away.
  • Logistical Issues: Getting to and from the center on schedule can be difficult unless one's driving or flying. The train and bus routes into Worchester are not incredibly frequent. By plane, train, or bus, you'll still need car service there; one or two companies offer a reliable shared van service, as well as regular car service. Budget at least two hours for car service from Logan Airport.
  • Strengths: The center is very quiet; the administrative staff is amenable; they encourage practicing as much as possible. Likewise it is well-established and brings in a variety of teachers.
  • Weaknesses: Teachers can be difficult to access on a large retreat.Also, as mentioned before there seems to be a tendency for most teachers to talk about enlightenment in terms of psychological ideals, and there is a strong tendency toward discouraging the desire to attain enlightenment. Also it can be a little crowded here if you are on a retreat that is full. The Forest Refuge tends to be a bit more spacious, loose, and quiet.
  • Other Comments: The lunch and "tea" schedules are generous enough to be good times for formal practice. There's only one clock on the first floor, and the bell-ringing schedule is actually relatively lenghty (e.g., it might take the wake-up bell-ringer ten or fifteen minutes to get to your wing) so wear a watch.
  • Overall Impression: Worthy of recommendation.