blue sanctuaryEvery Tuesday from 7-8:45 p.m., Shell leads an open, dana (donation)-based,  Vipassana (Insight) meditation group (sangha) for those wishing to deepen their practice with others in a group setting. Most nights there are about 30-40 of us.

We meet in the beautiful blue sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley off Route 11 in Stephens City. (*Directions and schedule are below.)

We practice Vipassana, or Insight Meditation, a style of meditation that trains us to live more mindfully in the present moment. Literally meaning “to see clearly,” Vipassana enables us to experience all aspects of life from a greater stillness, and to relate to both ourselves and others with increased clarity and compassion, and less fear, anxiety, and stress.

While the forms of meditation we practice are rooted in Buddhist teachings, the study and practice of mindfulness is applicable to anyone from any background or religion, and all are welcome. There are plenty of comfy chairs.


*You can listen to some previous talks here

Nov. 21: Conquering ‘Comparing Mind’: In Buddhist psychology, the term “comparing mind” is considered a habit of mind that causes us a lot of unnecessary stress and suffering, as it involves evaluating how our perceived sense of “self” compares with other perceived “selves,” either as “better than,” or “less than,” or even equal. And the truth is, all of these assessments come from a vast misunderstanding, or perception. Tonight’s talk will investigate the suffering that arises from this mind state, as well as ways that we can use our practice to conquer it.

Nov. 28 – The Heartwood Sutra: Often, as we search for deeper spiritual meaning in our practice, it’s easy to become stalled or stuck at certain points, and become unclear about which direction we need to take in order to continue further. Tonight’s talk will explore the famous Heartwood Sutra, which points out four things that are often mistaken for progress in our practice.

Dec. 5 – Mini-Retreat Night: Every first Tuesday, we forgo the dharma talk so that we can dive a little deeper into the stillness and silence of practice. The meditation period this evening will include 10 minutes of guided meditation, 30 minutes of silent meditation, 20 minutes of walking meditation, plus a final guided metta (loving-kindness meditation) to end. We will all leave in silence, too, to respect the retreat-like container of the evening.

Dec. 12 – The 5 Remembrances: In the Pāli canon, the Buddha asks us to practice reflecting each day on what are called “The 5 Remembrances” as they relate to the truth of annica (impermanence). Over time, and with practice, reflecting upon these 5 things can help us to more deeply recognize and accept that change, loss, and death are not unusual events, but are woven into the very fabric of existence. As we continue to reflect on these truths, the more the mind becomes imbued with peace, and equanimous in the face of difficulties. Tonight’s talk will explore these 5.

Dec. 19 –Cathy Wolfe-Heberle, our retreat manager, has kindly agreed to lead us tonight, as Shell will be away on retreat. The evening will include our regular 15 minutes of sharing, followed by a 15-minute guided mediation, and a ½-hour sit. We’ll end a bit early tonight, at 8 p.m. (Thank you Cathy!)

Dec. 26: Happy Holidays! Shell will still be away on retreat, so we won’t be meeting during this holiday week …

Jan. 2 – Mini-Retreat Night again J

More soon! 


A 15-minute guided meditation is followed by a 20-minute silent meditation on wide, comfy, padded chairs (or cushions/benches if you bring your own), and a 10-minute walking meditation (you can find instructions here). Following the meditation period, a 40-minute teaching is offered by the teacher. We close the sit with a short guided meditation related to the night’s topic.

(It’s fine if you arrive late! Just make sure to sit in the back until meditation is finished … and, also fine to leave early if you need, too.)

IMG_0386 (1)

In lieu of traditional “dana” (generosity practice) for the teacher, there is a suggested donation of $5-$10 for the church for providing the space for us.

Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley6380 Valley Pike, Stephens City, VA 22655

If you’re driving North on I-81, take the Middletown exit (302) to US 11, turn right, then continue north for about 3 miles to the church, which will be on your left.

If you’re driving South on I-81, take the Stephens City exit (307). Take a right off the exit onto Fairfax Pike, then turn left at the traffic light onto Route 11. The church will be on your right in about 2 miles or so.

The white wooden entrance sign on Route 11, sits at the top of a hill, and the church is set at the end of a parking lot below it.


1. If you’re driving in from Winchester, start looking for the white church sign on the right just past the white highway sign that says “All Trucks Left, 3/4-Mile.” In fact, when you see the truck sign, turn your blinker on!

2. If you’ve pulled into the smaller “Unity” church that’s in the property next to it (which, coincidentally, is the old UU church), you’re at the wrong place, but you’re very close – the one where we meet is just south of it, up the hill, almost on the same property.

3. During inclement weather, cancellation notices will be sent out at 4:30 p.m., so please check your emails!


1. There are plenty of big comfy chairs, but if you prefer to sit on the floor, which is hardwood, please bring a blanket or mat AND a hard pillow or zafu, since, when you’re meditating, it is recommended that that your hips be higher than your knees. And, if you’ve never tried sitting on the floor for meditation before, it’s suggested that you use a chair in the beginning, and practice sitting on the floor at home until you get used to it.

2. If you have any back issues, it is suggested that you bring a pillow/cushion to place behind you on the chair.

3. Please remember to turn off your cell phones before entering the sanctuary

4. Be sure to bring a warm shawl or sweater during the cooler months, since your body cools quicker when you’re sitting still.

5. Please be mindful not to wear any perfume to the sit, as it can be very distracting to others. Also, with respect to those who may be allergic, we do not use incense.

6. The group is not recommended for those under age 18.

If you aren’t on the email list, you can sign up here for updates/notices about the group:

Receive Our Newsletter

More information can be found on the Meetup site.