This profile was last updated in 2013
Insight Nashville offers meditation sittings and dharma talks to devotees of all faiths in the Nashville community. Its eclectic community of practioners, varying in age and religious backgrounds, makes Insight Nashville unique amongst other Buddhist groups in middle Tennessee. Married couple Gordon Peerman and Kathy Woods lead Insight Nashville meditation sessions. According to Peerman, people are drawn to meditate at Insight Nashville because of the interesting vibe and collaboration between him and his wife. The male and female teaching presence and perspective presents a unique interpretation of the dharma and alternative ways to approach meditation.
Activities & Schedule
Insight Nashville’s website presents announcements about upcoming Buddhist retreats, events, workshops, and mindfulness trainings in Nashville. It also provides a description of the meditation group’s history, mission, and role in the Nashville community, along with information about the group’s leaders, Gordon Peerman and Kathy Woods. In addition to guided meditation audio clips and extensive information about Buddhism, recorded dharma talks are available on the website. The group meets every Wednesday at 5:15pm for a 30-40 minute meditation session, followed by a dharma talk. The first few minutes of meditation are guided, followed by silence for the remainder of the sitting. Sessions usually conclude with loving kindness meditation and dedication of merit of practice to the welfare of all beings.
Founded in 2005, Insight Nashville met for six years at the All Faith Chapel at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Initially, two or three devotees attended each session. However, as attendance grew beyond fifty people, Insight Nashville transferred to the Second Presbyterian Church on Belmont Boulevard. Situated in a residential area, the Second Presbyterian Church is centrally located near Vanderbilt University, and the communities of Lipscomb, and Belmont but is accessible and attractive to people from Brentwood and Williamson County. Today, approximately 125 people attend each Insight Nashville meditation sitting.
Gordon Peerman is an Episocopal priest and psychotherapist with a in private practice in Nashville. He has taught Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at Vanderbilt Law School and Medical School and is an adjunct faculty member at Vanderbilt Divinity School where he teaches a course on Buddhist-Christian Dialogue. Peerman has been engaged in contemplative practice and meditation, namely Centering Prayer and Insight Meditation, since 1975. It was then, during his third year at Yale Divinity School, that Peerman attended a Centering Prayer retreat. Peerman’s engagement with Buddhist meditation specifically began at Yale University in the classroom, as he was assigned to read a variety of Buddhist texts. Fascinated by Buddhism and the benefits of meditation, Peerman attended meditation sittings at Nashville Zen on Belmont Boulevard when he moved to Nashville. When asked about his attraction to Buddhist practice, Peerman said that the practicality of mindfulness drew him to meditation. “Buddhism offers a way to deal with life’s issues off the cushion with mindfulness,” he said. Peerman cultivated meditation practice through Centering Prayer, but he found Buddhist meditation to be more fulfilling, as it challenged him to embrace a mindful, contemplative attitude towards life. Peerman was drawn to the way in which Western Buddhism often weds psychological knowledge and contemplative practice. In 2008, Peerman authored a book, Blessed Relief: What Christians Can Learn from Buddhists about Suffering (Skylight Paths Publishing) in which he explores the commonalities between Buddhism and Christianity. He avoids using religious “labels,” choosing not to identify himself as either a Buddhist or a Christian. Instead, Peerman views the two practices as mutual fertilization or partners in dialogue. He said, “Buddhism and Christianity are like two roots that nurture one tree of spirituality.” Kathy Woods, Peerman’s wife, also serves as a leader of Insight Nashville. She has been teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction since 2002 and currently leads Mindfulness in Nashville Education, a collaboration between public and private school teachers with community leaders. As a cancer survivor, Woods is especially interested in applying mindfulness practice to meeting and coping with health challenges.
Insight Nashville is composed of practitioners from a variet of religious traditions, such as Theravada Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism, amongst others. Insight Nashville welcomes and encourages members of all faiths to join the meditation sessions. Whether Buddhist or Christian, Insight Nashville leaders believe that meditation and contemplative silence are of benefit to everyone. Prayer is generally conducted in English. Gordon Peerman, leader of the group, accredits the tremendous growth of Insight Nashville to people’s interest in the practical applications of mindfulness in daily life. Disillusioned with the faith traditions in which they grew up, many people are drawn to the non-sectarian aspects of mindfulness and the peaceful serenity of meditation. There is a strong youth presence amongst attendees, as Peerman believes it is essential to encourage and draw a variety of ages to participate in the group.