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Open Center newsletter

A New Year can be an opportunity to summon up what really matters in our lives. Coming together in a concious way with like-minded people, friends, those who support us can be the medicine we’ve been craving. May this newsletter and the new year continue the momentum of connection, support and that which really matters. May it’s spark bring fire to the hearts of those around us and to all beings everywhere. Firstly, and very importantly, I would like to acknowledge the departure of Iris-ji from the newsletter team. It is due to the spark in her heart (and Benoit-ji’s) that this medium for connection and support (OC newsletter) came to be. Thank you Iris and many vibrant wishes to you, X. May we also welcome Martin, Gopi and Jessica as new team members! We have the highlights from the Skype meeting of last year where the newsletter, blogs and OD groups were discussed—which includes an invitation for us to make a 40-day commitment to practice together. We also have a piece that I recently wrote regarding what this thing called practice really seems to be about and something that dear Iris-ji sent. Please don’t forget to check upcoming events at the end of the letter. Please enjoy the unfolding of this newsletter and the contents of the year to come. With love, Beka x. The Skype Meeting News In November of 2009, a group of about 8 people met for a free online conference call together, as a first experiment in Open Dharma cyber-conversations. During the call, the sound was so poor that we sent each other typed summaries of what we said. Two people in Holland could not hear well at all, and most of us had trouble hearing at least some of the time. But it was an exciting moment in Open Dharma history, and several inspired ideas came out of that meeting, mostly to expand and enrich the Friends of Open Dharma idea of peer support: 1) to share a worldwide theme for Dharma practice each month, one that individuals and local Friends of Open Dharma groups can explore. 2) to share a practice commitment of 40 days—to commit to a group of friends to do whatever practice you choose each day for 40 days. Even though each person may do her or his own particular practice, the simple sense of doing it together is surprisingly powerful. 3) to share a group blog as an extension of Friends of Open Dharma—where people can write to each other with questions and experiences from their lives off of retreat. In particular, people may want to go into their experiences of living Dharma in their own lives, and with a practice commitment or the monthly theme. Friends of Open Dharma groups and those who do not live near such a group can join. Whoever wants to join in for 40 days (of at least a few minutes a day) of your favorite or most important and transformative spiritual practice: let’s start on 14 Feb through 25 March, with another one following straight on with the first 31 days coinciding with the month-long Open Dharma retreat in Sattal. In general, we intend to create and announce the practice themes and commitments in the group blog. To join the blog, you need to have done at least one Open Dharma retreat. And of course we reserve the right to exclude content or members who misuse the blog. If you want to join, please send the following info to Ernest at ernestconill(AT)gmail.com 1) your name (which will be your user name); 2) a preferred password (which you can change once you log in); 3) a picture of yourself so that others can recognize you. Ernest will let you know when you have been added as a member. Wishing you the power to love your life, to center it around what is most important, to find and be receptive to enough support to keep going, and to help others live from the deep heart. not about me A group of 20 or so women, including myself, gathered recently for a prayer for the earth. One of the women whom I have never met before spoke at length about her meeting with the 13 Indigenus Grandmothers – women elders from many different cultures around the world who meet together for prayer, ritual and healing work. Their work, however, is not just to pray but to act on prayer. In the same way, we can say that sitting in the meditation hall or going to the yoga class may not be enough if we’re not bringing the teachings, the intentions of non-harming into our daily lives. As part of the evenings events we were guided very beautifully through a shamanic journey to connect with our spirit grandmothers. The sharing afterwards of what our grandmothers had said was inspiring and often moving. The grandmother part of us seems to represent wisdom and love. In the spirit form she had many important messages for us about caring for the earth, for each other and, most importantly, that we need to come together for this to manifest effectively. The evening carried a strong focus on what is going on in Haiti at the moment. With this focus I found myself with my spirit grandmother, feeling the suffering of those people. A voice that was me and hers and everybody’s said, ‘You are me’. The teaching was clear and carried a magnitude of truth. If there is one thing I and possibly all of us at times need to be reminded of it’s that we are not separate from each other. The next morning I attended the deeply inspiring yoga class I like to go to every week. I felt a sudden grief again for those people in Haiti and felt how absurd and imbalanced it was the we English people were lying around on rubber mats exploring the space at the end of the outbreath and how the spine can only lengthen when the feet and shoulders are open, etc, etc, when they are experiencing loss and illness and pain on deep levels that will change their lives forever. I went through a range of emotions including grief, anger, shame, guilt, and grief again until I finally realised that being in a yoga class might be the best thing I can do right now because at least it had allowed me to be open enough to feel all those emotions and with that openness I might make a difference in the world that I inhabit, the people I come into contact with. Again, this ‘You are me’ feeling was prevailant and I had a profound sense that I was dedicating my practice to those beings in Haiti. I find myself hesitant to share that I was also recently on national radio speaking, apparently, to 6 million people about meditation. It is far too complicated for a newsletter to divulge how this came to be but let’s just say they were not looking for me but that’s who they got. It was an extraordinary experience, not to mention surreal. In the space of two hours I had a conversation with someone from the radio sation, got dressed, ate breakfast, caught a train and arrived in the studio of the broadcasting house in central London ready for the interview on one of the most popular radio shows in the UK. I was also asked to give a guided meditation to the DJ and, thus, to all those who were listening. I have to share at this point that this was potentially a recipe for disaster the likes of which have never been done before on air and which, as I was told only afterwards, all the producers were extremely nervous about. It was fine, including the bits when the dear DJ wouldn’t close his eyes and woudn’t stop talking (unsuprising since it’s his show, where his role is to talk and be in control). Eventually there was a brief moment of stillness and calm. The feedback was positive from callers and producers. The focus of the piece was how meditation and mindfulness can help people with depression and high levels of stress, particulary in these modern times. It felt like a genuine and important topic that had the potential to reach out to millions who would not otherwise realize that they had a choice between medication and meditation. Apart from a couple of friends who happened to call me whilst I was en route nobody else I know knew about this. It happened that a fair number of people I know heard this radio show and so, heard me. For the next couple of weeks when people were asking me about it they all wanted to know one thing: had I been nervous? I replied, ‘no, I hadn’t’, because it was true, I hadn’t been. One of my friends even said, ‘hey, great self-promotion!’. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. What I mean by this is that I wasn’t doing it for my benefit (and I really don’t mean to sound sanctimonious, hence the hesitancy to even share all this). At some point I began to reflect why this had been the case – I mean, 6 million people listening…?! Then I realized that something in me knew that on a fundamental level these people were no different from me and in knowing this came a level of stillness and, therefore, clarity about what is was I needed to say, what it was that really mattered. I am landing in a place that tells me that being in a yoga class, on a radio show and all the other ‘work’ that I do is not about me. And that somehow this is making a difference to my relationship not only with Haiti and other people who are suffering but also with myself. I feel closer to my own suffering, my own feelings, without it feeling closed or restricted. Somehow I feel more open and more connected. There is space enough for all these things and space enough for it not to be about me. You can find out more about the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers from their website: http://www.grandmotherscouncil.com With love always, in all ways, always, Beka x It is better to rise and cheer believing in hope, love and charity than to slump on a barstool or banter, with a heart full of despair, knowing the Great Game for what it is, unable to bear it , unable to change it, unable to go on looking at it and unable to look away; feeling noble and self-righteous in one's cynicism. Better to be a fool for god, whatever god might be -ourselves, maybe, the future, children........... From ‘Her Mothers Daughter’ by Marilyn French love Iris Upcoming events: 9 - 19 February, 2010 Sarnath dharma gathering, Thai temple, near the Archeological Museum. Come any day, leave any day. Offered completely on a donation basis. click here for information about the place and how to get there gbwegbweg Facilitators: Christopher, Ajay, Jaya, Gemma, and others. For more information check: http://www.bodhgayaretreats.org 15 - 25 March, 2010 Silent retreat at Sattal Ashram in North India. click here for information about the place and how to get there Teachings will be in English. For information and registration, write to: open dharma meditation retreats info 25 March - 25 April, 2010 1-month retreat at Sattal Ashram in North India. click here for information about the place and how to get there Teachings will be in English. Facilitators: Ajay and Jaya For information and registration, write to: open dharma meditation retreats info Friends of Open Dharma gatherings Brighton UK: Sundays 21st February and 21st March, 6 – 8pm, Bodhi Garden, Ship Street, Brighton. Please contact Beka: beka(AT)beingnature.co.uk or 07960 520128

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