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[Open Centre] Newsletter

April 2010 Open Center Newletter

I have been deeply grateful, this spring, for the way nature’s gifts of beauty and light have nourished and rejuvenated me.  A friend of mine who lived in the big park across the street from my house often used to ask me every time I’d step over the stone threshold, “Who made all this?”, with a giant grin.  My friend passed on last year but that question still comes into my mind often when I walk in the park.  No particular answer ever follows it.  But a visceral rush of both gratitude and devotion always does.  I am always amazed by how much that single memory can infuse my experience, now, with richness.

In this month’s newsletter we have two lovely pieces by members of our own community.  Both Sonja and Julie sent us their memories of their first retreat (and beyond) with Open Dharma and the growth that was sparked by them.  I hope that you enjoy them and will also be inspired to remember what first drew you to Open Dharma.  Please send us your musings, poems, recipes, pictures, links, and other bits to inspire the community.  We will happily include as many of them as we can!

Also, if you are interested in participating in an ongoing conversation about your experiences please join the ODfriendslog.  The theme which Jaya has offered to us this month is devotion.  If you would like to join (and if you have done at least one Open Dharma retreat) 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.

With love,
Erika and the Newsletter Team

Wildwalking in The Stone House Fields

By Julie

I first heard about Open Dharma and The Stone House six months before last October's Deep Rest retreat. My friend Kim told me about it, and just hearing the words Deep Rest elicited a sigh from the bottom of my soul. I had never attended a proper retreat, much less a silent one, but I had known for a couple of years that I was craving a stretch of quiet contemplation. I almost let an amazing number of excuses prevent me from going. Committing to attending felt like a triumph, or an act of bravery with a touch of defiance. I felt certain that the week would be rife with inner struggle. I was wrong. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I adored the entire experience and how much my natural happiness and wisdom were able to emerge as my stress and struggle melted. Here's a little something from my memory of walking meditation in the beautiful field.

There's something so peaceful about this place, so safe. I'm not used to this level of safety. It took a couple of days for the noise of wondering about the other people and wondering what they were wondering about me to settle down. For the details of email, schedule, work, obligations to grow quiet. To begin to feel restored by all my naps in the meditation hall and energized by walking and walking some more.

The meadow is a maze with tall enough grasses that I feel completely alone and few enough paths that I never feel lost. All my senses are heightened. I melt into the buzzing hum of a thousand honey bees and am startled by the surprise of a hidden bird taking flight. I stop for a long time to watch two grasshoppers making love. I feel something deep in my belly, something that goes way beyond words. Something that goes back to who I am and who I have always been, even before I had any sense of self-awareness. Or more correctly for most of my life, self-consciousness. I dip in and out of sensing this deep knowing that I have always possessed and getting all kinds of songs stuck in my head. They become marching rhythms as I plod along in the grass. The faintest breeze is a sensual delight. I imagine what it would feel like blowing through the fur of the lioness I have inside. She does not consider appropriateness, or politeness, or any sort of right or wrong. Her hips give me a different sway than I am used to. She never second-guesses herself. She stays connected with everything inside her and around her with exquisite awareness. She knows exactly when to rest and when to hunt, how to give birth and how to die. She just knows.

My Open Dharma Journey

by Sonja Kovachevich

Where did it all begin ?

I was wandering down the main stretch of Ram Jhula, Rishikesh.  I was fresh in India, had just spent my first two months falling deeply in love with the Himalayas and spiraling into an ever evolving romance with mother India.  I had come to this sacred town by the Ganga in the hope of getting stuck into a yoga practice, like so many others who come to this sweet and special place…..  After a few days of looking for ‘the asram’ I was still pretty much in limbo, enjoying the clamor and activity and what I found to be unbearable sweetness of Ram Jhula but yearning  for some structure to commit to.

So there I was, it was around sunset, I think I had just been prowling around the outskirts of the sunset puja and it was getting dark and I was soaking up the ambiance and wandering aimlessly along the busy street (something I love to do in India-just exist within the ambiance).  I saw a little crowd of people watching something and as I was in a meander-y type curious open space I stopped to check out what was going on.  I see that it is a western man doing something, then I see he is juggling glow in the dark balls, then I see that it is my friend Dai. I had known that he was wandering somewhere in the world but no idea he was in India and here he was.  Wow, so of course I cut through the crowd and gave him a big hug, we went off for a thali and I mentioned that I was looking for an asram but had not yet found the right one.  He said, “well the reason you have not found it yet is ‘cause tomorrow I am going to take you to the one you are meant to go to.  Great, thank you mother India, this is why I am so in love with you!

So the next day we jumped on the back of a jeep, auspiciously meeting Tom the current manager of that retreat on the way.  And I wound up in that very, very special place Phool chatty, just in time for the last week of the month-long open retreat that had been going on.  A few vivid images come to mind of that retreat,I remember going to the first small group sharing and seeing that everyone who had been there for the month was going through very deep emotional processes.  I remember being shown around by Erik and him explaining all the practicals with great humor and playful sarcasm.  I distinctly remember him saying that the free day of Wednesday is otherwise known as ‘internet and chocolate croissant day’.

I remember that on the full moon there was a gathering by the Ganga with singing and sharing and Dennis playing the tabla and that I was overcome with  the warmth of this new community that I had magically stumbled across.  I wrote a poem called ‘the ganga and the moon and the moment’ expressing my fascination with that night.  Which, sadly I lost because it was in the journal in the bag that got stolen at Varanasi train station about a month later (but that is another story).

My number one memory is of doing a yatra along the Ganga and stopping to form a circle on a very beautiful little clearing by the incredibly crystal green water and that the energy in that circle was so powerful and tangible that I felt overcome with emotion.  I also remember that in the closing meditation of the retreat Jaya lead a metta meditation which took me into such a deep ecstatic place that I distinctly remember thinking ‘wow ,this is so much better than taking ecstacy’.

So, basically I was hooked.  I made so many important connections on that retreat which stay in my heart and in many cases in my life today, about 8 years later.  This began my Open Dharma journey, the next reteat I did was in Tiruvannamalai which further rocked my world.  Then it was on to Sarnath and later Sattal, yes, I was an Open Dharma junkie--a Dharma Bum as I remember Kailash referring to it as.  I was pretty much consistently on the OD trail for the next 7 years.  So what was it that kept me going back again and again, what did it give me, where did I travel to on the inner plane in all those many hours of silence offered to me by the structure of these retreats?

I think I would need to start off talking about softness.  Softness, aaahhhhhhhh, thank you OD for allowing me to walk on this path of softness!!!  Over the time that I was able to be with this warm, accepting community, to witness the incredible integrity and generosity of this organization and to spend many, many hours diving into the silence and discovering the depths of my own heart.  Slowly I began to, well, be much nicer to myself .  Sounds simple but in practice what a revolution!  That voice of my inner critic which lives to eternally cut me down, I learned not to always take heed of its rantings .

I learned to connect to a place which had enough space to hold this aspect of myself and SO MUCH MORE .  This space that I discovered, in that silence, in the embrace of that soft support offered, I discovered a deep wide juicy realm within me which was always available and which could embrace every aspect of my existence, which contained the sun and the moon and the stars and the trees and the flowers and the song and the dance of life. Basically I found my deep heart and found that it was connected to absolutely everything.

What is so important is that I learned that I can also LIVE  from this space, the more time I spent connecting to this place on numerous retreats and bringing the teachings into my every waking moment, the more I was able to let the wisdom of this inner spaciousness guide my life.  A deep trust emerged, I knew that life was here to support me, that I could let go into that softness, that the softness was ultimately my deepest strength .

Oh and so much more!  I learned how to put into words the gifts of connecting to the heart and finding a connection to the source of divine love.  I wanted to try in order to let the teachers of OD know what they helped me to find.  And to I wanted to say a VERY BIG thank you for their inspiring guiding force teaching me through example how to live with integrity, joy, humor, generosity and wisdom.  What a gift!  I bow down to the grace which brought me to my Open Dharma journey and my transformative adventures in the magical playground of mother India for allowing me to discover the capacity to embrace and delight in the gift of life .

I also give enormous thanks to all the OD  friends I connected with along the way, there have been so many, each and every one has touched me, and you know who you are.  This is the first year that I have been off the trail of retreats.  That is because my deep heart called me back to my homeland, Australia.  And even though my heart yearns to be back there in the living embrace of the Open Dharma community, I know that I can only follow the directions of my inner wisdom, that the embrace includes me here on rainbow hill where I dwell now, surrounded by lush beauty and more animals and birds and bugs than I could possibly name.  And I also know that I am brought here to spread the teachings of softness and to find the strength to continually embody the truths that I have touched.

So that is why you will not be seeing me with all the usual suspects there in Sattal this year, but know that I am very much with you all in spirit, feeding the spirit and loving that spirit with the soft strength of the deep inner heart.

And if anyone fancies a visit to this magical tropical garden where I dwell, you are all ,very much, welcome…


Upcoming Events

13 - 20 June, 2010
Deep rest retreat at Le Moulin de Chaves, France.
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma

7 - 14 July, 2010
Retreat at The Stone House in Mebane, North Carolina, USA
Teachings will be in English
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma

24 - 30 July, 2010
Deep rest retreat in Holland
Teachings will be in English
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma

20-22 & 22-29 August, 2010
Catalonia, Spain: 7th annual deep rest retreat.
Please notice that this year we will offer 2 retreats,
20-22 (weekend) and 22-29 (week long)
Teachings will be in English and Spanish
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma

1-8 October, 2010
Deep rest retreat in Austria
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma

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