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Open Dharma Newsletter

Open Dharma Newsletter—May

Spring is in full swing, and we have lots to share with you, including a note from Jaya, who is recently back at Dharmaloca, and an exciting report from Chad about the first meetings of Skynect, a group of Open Dharma friends who have been meeting over the internet via Skype. You’ll find a link to Surya’s reflections on the Tiruvannamalai retreat this past January, as well as some beautiful photos there of lotuses and the ashram, and we’re also including an interesting report of an experiment with perception….and more.

Also, we are currently revamping the newsletter so that in the future it will include images—photos, painting, drawings, you name it. If you’d like to contribute to the newsletter in a new way, please feel very welcome to send us images to share—and please enjoy.

With love, Jessica & the newsletter team


A Note from Jaya

Gemmaji and her mother went to check on Dharmaloca last week, and the fox (is it the same one still?) pranced around the arriving car as if in greeting. (Gemmaji's mother then said, Let's hurry and get back to the city soon!)

The irises are finished, the solar panels are still working, the grass—after all the rain and snow of the past winter—is high and lush.  Everything still standing.

We will settle in, with the first retreatant of the season, on the 11th of May, and then we will enjoy the luxury of an entire month there, to harvest the garlic Gyan helped me plant last fall, to start tomatoes and pumpkins for the rush in August.

To cut and compost all that grass.

To seep back into the host of the cliffs, the birdsong and swoop, bent tree, yellow clay heart of things.


Chad’s Report on the First Meetings of OD Skynect

I am very happy to share that Open Dharma Skynect—pronounced to rhyme with “connect”—was launched in March.  Skynect now consists of 7 North American friends who have committed to meeting once a month online by using a free Skype conference service. The format has offered a chance to both speak and listen to each of our voices as we share our joys and challenges in our vast experience of life.  Having met only twice so far, already we have found space for tears and laughter among the sometimes challenging exercise of speaking as truthfully as possible into the quiet and receptive void.  There is no initial feedback for the speaker, no body language to read and our only gauge for truth may be our own inner experience.  Each person can speak for up to 6 minutes before the entire group pauses in silence and offers encouragement, understanding and advice by using the keyboard chat function.

I knew that after Open Dharma hosted a conference call last November, I wanted to do something with this incredible technological format we were using.  It suddenly seemed to me that a world of support was just waiting to be tapped into.  I let the idea stew for a couple of months and then one morning meditation met fruition.

There were three important advantages I saw in connecting this simple way.   First, in contrast to the logistical complications of forming a traditional meditation group- in our case, getting a group of gypsies in the same place at one time!-  the members can be virtually anywhere in the world.  Two of our group connected from a hotel room this month.  Second, it would be very green.  We could find support from one another while eliminating the need for a suitable physical space and thereby zeroing out travel emissions.  And finally, it is economical (free)!

And actually, a fourth reason for me is that it took very little effort to get OD Skynect off the ground.  I could easily negotiate any sense of burden I felt about taking on such a project because it was only a matter of sending a few emails out encouraging others to join.  There was really nothing to it!

If anyone is interested in hosting a group of their own, I have saved the emails and instructions I used.  I’d be glad to pass them on and to support the growth of Skynect any way I can.  Please feel free to get in touch at gladchad (at) gmail.com.

Be well,


Reflections on the Retreat at Tiruvannamalai by Surya

“….Perhaps the most observable change was an increased sensitivity to subtle things. Like having the wax removed from your ears or getting a new pair of glasses — every sense is more alive and perception is heightened. Accompanying this is a surprising clarity regarding importance, especially the unimportance of most things we fixate on in our ’normal’ lives. I think this clarity is based on a freshened awareness of values….” 

For more of Surya’s reflections, and to see some beautiful photos of the ashram at Tiru and of some full-blooming lotuses, follow the link….


An Experiment about Perception

In a Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007 a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After 3 minutes a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, and continued to walk.

6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes: The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days earlier, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a true story.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post newspaper as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

The questions raised: 

* In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? 

 * Do we stop to appreciate it?

 * Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: 

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing?  Here is one of the best lines I have read recently: Life is not about waiting for the rain to stop, 
it is rather about learning how to dance in the rain.



An Additional Note

Earlier this year an OD friend published her first book, under the name Beth Ellis. Called “Bad Things in the Night,” it is a biography that interweaves memories of a childhood experience of having been abused with recent struggles to get the abuser criminally prosecuted.


And One More Link, from Jessica, Just for Fun

The other night I watched “Sita Sings the Blues, a free online animated film that gives an irreverent, musical take on The Ramayana. If you’re in the right mood, it’s quite sweet, especially the song sequences.


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