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Open Dharma Newsletter


~ February Newsletter
The English word "February" come from the Latin februa, which means "purification." In ancient Rome, February was a month devoted to reflecting and purification before the new year began in March. It's something that frames this month's newsletter for me, full of beginnings and endings. We hope you will enjoy it and that it brings you warmth!

(Photo above: Dishes aglow at Dharmaloca.)


by Jessica

In this newsletter

~ Dharmaloca News
~Sickness and Health
~Power in the Potluck
~ Women Who Fly
~Ron, Thank You for Hakomi
~ An Invitation from Holland
~ Upcoming Events

~ Dharmaloca News

I shyly accept the cheerful company of the birds who have stayed through winter with us--the urgency of their autumn wing beat calmed, and they seem to agree that we are all in it together even on the foggiest days.  Now in mid-January, as spring flirts with us already, I almost fear for this first paperwhite bloom and the lightness of these birds' approach and chatter.  I almostpick up the fear for them, but then lay it to rest on this rock and clay that once was red desert.  And once held a river so torrential it carved great globes or stone into arches.  And once formed the paths of Carthusain monks in search of a meditation cave.
The neighbors say that 50 years ago, before water was piped to this village, every corner of our abandoned valley was cared for, and people used to walk the 3 kilometers over the crest each day to pick their lettuce for lunch.  Now even the most active citizen has never ventured east to visit the famous spring of Cavaloca.
Three years ago, we came here for the first time.  A few months later, thanks mostly to the generosity of our families, we were able to land here. I am especially grateful to Gemma for putting her family inheritance into a place that is dedicated to the benefit of all of Life.
I keep being surprised by the feeling of purity here--like being in a wilderness, despite the crumbling stone walls and mud roads and olive orchards.
It is not a fussy purity, but one that inspires joyful action in its service.
One of around 30 visitors to Dharmaloca in 2010 put it this way:
The energy of this place is especially alive and harmonious.  If a normal, healthy human would measure 6,000 on a vitality scale, and a sick person at 4,000 or less, this place measures 8,000.
Our first retreatant of 2011 arrived today, to begin the second long retreat this winter in the hermitage.
He unexpectedly has to cut his retreat from 3 months to 6 weeks, so there is still space for one person or a couple to use the hermitage for self-retreat from early March till late April.  Contact gemmaji (at) gmail (dot) com

(Photo: Climbing flowers of Dharmaloca.)

by  Jaya

~Sickness and Health

Laura reflects on sickness and spirituality

Recently I was very saddened by the sickness of a friend who, at a young age, has been diagnosed with cancer. When I heard of what this person was going through, I thought she was just living through my biggest fears.

I personally am very bad in coping with my own health issues: over-sensitive, hypochondriac, a real trembler. I always tell myself that I would not know how to face serious illness, nor illness in one the people I live with. In December my beloved partner was paralyzed by a bad hernia for 3 weeks. He experienced a great deal of pain, could not sleep, could not do anything else but suffer. We had the opportunity to reflect on how life can change from one moment to the next, with no pre-warning. The hernia exploded while he was carrying out some yoga exercises recommended by a very dear therapist friend. He has well recovered now, but really, who would have thought? Aren't we young and “positive” people? Aren't we eating well and taking care of our bodies? I just begin to see the arrogance of this type of thought. 
One of the most striking teachings I heard about sickness was by Ram Dass - you may know the tape - where he is talking about a friend who got diagnosed with cancer. He reflects on how the hardest thing this woman had to bear was not the physical pain nor the fear, but the understanding that her spiritual friends somehow started to look down at her, as if she had failed in something. Somehow, even though not openly, we humans tend to think that it is one’s behavior, or intrinsic goodness -or rather, the lack of- which contributes to cause sickness in the body. No matter how many Saints and Lamas have been attacked by sickness in their lifetime, we are so attached to the idea that “man is in control,” that we can not accept that sickness just, simply, happens.   
When Ramakrishna was dying of throat cancer, people around him were disappointed, they said: why is not this Great Master healing himself? His famous answer was: "Ask the doctor if he can cure me."
Today I was awakened to these reflections I made through an article in the New York Times that I feel like recommending (through this link)
I am aware that this may seem pessimistic, or even disrespectful of people’s good efforts to stay well. 
To come to the realization that sickness is indeed democratic, is a difficult process for our super-powerful ego. 
But I felt it was necessary to investigate into some prejudices we may not even be aware of. 
May you stay healthy and serene.
(Photo: Blooming at Dharmaloca.)

by  Laura

~Power in the Potluck

Jennifer in North Carolina reflects on the sangha gatherings of her local FoOD group
Growing up in Atlanta in the 70's, I didn’t experience the tradition of potlucks.  Other than at church events, when people invited you over for a meal, they were generally expected to provide it.  Even in NYC, where you figure that folks would revel in the cost-saving benefits, I can count on 1 finger the number of potlucks I attended in over 15 years.  So imagine my surprise when I moved to NC last year to find that every single event I was invited to required me to being a dish!  This is not a complaint mind you - I’ve come to love potlucks.  When one person is responsible for an entire meal, there will be varying degrees of skill with each course.  Not so with a potluck.  When people have but a single choice, you can rest assured they’re going to be bringing their best dish with them.  I’ve never eaten so consistently well as I have since coming down here!
Open Dharma reminds me of a potluck.  If religious traditions are like one grand meal offered up by a single cook, you can imagine that there will be ebbs and flows to the power of the different “courses.”  Not so with Open Dharma.  I participated in my first “Deep Rest” retreat last summer and to me, it was a spiritual potluck of the highest order.  Jaya and Gemma selected for us, choosing sumptuous offerings from the many diverse wisdom traditions to support the universal concepts they happened to be teaching that day.  Whether it was about love, resistance or acceptance, the Buddhist, Advaita, Christian and even New Age teachings allowed each of us to feast on the “best” that added up to one highly nourishing spiritual meal.
Following this retreat, I heard about the Heartland Sangha in NC, which allows former Open Dharma retreat participants to practice together.  I was in hog heaven!  Yes, the opportunity to rest in silence, listen to one of Jaya’s dharma talks or guided meditations, and reflect with one another is all a draw, but what cinched it for me was that the monthly gatherings are potlucks.  Since August, I have been treated to all the spiritual benefits listed above on a monthly basis with a wonderful, heartfelt group of fellow travelers who continue to deepen, learn and grow together in the spirit of love that permeated our retreats.  And best of all, after each rest, we get to eat!  So far, we’ve never been instructed what to bring, and yet, we always manage to assemble complete, delicious, hearty and nutritious meals.  
These monthly gatherings allow us to nourish our bodies, minds, spirits and stomachs in community.  And, since we rotate hosting of the gatherings, we get to experience the hospitality and homes of the different members.  Everything about this experience affirms the power of the potluck, and I’ve come to rely on them and the gentle, healing effect they have on my life to keep me grounded and openhearted.  Thank you, Open Dharma!  And, thank you, Heartland Sangha…

by Jennifer

~Women Who Fly

Gopi muses on the power of dakinis and invites us to their dance...

According to Miranda Shaw in her article Wild, Wise, Passionate:  Dakinis in America, “The earliest texts trace the origins of Tantra to circles of women practicing together in the countryside.  These intrepid women gathered in remote locations where they wouldn’t be disturbed, such as forest clearings, cremation grounds, and circular yogini temples.  The women taught one another meditation and yoga and inspired one another with sacred dance and ecstatic songs conveying their insights into ultimate reality.  They empowered one another as women and as spiritual seekers.” 
Reading this inspires me to embrace and take the seat of my own dakini self.  Dakini can be translated most literally as “a woman who flys.”  The invitation is for all of us to embrace the sacred female power within and fly into the coming year with abandon. 
This year let’s not wait to create, let’s meet together to inspire one another whenever possible.  
Tsultrim Allione wrote in her book, Women of Wisdom, "The dakini appears at crucial moments. These encounters often have a quality of sharp, incisive challenge to the fixed conceptions of the practitioner." 
She has appeared for all of us in this moment.  May we all be engulfed in the freedom she brings.

(Image: A traditional Tibetan dakini.)


by Gopi

~Ron, Thank You for Hakomi
Julia remembers her teacher, Ron Kurtz, founder of Hakomi
Ron Kurtz, founder of the Hakomi method of body-centered psychotherapy, died on January 4th. I am a student and therapist of this life-changing work, and Ron was my first teacher. 
The name Hakomi came to a friend of his in a dream. There is an identical Hopi Native American word that means, “Who are you?” or “How do you stand in relation to these many realms?”

Frequently during Deep Rest retreat I have thought, “Thank God I did all that Hakomi work!” feeling certain that I would have spent the whole time resting in my own personal hell if I hadn’t. 

Hakomi has been immensely helpful for me by allowing me to become more aware of who I am and how I am underneath the surface, in a way that is loving, kind, and supportive by design. I have become more resilient, able to self-regulate and reflect, more curious about and friendly towards myself and everyone else, too. I was introduced to Open Dharma’s teachings after years of Hakomi study, and I continue to be delighted and comforted by how seamlessly they dovetail.
Hakomi is also described as assisted self-study or dynamic assisted meditation. The therapist approaches the client with an attitude of loving presence and curiosity, and assumes that they are intelligent, creative, resilient and adaptable, rather than screwed up and needing to be fixed by an expert. The work incorporates ideas from Bio-Energetics, Buddhism, Taoism, Feldenkrais work, Gestalt therapy, NLP, Eriksonian hypnosis and computer systems theory, among other inspirations. It helps to skillfully and elegantly access our deepest knots and wounds, so that we can re-member how our inner twists and turns came into being, and begin to use conscious awareness to reground in authentic, empowered, full human being-ness.
Hakomi uses mindfulness as a primary tool to help the client study themself. The therapist pays attention to things like micro-expressions, breath, posture, skin color, gestures, nervous habits and other movements, in addition to words, and also uses mindfulness to check in with their own inner sense of how things are going and what might be needed. Little experiments are done with the client in mindfulness to learn more about their unconscious beliefs. Experiments often involve offering something that is potentially nourishing, like kind words or safe, supportive touch, and then studying how it automatically gets blocked from getting in. Because of the attention to all the messages of the body, rather than just thoughts and words, Hakomi work can access pre-verbal experiences from early life, as well as patterns from traumatic events that are encoded in the brain non-verbally.
I am so happy to share this little bit about Hakomi with you, and so sad that it was inspired by Ron’s passing. 
Thank you Ron, for your heart, your vision, your creativity and your commitment to bringing this work into the world, and thank you for being such a wonderful teacher.
Here is a link to a video: “Ron Kurtz on Hakomi”, about six minutes long
For more information about Ron Kurtz and Hakomi, or to find a therapist or training near you:
(Photo: Ron Kurtz.)

by Julia

An Invitation from Holland
You are most welcome to the Open Dharma Holland Meditation evenings. The first one is on Tuesday evening 8 February in Utrecht, and the second on 15 March in Amsterdam. You are also welcome to join us on a silent walk during our Dharmaday  on the 26th of February. For more info: opendharmaholland (at) hotmail (dot) com

~Upcoming Retreat Dates & Details

9 - 19 February, 2011, Dharma gathering in Sarnath, India

Come any day, leave any day.
Offered completely on a donation basis.
Teachings will be in English
Teachers, Christopher, Jaya, Jess, Zohar, and others...
For information check bodhgayaretreats.org

20 - 24 April 2011, Deep Rest retreat in the hills near Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain.
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma
retirosopendharma (at) gmail.com

21 - 28 May 2011, Deep Rest retreat at Le Moulin de Chaves, France
Teachings will be in English & Spanish
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma
For information and registration, write to:
mail (AT) moulindechaves.org

3 June - 1 July 2011, One month retreat in Dharmaloca, Catalonia, Spain
Teachings will be in English & Spanish
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma, and we hope Ajay will come.
For information and registration, write to:
dharmalocaretreat (at) opendharma.org

16 - 23 July 2011, Deep Rest retreat in Holland
Teachings will be in English
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma
For information and registration, write to:
opendharmaholland (at) hotmail.com

19 - 21 & 21 - 28 August 2011, Deep Rest retreat in the hills near Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain
One weekend and one 7-day retreat back to back.
Teachings will be in English & Spanish
Facilitators: Jaya and Gemma
retirosopendharma (at) gmail.com

~ Welcome to Everyone
We would love to share your inspiration in an upcoming newsletter. Photos! Poems! Drawings! Musings! Reflections on a recent--or not so recent--retreat! (You can even tell us that you'd like to contribute anonymously.) Please feel free to send any contributions  to newsletter (AT) opencentre.es

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