On August 16, after 14 years I returned to Vallecitos Ranch deep in the heart of the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. This is a beautiful, undisturbed wilderness ranch where meditation retreats are conducted about 6 months of each year. Because of the rural and rugged location, Vallecitos is off grid and there is no cell phone coverage at all. I took a break from my everyday life for 7 days to practice here with a group of deep and dedicated practitioners. I also had the opportunity to teach with Wes Nisker, Trudy Goodman, Grove Burnett and on the last evening, special guest Jack Kornfield. Jack hadn’t been to the ranch in 15 years, so it was a bit of a homecoming for him as well.
Of course, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to shoot some photos of this beautiful land. My camera battery ran out on the second day at the ranch, and without a charger, I had to switch to my iPhone. Most of the following photos were taken with my iPhone. You can click on any of the photos to get a full page view.
This is an excerpt from Trudy Goodman’s InsightLA blog about the value of meditation retreats:
We live in a culture that doesn’t teach us how to nourish ourselves in truly fulfilling ways. Taking a day or a week or a month or more for retreat, at home or in a group, can provide the protected, safe space we need to deepen our trust in experience, to discover what we really want in this life, and to fall in love. We fall in love with life, with the miracle of awareness, with this vast reality we inhabit together.
As lay people devoted to a life of mindfulness and awakening, we are creating beautiful contemplative forms that allow us to weave loving awareness into our everyday lives. Learning from our teachers and ancestors, we respectfully bow to the ancient wisdom traditions while experimenting and inventing our own.
The forms of our Vipassana/Mindfulness/Insight meditation retreats have matured to allow us to attune our inner rhythms to the immense current of universal life flowing through us, as us. Finding our way on retreat requires some patience, but it’s well worth it. Yes, it takes effort to stop, to let our guard down, and feel safe enough to let the heart open and the bodymind unwind. Then effort surrenders to relaxing more and more in the wholeness of life as it is, and from this relaxation there can be an illuminating encounter with unknown parts of ourselves, and with the mystery of being – DIVE IN!
This dharma talk was recorded at InsightLA on October 13, 2013. It was part of a daylong retreat I taught about how to work with our questions in a way that can help us live from our truest intentions. You can listen here:
I’ll be taking my Living the Questions retreat to Insight LA on Sunday, October 13.
Cultivating Clarity though Living The Questions
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot begiven you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke
Unanswered questions, intractable situations often appear to stand in the way of living from our deepest intentions. At times we might feel blocked even from knowing what our true priorities are. But if we take time to turn inward with a spirit of patience and inquiry, instead of requiring the dilemmas to go away, or insisting on immediate resolutions, we can discover the resources that we need. During this day of sitting and walking meditation, we will have the opportunity to practice opening our hearts to our unresolved inner dilemmas. We will learn to explore our questions more gently and skillfully. Internal dilemmas contain a rich source of insight; learning to live with them brings about a radical shift that opens the door to clarity and equanimity.
For registration and full retreat information, go here.
This is from an InsightLA blog post by my teacher and friend Trudy Goodman:
Live It Up!
Recently I’ve been teaching about women in the dharma, about the “Feminine Principal,” as Andrea Miller wrote in her article in Shambhala Sun this past month. I want to tell you a story about Maurine Stuart Roshi, who was my heart teacher from 1979 when I first met her until she died in 1990. A story for this holiday season.
One February night in Cambridge, Maurine was resting on the couch in her living room. It was one week before she was to die. I came over to bring her some supper. I felt close to her. We were intimate in the way you may know from sitting together — you know this from letting go of whatever holds you back, from stripping down to the aliveness and radiance of who you truly are.
Straightening up the cooking magazines on her coffee table, I decided to go for it — maybe it’s my last chance to ask her what I most wanted to know: “After a whole life of Zen practice, teaching and deep enlightenment, what’s the truest thing you can say to me now?” And she didn’t miss a beat. Speaking with her usual authority and power, she said simply, “Live it up!”
I was surprised. After all those years of sitting in the fire….“Live it up!”? This is the wisdom of my Zen teacher, so close to her dying…but what does she mean, exactly? Eat, drink, be merry?
True mindfulness IS living to the hilt, living it up — because it includes everything. When our mindfulness gets strong, nothing is too crazy, too weird, too exciting, too scary, too sad, too upsetting, too tragic, too overwhelming or too huge to be held in our loving awareness. Living it up is living fully, taking the time to look deeply, making the effort to recognize and stay with what’s true for us moment by moment. Like a mirror reflecting just what’s happening, like the water of a pond reflecting the blue sky and the passing clouds. Only here the mirror is awake and sees, and the water is responsive. Our mindfulness, this loving awareness, is our own consciousness actively participating in the ongoing process of being alive — Live It Up! And may your week be graced by moments of boundless love and freedom.