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summer slips away and fall unfolds with its abundant blessings and bounty, I'm
reflecting on the experience of offering the Buddha's teachings and practices
to yogis in Israel and Italy this
summer. Whenever I am privileged to teach the Dhamma overseas I'm inspired,
realizing again that no matter our cultural background and customs, the
language we speak, the religious context in which we live, or the color of our
skin, human beings share a natural inclination to live according to the simple,
clear truths that are the fertile ground of the Buddha Dhamma.
Through my close contact with
the retreatants, I was deeply moved, reminded once more that peace in the world
begins with peace in our own hearts and minds, and that wise, compassionate
action arises from a deepening understanding of the nature of things and
compassion within ourselves.
Again and again I heard directly
from practitioners that the fruits of each person's practice - whether subtle
or strong - ripple out, touching many lives and thereby making a difference in
our tumultuous world. This deep
knowledge brings great joy and gratitude to our practice.
This is the rich ground from
which The Mountain Hermitage springs - and it is the energetic force that has
created this, our second Review & News, reflecting the commitment of all of
us here at the Hermitage to support and enhance our yogis' and readers'
awareness of the deepest truths -- to understand the nature of dissatisfaction
and dis-ease, and to find the liberation from suffering that is available to us
With metta, Marcia Rose
Inch by inch
creep up and
up Mt. Fuji
- Issa, 19th century Haiku
marks the seventh year of The Mountain
Hermitage - seven years in which we've offered 16 retreats to 285 yogis, added
several new retreat offerings, and found ourselves financially, like Issa's
snail, creeping "inch by inch" up and up to our own mountain top. All with the generous help of a small base of
committed donors and a Foundation who have helped provide the funding we must have to
cover our modest operating expenses and provide scholarship aid to needy yogis.
We've used our money wisely and well, multiplying its value manyfold in the
lives of those we've served.
Although the recession, so
resistant to appreciable improvement, continues, our faith in the future of The Mountain Hermitage is
unshakable. Our core mission remains strong,
the commitment of an expanding circle of loyal friends and a hard-working Board
is unwavering, and the shepherding of a wise and experienced guiding teacher
combine for a positive outlook well into the future, unknown as it always is.
Hermitage Newsletter becomes The Hermitage Review & News
is the second e-edition of The Hermitage
Newsletter -- and with it comes a new name. The
publication will now be called The
Hermitage Review & News, reflecting our commitment to offer an ever
broader sampling of editorial content and important news in each edition. We
are pleased with the positive response to our new e-edition and the opportunity
it provides to to reach a wider range of practitioners and seekers, along with
a significant cost-saving critical to the life of the Hermitage.
these continuing difficult times, practice opportunities -- deeply cherished by
so many, and harder than ever to afford -- cannot be subsidized without
additional philanthropic dollars from individual friends and supporters.
be one of them? In this issue Marcia
Rose offers some Dharma thoughts on anicca,
or impermanence. The Hermitage has recently lost a
dedicated, loving practitioner - artist Kate Krasin who passed away in April
after some months of illness. Her practice sustained her in difficult
hours. Her deep and long meditation
experience and knowledge of the Dharma gave her the ability to embrace anicca, which she did with her whole
heart. "We have all been fed by her
presence and practice," Marcia Rose says, "and already her artistic gifts and her life as a yogi have inspired some generous funding to the scholarship
As we remember Kate, let us also
remember the many yogis and practitioners like Kate who long to sit a Mountain Hermitage retreat, but in these
difficult times, are hard pressed to find the resources. A gift of any amount
may make all the difference in the life of a yogi who, thanks to the help of
friends like you, is able to carry the fruits of the Dharma more powerfully
into the world.
are to offer scholarship aid at current levels, the Hermitage will need $17,800
to support retreat costs for scholarship practitioners for the Wise Concentration Weekend, the Self-No Self Creative
Process Retreat, the 2011 Annual month-long Spring Retreat, and the November 2011 Four Noble
Truths Study Retreat.
you prefer to support the general operating fund to help pay critical retreat
expenses, we would also be most grateful for your generosity. Among those expenses are modest facility
rental, stipends for retreat personnel, travel/food for retreat teacher(s) and
manager, and office expenses.
A gift of any amount
will be received with utmost gratitude, and will help the Hermitage
offer many needy yogis critical scholarship support.
Please visit www.mountainhermitage.org and click
How You Can Help Button for more information.
RETREAT OFFERINGS 2010/2011
All 2010-2011 Hermitage retreats will be held at San Geronimo Lodge in Taos, New Mexico. As many of you know, San Geronimo offers extraordinarily comfortable retreat accommodations and a serene and meditative environment. It is uniquely loved by our yogis.
NOTE: San Geronimo Lodge is wheel-chair accessible.
November 5-7, 2010: WISE CONCENTRATION with Marcia RoseThis three-day retreat will offer an introduction to and support for the practice of concentration (Samadhi) as taught by Burmese meditation master Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw. As we cultivate concentration, purification, a clearly focused attention, joy, tranquility and equanimity begin to blossom within deepening states of Samadhi/concentration. These qualities prepare the ground for a deeply penetrating insight into the nature of existence.
November 8 - 22, 2010: SELF/NO-SELF & THE CREATIVE PROCESS RETREAT with Marcia Rose
assisted by Dance Teacher Zuleikha & Writing Teacher Sean Murphy
From 2009 Self No-Self & the Creative Process Retreat: This very special retreat offers a unique opportunity for experienced Dharma students to engage in two weeks of practice grounded in the Vipassana teaching and practice with an orientation towards investigating 'no-self' in relationship to the creative process. Along with sitting, walking, Dharma talks, individual practice interviews and some group discussion, we will explore the flow of creative energy in relationship to 'self-view' via movement, seeing/drawing, and writing. One need not have experience with any of these modalities to participate in the retreat.
Filament of Grass
A delicate dance of light on curling winter grass catches mind's attention. not enough to simply see the play of moments, mind darts out to make a moment 'mine.'
the burning is so sharp and fast,
the mind recoils.
what danger to believe
a moment can be held.
there is no peace in wanting.
April 3-May 1, 2011: ONE-MONTH HERMITAGE RETREAT with Sayadaw Vivekananda & Marcia Rose We invite experienced practitioners to join us for the full month only. This retreat, co-taught by Sayadaw Vivekananda and Marcia Rose, will be conducted in the Mahasi approach to practice, with the progress of insight as its basis. This will be the primary approach to practice offered during this full-month retreat. Please see The Mountain Hermitage website for more details about participant requirements and the daily schedule for this retreat. November 6-12, 2011: FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS STUDY RETREAT With Venerable Dhammadinna Listening, Contemplation, and Meditation: A Study Retreat on the Four Noble Truths In this retreat we will focus on study and contemplation as supports for mindfulness. The benefit of study is that we come close to the thought of the Buddha as a source of inspiration. The benefit of close scrutiny of the Four Noble Truths is that our understanding of dukkha influences how we engage our mindfulness. There will be meditation instruction (in the style of the Mahasi Sayadaw), silent sitting and walking, two lectures a day and occasional group discussion. This retreat is suitable for new students as well as established practitioners. Go to www.mountainhermitage.org and click on Retreat and Event Schedule for Introduction, Guidelines, Registration and Scholarship Forms for the above four retreats.
Sayadaw Vivekananda on Gentleness of Mind |
In June 2009 Sayadaw Vivekananda gave a talk on the first part of the Metta Sutta where the Buddha lists 14 Qualities a person should possess who wishes to attain the state of peace. Below is an excerpt from that talk on the quality of gentleness of mind.
It is useful to remind meditators to take a friendly attitude toward themselves and their meditation practices. Often we get tough on ourselves, thinking our meditation experiences are not up to the mark. Or we may think we shouldn't be having unwholesome mental states and scold ourselves for this. The Buddha disagreed with this harsh attitude and instead said that one should be gentle - the fifth of the 14 qualities, 'mudu' in Pali.
If a person were to cherish mental states like wrong view, pride and conceit, that person might hold a view such as "I'm the most important thing in the world." If a person held that view and on top of that were highly conceited, this would create rigidity of the mind rather than gentleness. What mental qualities and activities would make for gentleness of the mind? We might name wholesome states and activities such as kindness, compassion, patience and humility.
As neuroscientists are discovering, the mind can be changed and shaped. What happens to the mind depends on us. The Buddha says that as meditators we should have a mind that is gentle - a mind that is soft and pliable. In fact, there is even a mental state known in the Abhidhamma as malleability (muduta in Pali). This malleability dissolves rigidity in the mental body and consciousness and manifests as non-resistance. This mudutu is opposed to defilements like wrong view and conceit, which create rigidity of the mind.
When we practice and try to understand the Dhamma, the mind needs to be in congruence with the Dhamma, which is not rigid but is extremely subtle. We cannot attempt to gain the Dhamma with a rigid mind, which is tense and rough through unwholesome states. We need instead a mind that is malleable, brought about by wholesome mental states such as faith, wholesome intentions and other qualities mentioned above.
A soft and malleable mind also needs to be sharp, cherishing the meditation practice and holding it in high esteem. The Buddha's teachings are very much characterized by causality, so if we wish to attain a state of peace, the necessary conditions need to be present. The gentleness of the mind is one of these conditions. If it is possible to turn something as hard as iron ore into a really flexible thin blade of stainless steel, it should be equally possible to turn a hard and rigid mind into a mind that is sharp and yet also gentle and malleable.
Guiding Teacher Marcia Rose on Anicca/Impermanence|
"So you should view this fleeting world, a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream."
Daily reflections on the universal truth of impermanence have been inspired with the recent deaths of two close people, my good friend and sister-in-law Karen, and Kate Krasin who was one of our deeply dedicated Mountain Hermitage yogis, and by the fact that my 70th birthday is coming very soon. I am deeply appreciative of and grateful for the liberating clarity that these reflections offer.
One of the only things we can know for sure is that everything changes. In light of this truth, the only thing we can hold onto is the realization, the intuitive insight of impermanence (Anicca in Pali). The deep knowing, the deep living with impermanence is a gateway to liberation, a gateway to freeing the heart and mind.
One of the most prevalent myths we live with, often quite unconsciously, is the myth that we can control this changing experience we call life, even though everything in this world, everything in the universe begins and ends, is born and dies, is continually changing form - every form of life, every object, every relationship, every sensation, every thought, every feeling, every mind state, every perception, every experience, every breath.
For most of us the word form implies solidity. But in reality, all forms are forming and unforming, coming together and coming apart, constantly and without end. Consequently, our world can't be solidly objectified. Our world isn't a noun. It's a verb. It is incessant activity. Most of the time we only know this conceptually. And perhaps more often we forget or ignore it, or are busy distracting ourselves by accumulating, planning, living in and out of memories, fantasizing, hoping, expecting, coveting, fearing. If we tightly cling to the imagined future or the evaporated past, inevitably we will experience disappointment, anger, judgment or grief, and we will have missed the fullness of the present moment, missed our "appointment with life" as well as reinforcing the delusion of control and permanence. So, much of the time we're actually practicing permanence.
As we learn through our practice to pay a kind of extra-ordinary attention to our experiences of body, heart and mind, we begin to directly touch, to experientially know the constant rapidity of change - from the apparent solid substantiality of form, to the smaller, perhaps micro-changes in bodily sensation, to the seeming substantiality of thoughts that fly through the mind. A Tibetan teaching tells us: "All thoughts, good, bad, happy, sad vanish into emptiness, as the imprint of a bird in the sky."
And so our relationship to all the forms, both inner and outer, begins to change. The compulsive, addictive grasping onto the 'passing show' begins to loosen. Trying to control what is actually uncontrollable and ungovernable - this ongoing miracle of constant change we call life - begins to soften as we open our hearts and begin to clearly 'see and know'. We begin to recognize the fear that is beneath the impetus to control and we see how excruciating it is to grasp on so tightly. With this blossoming recognition, the fear of being in and with life just as it is begins to relax, open and dissolve as we surrender more deeply to the truth of the moment. So now we are practicing impermanence.
As the understanding/the wisdom of Annicca/impermanence deepens, it brings great relief and lightness into our lives. We no longer need to haul around such a heavy load and there is time and energy available to live to our heart's content.
|Venerable Dhammadinna on the Four Noble Truths
Dhammadinna will be teaching a week-long study and practice retreat
on The Four
Noble Truths for the Mountain Hermitage November 6 - 12, 2011. In
light of this she has
very generously offered us some reflections on The Four Noble Truths
Of course, it's true that mindfulness
holds the presently arising moment with an attitude of non-judgment.
In order to learn we have to bear with undesirable experience without
condemning--- and desirable experience without becoming fixated.
Condemnation and fixation are kinds of judgments we make about what
is worth experiencing.
The path of practice is not merely
non-judgment. Mindfulness has a view. Right view guides mindfulness.
This means there is discernment regarding what is dukkha, where it
comes from, and how to escape from its oppression. There is a simile
from The Questions of King Milinda, "Grasping a
barley in the left hand and a sickle in the right, the reapers cut
the barley. Even so does one who is devoted to mental training take
hold of the mind with wise attention and cut off the defilements with
Throughout the entirety of our lives we
continue to review and refine our practice in the light of the four
noble truths. Those with an excellent understanding of these truths
are likewise possessed of unhesitating energy, resolve, and
fearlessness in the face of the sufferings of the world.
Gratitude ... Deepest Joy ... Enhanced Practice ...
The Dharma Carried into the World.
In April 2010, 19 yogis, many the grateful recipients of scholarship aid, came to the lovely San Geronimo Lodge in Taos, NM for the sixth annual Spring retreat, taught by Guiding Teacher Marcia Rose. After the retreat we received many light-filled letters offering fresh and deepening insights that were gained during the retreat experience. Below is a smattering of these letters.
It is a miraculous occasion in a person's life ...
... to be able to absent oneself from the restless continuity of obligations and productions of life! And then how wonderful to leave my busy city full of air traffic and garbage collection noises, and repair to the remote fastness of high altitude Northern New Mexico. The quiet and solitude seemed to stretch to infinity. The San Geronimo Lodge is overlooked by mountains, and the garden is cloistered by a fence. The new owner of the lodge has retired recently from ministry life and has created a labyrinth and a contemplative walk around the perimeter of the garden. The historic lodge serves very well as a monastery during our spring retreat.
I so enjoyed the flexible retreat schedule and the privacy of practicing in my own room. These are ideal conditions for someone who is self motivated in practice. We were a small group of 15, just the right size for a retreat community according to Saint Teresa of Avila. We had only individual interviews with no group interviews, and this also contributed to the extraordinary solitude.
Marcia has been teaching for more than twenty years and quickly put me at ease and gained my confidence with her astute intuition observing stresses in my practice that were up to this
point hidden to me. That is a great gift. She scheduled our interviews at regular intervals and generously offered sign-ups on other days. One could see her as much or as little as one needed and she always made time for sudden needs.
Her Dhamma talks were comprehensive in their topics over the month, treating important
themes in practice carefully, reflectively and articulately. I appreciated the scope of study and life experience she drew upon in her talks. Suttas and commentaries wove well with stories of her own life as a mother, a student of Native American teachers, and a disciple of living Buddhist masters.
Although I have had a meditation practice for many years ...
... I am always amazed at what happens during an intensive period of practice. This was my
second Hermitage retreat at San Geronimo Lodge, and I particularly appreciate the sacred space created there by Marcia and the staff, a space that affords retreatants an opportunity to deepen their practice and understanding of the Dharma. Over the months before the retreat, I experienced a sense of dryness in my practice. I was anxious about whether I would be able to build and sustain concentration as I sat with the various aches and pains of an aging body.
Because of this rare opportunity to sustain practice in a supportive environment, my practice was rejuvenated. I feel inspired by a deeper understanding of some of the truths of the Buddha, both because I was able to hear something new in the Dharma talks, and to actively and experientially sense these truths during the course of my practice. Part of the time I chose to look at the profound truth of dukkha and the reality of suffering. In experiencing how everything is changing all the time and in reality there is nothing that we can hold on to, I saw the source of suffering in my life and in the lives of others. I felt a profound opening of the heart in relation to suffering, my own and the suffering of others. And this has continued after the retreat. The opening of the heart that occurs during a period of intense practice is a gift for which I am most grateful.
The changing weather in Taos is a clear reminder of impermanence and that everything is
changing all the time. The transition into spring, the renewal that occurs with the season in nature reinforced and mirrored the new life that was able to bud and blossom in my practice over the two weeks that I was there.
I am filled with a sense of joy and delight and amazement ...
... that such good fortune could be part of my life. The time at the retreat went by quickly, each day revealing some new aspect of clinging to "I, Me and Mine" and allowing the graceful release of that habitual clinging.
The environment is made to order. The owners of the San Geronimo Lodge are thrilled to host these deep practitioners every year and they vacate the facility and turn it over to us. The property is located at the end of a dirt road, out in the country near a river. The mother acequia runs thru the property, bringing the water element in harmony with the air and the earth. The fire element is well represented by the ever changing weather. Snow storms, rain and wind and balmy warm days bring a parade of tulips, daffodils, budding cottonwoods, fruit blossoms, and majestic views of snow capped Taos Mountain.
We each have our own room and bath, a rare luxury in this day of retreat centers. There is a special intimacy created as we go silently about our daily lives without needing to interact through our personalities. The format is very open and allows for extended sitting and the ability of each yogi to decide how long to sit and how long to walk. The teacher interviews are timely and supportive of our own practice. With years of training and teaching, Marcia is extremely skilled in guiding each yogi with individual attention. Her Dharma talks are always well planned and interspersed with appropriate stories, quotes and poetry. The short morning reflections always point our practice day into a deeper direction.
Come join us in April 2011! Go to www.mountainhermitage.org, and click on Retreat and Event Schedulefor Guidelines, Registration and Scholarship Forms.
Go to www.mountainhermitage.org, and click on Dharma Talks for free downloads of talks and
guided sits from the last two years of Mountain Hermitage retreats. CDs may be ordered on a
dana basis. Our cost is $4.50. Hermitage Dharma Talks are also available through the web
For Marcia Rose's international teaching schedule, click on Guiding Teacher.
"If we are patient,
determined, diligent, and at the same time relaxed in our practice - it
is inevitable that joy increases, peace increases; that wisdom
increases. It is inevitable that our ability to live a beneficial and
compassionate life increases."
-- Marcia Rose