Dear KCL Friends,
There has been such a flurry of activity around KCL!
This week we are excited to welcome our first Warriors Assembly back on the land in five years! Much preparation has gone into making the various spaces and rooms ready for the staff and participants and we look forward to seeing everyone.
Next, we have added in two major retreats this winter, geared to students and young people. We are offering special pricing and scholarships on these retreats to make them more affordable for this age group. See info on these programs below.
Lastly, we are trying out this newsletter on our blog for the first time. Let me know what you think of the changes at firstname.lastname@example.org
The practice of caring for ourselves has been part of the Taoist arts of health and longevity for millennia. With increasing demands in our everyday life, self-care is more relevant than ever in helping us meet life’s challenges as well as appreciating the gifts of good living.
In many ways, self-care can be understood as a form of Preventative Medicine. We take care of ourselves so that health problems can be minimized.
Join us for this new series of holistic mind/body retreats, Taking Care of Body & Mind, These retreats feature the Three Taoist Pillars of Self-Care: Qigong, Meditation, and Lifestyle.
The first retreat in the series is Relaxing Your Mind & Body and Balancing Your Life
with Instructors Suzann Duquette & Heidi Meyer-Bothling
Special guest speaker Dr. Eva Wong
Nov. 4 - 10
During this 6-day retreat there will be ample time for meditation, contemplation, discussions of healthy lifestyle choices, nature walks, sensory exercises and of course qigong.
Learn more and register:
Balance Your Life
If you would like to continue on from "Balancing Your Life" into the weekend, there is a Qigong Level 3 program that follows directly afterwards.
The Gourd & Cauldron
with instructor Beth Latchis
Nov. 10 - 12
'I assembled the Solitary Retreats Team yesterday to tell them “my” idea about a drawing, in which participants can win a 10-day cabin retreat.
We met in the Great Meadow, where a frog I’ve come to know sat in silence near the creek, not even blinking. Together with the three does and yearling twins foraging in deep grass, we officially had a quorum.
“Guys, we have two new executive directors in the House, and have to look like we are being innovative,” I explained. ... '
Read Article for Drawing
Special Guests Speakers (TBA)
Jan. 6 - 14
Join us for this mindfulness retreat geared to students and young adults. In addition to mindfulness activities, we will hear about socially-engaged dharma from a diverse team of guest speakers, learn valuable tools and techniques to use in our daily life, and explore what it means to 'wake up' collectively.
Learn more and register:
Young Adults Retreat
with Anne-Marie Keppel, author of "Death Nesting: The Heart-Centered Practices of a Death Doula"
Dec. 8 - 10 or Dec. 8 - 12
Heading into the very darkest time of the year makes way for a beautiful opening to contemplate dying and death. Creating space to gather with others in a safe and uplifted environment is a deeply nourishing way to explore the preciousness of life. Through discussions, contemplations and meditative practices we will open to curiosity and the groundless feeling of "not knowing."
Through our explorations you will develop an expanded vocabulary and confidence for engaging in conversations around death and dying and leave the retreat feeling refreshed and awake.
Learn more and register:
4-Day Retreat Weekend Retreat
with Bill Brauer & Caroline Demaio
Nov. 22 - 26 or Nov. 18 - 26
Enjoy this Thanksgiving and sink into your meditation practice, joining in with the Karme Choling family for a holiday feast. Bill Brauer will lead us in mindfulness meditation and Caroline Demaio will guide us in Tai Chi.
New meditators - receive meditation instruction from seasoned teachers in a supportive environment
Experienced meditators - deepen your practice in a rich and gentle space
There is your choice of either a 5-day or 9-day retreat!
Learn more and register:
5-Day Retreat 9-Day Retreat
with Eve Rosenthal & Basia Solarz
Dec. 26 - Jan. 1
During this darkest time of the year, with its restriction of light and movement, it is traditional to reflect on the previous year, gather the insights it offers and envision the new year ahead. Join us for this opportunity to connect with oneself and others through meditation, reflection, conversation and embodiment practices in the winter wonderland of Karmê Chöling!
(Also, see below our Winter Youth Retreat that runs concurrently from Dec. 27 - Jan. 1.)
Learn More and register:
Letting Go Retreat
Dec. 27 - Jan. 1
The teachings on awareness and warriorship offer youth an opportunity to slow down, learn about oneself, and open one's heart to others.
During this long-weekend retreat, we will explore what it looks like to lead our lives from the understanding that every person is fundamentally good and that we have the potential to manifest as Enlightened Society. Together we will create a culture that encourages our innate qualities of kindness, wisdom, and strength.
(Held concurrently with the Letting Go and Letting Come retreat.)
Learn more and register:
Winter Youth Retreat
Jan 13 - 21
Winter Half Dathün
Jan 6 - 21
Five Wisdom Energies
with Irini Rockwell
May 24 - June 2
with Joseph Pascutazz
Jan - March
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Excerpt from the cabin retreat video with Bill Brauer.
Bill Brauer, a senior teacher at Karmê Chöling, sat down with Retreat Assistant Joseph Pascutazz to record a video about solitary retreats, which will be used in an upcoming program.
Below, we’ve borrowed some mildly edited insights from Bill, who has done many solitary retreats of his own.
Once you’ve booked a solitary retreat at Karmê Chöling, intention and expectation is going to arise. There’s no way for it not to. If I’m sitting in Kansas City and I know that three weeks from now I’m going to be in the practice hills of Karmê Chöling, I’m going to be thinking about what I’m going to be doing.
An appropriate intention would be to allow the retreat environment, the potency of the cabin, the surrounding woods, and the opportunity to withdraw from daily life to support the practice and deepen your connection to your own body and your own mind.
So the intention should be very strong.
“I guess the one caution is that we don’t bring into our retreat the expectation that I am going to accomplish some state of mind, or that I will achieve a clarity that I can’t at home because I’m too busy,” Bill said. “If we bring those kinds of intentions or expectations we are actually undermining the retreat and what it offers, which is a chance to let go of preconditions and just relax and let the retreat come to us.”
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
When he established the retreat culture at Karmê Chöling, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche recommended that his students not to use this time for extensive study. The emphasis, he said, should be on the practice of meditation itself.
“So the recommendation is that you take two, maybe three books,” said Bill. “A further recommendation is that they be inspirational or aspirational in nature, something you turn to in your regular life to inspire you, to remind you why you practice dharma, to raise your life force and make you happy to be a practitioner.”
In retreat, it’s recommended that the books be something familiar to you, and that they remind us of why we are practicing, and rouse our aspiration to continue practicing.
In this way, the retreat can be about deepening practice, rather than absorbing new material.
In a solitary retreat, we want to dispense with the kind of busy-ness that goes into how to settle the mind.
A schedule can relieve you from the fussiness of deciding, “Should I practice now? Or shouldn’t I?” Or, “My morning practice wasn’t the way I wanted, should I take a break now?’
The value of a schedule is that it allows you to simply relax into the practice. So if the schedule says for the next three hours you’re going to practice meditation, then you don’t have to ask yourself, “do I feel like meditating right now? Is this a good time to meditate?”
It seems to genuinely, positively affect the practice because you’re not just trying to guess what’s best for you at the time, Bill said.
Donate to Solitary Cabin Retreats
Karmê Chöling is very pleased to announce our newly appointed Co-Executive Directors, JT Buck and Vegan Aharonian. Aharonian and Buck will succeed Betsy Railla, who will step down on September 1st.
Our New Executive Directors
Both Vegan and JT come to the position with many years of experience in the community and with close ties to Karmê Chöling. Vegan is a teacher in the Shambhala community and a former resident of the center. JT has recently served on staff at Karmê Chöling as Residency Manager and Director of Programs.
Both will work in tandem to lead the day-to-day operations of the retreat center. In addition, the co-directors will also lead the center’s fundraising, programming and public outreach.
The Inspiration to Step Forward
When asked what was the inspiration for stepping into this role, each had this to say:
About Vegan Aharonian
Vegan began studying Shambhala Buddhism in 1996. Originally from Armenia (the former Soviet Union), he came to the United States as a graduate student at Columbia University in 1991. Since 2008 he has been part of the Governing Council at the New York City Shambhala Center and head of its Practice and Education. In addition to teaching regularly in New York, he has also taught international Shambhala programs in Russia and Ukraine. Vegan holds a PhD in geophysics and has worked as a software engineer for most of his career. His last engagement was at the United Nations.
About JT Buck
JT has been a dharma practitioner since 2009. He has served KCL as Director of Programs, Residency Coordinator and Program Coordinator. He originally hails from Ohio, where he maintained an active and varied career in the performing arts and non profit sectors for nearly 20 years. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and has completed post-graduate studies both there and at the University of Houston. He recently completed pilgrimages to Nepal and to ancient family sites in the UK and Europe.
A Bow of Gratitude
Having completed her 4-year term that she began in late 2019, Betsy Railla's cheerful, can-do attitude will be sorely missed. She has been creative and resourceful in the face of major obstacles, the most prominent being COVID. Under her direction the residency program was begun and KCL launched it's online and hybrid programming which allowed the center to remain open and available to retreatants and residents alike. This was at a time when many small businesses were having to shut down. She will not be far away however, as she and her husband Nathan live nearby in the local area.
You may have heard that Karmê Chöling’s retreat cabins were closed for a brief hibernation this summer. I frankly suspect this was a story circulated by a particular porcupine, who didn’t like the scolding I gave him for gnawing on the steps of Great Eastern Sun cabin. We’ve reached an understanding, and the cayenne pepper solution I’ve applied to the steps seems to have brought him around to my point of view.
Fact is, we are again ready to support your solitary retreat. We’ve dusted off the cushions, repainted some walls, uplifted the shrines and fussed over the exact placement of candle-snuffers on the oryoki table.
Long story short, if you are at a place where a solitary retreat would deepen your practice, and your commitment to the dharma, Karmê Chöling’s seven retreat cabins are jewels of great value. They’ve been seasoned with the practice of generations of practitioners, including some outstanding senior teachers you’ve probably learned from.
Each cabin comes with a meditation instructor that you can meet with before, or even during, your solitary retreat.
The forest, meadows and streams of Karmê Chöling have been blessed by many great Tibetan Buddhist teachers. In my opinion, solitary retreat in one of our cabins is some of the best practice you can do this lifetime.
When the time is right, here’s where you can apply for a solitary retreat .
— Mike, email@example.com
Apply for a Solitary Retreat
Anyen Rinpoche, who will teach on the “37 Practices of a Bodhisattva” Aug. 25 – 27 at Karme Choling, often speaks of the profound blessings showered upon the practitioner who truly serves their lama with devotion.
“My lama really tamed my way of thinking and my arrogance and pride,” said Rinpoche. “Whatever good qualities I have are from my lama, but especially, the quality I got through him is that I always think about others first, how others feel.”
Anyen Rinpoche was raised by a family of yak herders in the high forested mountains of eastern Tibet, a place with almost no evidence of modern life. When he was just three days old, he was recognized as a tulku by the great Dzogchen yogi Chupur Lama, who was living in the same yak-wool tent as Rinpoche’s family.
When the young tulku was 7 years old, he exhibited intense and profound devotion upon hearing the name of the great master Khenchen Tsara Dharmakirti Rinpoche, who would become his root guru.
Anyen Rinpoche not only gained recognition as a great scholar (khenpo), but also became a heart son of his root lama.
The “37 Practices of the Bodhisattva” is a powerful Buddhist text on training the mind in kindness and compassion. It is a guide that teaches us practical ways to turn difficult situations into opportunities for growth and transformation.
Rinpoche will be accompanied by his partner Allison Choying Zangmo, an accomplished translator of the Tibetan language who has been teaching the dharma under Rinpoche’s guidance since 2017.
Today, May 4th, the first pole beans poked their heads above the ground inside our greenhouse at Karmê Chöling. Outside it is still windy and cold.
Watching the birth of a plant, after warding off countless challenges from above and below, invariably fills me with awe and joy. After forty years of gardening, I still don’t take anything for granted and use the utmost care to aid the fragile process of germination.
For me this process starts with building a healthy soil that is teaming with life: Microbes, fungi, and countless other visible and invisible creatures that create a beautiful soil structure, like an underground cathedral, with lots of open spaces for water and air to move up and down, in and out. Like the skin of our own body this earth needs to breathe!
The question may arise: What can we do to support and strengthen these all-important microbial networks in our garden soil?
First of all, we try to have this soil covered with living plants as much as possible. Plants have an extraordinary ability to capture sunlight and carbon dioxide from the air and draw moisture from the soil. They then rearrange these different molecules into simple sugars and oxygen, thus laying the foundation of this fantastic world we live in.
Through this process of photosynthesis, plants not only grow roots, stems, leaves, and flowers, they also transport 10-30% of the carbohydrates produced in their leaves to the soil surrounding their roots - so-called root exudates - where they become like bitesize cookies feeding the microbes who have amassed themselves for a continuous banquet. Aside from improving soil structure, these bacteria and fungi also deliver essential minerals and moisture to the plants.
In recent years we’ve also learned that plant roots eat bacteria directly through a process called rhizophagy cycle. This insight is likely to have profound implications for all farmers and home gardeners because, when taken to full advantage, it opens a biological pathway for complete plant nutrition. This is the way of natural ecosystems.
An alternative to having green plants cover the soil is to use a generous layer of leaf mulch, grass clippings, or straw. This will also feed and protect the microbial community underneath.
Next, to not destroy soil structure, we disturb the soil as little as possible, which allows for fungal networks to grow and thrive further. We may use a garden fork to lightly aerate (not turn) the top 7-9 inches.
Third, we spread biologically active compost on top of the soil, not for nutrition but primarily to inoculate and feed the soil microbes. Only when we need to seed a crop directly, spinach or carrots for instance, do we fork the compost into the top 2 inches and rake the bed smooth. Generally I do not recommend animal manure unless it was composted in a hot compost pile.
Lastly, I want to mention the benefits of microbial inoculants. You may have used a nitrogen fixing inoculant for peas and beans in the past. In recent years, research has shown which strains of bacteria and fungi are particularly beneficial to healthy plant growth. Many new products have appeared on the shelves of nurseries and catalogues.
I recommend that you check out this new development. At Karmê Chöling, we use several products from Advancing Eco Agriculture and Tainio Biologicals that have helped our garden to flourish even more, including great germination of our pole beans. We have seen a steady reduction in insect pests and less need for soil fertilizer because these beneficial microbes both directly and indirectly feed the plants.
If you want to learn more, join Karmê Chöling this summer for our Regenerative Gardening program co-taught by myself and Donna Williams, August 12-19.
May these suggestions benefit you and your garden.
By Natalia Shafa
Grounding in the Path of Dharma is a four day course developed especially for those meditation practitioners who are committed to their practice, but are struggling with the real-life dilemma of making that commitment fit into their day-to-day living. This includes those who are having difficulty getting their practice off the ground (whether they’ve tried once or many times). And for those who may have once had a strong meditation practice but have lost their inspiration somewhere along the way and are looking to reinvigorate their enthusiasm for meditation.
“I think it’s so hard to be a genuinely committed dharma practitioner in the West because it’s really new here,” says dharma teacher and monk Anyen Rinpoche. “The difficulties are a lack of education and community, such as we have in Tibet. We don’t yet have enough of this kind of support in the West. Sometimes students feel like they have to choose between dharma and their job or their spouse or other commitments and that can be discouraging. They can lose inspiration. It takes a lot of effort to stay committed when the whole environment is not supporting dharma practice. But without keeping commitments, it’s really hard to improve the dharma practice.” ̶ Anyen Rinpoche
Anyen Rinpoche is a rare teacher in the modern age, straddling the worlds of East and West. Raised and trained in Tibet, he has devoted his life to bringing Dharma to the west from a young age. He is a unique blend of cultures, which allows him to act as both translator and bridge between ancient teachings and contemporary practitioners.
This August (2022) at Karmê Chölíng, Anyen Rinpoche will provide students with the tools they need to steadily strengthen their practice and commitment over time. This includes the ability to keep their seats in the face of life’s day-to-day challenges once their meditation practice is no longer being supported by the discipline of retreat. Students gain the strength to keep going when life becomes overwhelming, to keep momentum when life is smooth and fun, and to stay excited and ‘in-love’ with their meditation practice through the daily grind that can be living.
By Cody Mekelburg
I learned of Anyen Rinpoche in 2012 through some friends while living at (then) Shambhala Mountain Center and read his books The Union of Dzogchen and Bodhichitta, as well as Dying with Confidence. I was immediately attracted to Rinpoche’s style of inspiring me as a reader through fascinating, beautiful stories of previous masters. And how he used those stories to give practical advice to modern-day practitioners.
In early summer, I moved from SMC to Denver and began attending Rinpoche’s talks and programs at Orgyen Khamdroling, Rinpoche’s dharma center. Then an old church where renovations to turn it into the beautiful temple it is now, had just begun. However, it wasn’t until two years later that I became serious about my practice and that Rinpoche cautiously accepted me as a student.
I would say that Anyen Rinpoche is an un-conventional Lama but is also very traditional. He is deeply committed to teaching authentic dharma as it was introduced to him. Rinpoche’s sense of commitment in this way is solid. Concerning his students, the dharma as a whole, and the Vajrayana in particular, he is uncompromising in his responsibility to present pure teachings. This is evident in how Rinpoche makes himself available to students and how he teaches the dharma.
When we were in Nepal as a sangha in 2018, Rinpoche personally saw to arranging many aspects of the teachings and empowerments we received there, as well as led us to many pilgrimage sites and instructed us with the proper prayers and offerings to make in each pilgrimage place. One particular occasion that stands out to me is when we offered Tsok (feast) in Maratika Cave, where Padmasambhava accomplished the immortal life vidyadhara. I’m particularly fond of a memory of a small Nepali boy who seemed to enjoy what we were doing. He played in front of us as we practiced, jumping around and trying to sing along. Rinpoche enjoyed watching him and gave him little snacks and gifts for as long as he played in our vicinity. Once we finished Tsok, Rinpoche led us through each aspect of the cave, explaining the significance and how we should relate to it, making jokes as we crawled through small tunnels on the ground and over other obstacles.
To me, this time in Nepal depicts the amount of effort and commitment Rinpoche has to his students and how he guides us to accumulate merit, keep our motivation pure, and apply the teachings in any circumstance. It was and still is truly precious. How could I be so fortunate in this life to connect with a Lama who selflessly dedicates himself to his students’ spiritual growth?
Rinpoche has taught The Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva in depth for the past ten years and constantly emphasizes how the teachings contained in The Way of the Bodhisattva are essential foundational practices we as Vajrayana Buddhists should train in, especially in today’s world. Rinpoche will sometimes praise our sangha a little, saying that we’ve become warm and friendly to one another. He credits this entirely to his teaching and us putting into practice, The Way of the Bodhisattva. I don’t think I’ve done a particularly great job at applying these teachings, but they have undoubtedly changed how I relate to my mind and the people in my life. But it’s clear that through Rinpoche’s guidance and his wife (and principal student) Allison’s shining and fearless example, our sangha has become a dharma family full of friendly banter, laughter and hard work.
Rinpoche’s commitment arouses a tremendous sense of gratitude for me. It isn’t easy to describe the impact that both Rinpoche and Allison have had on me. Sometimes it seems as if I’m walking around the world blindfolded and hands bound, then thanks to an instruction from Rinpoche or advice from Allison, the blindfold becomes less opaque, and I can navigate this complex world with a little more grace. I can’t recall a time where I ceased to feel Rinpoche’s deep sense of caring or to see that all of our interactions are moments of teaching. Teaching on how to be a dharma practitioner, train my mind, and extinguish suffering. Rinpoche’s demonstration of this has been invaluable for me as an antidote when obstacles of doubt creep into my mind.
My gratitude fuels a deep commitment to working as hard as I can to build my capacity, steadily increasing my devotion. This sense of gratitude is what sparks what little devotion, if any, that I possess. I’m sure many people can relate with me saying, faith and devotion don’t come naturally to me. Being raised in our highly critical western society, arguably, led me away from the faith-based religions of our culture and toward the buddha-dharma. I had initially thought of Buddhism as more “logical” and “empirical”, therefore doing away with the need for ideas like faith. Then the teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism come along, and we learn the essential quality of devotion to our practice. Rinpoche constantly emphasizes the qualities of faith and devotion in his teachings while balancing that with pragmatic advice that he draws from his understanding of living in our culture. What first helped me bridge that gap was how Rinpoche emphasized devotion not as blind faith but as a certainty in the dharma born from practice, study, reading the biographies of the great lineage masters and observing our teacher.
I have seen Rinpoche bring himself to tears while speaking about the kindness of his lineage and Lama; this serves as an invaluable example of the kind of devotion I should aspire to embody. The teachings we have the opportunity to receive are truly profound because they can give us so much and be of tremendous benefit. By teaching the dharma, Rinpoche has benefitted me personally in ways that no other person in my life has even thought to do. He has guided me to have just a glimpse of the possibilities that come from practicing the dharma and continually shows me the invaluable treasure that the dharma is.
Rinpoche and the lineage inspire me to diligently work toward developing my practice and helping accomplish his vision in whatever ways I can. The kindness that I feel Rinpoche has given me just by helping me understand the preciousness of the dharma is immeasurable. Thanks to him, I have confidence that the dharma works because I can see how he has put it into practice, the same way his root Lama did and his Lama before that. This example gives me tremendous confidence that if I can muster the diligence and courage to practice the dharma authentically, as taught to me, it will undoubtedly have the same result as it did for them. But Rinpoche often reminds us, as the Buddha said, “it depends on you .”
If anyone feels a little inspired by reading this, or if there is any virtue in the ramblings of someone such as myself, it is only due to my Lama’s blessings. May the teachings of the dharma long endure, may the holders of the dharma live long, and may the practitioners’ paths be free of obstacles.
“May the supreme, precious bodhichitta
Arise in whom it has not arisen.
Where it has arisen, may it not be broken,
And may it continually increase!”
– Cody Mekelburg, July 2022
Dr. Eva Wong integrates qigong, meditation and Taoist philosophy in program for new and returning students
No matter where she goes, Dr. Eva Wong carries a thousand-year-old Taoist lineage with her. And when she arrives at Karmê Chöling this fall (2022), she’ll offer an introduction to that lineage that includes qigong instruction, Taoist meditation and the philosophy of her Primordial Limitless Gate Taoist lineage.
The program is designed for both new and returning students.
This is the first time Eva has taught at Karmê Chöling since 2019. Even so, it’s been many more years since she has personally offered qigong instruction to beginning students.
Longtime student Ken Kimball says it’s a rare and precious opportunity to receive this instruction from a lineage holder.
“I come from a martial arts background, and within that culture, being able to study with the most advanced teacher is a privilege,” said Kimball. “It’s like finding a pearl in an oyster. One rarely gets to work with a lineage holder.”
The four-day-program, which runs Sept. 18-22, consists of in-depth practice of Qigong Levels 1 and 2; an introduction to meditation techniques unique to the Primordial Limitless Gate lineage; and discussions on Taoist philosophy.
Gerry Haase, who became Eva’s student when is was 65, said the practice of qigong has improved his posture and overall health, even clearing up his bronchitis and occasional bouts of pneumonia.
“You can’t turn back the chronological clock,” said Hasse, now 80. “But it turns out you can reverse the biological clock, as incredible as that may seem.”
Taoist qigong is a spiritual discipline that cultivates body and mind simultaneously. Originally called taoyin, which means “guiding the flow of internal energy (qi),” it has been practiced for over two thousand years in China.
In Qigong Level 1, Eva will introduce the essence of qigong practice — self massage, bone marrow washing, and calisthenics. Participants will explore how each of these forms can be used to enhance and repair muscularskeletal functions, align energy channel, and build tendon and bone strength.
In Qigong Level 2, Eva will introduce the most potent qigong systems: The 9 Self Massage System and the 12 Tendon-Changing System. The 9 Self Massage System is specifically designed to open energy blockages, stimulate energy centers and guide the flow of energy in the body. The 12 Tendon-Changing System is one of the most effective forms of qigong that can be used to increase spinal mobility and strength, and introduce overall flexibility and strength to ligaments, muscles and tendons.
Primordial Limitless Gate lineage
The lineage held by Dr. Wong specializes in the dual cultivation of body qi and limitless consciousness. Cultivation of the physical and energetic body builds the foundation for cultivating the mind.
Meditation provides practitoners with a consciousness that makes the body safe for gathering and storing internal energy.
Qi, or internal energy, feeds whatever arises in consciousness. What arises — be it anger, kindness, fear, and even wisdom — are all intensified by qi. It is therefore important not just to cultivate qi, but be aware of what is arising in consciousness every moment.
Discussions of Taoist philosophy
The Taoist philosophical outlook inspires the arts of health, longevity and mental well-being. The essence of Taoist philosophy concerns how one views the world, relates to others and balances one’s worldy and spiritual lives. Eva will present highlights of the Taoist outlook from her various translations of Taoist classics that are both profound and practical.
There are no prerequisites to take this program. COVID protocols will be in place. Depending upon current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, mask may be required indoors. You may learn about Karme Choling’s COVID policy at www.karmecholing.org/visiting-us/covid-policy.
I rode shotgun with Joseph to the Dhritarashtra retreat cabin today so I could give him helpful tips about weatherstripping the door. I find that North Easterners really appreciate winterizing advice from Californians.
The thermometer was heading toward 50, a situation I heard a man at the Barnet Store call “a real scorcher.” The Brown Truck is loving this ride; its tire chains devour mud with the same hunger they have for ice and snow.
Having spent two solitary retreats at Dhritarashtra, I know this path has offshoots leading to fresh, juicy blackberries in summertime. I usually eat a handful in the morning and set others aside for a protector offering that evening.
As we round a bend near a gathering of maples, Dhritarashtra waits like an old friend. It’s wearing a handsome new roof, but doesn’t make a big deal about it. Dhritarashtra is an unpretentious treasure.
I peek through the door and see the gomden waiting stoically. This cabin was designed by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche himself, according to Retreat Master lore. We have plans to sand and refinish the floor this year, and to uplift the shrine with golden trim.
I talk advice at Joseph for several minutes, which he accepts with grace and wisely ignores, I suspect. I decide to take a quick lap around the cabin to see if the forest needs my assistance.
With the forest floor revealed, for a day at least, I greet a young tree I’ve known for years. I see it’s still executing a twisted, slow-motion bow toward the sun, framing what will soon be a grove of ferns that give cover to the deer trails east of the cabin.
When I do a retreat here, I relish letting “The Heart Sutra” fly wildly through this section of forest, and wonder what the robins and chickadees make of it each morning.
I’m getting excited for spring, which is only a few days away now. For my fellow West Coasters, spring don’t mean squat to the snow deities of Vermont. Every year at this time, I think, “winter is over!” I know it’s not so, but mind my goes on believing. In a few days, this whole scene could be a foot deep again.
I’m taking all this in and thinking, “my next solitary retreat at Karme Choling should be right here.”
Joseph manages to insulate the door expertly, despite my help, and I think the forest will likewise do just fine without my guidance. So we pack up our tools and let The Brown Truck wind us back toward the Retreats Road.
When I get back to the office, I open my email and find that someone has inquired about doing a retreat at Dhritarashtra this summer. A coincidence, perhaps. To the screen I say ‘Ha, wait your turn,” but then begin pushing buttons on my keyboard to make it happen.
To learn about solitary retreats at Karme Choling, visit www.karmecholing.org/cabin-retreats.
by Alley Smith
It is a sacred act to pay respect to the spirits of our land at Karmê Chöling. We rest in a soothing afterglow of the great Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. His presence never leaves this place and our hearts are filled with gratitude and unending devotion.
As Carrie-Ann Palmeri and I offered water, rice, salt and sake to at the Kami Shrines in preparation for 2022, we took a moment to reflect on a phrase found in daily chant booklets to the Vidyadhara by the Kungma Sakyong, “… this world of water, trees, rocks and sky and earth is our heritage. This natural wonderment is our original playground.”
Karmê Chöling is our heritage. It possesses incredible beauty and intrigue. The meadows and hills are covered in pristine white snow, deer tracks, wildlife, and loving-kindness. The earth and sky rejoice in our gentle presence and tender care. The Buddha, the Completely Awakened one, is alive in our hearts. Wherever we go, there are abundant blessings waiting to be seen, heard, felt, and experienced.
I will not reveal the great secrets of the Kami Shrines at Karmê Chöling, but I will invite you to take on the devotional practice. Divine presence is always available. May you have a Cheerful 2022 and dedicate your virtue for the sake of auspicious deeds!