Our annual winter retreat during the months of January, February, and March recently came to a close and the community is slowly re-entering the pace of our normal daily schedule and routine. The retreat was a very beneficial time for us: a chance to move into more stillness and time for reflection – deepening our contemplative practice. The theme for teachings this year was the first three establishments of mindfulness: mindfulness of body, of feelings, and of mind itself (the fourth establishment of mindfulness, dhammas, was the entire retreat theme a few years ago).
With readings and reflections from the senior monks nearly every day, we had a chance to move into deeper contemplation around these themes, with periods of group meditation practice as well as periods of solitary practice to bring them into our real experience. Everyone, the resident monastics and long-term lay residents, as well as the retreat helper crew, expressed much appreciation for the opportunity to practice like this together. We were also rewarded with beautiful weather which encouraged lots of outdoor practice (although all of us would have liked to see more rain to help alleviate the drought!). After we have had time to edit the recorded teachings, these will appear on the website. This may take some time, as the recordings are quite extensive.
As we resume a more engaged pace, there are a number of events on the horizon. The regular monthly teachings in Berkeley, Ukiah, and Fort Bragg will be resuming, Upasika Day teachings will be happening, and various members of the community will be visiting and teaching around the country (see our events calendar for details). Upasika Debbie has been invited to teach in North Dakota, Ajahn Karunadhammo will be teaching in Wisconsin in late April, and Luang Por Pasanno and Ajahn Jotipalo are currently in Mississippi visiting a meditation center there.
There will be several ordinations happening on June 9th. Samanera Khantiko and Samanera Gambhiro will be taking their full bhikkhu ordinations that day, and Anagarika Doug and Anagarika John will be taking their samanera (novice) ordinations as well. All are welcome to attend this auspicious event. It will likely take place in the middle to late afternoon, but the exact time has yet to be determined. Coming for the meal time at 11:00 am and staying on through the day is a great way to do it! We are also pleased that Ajahn Amaro will be visiting us briefly and will be present for the ordinations (see accompanying article).
Of course, the other major happening is the beginning of Phase 2 of the Reception Hall construction (see below for lots of photos). We now have sufficient funds for this phase, the framing and roof. At present, we plan to once again put the project on hold after the completion of this Phase 2 (October 2015) until sufficient funds become available for Phase 3. Phase 3 would be the completion of the building, which would then make it ready for occupancy. We are very pleased to be able to have our contractor, Bob Madlem, and his excellent crew back with us for this phase.
With all of this happening, we still try to strive for a quiet, contemplative life here, and welcome visitors to come and share in this teaching and lifestyle.