By Teresa (Tere) Todoroff, Winter Resident
Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself. Rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement... Instead, see meditation as an act of love. - Bob Sharples
What would it taste like to befriend each moment, love every morning of transition, the mess, miracle, even the mundane? Sweet spaciousness. Coming home. Patience.
Six weeks at Southern Dharma have provided a precious and pregnant pause in a time of great turning, loss, and possibility. Days full of reflection, community, intentionality and orienting towards the possibility of an integrated and joyful sense of belonging. As winter now downshifts, the daffodils drive our gaze towards bright buds and wet earth.
I remember the cloudy day of my arrival on the land - it was a Sunday, and it felt slow. El arte de dominguear. My favorite art of “Sundaying” (as a verb, a quite passive one). The winter air breathed a break, before the beginnings of a new week and a new snow that would soon arrive and cover the land in a candy-like, white foam, much different from what I had just experienced in the New Mexican high desert. The pleasant air and soft sun hosted our lunch out on the picnic tables in front of the lodge as I overlooked this new valley, this new home. Squash soup the color of a favorite yellow sweater, homemade kimchi with yacon, and some fresh sourdough. Yes. I’m home.
Since that first drive up West Road in late January, we’ve chanted the Recollection of the Triple Jewel just about every morning. Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Treasures. Teachers. Timeless. Our daily 8am practice periods, often with the fire roaring in the wood stove, grounded this heart, this mind, this body. What a gift to sit with friends. To hear each other’s voices and honor our silences. To dedicate merit and support our ever evolving practice of coming home to our true nature.
Over the last couple years, chanting has been an act of love, nourishing this mysterious journey and path of practice of “mine”. Sounding sacred syllables sends me into the devotional depths. It feels ancient, it moves energy, it opens my heart and sometimes cracks it. Growing up Catholic, singing at church felt like one of the few enjoyable aspects of weekly mass. “Make me a channel of your peace, where there is hatred let me sow love”.
One of my favorite Pali words in the Triple Jewel chant has a nice feel coming out of the throat: Akaliko. I like the way the “ka” comes out first, then the “ko”. Eenie-meeni-miny-mo, a ka-lee-koh. It is often translated as timeless.
The dharma is timeless, and yet… The calendar pages continue to turn as my settling deepens here on this special piece of Appalachian forest. My time here grows shorter as the days grow longer. There is a beginning, middle and end to everything, and this particular iteration and configuration of beings, of seasons, of timelessness is coming to an end.
So many moments, even the mundane ones, have felt imbued with magic, with dhamma and blessed with the good fortune of spiritual friendship. Walking from the hall to the lodge after a morning sit, brushing our teeth together before bed, staff meetings with songs and bells, Qi Gong in the meadow, poetry and ukelele on the knoll, snow angels, game nights, movie nights, quiet nights.
As I reflect on this time of coming home to my practice, opening to a new community, sensing the beauty of a new landscape, gratitude and appreciation washes over my heart. For all those who tended to this forest for millennia past, who created these buildings with love, and who practiced whole heartedly: Thank you. I carry this time, this healing, this simplicity, within me and around me and aspire to share these timeless gifts of coming home with all.
Even with summer
So far off
I feel it grown in me
Now and ready
To arrive in the world.
My time as a winter resident at Southern Dharma allowed for a rich, opening experience in dhamma and community. I feel so grateful for the space, sangha, and safety that held me. I am a mixed race Latina and bilingual Spanish speaker. Having benefited from BIPOC and YA scholarships in the past at other retreat centers, I am delighted that SDRC has opened up additional funding for folks! The opportunity to practice in this lifetime is a precious jewel and my wish is that the Buddha’s teachings continue to flourish to more diverse practitioners. May all beings be free and have access to the path of liberation. Thank you SDRC for encouraging our under 30 and BIPOC friends to practice.