The Novaturient Explorers – Rama Birthday 2018

On February 9, Rama’s birthday, I journey into the heat of the desert with 86 friends from different generations of the Study. Rama used various names for his teaching adventures, but overall he mostly referred to it as “The Study” – meaning the study of self-discovery and God-realization. This event was a family reunion of sorts; I had the good fortune to reunite with some people I had not seen in 10 or even 20 years. I wanted to speak with everyone present, but there is never enough time at these gatherings. Many of us have been hosting Rama birthday events for the past 20 years, but this one felt different. It was not just a celebration of our dear teacher; the intent was also to build a new relationship of deeper cooperation with each other.

Those of us drawn to the Study are constantly novaturient. That is, we are always seeking powerful changes in our life, behavior, or situation. We know life is impermanent, so when things begin to feel stagnant, we know big shifts are about to happen whether we want them or not. Instead of waiting on the sidelines, we tend to consciously ride the transient waves of existence.

On this Path, we experience many major life changes that are akin to internal deaths and births. With each new birth, the seemingly reasonable thing to do is to dip our toe in, and if everything feels comfortable, we quickly jump in feet first. This can feel like the safe way to do it, but there are some serious drawbacks. By the time we have put our toe in, the birth into the new state of being has begun and there’s no stopping it. If the circumstances are not comfortable, we may go through it slowly, agonizing about every new experience as we lament the passing of the old, perhaps even regretting that we put our toe in the water – as if we really had a choice! We’re essentially being born breech. If we have a strong support network, they can help us get turned around, or if needed cut us out of the womb. If we’re alone, we must fight and kick and tear our way into our new life. Either way, it’s a messy and destructive process.

Instead, when we feel the time of massive change is upon us, we can be humble and bow. We can focus on gratitude for all the beautiful and horrible events that have brought us to this moment. With our head down, we can dive into the new version of our being. Obviously, this takes tremendous faith in the process, since there’s no slowing down or stopping. We need to be calm as our old self sloughs off so we don’t create resistance or get tangled in the cord that nourished us. And finally, we must let go of the previous life that sheltered us and allowed us to grow.

Once we are born into our new self, we are naked and vulnerable. That is how I felt meditating in the desert with the members of Rama’s lineage.

When the timing worked out that I could attend the birthday adventure to the desert, the organizers asked me to lead the opening remarks and meditation. After Samvara walked us to a beautiful spot where Rama had taken students many, many years before, I sat in front facing the group, where I could see the remaining stragglers make their way to this special power spot. Once everyone arrived, I spoke a few words and settled into meditation.

I could feel the energy of the desert enveloping me. I could also feel the anger and jealousy of a few people. Thoughts like “Who is she is to be sitting up there?” “Why is she leading us? She’s not Rama!” slammed into me. At first I wanted to push back, to exert my will and maintain my space. As I watched these ideas arise in my mind, I realized these psychic hits were nothing in comparison to how hard I’ve hit myself mentally during the dark moments in my life. It became evident there was nothing any of these extremely powerful people could ever do to me that would be worse than what I’ve done to my own self – and the same was probably true of them. In that moment, I felt our unity. I knew they were me, I was them, and Rama was here with and as all of us.

Compassion and equanimity arose with my mind, and I opened my heart as wide as I possibly could and let the desert do with me whatever it would. I dissolved. Everyone sitting beneath the cliff in the desert dissolved into each other as one tribe, one love.

After my singing bowl signaled the end of the silent meditation, Veronica rose to invite people to share their stories of power. Such delight followed! Laughter, tears, and memories of the incredible miracles we witnessed were shared.

One story stuck in my mind, about a recent dream a woman had. She told us about a glowing line of light on the ground that stretched out to both horizons, and Rama telling her to pick it up. She doubted that she could and hesitated. After some prodding, she gathered her strength to lift the line of light. When she picked it up, it turned out to be light as a feather. Rama laughed and said, “You didn’t think you had to lift it on your own, did you?”

We, along with the thousands of Enlightened beings who have come before us and will come after us, are all carrying the lineage – this line through the ages that lights all the worlds.

Her story was an excellent reminder to all present that the miracles are still happening. Those of us with students already know this, because we hear about their extraordinary experiences and see firsthand how Rama’s light is very much alive in our own lives. The ones in our lineage who are out on their own may have forgotten about the everyday miracles, or have gone through too many breech births to feel excited by the prospect of yet another major shift. Yet, it’s time to dive in and become a new self. I for one am willing to trust the process, to see where Light leads me and our lineage. And for those out there on the sidelines, know we are here, ready to welcome you home.

I don’t know what this new life together in The Study will be like as our conversations continue and grow deeper, but I am excited to find out!

 

 

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Jenna

Joshua Tree Joint Venture

With great excitement, I learned one of my spiritual brothers accepted my invitation to join us at our Joshua Tree Retreat with some of his students. Excitement shifted to curiosity, and then I realized I had no idea of what to expect, so I dropped all ideation and settled into the unknowing of what was going to happen. As I planned the final touches of the retreat, I made certain there were opportunities for him to bow out gracefully if things started going sideways between us or our students. While I love all of my spiritual brothers and sisters, sometimes when those of us who studied with Rama get together things can be weird, and not always the good kind of weird.

 

Since I began teaching, I’ve made it part of my practice and continuing education to visit other teachers of all traditions to learn how they offer teachings. However, I don’t know if others do this or if it’s just an outgrowth of my natural curiosity. I admit part of my motivation for making the invitation was in the hopes of being invited on one of his trips so I could see how he creates the desert experience for his students. It seemed only fair to show him how I do desert first.

 

For my students, I searched extensively and found an almost perfect retreat house for my group – the only downside being we could not entertain visitors. I recommended a hotel close by for his group so he could make their lodging arrangements. I confirmed all the reservations, and bought tickets for our sound bath at the Integratron for those who had registered. I sent out several emails in preparation for the trip, and coordinated with fellow Dharma Center teacher Teresa, who would give us a short presentation with the history of the Integratron and take us to a nearby place of power. Finally, I dug out my Joshua Tree maps and scoped out our route and planned the final details of our adventure using Google maps to ensure we had plenty of time to meet up with the other group and move from place to place.

 

The energy before the trip hit us hard in the form of various types of opposition. Most of my students were able to push through, but a few could not and had to drop out. Because of the opening in the retreat house, one student who had not planned to attend experienced a series of small miracles that allowed him to fly into town and join us at the last minute.

 

Two weeks before the trip, the physical therapist who had been helping my body gain strength moved away, and her replacement did not know the same technique. I let the new therapist work on me, but found myself  physically exhausted and in severe pain from the treatment, and I was couch bound for the remainder of the week that I had planned to do all of my pre-packing.

 

As students continued to call me with their oppositional issues, I wondered if I needed to make some changes to our plans and decided to move up the meeting time of our night time outing so we would not be out as late as I originally thought.

 

Fortunately, my massage therapist had a cancellation and was able to fit me in and stabilize my body. This allowed me to keep my commitment to teach a workplace meditation class on Tuesday. It was a risk scheduling the workshop just two days before our trip because I knew driving in early morning rush hour traffic would wipe me out for the rest of the day, but I felt the call of Eternity to sit with this group. The class was powerful and fun; they even set up a beautiful meditation area for us in the hotel’s conference room with zafus and a Tibetan singing bowl!  As expected, although happy and high from the meditation, I spent the remainder of the day resting and had to put off packing until Wednesday, just one day before the trip. I organized every detail on Wednesday so I could have a relaxing morning before making the long drive.

 

Early Thursday morning, I picked up my phone so my husband could show me a certain setting and noticed an email from the rental house company. Our retreat house had been cancelled due to a plumbing issue!

 

October is high season in Joshua Tree, so most rentals had been booked months in advance. I knew it would be a challenge, and immediately started to look for options. Then I caught myself and realized it would take some energy to pull off the near impossible task of finding 9 beds available in either a house or hotel the same day for the full weekend. I sent out a quick email to my students to let them know about the change in lodging, and that I would update them soon with our new destination. My first task was to have breakfast.

 

After fueling my body, I dove into the travel sites hunting for options. The only large houses available were two hours away from where we planned to be, making them unappealing options. The hotel our brother group was staying at was fully booked. Finally I found a hotel with rooms, but the area had a spacey, astral vibe. It definitely was not the environment I had meticulously planned for my group to have the highest brightest experience. However, I knew driving two extra hours each day would have a negative effect on the group, so I took the plunge and booked three hotel rooms, plus the “presidential suite” which offered a large living room area where we could gather for group meditation.

 

This change in lodging, of course, altered all the details I had planned for the trip. During my initial planning, I kept trying to find a way for us to see the park during the day, but the timing was not working out, so I had given up the idea. With our new location, however, the distance to Joshua Tree was too far for us to go out for lunch on Friday and return to rest before our evening adventure. Instead, we changed course and went to Joshua Tree during the day for a couple of hours before meeting with the other group. We found a wonderful trail that meandered between the rocks, allowing us to each walk and sit on our own, and embrace the energy of Joshua Tree. As I walked, I found an impression of a Buddha meditating in the rocks high above on a cliff!

 

We gathered back at the car and arrived at our meeting spot to find our brother group. The separation between the two groups was apparent. Since I had given a teaching to his students, they recognized me and made me feel welcome. I watched as the students from the two groups eyed each other from a distance and wondered if they would come together. Because I was the leader for the trip, I gave final instructions to all the students present before heading into the desert.

 

As we sat under the stars, I felt the pressure of people expecting some kind of a performance. It would have been easy to cave in and start giving a long dharma talk. But that would not have been authentic. Since this way my turn to lead, I had no choice but to commit 100% to following my own practice. I go to the desert to feel the desert, and let her teach me. I bring others with me so they can also learn from the desert the way I do. So instead, I ate my sandwich and encouraged others to eat whenever they felt hungry. Most of the students did not eat, and instead waited expectantly. Remnants of self-consciousness dissolved with every bite I took on the imaginary stage.

 

After meditating in silence, a feeling of separation among the students remained. To alleviate this, I requested everyone share a moment of personal power. I began by sharing my experience meditating in front of them: My back radiated heat and out of the corners of my eyes I could see gold light, as if someone was shining a bright flashlight on the rock towering behind me. When I turned my head to see the light directly, it would disappear. Once I went back into silence, the light would grow brighter.

 

The outpouring of truth blew me away. In the dark, people were free to share openly experiences they would normally guard as precious memories. One person shared that they also saw the gold light on the rock behind me. Another talked about how she felt like she was waiting for the show to begin, only to realize she was seeing light radiating out in front of her, and that what she was waiting for was already happening. Some shared private, profound moments, and others told stories that caused us to burst into laughter. As each person shared their moment of power, I watched them unite with all the others who had told their stories. By the end, we all merged into one field of Light.

 

We sat again in silence, letting the desert wash through us as the stars danced. The temperature dropped drastically, and although my back was warm, my front was icy cold. I visualized the heat from my back wrapping around me like a blanket and I felt comfortably warm. The inner fire is like having a pot belly stove in the third chakra. If you can keep the hot coals inside the chakra, the heat naturally rises through the central channel and gently warms everything with a soft light.

 

As the night wore on, I could feel a dark heavy energy approaching. When I bring people to the desert, sometimes we sit through the heaviness and laugh, letting it purify any dark corners within our own being. Other times we get out of the way. Knowing we had more to experience together the next day, I signaled that it was time to go.

 

In our hotel suite, my group gathered for a morning meditation. Using the previous night’s energy as a springboard, we dove deep into the Light. My heart burst open wider than ever before, sending a ring of white light around group. It spun in a circle, joining us in our hearts.

 

At lunchtime, when we met with the others I felt the unity of our disparate groups. Although our main focus is on different outward forms of the practice, there was a deep respect and hunger to learn from each other. In the past, I’ve felt some teachers and students attempting to put forth their way and their structures as the best. This time there was only mutual respect. Teresa took us to a hill covered in quartz crystal and shared a sky and earth meditation that solidified our connection to the Path and each other.

 

During our informal discussions while waiting to attend the Integratron sound bath, I felt no competition. There was only a sense of discovery and mutual love of Light. We all wanted to spend more time with each other. Because the reservation for the retreat house was canceled and we wound up at the hotel suite, we could!

 

I invited everyone back to our hotel for a celebration of the magical blessing I felt reverberating throughout our entire Lineage at the meeting of our two sanghas as they merged into a maha-sangha.

 

During our evening group meditation in at the hotel suite, we felt the unification as one tribe, dissolving in Light. Once again my heart chakra exploded with light, and I felt the entire room shift. The love brought tears to my eyes as rings of light poured through my body. I’ve never felt so comfortable so quickly among a new group of people.

 

From behind the kitchen counter, Samvara and I watched as all the student intermingled in a natural and relaxed way. We were both delighted at the excitement in the room, and we could feel the significance of what we were witnessing. Since Rama left the body, we have been a fractured Lineage. It has been my wish since opening Dharma Center that we find a way to uplift and work with each other for the benefit of all beings. That night, watching the birth of new friendships, I saw the healing of our Lineage.

 

In the morning, our brother sangha had already begun their journey home when my group gathered for our final meditation. As we sat together in silence, my body dissolved into light. I felt it transform first into a crystal pyramid that grew to encompass the entire room, with an open top to the blue endless sky. Then it melted in rainbow light that pulsated from my heart and out into the world. The entire structure of my body dissolved in the rainbow. Tears of bliss filled my eyes and I felt completely renewed.

 

The experience of this weekend retreat at Joshua Tree has made me a more confident teacher, with deeper access to realms of light beyond description. It has also reaffirmed my trust in Eternity that my wish for all within the Rama Lineage to find their way home will be realized. I feel so blessed to be given the opportunity to walk the Path with such wonderful friends, and I look forward to many more joint ventures among our Lineage into Light.

 

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Jenna (Turīya)

Spiritual Assignments

When a spiritual teacher accepts a student, a karmic bond is created. The teacher agrees to share their awareness, and the student agrees to complete the assignments given by the teacher. The assignments are designed to help students incorporate the new levels of awareness they are learning about into their lives. This process is facilitated by the teacher giving empowerments to the student, during which energy is transmitted from Eternity directly into the student’s subtle body.

Ideally, the student then uses this extra energy to follow through with their assignments, even when it is not clear to the student exactly how the assignment will help to stabilize this new level of awareness. Sometimes students get lost in their personal dramas and allow the energy to be spent in other ways. No matter how the student uses the energy from the empowerment, the assignment is still there to be completed. Fortunately, teachers are very patient. They have been known to wait lifetimes for students; as with all karmic bonds, death does not end the arrangement.

Near the end of his life, Rama gave the Kalachakra Empowerment and a special teaching to all of his current and former students who responded to the invitation. During this event, he pointed out that we could use this technique and teaching to dissolve in Samadhi within 6 months, and Enlightenment within 5 years. Rama took contracts very seriously, so it was with great kindness he merely pointed out the option to us, instead of making it an assignment. He knew not all of his students were genuinely interested in dissolving into Enlightenment, and that many of them simply liked the feeling of being around the Light.

Of course, interesting things always happened at group events with Rama. He had this incredible ability to speak to us individually, even in a room packed with hundreds of people. This empowerment was no different, and people walked out with different details about the teaching. So, it’s possible some heard this idea of Enlightenment within 5 years as an assignment, while I heard that it was only an option. Years later, I met someone who had been at the event who told her students this special door to Enlightenment would stay open for only 7 years. Perhaps she used it as a method to inspire her students to work harder, since it’s easier to give 100% if you know it’s only for a short time. Or maybe that was what she heard, because that was what she needed to devote everything to the practice. If you were there, then only you know what the message was to you.

No matter who you study with, if they are an Enlightened Being, then when they speak to a group, part of your job as a student is to listen closely to what resonates with you. These things we hear from our teachers are important to contemplate on our own, especially if it causes any type of confusion, guilt, or pain. Sometimes we get lost in believing what others tell us they heard, instead of trusting ourselves. Beneath that resistance to trust is our way to Truth.

Ultimately, the awareness all spiritual teachers share is the wisdom of listening to our own heart. While we can hear about the practices and techniques a teacher followed to dissolve into Enlightenment, there is no fixed, works for everyone, Path. Each assignment leads the student closer to understanding this truth, and helps to develop trust in both the Teacher and in one’s own highest self. In the end, we all must find our own Path home.

 

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THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

Closer Than We Think

We are One
There is no Time
There is no Space
Those we miss are
Closer than we think

Last night I dreamed I was sharing flyers about Dharma Center. I rode a bicycle that would turn into a motorcycle whenever I needed some extra power. (I love how dreams instantly give you what you need!) After distributing flyers throughout Orange County, I followed the signs to get on the freeway to head up to Los Angeles.

The signs lead me on a narrow, curving ramp with steep drop-offs that was like going downhill on a roller-coaster. At the bottom, instead of being on the freeway, I found myself in a beach parking lot in an area resembling Big Sur. There were lots of people, so I started handing out flyers.

A woman walked up to me to get one, and Rama was standing next to her. As she took the flyer from me, she told me how much she missed Rama. Even though they were clearly together, she didn’t know who he was. I looked over at him, and he winked.

She read the flyer and then showed it to her friend who was really Rama. He nodded and smiled. She told me how excited she was to learn about Dharma Center, and again went on and on about how much she missed Rama.

“Well, I guess that’s why I would up here,” I said. “I thought I was getting on the freeway.”

Rama replied, “They really need to fix those signs, huh?”

He laughed and then I woke up.

Rama meditating

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THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

Meeting the Master – An Excerpt from Worlds of Power, Worlds of Light

On Friday night, I discovered the Mark Hopkins is one of San Francisco’s most glorious hotels. It sits on top of Nob Hill, rising above the city lights like a castle. The 19th century architecture, with the intricate carvings on the archways, appeared like an entrance to a fairy tale land. The grand doorway towered above me; never before had I been invited to a place so magnificent.

As Katey and I turned the corner into the banquet hall, my self-confidence dropped at the sight of hundreds of elegantly dressed people. None of the weddings or other dinner parties I had attended had ever been this fancy. My long flowered skirt and cheap blazer stood out in the crowd, but I was too confused to feel embarrassed. I couldn’t understand why a bunch of rich business people were attending a lecture on meditation. The overwhelming wealth of the hotel made me suspicious. I kept asking myself weren’t spiritual people supposed to use their money to help the poor, not on fancy dinners? Tara’s black ball gown seemed like a bit much even for this banquet room, but she was paying for my dinner, so what could I say?

Katey started off to meet the others, so I followed, listening to snatches of the conversations. I had expected to hear a roomful of miserable people looking for the answers to all of life’s problems. Instead, the business people in this room were discussing one exciting project or another, smiling as if they had touched ecstasy.

Katey and I met the other students from Tara’s class, and we sat down together at a table in the back of the room. I was disappointed that we were so far from the stage. I wanted to get a good look at Rama, since everyone was so excited to see him but refused to tell me anything about him when I asked. While eating dinner, we chatted about the weather and the classes some of us were taking at college. I couldn’t help noticing the tension in the room; it was like waiting for a bomb to go off.

The waiters were clearing the dessert dishes when Rama strolled in, with a briefcase in one hand and a long leather coat draped over the other. Although Tara had not mentioned what he looked like, I had expected an elderly Japanese man wearing an ocher robe. Instead Rama turned out to be a middle-aged Caucasian man, just over six feet tall, with blond curly hair and dressed in an Armani suit. As he stepped onto the platform stage set up at the far end of the banquet hall, everyone turned their chairs to face him. When I turned towards him, there was a clear aisle from my chair straight to center stage.

I watched Rama closely as he crossed his legs into the lotus position. A grace and ease accompanied his motions, as if he had performed this ritual thousands of times. My gaze kept returning to his eyes. I was positive I had never seen him before, but there was something about him that was strangely familiar.

“Tonight I’d like to talk with you about reincarnation,” said Rama, as a mischievous grin crossed his face, reminding me of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. “The good news is we live forever. And the bad news is, we live forever.” Rama looked around at the smiles in the audience, and began again with a more serious tone.

“Life is the joining of the infinite and the finite. The eternal part of us appears in the physical world, has experiences, and then the physical part falls away when we die. While in the body, the spirit plays out its karma. That is, it continues to follow the patterns of its previous lives, changing and growing until the body dies.

“At death, the material world falls away and the spirit takes a break. The spirit takes with it the awareness it has gained during the life experience. Whatever we become conscious of becomes embedded into our nature, and those skills carry from life to life.”

I relaxed in my chair, forgetting about my appearance for the first time that evening. I took a sip of my coffee as I concentrated on his words.

“For example, if you studied karate in a past life, you would probably be drawn to study it in this life. In the beginning, you would have to relearn the basics. Once you had the basics down, you would tap into your past life knowledge and you would progress much faster than someone who was new to the study of karate.

“The same is true in the study of self-discovery,” he continued, closing his eyes as his melodious voice spread through the room. “When you increase your awareness through meditation, or expand your consciousness through self-discovery, that knowledge travels with you from life to life. Karma propels us to continue with the actions we began in the previous moments. So most of you here have studied meditation in previous lives. By picking up the study again in this life, you can very quickly get back to where you left off and start exploring new areas.

“The process of reincarnation is very similar to going to school,” explained Rama, glancing around the banquet hall. “Someone in eighth grade is not any better than someone in third grade. It just means the student in eighth grade has had more experiences and hopefully knows more. In time, the third-grader will be in eighth grade. And also like school, there is a summer vacation, when the body dies and the spirit takes a break until it is born again.

“When you meditate, you may begin to remember your past lives. This generally happens to people in their twenties, but sometimes people are younger or older. It really depends on how open and aware you are. However, remembering the particulars of who you were or what you did in a previous life really isn’t very important.

“Buddhists use these recollections as a way to learn how to live better today. You can’t change the past; it doesn’t exist anymore. So it’s important not to get hung up on remembering your past lives. If you see stuff when you meditate, it’s best just to ignore it. Don’t let anything distract you from silencing your mind and seeking light.”

Rama pulled out a pair of sunglasses from his jacket and asked us to sit up straight so we could meditate. He put on a CD by Zazen, a band he had created with some of his students, and asked everyone to focus on him.

I gazed at him with half-closed eyes, letting the music fill my ears. The people in the room disappeared, and I could feel Rama’s energy inside my mind as if he was behind my forehead, in my third eye. At first, I tried to shut him out because I was afraid. I didn’t really like the idea of someone in my head, even if he was a respected spiritual teacher. Rama was persistent but not intrusive; instead he became like a vapor and slipped in through the cracks. I could feel him communicating with me telepathically. There were no words, only a soothing feeling, letting me know I was not in any danger. His energy, soft and delicate like a rose petal, shone before me like a rainbow. I knew this feeling of meditation with him, and felt a deeper love for this being, this essence, than I had ever felt for anything else in life.

We bowed after the meditation, and when I looked up, directly at Rama, he smiled back at me. From across the room his eyes sparkled like diamonds as they met mine, and I knew I would see him again as my teacher.

 

If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can read more about my adventures with Rama and the study of meditation in my book, Worlds of Power, Worlds of Light.

Worlds_of_Power,_Wor_Cover_for_Kindle

Iridescent Sand

Whether I am sitting on boulders overlooking the valley, on a cliff above the badlands, or JennaDesertViewTowerin a sandy wash, I love the desert. There is a certain type of power in the desert that cuts through the clutter of the mind and dissolves everything. Perhaps it is the harsh environment, where the sun can burn unprotected skin within minutes and the wind can dehydrate you before you realize you are thirsty, that keeps the human aura at bay. For most people, the desert is not the first choice of vacation destinations. But for those of us who seek silence and unity with God, the desert is the perfect place.

Before you run off to visit the cacti and sand, know the desert is a dangerous place. It’s very easy to get lost, as much of the terrain looks the same and each hill looks closer than it actually is. There are creatures out there who have made this challenging environment their home, and they will defend it if they feel threatened. And of course there are different types of energy found in this desolate place. Some areas will make you feel very open and empowered, while others will drain the life out of you. A journey to the desert is not to be taken as a causal romp. As with any adventure into Power, it is best to find a qualified guide who will take you to the places that will provide the most benefit for your current state.

Desert Road - IMG_1685A group of us from Dharma Center traveled to the desert this past weekend. We went out Friday evening before sunset and experienced a wonderful general cleansing while sitting above the badlands. As the light of the sun disappeared, a black void emerged at the edge of the cliff. Even with powerful flashlights, all light was swallowed up by the darkness. In silence we sat enveloped by the deep desert night. Stars dotted the sky, becoming thicker and thicker as the night progressed. Wind washed through us, clearing away all of the internal debris that comes from living in a city.

On Saturday night, we entered the sandy wash shortly after sunset. In our 4-wheel Jeeps, we drove a mile or two in, away from the road and from the last remnants of civilization. Then we walked until Lakshmi, our leader for the evening, found the just right spot for meditation. We sat in stillness as the sky grew completely dark. A bright planet danced for us while we watched the sky with silent minds. After meditation, we ate our sandwiches; food always seems to taste better in the middle of nowhere. We digested for a while, and then moved on to a new place to sit.

As we walked under the star-filled sky, I noticed how bright the sand was shining. It seemed strange; the only other time I had seen it this bright in the Gorge was during a full moon. Once we sat down again, I scanned the sky, searching for the moon that must be casting the light, but there was no moon that evening. The only source of light was the stars hanging in the sky. We dissolved into meditation once again. I watched as the others in our group seemed to disappear and meld with the desert landscape. A small shooting star raced by, followed by a brighter meteor that left a wide streak of silver.

When we began talking, I asked the others if they noticed how iridescent the sand was. They said it seemed bright, but didn’t think much about it, even though we didn’t need our flashlights to see our backpacks and the ground as we normally did on a moonless night. We spoke about our questions for Eternity, and some found answers. My question for Rama, my teacher, was: how could I see him or God? The quiet knowing in my mind reminded me I see the Divine in every set of eyes I encounter. I whined about how I still missed Rama’s physical form, while knowing at the same time how ridiculous my whining was because in truth we are united. How could I possibly miss something that is always here?

We entered into silent meditation once again, and once again the world around us dissolved. As I sat in the stillness with open eyes, a golden mist surrounded us. Immediately I recognized it. The same thick, golden light emanated from Rama each time we sat with him. Not only did it look the same, it felt the same. Instantly I was viscerally transported into the presence of the Divine. My wish fulfilled. The feeling remains with me even now.

Eventually, the meditation ended and the golden light dissipated. However, even when it was time to leave, we walked on iridescent sand, glowing with its own light.

 

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12 Tips for Running a Collaborative Meditation Hall

 

Running a meditation hall is one certain way to tune up your practice. If you don’t rely on your practice each and every day, it will surely drive you nuts. I’ve been running Dharma Center as a labor of love for nearly 16 years. There’s no way I could do it alone. Not only would it be impossible physically because of my chronic illness, but trying to run a meditation hall alone would be difficult spiritually because it’s those challenging partnerships that keep us growing, and off the pedestal.

After Rama died in 1998, I met Lynne Miller, who also studied with Rama. Like me, she had also begun renting rooms to teach sporadic classes. We talked, and decided to pool our money to rent an office space. In the odd fashion things appear to members of our Tribe, I was lead to the perfect office space. I fell in love with the energy of the room and knew it would be great for meditation. Lynne, in a more grounded mindset, noticed the desperate need for a paint job on the 1970’s mauve colored walls. Despite the clashing hues of purple walls and orange carpet, Lynne took the plunge with me and together we created Dharma Center.

As we began to teach our own classes and have students visit each of us, we discovered great differences in our teaching styles and our views about certain obscure nuances of the Path. We used this as an opportunity to learn from each other, which has been immensely rewarding over the years.

When other teachers join us, or arrive through the ranks of students, we strive to extend this sense of cooperative teaching and learning, where each teacher has her own voice and her own unique view. We know for our own practice to evolve, we need to gain knowledge from each other and enrich our own experiences. Ultimately, this makes us all better teachers. Over the years, our sacred space has evolved into a beautiful meditation hall run by the collaborative effort of many volunteer teachers.

I have a wish to see places all over the country that offer meditation, especially as we learned it from Rama, so here’s a list of 12 Tips for starting your own meditation hall:

1)      Name your meditation hall.
The name acts like a shield for teachers. There are still people in the world who do not like what we do. When they lash out energetically, they hit the organization name, which protects the individual teachers from the full brunt of the hit. And for some weird reason, people are more accepting of you as a meditation teacher when you have an organization behind you.

2)      Stay away from Pedestals.
Whenever we let someone put us on a pedestal, we’re in danger of falling off. Whenever we put someone else on a pedestal, we’re in danger of being squished when they fall off.

3)      Partner with someone you respect.
This may sound obvious, but someone you truly respect is a person to whom you can both give a correction and take a correction from without being offended. We all “see” differently, and sometimes the other person takes notice of something you missed. As your meditation hall grows, this is an important quality to have in all teachers. Corrections are best done privately, in a way that allows everyone respect and dignity. It’s not about being right. It’s about helping everyone, including other teachers, grow. A sense of humor is important because sometimes what starts out as you correcting someone else turns into you correcting yourself!

4)      Determine who makes decisions.
At Dharma Center, we make decisions by teacher consensus. If someone wants to do something that affects the Center, then all teachers must be comfortable with it. (They don’t all have to participate, but they do need to be comfortable with the event or activity.) If someone has a very strong objection, then we’ll table the idea until all the concerns are worked out. Of course, if a teacher wants to do something on their own in a way that does not impact the meditation hall, they must be allowed that freedom.

5)      Always seek ways to improve.
Encourage all of the teachers and students to contribute ideas for improvement, and get them involved in making those improvements happen.

6)      File all the proper paperwork for your area.
In San Diego, we’re required to file for a fictitious business name and a business license.

7)      Buy liability insurance and read your policy so you know who and what are covered.
Our policy from State Farm covers our off-site member events and it covers our volunteers. Not all policies do this, and prices vary widely.

8)      Keep track of expenses and income, even if you’re paying for everything right now.
In the long run, it can be encouraging to see the meditation hall pay for its own maintenance. We currently use Quicken, and track everything in the checkbook register part of the program. It lets us runs reports by category whenever we need them.

9)      Build systems, policies, and procedures, and expect them to change.
There is no one “right” way to do anything. Be flexible as you and the people you work with change. (At Dharma Center we’re always working on figuring out how to build great systems!)

10)   Let everyone excel with their strengths, and feel gratitude for their contribution.
I’m good at bookkeeping, but my aesthetics are not very strong, so I take care of most of the books while Lynne takes care of most of the decorating. If it wasn’t for her, the walls at Dharma Center may have stayed mauve for a long time! When working on a team, it’s easy to get caught up in all the work you’re doing and forget how much others are also doing.

11)   Remember, none of this is about you. It’s about sharing the Path with students.
This is probably the most important point. When Lynne and I first rented the office space that became Dharma Center, we came up with a question to resolve any difference of opinion: “What is best for the students?” This took the focus off our egos and put it where it belonged, on the students we wanted to teach. By always returning the focus to the student, we’re able to share our views – no matter how different – without it degenerating into ego building or bashing. Of course, in the process of discussion, both of our egos are mashed and squished and sanded down. Fortunately, we both have a great sense of humor and great dedication to the practice.

12)   Students need to pay for their spiritual education.
When we first started, we thought people would intrinsically understand that someone needs to pay the bills and we offered free classes. This resulted in a ton of students, but very few who actually donated and practiced. Most of them simply wanted the free energy hit, and there was no value placed on the practice. We experimented and explored, and the model that finally emerged is tuition based classes supported by a membership program. Students are expected to pay for their own spiritual education, which shows them the teachings are valuable at the outset. We want to keep the fee very low, so our main financial support comes from Members. These are people, many who begin as students, who realize the importance of having a place for people to practice together.

I hope these tips will help inspire you to open your own meditation hall. At Dharma Center, as time passed, more students became Members, and we held more member events. Some also became volunteers who help run Dharma Center. We developed a formal teacher training program. And now we’ve embarked upon a massive fundraiser and have taken on the responsibility for hosting the 2015 Rama birthday event in celebration of our 16th anniversary.

We are not business people. We are artists who love meditation. We never set up Dharma Center to be a huge money maker, but we did set it up to be a huge light-giver.

To help us reach more people, please visit www.dharmacenter.com/fundraiser

Grand Canyon 2014

 

Twenty years ago, meditation was an occult activity. It was something done only in private, away from the public. Even going out to the forest to meditate brought with it a feeling of self-consciousness, of concern for being seen. We would hide behind trees and sunglasses, sometimes going so far as to put a book on our lap just in case someone walked by.

Today, we live in a world where meditation is main stream. While meditation is still an occult activity in that we move into hidden realms of light and power, we can now sit in public without fear of criticism or retribution.

We celebrated this freedom during the past weekend at the Grand Canyon on a trip organized by the Rama Meditation Society. On Saturday, we found a somewhat private outcrop overlooking the majesty of the Canyon and our group of 21 scattered among the trees and brush to sit. Lisa, our fearless guide, kept watch and guided the tourists away from our group so we could meditate in peace.

The next day, the trail we took was more populated, however this did not put a damper on our activities. We found a perfect sized alcove, just big enough for our group to stand and sit, with the intention to chant OM together into the Grand Canyon. We waited for a pair of tourists to move along, but they stood wondering what we were all looking at. Finally, we decided to start chanting even though the tourists were still there.

As we entered upon the third loud OM, the couple moved along. By the time we hit the fifth OM, our entire group lost all sense of ego self-consciousness. We dissolved into the OM and into the power of the Canyon. More tourists wandered by, and a few decided to stand with us in the light and power. Together we chanted a total of ten OM’s as a gift to the Canyon.

Our energy renewed and feeling more connected with the power of this special place, we continued our hike along the path leading to Hermit’s Rest. We found another outcropping with sweeping views, and decided to sit in meditation for twenty minutes. This time, there were no trees or bushes to hide behind; here we were, in full view.GrandCanyon

Easily I slipped into silence, and the emptiness of the Canyon engulfed me. The trees lining the Colorado River far below suddenly seemed close enough to touch. Colors vibrated as my heart melted, merging with the vast expanse.

Far in the distance, I felt more than heard, tourists approach us. One family saw us and immediately hushed their voices, acknowledging our group in meditation. Another family was oblivious and talked loudly as they each took guesses at what the small building deep in the Canyon was, until they figured out it was a toilet for the people on the trail that leads to the Canyon floor. Near the end of our meditation, yet another family found us and decided to sit and enjoy the silence for themselves.

We are so fortunate to live in a country where we can meditate or not, and where we can enjoy nature in her full glory. I am thankful for the opportunity to sit in silence and in full view with my friends of the Rama Tribe. I love that my practice of meditation is no longer something odd or weird, and that I can share it with anyone who wants to know how to merge into the Light.

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Want to spend time with the Rama Tribe and celebrate 16 years of Dharma Center?
Visit http://dharmacenter.com/fundraiser/ to learn how you can join us!

Transmission of Light

 

I grew up with an interest in spirituality, but without a mentor to help me wade through the piles of literature I could never make much sense of it. I groped through all of books I could find, looking for a way to make spirituality a part of my life. The church on Sunday, and forget about God for the rest of week, form of religion that I was raised on just wasn’t enough for me.

As part of my quest, I went to college to study philosophy and religion. I began to explore the Eastern religions, and I discovered I had been practicing a form of meditation throughout my life. Whenever things got really tough, I would sit alone and just let every part of my body and mind relax. While these sessions were relaxing, they didn’t take me anywhere new, so I only relied on this practice when I was feeling stressed. Once I felt in control of my life, I would forget about sitting in silence and hit the books again, looking for an answer.

During my research for a paper, I found several references to the “transmission of light” from Buddhist master to student. I assumed the expression was just a poetic way of saying the teachings were passed down from teacher to student. My professors implied that the expression was just a metaphor, so I never thought much about it.

Unsatisfied with the purely historical approach to religion and philosophy at college, I began to check out the different teachers in the San Francisco Bay area. Most of them talked about spirituality, love, and compassion, but at the breaks during the meetings very few people actually displayed these qualities. Frustrated, I gave up on my search for a religion that fit me.

I decided to pull all I could from the ancient texts and put into practice those things that made sense to me. The most profound lesson I learned from books was rising above the emotions that left me drained, like anger and guilt. The books talked about purifying the mind, and I figured out if I thought about things that made me happy, I didn’t get sucked into feeling angry or guilty about anything. I had no idea if that was what the books meant by purity of mind, but it didn’t matter because I was happy.

After two years of college, a friend brought me to a meditation class. I was very suspicious about this woman she brought me to meet, but by the time the class was over, I knew I had to meet this woman’s teacher.

She brought me to meet Rama, Dr. Frederick Lenz, and I knew I had found someone who could teach me about meditation. He talked about Buddhism in plain English, using examples that were relevant to my life. And then we meditated. I had never seen so much gold light in a room, nor had I ever felt so at peace.

By the time I got home, I had convinced myself the light was just a neat trick using some kind of hidden spotlights. The other students were all very happy and excited about their lives, and much of what Rama had said made sense to me, so I decided to return for the next event.

When I meditated with Rama again, the light was even brighter. During the break, I carefully checked for hidden spotlights. There were none. Then it slowly dawned on me as I recalled the Buddhist texts I had read. The transmission of light was meant to be taken literally; these Buddhist masters were actually pouring light out of their bodies and empowering their students. This light that made me feel so at peace was the secret teachings referred to in the ancient texts. I could hardly believe my luck at finding someone who could actually do the transmission of light.

I told others about Rama, but most people would not believe that such a thing was possible. Seeing golden light fill a room was beyond anything they could imagine, and most of them refused my invitations to meet my teacher.

I took what my teacher gave to me, put it into practice, and watched my life become a magnificent mosaic. Each time I meditated, new possibilities opened before me. Rama taught me how to use one-pointed concentration to learn about computers, and how to transfer that skill to other areas of my life. He taught the underlying principles of Buddhism, the same ones I struggled with in my philosophy classes, using American ideals and concepts. Rama made the theories of Enlightenment discussed in the Buddhist books a reality that was possible for me, in this very life.

And for that gift, I am very grateful.

 

To learn more about my adventures with Rama, read Worlds of Power, Worlds of Light.

Stardust Bird

 

A bird made of stardust stretches across the heavens, bridging the gap between all the worlds. Upon noticing the suffering radiating from a small blue planet called Earth, the bird gazed upon the world. The Rama shook and shimmering feathers fell to the surface. Feathers of a million different colors and sizes floated down, and out of these feathers, a million people would be born to shine the Light.

One pure white feather grew in the heart of a man named Frederick. As the feather rooted deeper, he became the mouthpiece of the Rama. Tirelessly he taught and gathered thousands of students all around the world. Each of them also held a feather within their hearts. They called him Rama, not understanding. They saw Light pour from his body, and learned to sit in the silence of no-mind. In that timeless, spaceless place, they merged. He showed them the view of the stardust bird stretching between all the worlds. Over and over, he carried them deep into the Light.

A few students began to know the way, so they showed others, and they all began to shine.

When the body of Frederick died, some became lost because they did not understand. Others vanished into private practice, seeking to disappear into the Light. A few continued to teach and share what they knew in their hearts. New students, born with feathers in their hearts, found their way to the others.

The Rama continued to speak to all who held a feather, communicating in a million different ways. Factions formed, all insisting they heard the true voice. Confusion reigned until finally, they sat in the silence of no-mind.

In that timeless, spaceless place, they merged. One by one, each opened their eyes, saw the feather in their hearts, and knew: we are Rama.

 

~jenna sundell