CENTER COMMUNITY NEWS
Newsletter of the Center for Sacred Sciences
Vol. 32, No. 4 • Fall 2019
Summer 2019 Retreat: "The Cries of the World"
Bottom row, from left to right. Gene Gibbs, Shirley Chase, Hiromi Sieradski, Matthew Sieradski, Carla Crow, Laura Betty. Top row, standing, left to right: Sharry Lachman, Susan Stumpf, Elizabeth Midwinter, Barbara Goldberg, Joel DeVore, Maura Scanlon, Hillery Kyablue, Beverly Forster, Mark Hurwit
Matt Sieradski led a five-day non-residential retreat at CSS from August 14-18, 2019. The title of the retreat was "The Cries of the World: Compassion & Transcendence." For some reflections and experiences from retreatants, see the related article in this issue.
Sacred Art by Megan Greiner
Paintings by CSS member Megan Greiner were on display at the Center during July and August 2019. In 2009, while reading The Way of Selflessness, Megan was inspired by Part VI of the book, "Dismantling the Delusion of Self." Those four chapters provided insight and inspiration as she reflected on the question "WHO AM I?" These images give form to her vision.
The Importance of Faith by Matt Sieradski
Faith plays an important role in the mystical path, and itself transforms with the seeker. Matt explores the deepening meaning of faith in a new article on the CSS website, The Importance of Faith in Mysticism.
Truth Artists' Workshop with Merry Song
Joy, sorrow, discontent, awe. These are faces of the emotions explored in the Truth Artists' Writing Workshop for Women led by Merry Song in June.
Merry Song taught a workshop for women during the month of June entitled “Truth Artists” in which creative writing was used to explore the transformative nature of afflicted emotions. In the fall, Merry Song looks forward to teaching another workshop of this kind, open to all members.
The Summer 2019 retreat inspired the following from a couple of the retreatants.
This was my second non-residential retreat in Eugene, held at the Center of Sacred Sciences. It was lovely to sleep in my own bed every night and I didn't mind brown bagging my lunch for 5 days. The days were pleasant, so I managed a nap everyday outside, during our lunch break, in our beautiful garden/patio space. We had some comfy anti-gravity chairs that worked well for me to nap in. Maintaining strict silence at home did not happen. Conversations were minimal, kinda like the question and answer times during the retreat.
The theme:" The Cries of the World" focused on facing our own suffering first. Later we did sending and taking (tonglen) for the world also. Matt brought up the practice of accepting and the practice of letting go. As Matt said, "It is easy to see what we are holding on to, but difficult to see where we are holding on! And, attachment is an activity!"
So when the stories, of suffering (an attachment) occurs, we were to drop the story and locate the feeling in our body. For me, that was easier said than done. Hiromi encouraged us to relax our bodies, and do body scans. But I was resisting, I did not want to pick at those scabs that I had so well hidden.
During the next meditation round I had a vision of a heart, but it was not heart shaped. It was a square wooden door with an iron metal handle. It was the door to a dungeon! Then the "door" opened and there were crystals inside! The gong sounded, and the meditation round was over. That night, the fear came. There was a naked sensation of fear. I know it takes courage to let go of the story. Lots of stories came.
The precepts feel like the perfect tools for this journey...down an unknown path. I remember that I am not in control of anything, that nothing belongs to me. Somehow these statements are giving me some detachment from the stories and courage to confront my sufferings and feelings.
Matt, "the Eugene dude" (quote from Hiromi), had lots of wonderful quotes. Here are a few of them that I remembered. "God never repeats herself, but she rhymes!" "All suffering is a delusion founded in illusion." "The world arises as we perceive (see) it." "The world is here to teach us until we witness the world as Divine."
–Laura Betty, CSS Retreat Coordinator
To Beloveds from Beloved,
Here are some of my memories, insights, poem seeds from the amazing retreat this past week with Hiromi and Matt and the Center.
This retreat felt self-nurturing, which is odd because we also remembered that we need to die to the self to remember we are Oneness. But, it's all odd to the workings of the brain. Pushing away our human emotions builds a fort around the heart. We need to feel through them, not around them to be able to let them go. A big insight for me was when one person said she was suffering--maybe from being too "attached" to someone. Matt pointed out, "You are attached to not feeling the grief. It is good and natural to feel the grief."
We practiced feeling the grief and other emotions, then letting go of the story behind them. We realized we have these feelings in common with all. That is compassion. That is letting the heart crack open and letting in more light. That is about the intention to awaken for all beings. So we practiced giving and receiving.
We have a self, but not a separate self. Clinging to a sense of a separate self causes suffering. "It is like a dam in the river of consciousness. "
Catherine of Sienna said, "Every step on the way to heaven is heaven."
The fire of practice—this hard work—my actions—have a ripple effect on people and on the next generation and my ancestors. Seven generations back say the Chinese. Seven generations forward say the Native Americans. "Even his pigs and dogs benefit." To leave anyone out is duality.
Intention to deliver all beings. But, there are no beings to be delivered.
Be as you are. You are what you are looking for.
A lot of what makes pain feel like suffering is wishing I was as I used to be. Body is space, awareness. Get intimate with naked sensation. Don't push it away.
That empty center
That hole inside my chest
In daily life
It feels so boring.
Boring because self is getting no attention.
Has nothing to do with self.
Let boring happen.
Sit in it.
Nothing productive, interesting, distracting.
Nothing has to be fixed.
Feel the All-One, relish it, delight in it, dance with Lila.
Do nothing about it.
I wake up feeling lonely.
Do I need to figure out why?
Drop the story.
It's just the nature of humans.
Who is forgetting that she is already the whole enchilada?
Does accepting life mean stop trying to change it?
No attachment to results.
But helping helps
Who? Me? One person? OnePerson. Oh, Us!
The world will teach you, til you awake and the world is accepted.
Where in the body have I not allowed myself to feel? Stay until we feel it all the way. Courage.
To see beyond, we need to see through.
"The Real world is the world seen rightly."
Our heart must expand infinitely, by being broken open completely, so it can't be put together again.
Let go of all effort into spaciousness.
We practiced meditating in choiceless awareness.
The image that worked for me was: float like a bird with air above you and air below you.
It sounded like the Native American song:
I walk with Beauty before me.
I walk with Beauty behind me.
I walk with Beauty above me.
I walk with Beauty below me.
I walk with Beauty all around me.
I had been trying to widen the still center in my mind/heart by moving phenomenon further and further away. It took a lot of effort. Suddenly, I felt Oh, we're talking about the space of consciousness, the One, the All, the place where healing comes, love comes, where we came from and return to. Ah, that awareness. That's a place I know. Much easier to let myself go there. Now, may I have Grace someday to be there all the time.
In the meantime thanks to Hiromi and Matt and others who offer us their hearts and time for a healing place to safely practice our heavenly steps toward heaven. Thanks for creating space for asking questions and sharing ourselves.
A wonderful week of practice and deep inquiry
I was going though several recordings that were made during the retreat and was taken once again with the depth and breadth of teachings we have available to us. We are dang lucky and should have nothing but compassion for the multitudes who are less fortunate… for all kinds of reasons, not the least being that so many simply don’t have access to the kind of spiritual nourishment and wisdom that we do.
Matt and Hiromi make a lovely, complimentary teaching couple, but this one was mostly Matt’s gig and… he’s just a wizard. I’ve been to I don’t know how many CSS retreats (coming up on two dozen— nothing like some of the real veterans in that room) and have taken notes at each one. And, of course, over time, the quantity I write has gotten a little less as we’re blessed with so much unfortunately-necessary repetition. But my journal had 18 pages filled in, as fast as I could write! Matt has so much to say, spontaneously, about everything, that it all really felt like a meal to be savored over time. (Hint: take notes!)
The topic of suffering is a huge and difficult one, and as this retreat made it once again abundantly clear, our “solution” to this problem of life is not to run from it, nor to seek our salvation in “fixing” it. How, without pushing or grasping or craving for relief, can we be with things in such a way as to allow the the truth of the situation —our fundamental connection and unity with all of it— to spread through us as waves of acceptance and compassion for ourselves and all others (even our “enemies”)?
Throughout Matt’s teachings, and Hiromi’s, and the group wisdom pouring from other the 13 hearts in our circle, it became painfully evident that it is right here, in the small, daily, specific kernels of suffering (the “negative” emotions that arise) that we can practice the deep allowing on which the Bodhisattva vow rests… our own release and that of the world’s. If it can be believed —and it is a profound paradox that we must sit with without solving— it is in just remembering and connecting to the love that we are, in the very face of all that we would much rather avoid or eliminate from our lives, that the world is healed.
We started by learning of Guanyin as “she who hears the cries of the world” (and her tears, if you look closely, can be seen streaming down the side of her face). We dove deep into tonglen practice, while being reminded and informed throughout the week by so many teachings, present and past. Our hearts were opened, and we settled, as Ramana Maharshi counseled: "Find the peace in yourself, and you will see it everywhere you look!"
Bhakti Art Exhibit
“Dorji Thangka” shared by Laura Betty
“Our Lady of Czestochowa” shared by Carla Crow
“Quan Yin” shared by Hiromi Sieradski
“Cosmic Dance of Nataraj Shiva” shared by Vip Short
“Here to Learn”
shared by Niraja Lorenz
“Sri Anandamayi Ma”
shared by Matt Sieradski
“Dharma Teacher (Ruth Denison)”
shared by Merry Song
“Hillel the Elder” shared by
Hanna & Claude Offenbacher
In May 2019 CSS hosted its first Bhakti Art Exhibit. Members were asked to share items of devotional art, created by themselves or by others. The simplest definition of devotional art is that devotional images are designed as aids for prayer and contemplation.
The Center's walls were transformed into a temple-like atmosphere sparking keen interest from attending members and guests.
“I like to think of Bhakti as spiritual alchemy – transforming material things into spiritual things – transforming the mundane aspects of life into a beautiful, loving, eternal dance with the Supreme Soul.”
“Art means to develop the third eye aspect, that which makes one enter in contact with the divine.”
“The quality of art is that it makes people who are otherwise always looking outward, turn inward.”
Remembering Tom Leach
Tom Leach died peacefully in August 2019 after years of cancer-related health challenges and complications. With Rich Marlatt as his mentor, Tom graduated from the CSS Distance Studies Course in 2009 and wrote of his experience with the course in the Winter 2010 issue of this newsletter. He subsequently attended CSS retreats at Cloud Mountain over the following three years. Two CSS members share their reflections on Tom below.
Jim Patterson: "I was always impressed and uplifted by his straight forward and simple kindness--he never spoke ill of anyone and always appreciated his day to day life even when the hard life issues happened to him (he had many). I know Joel and the center meant a lot to him--he related to Joel's teachings from the beginning and I was glad we got to have a small 'sanga' with each other in Seattle."
Rich Marlatt: "My memories of Tom are from my relationship with him back in 2010 when he was in the CSS distance studies course and I was in the role as his mentor. I have memories of Tom being very earnest, honest, and humble in his approach to the course, and from what I could tell, in most or all aspects of his life. From our conversations he also appeared to be very actively involved with, and generous to, the people in his everyday life. Tom was a good person and he will be missed."
New Videos of CSS Talks
Video: Knowing Yourself, Knowing the Divine
Video: Knowing Yourself, Knowing the Divine, by Todd
Starting with the teaching that to know ourselves is to know the Divine, Todd Corbett guides us with direct pointers to the nature of Awareness and related insights.
Recorded 23 June 2019 at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Eugene, Oregon USA.
Video: The Art of Being with Injury and Illness
Video: The Art of Being with Injury and Illness, by Hiromi
Drawing from her own life experiences, Hiromi Sieradski discusses how to approach injuries and illness as opportunities for spiritual practice, healing, and insight.
Recorded 9 June 2019 at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Eugene, Oregon USA.
Video: Science from a Nondual Perspective
Video: Science from a Nondual Perspective, by Tom
What is the nature of nondual reality? Is it possible to provide from a nondual perspective an account of how an orderly universe apparently arises, and how science is possible? Thomas McFarlane addresses these questions in this one-hour talk.
Recorded at the Center for Sacred Sciences on 30 June 2019 in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
For more videos from Center teachers, see our YouTube channel.
Mission and Programs of the Center for Sacred Sciences
The Center for Sacred Sciences is dedicated to the study, practice, and dissemination of the spiritual teachings of the mystics, saints, and sages of the major religious traditions. The Center endeavors to present these teachings in forms appropriate to our contemporary scientific culture. The Center also works to create and disseminate a sacred worldview which expresses the compatibility between universal mystical truths and the evidence of modern science.
Among the Center’s ongoing events are Sunday public services with meditations and talks given by the Center’s spiritual teachers; monthly Sunday video presentations; and — for committed spiritual seekers — weekly practitioners groups and periodic meditation retreats. The Center is accessible. We are a welcoming and inclusive community.
The Center maintains an extensive lending library of books, audios, videos, and periodicals covering spiritual, psychological, philosophical, and scientific subjects. In addition, the Center provides a website containing a great deal of information and resources related to the teachings of the world’s mystics, the universality of mystical truth, and the relationship between science and mysticism. The Center publishes this newsletter providing community news, upcoming programs, book reviews, and other contributions and resources related to the Center’s mission.
The Center for Sacred Sciences is a non-profit, tax-exempt church based in Eugene, Oregon, USA. We rely chiefly on volunteer staff to support our programs, and on donations to meet our operating expenses. Our spiritual teachers give their teachings freely as a labor of love, and receive no financial compensation from the Center.
About the Center Community News
The Center Community News is published on the CSS website several times a year. Its primary purpose is to help foster a community of spiritual practitioners by sharing original teachings, experiences, reflections, artistic expressions, and reports among members of our community.
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