Newsletter of the Center for Sacred Sciences

Vol. 31, No. 2 • Spring 2018


Barb, Fred, Mora, and Hiromi

2018 Changes to the Board of Directors

After many years of selfless service, Barbara Dewey and Fred Chambers will leave their positions on the CSS Board of Directors this year. Barb joined the board in 2008, and for ten years served as the Board's secretary. Fred joined the Board in 1997, over twenty years ago, and served for many of those years as activities director and retreat coordinator. Thanks to Barb and Fred for your many years of dedicated service!

Mora Fields and Hiromi Sieradski have been elected to the CSS Board of Directors to fill the two positions vacated by Barb and Fred. Mora will begin this spring as secretary. She has been associated with the Center for over 25 years, starting back in the 1990s when she helped organize several events that brought Joel to Palo Alto for teachings. Since moving to Oregon she has become more closely involved with the Center, serving in various positions including on library staff, as our newsletter editor, handling publicity, and organizing several fundraising events. Hiromi will begin this summer as activities director. She has been an active member of the Center for ten years, serving most recently as coordinator for many of our community events. We have no doubt that both Mora and Hiromi will be valuable members of the CSS Board.


Light of Love Day

Light of Love Chorus

As is the tradition, the CSS Light of Love Day included a talk by Joel and seasonal music. This year the community was treated to a performance of several beautiful songs by accomplished guest singers, CSS member Aruna Beth and friends.

The Center has two official holidays: Light of Love Day and Light of Truth Day, which complement each other as Love complements Truth. Formerly known as Enlightenment Day, the Light of Truth Day focuses on the Truth testified to by the mystics of all traditions, which is the Truth of Selflessness. The Light of Love Day focuses on Love, the expression of Selflessness. As Joel sums it up, "Love is Truth in action."


Journey to "Mt. Macy" by Fred

I was pleased to be able to hear Joanna Macy speak at an Eco-Psychology Conference in March 2017. She has been doing her "Work that Reconnects" for 40 years, but I had only recently heard of her when I read an interview, "Learning to See in the Dark Amid Catastrophe." Joanna facilitates people to connect with all the emotions surrounding the degradation of our Mother Earth, especially the discomfort and pain. She says, "It was not that people didn't care or didn't know, but that people were afraid to suffer." She believes that facing this grief can lead to healing and a feeling of empowerment to take action.

There is a set of DVDs in the CSS library that goes through a workshop with Joanna on the "Work That Reconnects." I took notes while watching it, and wrote an ode to her and her life's work:

Ode to Joanna Macy

Joanna Macy

Short-time thinking has become primary—Inherently Destructive,
Instead of building institutions of Learning, Art, Religion, etc.,
We leave toxic waste dumps because of greed and short-sightedness.

Human Species might not survive,
Sadness breaks open the heart to love and gratitude,
Feelings are universal,
Anguish is unprecedented for global destructive behavior,
Tend to block these feelings,
Thich Nhat Hanh—we need to: "Hear within ourselves the sounds of the Earth crying."
You are capable of suffering with our world—that is good news!
Compassion—to suffer with,
All feelings based in love,
Trust our pain for the world.

Martin Luther King, Jr.— "Only when it's dark enough can you see the stars."
Hero's Journey—Facing what you don't want to face-fear, pain, etc.,
Breaks your Heart and that transforms you.

What do we do with egoic self?
See through it as a thought form.
Jung—Journey to Wholeness; not Journey to Perfection,
Drop the Project of Creating a Perfect Self,
Being with the Brokenness—We Become Whole.


Deep Ecology,
Where do we draw boundaries of I?
When we suffer with World—We are part of World,
Boundaries are areas for interaction,
When We Isolate Ourselves - We Deaden Ourselves

Seeds are protected,
But when planted,
The "armor" must break open for growth,
Power of germination.

Every System is a whole,
The Whole is more than sum of the parts,
Emergent Properties,
Cannot predict what will emerge once things begin to co-operate,
Honor uniqueness, but interact with everyone.

Systems can self-regulate; self-correct; self-stabilize,
Self-adapt; self-organize,
A severe challenge leads to adaptation.

Spiritual Wisdom Traditions speak to all of this.




Ask Dr. Gnositall

The good doctor is on a roll. Send your tormented spiritual questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., attention to Doctor Gnositall.

Dear Dr. Gnositall:
I am enlightened, but nobody knows it except me. I’d like to share this with a few people, but if I say I’m enlightened it will be seen as ego-attachment—a clear sign of delusion.
What should I do?


Dear Nobody-There:
Such a quandary! A true impasse, a conundrum. My recommendation, before you drum this pair-o-dox into three of a kind, is to run this past the self that you now presumably find to be absent, and see how it plays out. I’m guessing that either the sage or the deluded ego will show their hand. Or simply fold!

Dear Dr. Gnositall:
Isn’t meditation supposed to bring me beyond thought? It ain’t working for me!
—Thoughtful Type

Dear Thoughtful:
My psychiatrist friend says that one simple definition of insanity is when people listen to, and believe, and even act on, voices inside their heads. By that standard, we’re all a bit crazy, n’est ce pas?
The good news is it’s never been necessary to get beyond thought. When you commence meditating, just tell your thoughts to go play in the corner for a while. (You may need to remind them repeatedly.)


Video: Teachings on Art

Sunday talk by Fred: Teachings on Art

In June 2017, CSS teacher Fred Chambers gave a unique Sunday talk, presenting some spiritual teachings inspired by two works of art. He also shared a spiritual song. The video includes his talk as well as questions and answers with the audience. One of the pieces of art Fred discusses is "Gate to Freedom" by Carla Crow. It is a large ink-on-paper work. Contemplating the gate, do we find a gate? What is its true nature? What other symbolic teachings can we find in this work?


Matt's Winter Retreat 2018 — Report by Hillery Kyablue

Retreatants on Matt's Winter Retreat 2018

From February 8th - 13th, 2018, CSS teacher Matt Sieradski organized and conducted a retreat at the Temple of Cultivating the Mysterious, near Snohomish, Washington, with a group of students including some from the CSS community. The five-day retreat entitled "Sorrow and Redemption" was focused on the mystery of the suffering of loss, and the discovery of the redemptive miracle of boundless compassion. Below is a report on the retreat from Hillery Kyablue, one of the retreatants.

Matt’s invitation to this retreat read, “This retreat will take us into the mystery of the suffering of loss. Through allowing our hearts to break open to our own and the world’s sorrow, we will become transformed through the redemptive miracle of boundless compassion.”

The retreat was incredible! The setting is beyond your imagination beautiful—30 acres of lush, moss-covered landscape, huge cedar trees, meandering streams and bubbling creeks, a serene peaceful pond, and majestic mountain views. The multiple trails and intimate paths provide solitude for walking meditations and delight the senses!

The Sanctuary, the Temple of Cultivating the Mysterious, is a beautiful, sacred space. As I walked in, I felt the energy of the divine within me. A gorgeous, golden rug lies beneath the sacred alter. Feng Shui of the elements, both inside the temple and throughout the grounds, provides a peaceful, balanced atmosphere that is perfect for meditation.

After a nice evening getting acquainted with the beautiful space, we took our vows of silence and went to sleep in anticipation of the 6 am gong awakening us to a blissful, learning week.


We began our teaching and practices with Concentration meditation, then moved to Choiceless Awareness and Spacious Awareness. It felt like our hearts opened more each day through the teachings, loving acceptance, and gentle responses of Matt, and our willingness to be vulnerable in the safe company of our fellow retreat members.

We did a lot of Tonglen (sending and taking) practice. I learned that when we open our hearts fully, spaciousness is boundless: it can take in all suffering—nothing is too much. I remember one night realizing with a panic that not only am I opening my heart to all of my pain and sorrow, but I am opening to the sorrow of the whole world! Wow! I better keep working on spaciousness!

We did the sending and taking meditations first toward ourselves, at times feeling suffering that we didn’t even know we had—possibly having stuffed it down, clinching our body tight to not feel the pain, but in doing so blocking our openness to truth and beauty. We learned to let go, relax, rest in silence—away from distractions, like only retreats can provide. We opened our hearts as completely as we could, getting away from the stories, to feel the raw feeling. We breathed in the suffering and sent out white/clear light to every cell of our being. We also practiced Tonglen toward others, including friends, acquaintances, enemies. It was extremely helpful to have the time for repeated practice of this skill. We ended all our meditations by sending love and compassion to all suffering beings.

Other things I loved about the retreat: Hiromi’s elegance in preparing our meals, and delight and gratitude for the delicious tastes of each nutritious meal; Qigong every morning; feeling radiation of compassion and love from our hearts; the pure joy of solitude and beauty…

On solo day, leaning against a moss-covered tree trunk, I was drawn to the beauty of the soft leaf, twig, and needle-covered ground. I fell face down onto the ground, breathing in the rich scent of the earth. Feeling one with what supports me, I had no desire to move. Eventually I rolled to my side and looked at a small tree with two main branches going in opposite directions and a small short branch coming up in the center. For some reason, I started laughing. It was hysterical. I laughed out loud! I rolled onto my back and looked up at the giant conifer branches reaching the sky, searching for cosmic meaning, then letting go of the effort, my eyes fell downward to a much closer, common, inconspicuous tip of a branch, and again I laughed out loud. It was so funny! I could not stop laughing!

As I reflect on my experience, I recall again and agree with what Matt said on the invitation, “This retreat will take us into the mystery of the suffering of loss. Through allowing our hearts to break open to our own and the world’s sorrow, we will be transformed through the redemptive miracle of boundless compassion.”

Hillery Kyablue



Video: Love and Surrender

Sunday talk by Matt: Love and Surrender

Last summer, CSS teacher Matt Sieradski gave a Sunday talk on the topic of love and surrender from a mystical perspective. Matt took as a springboard for his talk several passages from the Hindu tradition, specifically the teachings of Ramana Maharshi. In his commentary, Matt shared his insight into the meaning of the passages and how they apply to our spiritual paths. The talk also includes discussion with the audience.


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.

To submit your original spiritual reflection, report, poetry or art to the newsletter for publication, please use the newsletter submission form

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