Newsletter of the Center for Sacred Sciences

Vol. 34, No. 2 • Spring 2021


Spring Retreat: “The End of Separation”

If the eye never sleeps, all dreams naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things are as they are, of single essence.
To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached.

—Zen Master Sengtsan

The Spring 2021 retreat took place via Zoom from April 15 – 19, 2021, and was led by Todd Corbett and David Cunningham. Below are reports of the retreat from several participants.

Spring 2021 Retreat Participants (click to enlarge)

Favorite Moments, by Mark Hurwit

Thirty-four of us Zoomed in from near and far to gather in our sacred robes (and hidden coffee mugs… don’t deny it, you all!)… but we all left more slowly, full to the brim with spiritual riches, personal insights, and that warm, yummy, saturated feeling of sangha.

Even after a decade of retreats, I still ended up after this one with thirteen pages of notes — novel and new expressions of the Perennial Truth. (And writer’s cramp… what an excellent new ally to assist with concentration!) Senseis Todd and David were like the perfect manifestation of flow. I needed only reflect on it in wonder for a moment when a haiku arrived to capture it:

two-teacher retreat
one ends, the other begins
no boundary to be found

In just three days, we ran (in stillness, of course) from single-pointed concentration through Choiceless Awareness to the Meditation-less end of the path. I don’t know how they do it, and I continue to be amazed, both in the moment and after it’s all done. And I’m not alone, as you can see from the other testimonials that follow.

So I’ll just offer you some of my favorite quips and gems (recorded as best I could). What else is there to do but inspire practice — reminders that we all need! Enjoy, be nourished, and continue to return

The whole world’s heart has one single string. — Rumi

The magic of the spiritual path is that we need only simply be
with everything, without acting… clinging or pushing away.
Just allow attention to rest.

The Call occurs every time we feel resistance to… anything.
Don’t take these daily opportunities to be problems.

Our common, ordinary awareness is, in fact, the
infinite, luminal heart of Reality, calling us Home.
We return not by striving, but through the
simple recognition of what we already are.

Surrendering the self —simple and direct—
only ever happens right now.
What’s needed, moment to moment is
a dedication to Awareness.

The goal of practice, and practice itself (being still), are the same.
Practice IS Enlightenment.

Craving and aversion are everywhere… simply habits
of the multi-layered menagerie of mind.
There is no peace to be found there.

Aim directly at Buddhahood… with renunciation
the legs of our walk up the path of Illumination.
(The Buddha’s discovery was in how we come
to see the pointlessness of the mind’s story.)

Observe your experience, as you prepare for bed…
all the practical and sensual aspects. Feel the person
who is watching and having these experiences, and
notice that this individual is just a thought.

Things are neither objective, nor things. But when we
recognize our True Identity, our lives become full of connection,
intimacy and Love. Knower–Knowledge–Known… no separation.

There are no actual objects for Consciousness to grasp;
neither is there an inner Consciousness to grasp.
Samsara is not something that has ever actually been experienced.
There is no self to be obliterated!

All imaginations must be given up to find the True Source.
Attention must become completely free of thought, if even only briefly.

But if you believe there is a self, you need to do inquiry to discover if that’s true.
Watch for a “someone,” and if there truly exists volition.

If you come to non-existence, it will take you to True Existence. — Rumi

It is not possible for the "I" to recognize Awareness.
Don’t try to figure it out; this will not help.
Simply set the right conditions — without grasping —
and Awakening is more likely to dawn.

Ironically, thought is actually the most effective means of awakening.
(We have a surfeit of opportunities in the process of
allowing them to self-liberate!) We have to see
the emptiness while things are dissolving away.
The point is to recognize Awareness for what it is.
It’s good when thoughts arise… as we watch them dissolve
without a trace (especially when they have a lot of energy).

Ultimately, what’s important is to LISTEN without striving or resisting.
Simply ask: “To whom did this thought arise?”

Practice this often!




My First Retreat...Ever, by Linda Cohen

Going on retreat was always something I felt I had to do. But I had never acted on it. When the Center offered
 the retreat on Zoom, I eagerly signed up. What would I experience? Was there something unknown I 
would find out about myself? Could I be silent and meditate for long periods of time?

On Thursday evening when I signed on to Zoom and saw everyone in their little boxes on my computer 
screen, I was truly overcome with joy. I immediately knew that this was exactly where I a community of people who want what I want Wake Up. Why else would anyone do this? I don't know.

In the beginning, the back-to-back meditation was a bit challenging, and I wondered what the purpose of it all was. My answer came pretty quickly. On breaks, I would go outside to my patio. 
I slipped into a deep stillness that I had not known before. The stillness was beautiful and so inviting...I could stay there forever. I found my rhythm.

Todd's and David's teachings resonated with my heart. Someone described the teachings as finely tuned orchestra instruments playing off each other. I whole-heartedly agree. It was like listening to two masters at the top of their craft. I was drawn into the music.

The last day of the retreat, when it hit me that this experience that I found so nurturing to my soul, was ending, I felt a sense of loss. I started this journey with a group of like-minded strangers, yet the intimacy 
I felt on the last day with everyone was so palpable. Others acknowledged feeling it too. My emotions were
on display. 

On Tuesday, after retreat, I was taking my usual morning walk, and I couldn't believe how loud the 
world appeared. Lawn mowers, trucks, even the birds seemed to squawk at their highest pitch. At first
I was annoyed that all this noise was intruding on my peace, but then something amazing happened...
it was as if this cacophony settled into a musical flow...each sound had its part to play in this orchestra
called the relative world. Then I settled in and enjoyed the show.


Wendee Shuell

The Spring 2021 CSS Retreat: End of Separation was a changing event for me. I felt that I received helpful and practical information on how to “tune up” my meditation - Choiceless Awareness and the “Six Categories of Phenomena” were particularly helpful. During the retreat I felt a lot of pain in my body, and the pain began to release throughout the meditation practices. At end of the Retreat I had no pain in my body. I know there is something there – happening in my spiritual journey, and I look forward to its unfolding. I also feel that the Divine (God) will give you what you need right when you need it. I appreciate all the careful planning that went into this wonderful Retreat and I am grateful for the teachings from David and Todd. I also appreciate the managing and coordination from Mora, the beautiful Kimberly who lead us in yoga practices, and the wonderful community during the retreat! I felt everyone was cared for at the retreat! Blessings to all!


Bob Shuell

Favorite quote by a past yoga instructor: "Congratulations, You have won the cosmic jackpot, you were born with a human body and a human mind. Don’t squander your winning." I recite this in silence before every meditation.

For as long as I can remember there was always something missing, a longing that I couldn’t put into words. I had thoughts and ideas that others could not understand. On some level, I was very alone. One thing I discovered about 50 years ago was meditation. Once I experienced it I knew this was an important part of my journey. So off and on I meditated over the years which prepared me for what was to come. I came to CSS through a like-minded friend. When I heard the teachings, I knew this was the place.

I attended my first ever retreat. It was over Zoom and I was in my home. I didn’t know what to expect. I put most of my pre-retreat efforts into getting ready with food and preparing a room in my home for a 5-day practice.

One way to describe the retreat experience is that it is like an Einsteinian thought experiment. The test instrument used was my human body and mind. The laboratory was my screen of awareness. There were questions and ideas presented that were to be investigated using my test instrument inside my laboratory.

The experience of the retreat was life changing. I don’t know how or why or what, but I know for certain something has changed. I consider this retreat one of the most important experiences of my life. My first most important life experience was being born. My last will be when I die…I like to plan ahead in the present eternal moment.

How lucky I am. I received instruction and wisdom from two awakened souls. How rare to even meet such people in a lifetime.


Love "Is" Selflessness (excerpt) by Marijke McCandless

Photo by Adam Nir

I sit

And investigate

Through direct experience

My objective world
We work with

An apple.

We separate our direct experience

into the five sense fields

plus the thought field.
The apple is:

a visual phenomenon that disappears when I close my eyes,

a taste phenomenon when I bite it,

a smell phenomenon when I sniff it,

a sound phenomenon when I thump it,

a physical sensation phenomenon when I touch it,

a thought phenomenon when I label it.
I linger
eyes closed

holding the apple
I cannot tell

where I end and the apple begins.

There are no boundaries.

Without the idea

that the apple is separate from me,

I can investigate,

Am I the apple too?

(click here to read the entire poem)


I Give You My Blank Heart

During one session of Merry Song’s weekly spiritual writing workshop entitled "Writing into Liberation," she read aloud the poem “I Loved You Before I Was Born” by Li-Young Lee. She then repeated Lee’s last stanza which begins with the words: “I give you my blank heart. Please…” She gave the writers only three minutes to take these words as their lead-in with no pre-thought or editing. A collection of these freewrites follows.

I give you my blank heart. Please hold it gently, with great care. Take a few moments and gaze upon it with loving eyes. Perhaps speak to it a few loving words that are reassuring, and true. Notice how my blank heart beats, sometimes slowly, sometimes more rapidly, and notice too what might be happening to cause these changes. Please, speak more words, encouraging and true. When my heart seems ready, guide me, guide me as to what I might write upon it, loving words to myself.


I give you my blank heart
Please continue
As I Know You Must
To lead me
Show me
Your Love
Write on it
Play in it
Struggle with it
As You Must
For I Am
To Your Grace
Your Tenderness
With all of Life’s
In all your Creative Forms
I do give You my
Blank Heart


I give you my blank heart. Please do not mess it up. Do not make smudge marks on it. Do not set your coffee cup on it and make a ring that can never be sanded out. Do not leave it out in the rain to warp and be splattered with mud and shat on by birds. Think about what you will do with my one true heart before you pick up the pencil or brush or hammer or saw. Plan it out, because I deserve a plan, some thought, the kind of attention that is not an after-thought.


I give you my blank heart. Please give it back to me, filled with the glorious light of love. Rainbows flowing, ever flowing, fill each corner, every vessel with divinity and glory. I give you my heart filled with brilliant love. Please drink of it, share it and allow it to overflow – never empty, always refilled.


Maura Scanlon
What the Frack?!
Pieced and quilted fabric

I give you my blank heart.
Please write on it in invisible ink,
So I can hear the sound of your voice
Without needing my mind to try to decipher it
Into human language.

So I can hear Us communing with each other just by being near, by being One.

If we had names they would be the same.
No need for introductions.
We have always known each other.
From the same mother,
We woke in the same womb.
Twin souls.
We grew together.


I give you my blank heart, please do with it what you will. Anything, really. It’s not mine to craft as I like. No, it’s completely wild and free from all that. Show me what makes a rainbow. Show me all the colors I haven’t seen and would never have known if not for you. Show me all the darkness and creatures hiding in dank corners and show me the joyous heavens, light and free. I long to know you. Please do what you will and make my heart your own.


I give you my blank heart. Please don't consider my doubt and all the mean things I've said to you and about you. That was my hurt talking. Hurt of looking ever so desperately and never seeming to find. Feeling like a lost lonely soul in a thick dark forest, left behind and forgotten by you. I do give you my blank heart. May all the old stories be wiped away. Please make it your own.


I give you my blank heart. Please be kind, be gentle, be cautious but also be brave, be bold and be daring. Because as you probably know our hearts are far stronger and resilient than we think. In this act of giving my blank heart to you, you most likely know the trust it means I have placed in you, to give you such a precious gift.


I give you my blank heart to write on. Please hold me and scribe your words tenderly, quietly, and so gently as that heart is young and any words will make a deep impression. My heart loves and trusts you in this way and is completely open to your hand. I want you to scribe there tenderly and gently, because I love you.


I give you my blank heart, please show me your true self, take the risk to open your soul. Let me look deep into your eyes and gaze upon your beautiful unique being with all that you are. Not just the good parts, but all your parts, because you are perfect, created by the creator of all that is love. You are a divine creature, here on earth to walk your sacred path that only you can walk and you belong here!


I give you my blank heart

I met you when I was 21 and you were 24~ me waitressing during college, you playing your 1934 Gibson with your band, Stryng Dinner in the bar. Your band was playing as I walked to the edge of the stage to my area for my night shift; we locked eyes and I felt the strong tidal pull of the moon and the sea and the ancient times~~ of destined spirits~It thrilled me and terrified me. Your voice so deep and style of picking so provocative, not your run of the mill bar band... I ran out of there at closing time, so freaked out!!! My friend came running out and said “Scot wants to know who you are. He is very intrigued to meet you”~~~ I was leaving quickly with my ride, too overwhelmed with feeling and sensation ~~~


Donna Lee Atkinson
Self-Portrait Sitting in Silence
Colored pencil on paper

I give you my blank heart…
Please treat it with divine tenderness
write living love poems on its beating mass

Tell me about your naked truth
bared skinned sensuality

Allow me to touch
the warmth of your breast
while laying my head

Resting safely in your love
suckling your nipples

Leave me the scent
of your presence, your being
a moment intertwined in love

Divine love
Trusting love
Whole love
Healed love

Sweet kisses on your mouth
I breathe those kisses in
Completing the circle
You-me, Me-you


I give you my blank heart, please
Listen to me, open to me.
I am open to receive your words, your voice, your views.
I am here present to be present...
to your love, to your care, to your kindness, to your acceptance.

Oh why have you closed the door at times?
Why have you hidden from me?
I am your heart, your deepest longing to be seen and heard.
I love you and I bless you, my love.



The Calling to Wake Up

Merry Song's class "The Calling to Wake Up" met weekly from Jan. 29 - Mar. 5, 2021. Below are some of the many creative expressions that resulted.


Grace, by Jude Kieda

Grace appeared at my window
and said, “Wake up, Jude…
Your time has come
So, wake up, dude!”

I wasn’t sure if Grace
Was calling my name –
Was this real or
Was it some game?

I wasn’t prepared for this to occur
It seemed like my tongue was coated in fur
I didn’t know
What to say
I didn’t want
To look away.

Shannon Wylie
Chinese brush painting on rice paper

Grace appeared
Out of the blue
This was really
Something new

I didn’t have
Time to think
I didn’t want
To make a stink
By asking questions,
Like, “Is this real?” or,
“Tell me, Grace,
What’s the deal?”

I didn’t believe
But, yet I KNEW
That my days of efforting
Were through

I thought I saw angels
Clap and dance
Or was I simply
In a trance?

No, this felt solid
This felt true
Now what was I
Supposed to do?

Grace had appeared
And showed her face
Then disappeared
Without a trace


You didn’t have a care in the world, by Wesley Lachman

You didn’t have a care in the world, did you, little cough drop? You were snuggling up with your fellow drops in cool, waxed paper. Your surfaces were still dry and you could jostle around with everybody.

Then you started to hear loud explosions nearby. You were taught to recognize coughs and sneezes in drop school, weren’t you. And now the real thing was right next to your box. This could be it, this could be your moment to shine. Your box gave a jolt, then scraping noises meant that the end flap was being opened, and light flooded the whole waxed compartment. You tried not to be afraid for this could be your turn. Nope, another drop was shaken out and the box closed up again. This is as far as your drop school training had taken you. They never said what happened after you were taken from the box, just that you should let go of everything. You thought you heard a tiny wail from Pete, who had just been taken, But you couldn’t be sure.

Enough light seeped in to tell the remaining drops when day or night had come. It was two days later, after many shakings and closings of the box that you were selected at last. You felt the pinch of fat human fingers, didn’t you? You could hear the box being sealed yet again. And then you saw, with horror, that the fingers were moving you toward an open red cavernous mouth. O my gosh, you realized, this is what the training has been for: I am to be completely dissolved in order to heal this human throat. And they told you to let go of everything, did they not? And you began to cry out in a high scream, “yes, they told me, they told me!”


He was surprised by love, by Sharry Lachman

He was surprised by love just when… he had concluded from his miserable eight years of life in his family of seven that he was totally unlovable and nobody could possibly ever love him. Jimmy was a small boy, a favorite target of the school bullies. Then one day his second-grade teacher, Mrs. Adams, asked him to stay after school so she could talk with him. Jimmy was sure he’d done something wrong and she was going to punish him, but he couldn’t figure out what he’d done since he’d been trying so hard to not even be noticed.

Mrs. Adams was also small and could fit into a child’s desk, so she came out from behind her big desk at the front of the room, and sat in the desk next to his on his right. She told him she was concerned about him because he hadn’t turned in his homework for a whole week. She asked him, “Are things okay for you at home?” and then she waited for a long, long time, until he thought he’d better say something, but he didn’t want to say much. So he said, “No, I guess things aren’t okay at home for me; I don’t think they ever have been.” Then he looked away, as if to say, “I’m done; that’s all I’m going to say.” She got that. So after another long, quiet pause, she asked, “Is there anything I could do to help you out or make things a little easier for you?” It was so much unexpected kindness all at once that he felt tears well up and run down his face when he wasn’t even crying, or was he?


Wake Up, Once And For All, by Jedediah Hazen

Once upon a time, a seeker decided to "wake up, once and for all." Turns out, waking up has a lot in common with believing in Santa Claus or the Loch Ness monster. When a kid believes in Santa, it is truly known, loved, and incorporated into their worldview. When this is your reality, this is how you believe in reality as well. This seeker who decided to "wake up” had no idea that this was like finding out that Santa had never been to your house. Waking up has no return ticket. It can only be done “once" and it is truly “for all.”

This was a stubborn seeker. Stubbornness is common among seekers. After all, what drives the compliant? So the seeker found a temple and began to participate. There was a ceremony after some time, and a number of novice monks were initiated together. One of the other novice monks at the temple became curious about this seeker who so boldly had announced the decision to “wake up once and for all”. So, when the time seemed appropriate, the curious monk asked the ambitious monk “where did you get this ambition and powerful motivation? You see, the ambitious monk was new to the temple, while the curious monk was not. The curious monk had grown up with his family at the temple. The pace was known, the schedule, the routine. Also known was the daily practice that the monks kept. This was a typical Theravada temple with daily practice of meditation, community service, study, and temple upkeep that was common and familiar to the curious monk.

The ambitious monk didn’t hesitate a bit when asked about the driving motivation and was always eager to talk. He was highly motivated after all. The curious monk asked, “excuse me ambitious monk, Why do you seek?” The ambitious monk barked, “What else should I do? Engage in pointless completion while waiting for the inevitability of bodily decay and death to arrive? Should I become a warrior? A builder? Earn wages while my sweat and labor enrich the lives of masters I will never lay eyes on? Nothing this life has laid before me seems worthy of my focus and attention so I seek!”

Well this truly fascinated the curious seeker. You see, the curious monk had simply participated together with the others at the temple, and he had simply been in service, without any idea of gaining something for himself. The curious monk seemed okay to just observe and participate. So the curious monk asked the ambitious monk another question. “What will change for you when you find what you seek?”

Again, the ambitious monk responded quickly and with confidence, “When I become enlightened I will know everything, so in this way I will always know the right thing to do in any situation, I will live and be a leader free of doubt, or accident, or error, and I will be able to give everyone the answers to all of life’s questions…of course this is why we seek, isn’t it?”

The ambitious monk, irritated by the naive questions being asked of him, stomped off to find dedicated and serious seekers to ponder with. The mind of the ambitious would not suffer foolish questioning, he thought as he walked away.

The curious monk was left behind, and he quietly went back to his daily practice. The garden behind the temple was well-cultivated and vibrant. It was full of bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies all doing the work of pollination, beautifully and effortlessly, quietly and without ambition.


Sense of Self, by Jude Kieda

Finally, the sense of self
Who longed to awaken…
Felt that to it’s core
It was shaken

It came to see
The story of I
Was just one of images
Passing by

The notion that
It was “a self”
Had to be put
Upon a shelf

Kathleen Daniel
Out of My Mind
Watercolor and collage on paper

To remain there
With other detritus,
An unwanted something
Like hepatitis

It’s dismantling
Took a while
The process was
At times quite vile

This small self
Didn’t want to go
Yet at some level
Knew it was so

It was just part
Of a dream
And had the help
Of a team

Despite many forms
Of practice
It still stayed as prickly
As a cactus

Until finally
The jig was up
Time to drink
From death’s cup

Then laughter poured
Out in peals
What an ultimate truth
It reveals!

Through death’s doorway
The self went
Up to the heavens
By descent


Love was Driving Up in Front of Your House, by Meg Blanchet

Hillery Kyablue
In Paradise, Self Doubt, Not Curiosity, is the Cat’s Worst Fate
Acrylic on canvas

You couldn’t believe
that Love was driving up
in front of your house.

You had waited so long,
like a child waiting for the Santa
who never seems to come.

But there it was,
with shining eyes
and a radiant heart,
knocking on your door.

This parcel is for you
and you alone
because you are you,
and you deserve it.

Open up wide and welcome it.

Oh, you shrink away
afraid to believe
that this could possibly be true?

No, no. It’s ok.
Trust your heart.
She will know.

Take a moment and settle in.
That’s right.
You don’t have to force it or rush.

Love will wait for you
and if you look closely,
you will see that it is safe.
She will make it safe.

But go ahead and check.
Ask your heart,
for she will know,
she will glow
and open
and flow.

Love is okay
and love is safe,
for she accepts it all
as it is.

It’s shutting her out
that really hurts!

So Lucky you!
Love has arrived
and she is here for you
in all her glory
and all her glow.

Let her warm your heart.
Let her fill you
so full she will flow out your eyes
and change the way you see.

Looking through eyes of love
you will see,
with all your lumps and bumps,
you really are beautiful
and lovable
and precious…

You just needed love’s high beams
to light up the subject;
now bless your heart
for you are home.


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 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 also publishes this newsletter.

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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