Holiday Party and Light of Love Day

imageHoliday Party at CSS

Over 30 people showed up for the Winter Holiday Party at CSS on Saturday, December 16, 2023. A few people briefly popped in to say hello via Zoom as well. The party featured special appearances by Aaron Isaac Haas on classical guitar, Jack Yousey on saxophone, and the CSS band (Gene Gibbs, Rich Marlatt, Annie O'Shea, and Michael Augden). Thanks to Carol Mizera for organizing the event and to the talented musicians who provided live entertainment.

Light of Love Day talk

The theme of this year’s Light of Love Day was “Love Letters.” Joel invited members of our community to offer us Love Letters in the form of music, poems, recitations, and stories. Joel interspersed these with some of his own favorite quotes from various teachers about the place of love on a spiritual path. Mark Hurwit shared a piece of music that he composed, entitled "Walking Towards the Light." Merry Song presented the poem "I Loved You Before I Was Born" by Li-Young Lee. Tom McFarlane performed a reading of Shakespeare's famous passage “the quality of mercy.” Laura Betty and Wesley Lachman shared readings. Todd read a passage from St. Augustine entitled "Love and Do what you will" and shared a teaching on that. Niraja shared a poem and spoke about her devotional practice of art.  One of her large, intricate quilts was displayed. It was a feast of love and devotion!

Guest speakers: Jim and Kimberly Carson, Diana Nadeau, and Sitaram Dass

imageJennifer, Joel, Jim, and Kimberly

Our Sunday January 7, 2024, public meeting featured a talk by guest speakers Jim and Kimberly Carson, members of the CSS community based in Portland. The title of their talk was "Kashmir Shaivism: Nondual Devotion.” This was the second of a three-part series of talks. In the first talk Jim provided an overview of Kashmir Shaivism, an influential Shaiva-Shakta Tantra nondual tradition originated in Kashmir c. 850 CE. Building on that introduction, this talk delved into the devotional aspects of the tradition, including chanting and meditation. Watch the video of Jim and Kimberly's talk here. The Carsons have studied, practiced, and taught the powerful teachings of this tradition for over 25 years.


imageDiana Nadeau

Our Sunday February 4, 2024, public meeting featured a talk by guest speaker Diana Nadeau. The topic of the talk is "Compassion for Self and Other; Actualizing Spiritual Practice." Diana shared meditations and teachings drawing from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Although compassion is innate in us, we sometimes experience a lack of compassion because we are human. These are like clouds obscuring the sky. Instead of thinking of these as problems, Diana invited us to welcome these clouds. Instead of ignoring them or denying them or stuffing them away, we can sit with them in a grounded space with our breath. We can acknowledge and honor and love our experience of humanity. These clouds are actually part of us, and we want to welcome them so we can be whole. For more information about Diana, see her bio on her website.


imageSitaram Dass

Our Sunday March 3, 2024, public meeting featured a talk by guest speaker Sitaram Dass, who spent several years serving his beloved teacher Ram Dass on Maui, where he was shown the path of Bhakti, the yoga of service and devotion to God. He performed kirtan and shared some of his personal experiences of his path and time with Ram Dass. Watch the video of Sitaram's talk here.

Sitaram Dass is an author, teacher, kirtan singer, therapist, and director of the Sacred Community Project, where he works to provide affordable, free, and donation-based offerings as a praxis of Sacred Community. His book From and for God is an intimate and contemplative collection of writings on the spiritual path. For more information about Sitaram, see his website.

Renewed Energy for Retreat

by Merry Song

imageCloud Mt. Retreat, 2000

When Niraja and I came across the Center in 1993, we found that CSS had a lot to offer. Not only did Joel deliver every Sunday Talk, he also led every Practitioners’ Group and gave two retreats a year—five days in May and ten days in October.

In those days, both fall and spring retreats were held at Cloud Mountain, about 60 miles north of Portland. For me, the silence supported on retreat was a significant magnet. I loved the meditative practices along with Joel’s powerful teachings whether inside the Diamond Hall or outside observing nature.

imageJoel at Cloud Mt.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, everything changed. Not only did the Center building close (along with other schools, churches, and businesses around the country) but the retreat schedule modified to Zoom only.

Four years later the Center is now rejuvenating the energy to establish regular retreats for our practitioners. In his article In Solitude and Suffering, Joel reminds us that “the quintessential discipline of mystics has always been the retreat…. So if you are serious about seeking True Wisdom, do not neglect going on retreats. Enter them as often as possible and stay as long as you can, for there is no more powerful way to deepen your practice and hasten your progress through the stages of the path.” 


Our upcoming spring retreat will be a 3-day retreat with Andrea Pucci. This non-residential retreat will be held in our Saratoga meeting hall, with retreatants staying in their own homes or lodgings.

Andrea’s retreat will be held on April 12-14, 2024. Andrea says that this will be a Vipassana / Insight Meditation Retreat in which we will turn our attention “to examine experientially and directly who or what feels like a self-existing entity. Who or what is meditating? Who or what is the agent that seems to be acting?”


Friday and Saturday
   Morning session: 10 AM - 1 PM
   Afternoon session: 2 PM - 5 PM
   Public talk: 11 AM - 1 PM
   Afternoon session: 2 PM - 5 PM


The fall 2024 retreat will be a return to the residential retreat format, in which participants stay at a retreat center, in this case, Collins Retreat Center, less than 150 miles north of Eugene. Todd Corbett will lead this seven-day retreat November 10-17, 2024.

If you have never taken a retreat away from home, you may want to take the opportunity to tune out of daily distractions and engage in sitting/walking meditative practices. It is rare to be able to leave our homes and daily engagements behind. The Center strives to offer the opportunity to cultivate practice with the support of kindred spirits. Todd reminds us that “longer retreats offer profound opportunity for deepening practice.”

Profound Insight into Impermanence

by Todd Corbett


Insight into the profound nature of impermanence provides the basis for the realization of great compassion. The following teaching and practice instruction given by the Tibetan sage Tsongkhapa tells us why this is the case:

The compassion which apprehends phenomena does not apprehend sentient beings alone; it apprehends sentient beings who disintegrate momentarily. Therefore, its objects are sentient beings qualified by momentary impermanence. When [a yogi] has certainty that sentient beings are disintegrating momentarily, he has refuted within his mind that there is a permanent, partless and independent sentient being. Due to that, he can have certainty that there is no sentient being who is a different entity from [his mental and physical] aggregates.

These mental and physical aggregates he describes represent the energetic unfolding of vast conditioning within infinite Consciousness, which brings about the momentary experience of separate self and a world within the illusion of passing time. And despite appearances, it all remains momentary conditioning playing out, in which apparent forms are necessarily empty of any enduring separate self-nature.

Love and Compassion are inherent within the realization that all beings and all phenomena are inseparable from the wholeness of timeless Consciousness, since whatever arises is not other than the Knowing of which it is made. And, of course, the ability to recognize their moment-to-moment impermanence is optimally discovered in direct experience through committed meditative investigation. When discernment of impermanence is not obscured through self-grasping, we are apt to discover all phenomena, despite their convincing appearances, are never other than the creativity of infinite Consciousness, Knowing and Loving itself within all experience.

This is the first installment of “Finding the Center.”
Do you have a story of how you found the Center?
Please submit it for publication here.
It may be featured in a future issue of the newsletter.

Finding the Center: A Calling Card

by Vip Short

This world, this life, existence itself is a vast and perfect mandala. Every piece and particle have their pure and peerless place on the Great Wheel. This is my faith, and most days lately I must take the proposition on faith. Yet I suspect that it’s one of the best compasses available for guidance through one’s life.

All around us and every day we are presented with unsought symmetries and synchronicities; little markers of their own place within the boundless arrangement in which we find ourselves. Usually only meaningful to each of us uniquely, such events are—I believe—an invitation to pay attention: “a calling card from the Divine.” And those are the exact words Joel chose on the Sunday on Buck Street when I first asked to speak privately with him.


Many years earlier, in 1985, I had enjoyed a dinner at Amit and Maggie Goswami’s home. A good friend had earned his PhD in quantum physics under the mentorship of Amit, and I was invited along because my friend knew of the couple’s preoccupation with things mystical—as with me. Indeed, we found much common conversational ground. During the dinner, Maggie made reference to “the new guy, living at Dr. Wolff’s.” They were looking into persuading this younger mystic to consider moving to Eugene. Dr. Wolff passed on later that same year, and the stage was set.

imageVip Short, back in the '90s

In succeeding years, the Center for Sacred Sciences was established. I remained unaware of its existence until 1996, when a friend and I agreed to check it out. By this time meetings were held at Joel and Jennifer’s home on Fillmore Street. The small living room was populated by a regular group of students. I would sit toward the back, striving to remain unobtrusive. I didn’t ask any questions; I was there on a casual mission to check out this guy and his spiritual center that I had heard vague things about. The setup seemed honest and unpretentious. The library adjacent to the meeting area was impressive. And Joel himself was ordinary and available. During a break one Sunday I found myself out on a patio with the poncho-clad mystic. “Hi, how ya doin?” he greeted me between drags on his cigarette. I don’t recall the rest of that brief interchange. What I do confess to, however, is that after about three or four Sunday visits to Fillmore Street, I drew a conclusion: this guy had an excellent grasp on the testimonies of the mystics and a decent delivery, but he himself was just too ordinary to actually be someone I’d sign up for.

At that point in time I was experiencing a major life-shift. On the horizon but not yet visible was a second marriage, and when that coalesced, in late 1996, all my concepts of “the spiritual life” were severely tested. By several strange twists of fate —a new spin of my personal mandala— I had been put back in touch with my high school heartthrob. Almost three decades since our last meeting, the brief original romance had rekindled. At issue, however, was that while in college this woman had essentially signed her life over to a yoga-based practice that entailed adopting a very specific lifestyle and faith from northern India. She had a guru whom she referred to as her “spiritual father.” As we became closer and contemplated marriage, the scuttlebutt among her faith community held that the Head Yogi would never permit her to marry an outsider. I took a direct approach and flew to LA to interview with him. To everyone’s surprise, he declared us a perfect match, and in the process commanded my betrothed: “This man is already a holy man; don’t try to change him!” To this day I am certain that this meant I did not need a new name, new “spiritual” clothing, a new diet, etc. However, the admonition fell on my bride’s closed ears. I was fine going along with Sunday dress-up, attending various yoga “intensives,” and being called by a Sanskrit-derived name. I was in love and wanted to be near my sweetheart. But I remained adamant that I would never adopt the faith; my inner guidance made clear that I should stick to my own unique pastiche of spiritual understanding, based on a synthesis of mystical thought that I had begun absorbing when pursuing degrees in religious studies and psychology in my undergraduate years. My strong conviction was that science and religion both had something to teach the other.

About midway through this rather odd marriage I happened to read Chogyam Trungpa’s classic book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. That really started some wheels turning! All the many trappings embraced when my wife and I got together were put into fresh perspective and began to seem in my case not just extraneous, but in a sense— for me— misleading. And then, the newly-spun wheel stopped on an unforeseen development.


Are there really no coincidences? The term “co-incidence” simply means two or more things occurring together in time. But it also typically has the sense of a somehow meaningful pairing of events. (The great psychologist Carl Jung zeroed in on both the power of mandala symbolism and the phenomenon he dubbed “synchronicity”: events occurring together in time that on their surface may not mean much to anyone except their particular witness—a calling card or wake-up notice, so to speak.)

The unexpected development I refer to here happened at my place of work, over a single five-day week. I was co-owner of a multidisciplinary health care clinic where I worked as a primary care physician. We had a break room that had a few books and magazines sitting on a shelf. One day during lunch I pulled down a slim volume titled Naked Through the Gate, quickly realizing it was written by that character Joel whom I had checked out a few years before. I leafed through it, then put it back on the shelf. That afternoon as I worked with a patient, we began discussing esoteric things, and she spontaneously asked me if I had ever looked into Joel Morwood and the Center for Sacred Sciences. Oh yes, attended a few years back for a few Sundays, but it wasn’t a fit for me. And the subject was dropped.

That was on a Monday. On Wednesday I found myself with a patient who went by the lovingly endowed name Merry (yes, that one) who—very much out of the blue—asked me if I knew about the Center. I shared with her that oddly, the topic had already arisen with someone else earlier in the week. Again, no pressure, just a bit of a wink. Then Friday came around, and that afternoon I was queried for the third time by a third patient, who didn’t seem at all surprised by the string of “coincidences.” In fact she simply smiled and said, “Sounds like you’re getting a strong message.”

I don’t recall entertaining any paranoia or rumination of a planned conspiracy. When I cross-checked, each of these messengers knew the others, but not well enough to get together and hatch a nefarious plot to entrap me into yet another spiritual gig. (By this point the marriage with my yogini was headed for the rocks, whether I could admit it or not.) Struck by the sheer unlikelihood of it all, I made a “deal” with God: I would start going back to CSS—which by then was located on Buck Street—and try to attend regular Sundays, but only until I had again satisfied myself that I had done a proper vetting. Thus did I show up two days later, for the public program.

imageJoel teaching at Buck St.

I do not remember much about that first Sunday. Each week I sat in the very back row, carefully scrutinizing the teacher as well as those in attendance. Were these actually my people? And what did they see or hear in the actions and words of this dude in the raggedy poncho? It was a bit mystifying. (Get it?) The thing was, however, that on each of a string of six Sundays Joel would refer to something, or utter a phrase, or reach for an illustrative example that held a weird connection, random yet very specific, and not inherently meaningful of itself, to my recent life experience. It began to seem like a kind of mind-reading, secretly for my own benefit. I hadn’t planned on this level of nudge.

On Sunday number six, I almost didn’t make it out of bed. I woke straight out of an emotionally-charged, heavy-duty dream with tears pouring down my face. In the dream I had been strolling through Amazon Park, a favorite haunt. I came across a little girl, no more than age 4 or 5, and she was sobbing bitter tears. At first I thought she must have hurt herself. Getting down face to face, I asked her what was wrong, and where were her mommy and daddy. Weeping uncontrollably, she pointed across the grassy space to a small rise, where two adults stood with fixed expressions and folded arms. I said, “Here, let’s take you over to your parents.”

“NO!” She surprised me with her fierce resistance. “They do not understand. They do not see who I am. They don’t love me!”

I attempted to persuade the little girl, but it was no use. So I said, “Wait here, Sweetie,” and strode over and up to the couple. “Did you know your little girl is over there crying her eyes out?” They both scowled at me, tightened their folded arms, and implied that I should butt out.

The mother muttered in a low voice, “It’s no use, she doesn’t get it, we’ve tried everything and spent so much money...” They were adamant: not going to give her another chance. I couldn’t believe this. At this point in my life I had helped to raise two daughters, now teens, and this couple’s attitude was unthinkable to me.

Reluctantly I went back to the little girl. “See?” she said, flatly. “It’s no use!” I got down and began to hug her quivering little frame. We cried together, on one another’s shoulders. I had no idea what to do next. I was heartbroken.

I awoke in bed and spent long minutes continuing to sob. All the unfairness and suffering of this world seemed to be pressing me down. It was already late in the morning and I deliberated whether to pull myself together and go to the Center. Luckily, I made the right decision and arrived only minutes late, finding my place in the back row.

Joel was addressing a question that had been submitted as to the challenges of remaining compassionate. One of the virtues. He had a few notes but was mostly speaking extemporaneously. Obviously the topic innervated him: he became more animated and offered several situational examples. Finally he landed on a made-up scenario that for me was a personalized crescendo.

Here’s the gist of what Joel asked his listeners: “Have you ever been out in a public place—shopping at a supermarket, for example— and seen a terribly sad, maybe lost little child? And you want to help them, but then one of the parents appears and, maybe out of embarrassment or whatever, instead of comforting their child they go into discipline, maybe even physical, demanding that their kid just shut up? It’s awful to see, right? Because all that child wants and needs right then is just pure love! That’s all any of us ever are looking for!”

I was thunderstruck. Glad to be tucked away in the back row, because here came my tears again. How could this be happening?

The talk ended soon afterwards, and this was the day I made a beeline for Joel as we all stood up. Shaking his hand, I introduced myself. He said it was nice to meet, he had noticed my wildly-bearded face for a number of Sundays, and what could he do for me? I told him I needed to speak privately.

“Well, sure! I have one person who wants to meet with me first, so how about you just check out our library for a while and then we can get together?”

Soon I was sitting with Joel in his study. It was the winter of 1999. I didn’t know it yet but my marriage was headed into a separation and ultimately divorce in six months. Joel opened the conversation in his typical way:

“Now, what can I do for you?”

I simply told him that I needed to know: “How are you doing this?”

“How am I doing what?” He seemed genuinely curious.

“How are you reading my mind, week after week? This morning you basically narrated my incredibly sad dream!”

He threw his head back and laughed. He seemed positively tickled by my accusation. It was hilarious.

“I’ll tell you this, and if you don’t hear anything else, register this: I’m not doing anything! I have no idea how stuff like that happens.” Then he leaned forward, almost conspiratorially, to drive home the main point. “But I will tell you this: if this kind of thing were happening to me, I’d consider it a calling card from the Divine.” I still remember the shine in his eyes at that moment.

“Okay,” I said, and I was astonished to hear what came out of my own mouth next. “Then I want you to be my teacher.”


This all unfolded 25 years ago. That morning Joel didn’t miss a beat. He just handed me a copy of his spiritual autobiography—the same book I had randomly pulled off the shelf one day at work many weeks before. He told me about the opportunity coming up that next Fall to enroll in the Foundations Studies class, if I found myself still serious about pursuing what he would come to call this Way of Selflessness.

Twenty-five years, and I am still trudging along, a candidate possibly for the slowest student award at CSS, but happy still even in my longest-ever desert experience. As my dear friend and first Foundations teacher Fred Chambers is fond of saying: “Walk on!”

And, as with any committed focus on one’s own unique Life Mandala, I had finally picked up on the invitation—the calling card—and found the Center.

Stewardship Group: Fourth Precept Committee Resurrected

Starting in January 2024, a group focused on the 4th Precept (Stewardship) started meeting in person on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month, 5:00 - 6:30 PM at the CSS meeting hall at 5440 Saratoga St.

Facilitated by Genie Harden, in this group we discover our true natures together as we learn, inspire, empower and support one another to take the positive actions that our hearts are calling out for. Meetings begin with a short meditation followed by sharing on subjects including our love for the natural environment (along with the emotions that may arise), selfless actions we take, or can take, to care for our environment, efforts already underway that we can join, favorite resources, books, reports, articles, and good news. There is time at the end for schmoozing and discussion (and sometimes some delicious food). No registration required. Drop-in welcome. Questions, concerns or ideas? email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

New CSS Videos on YouTube

Are you subscribed to the CSS channel on YouTube? Several video recordings of Sunday talks have been added recently and more are on the way. In addition to recent videos, the YouTube channel has video recordings of many older talks, some dating back almost 40 years! 

Merry Song
Faced and Embraced
November 12, 2023

Merry Song
The Needy Beggar
July 24, 2022

Jim and Kimberly Carson
Kashmir Shaivism: Nondual Devotion
January 7, 2024

Sitaram Dass
Kirtan and the Path of Bhakti
March 3, 2024

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; 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 books, audios, videos and a 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 four 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

To subscribe, unsubscribe, or update your existing subscription to the Center Community News, please use the subscription form.

Center for Sacred Sciences • (541) 345-0102 • General contact form
Mailing Address: 1711 Willamette St Suite 301-164, Eugene, OR 97401 USA
Meeting Address: 5440 Saratoga St., Eugene, Oregon, USA