Putting Meditation into Action in the Himalayas

In 2011, the Dharmalaya Institute (the Himalayan campus of the Earthville Network) held its first-ever international program: a work retreat in collaboration with SanghaSeva. That experience was so inspiring that we’ve been coming together again every year and, since 2012, also hosting silent meditation retreats with Zohar Lavie and Nathan Glyde, our gifted and delightful friends from SanghaSeva.

Last month, friends new and old from all corners of the globe (five continents!) came to Dharmalaya to participate in our fourth annual SanghaSeva retreats at Dharmalaya. As usual, we were feeling like family by the end, and mountains were moved — both outside and in.

Dhauladhars
Starting off with a silent retreat is a great way to land — to slow down and settle into a state of peaceful presence. For most of us, a week is a very helpful stretch of time to put us in touch with that tranquil, warm-hearted presence that lives in the center of us always but too often goes unnoticed as we are swept around in the winds of our experiences.

Circle
But most of us don’t live our whole lives on a cushion, so how do we bring the warmth and presence of meditation into the rest of our lives (and vice versa)? That’s where our ‘work retreats’ come in: We create opportunities to practice mindful engagement in daily life by doing earth-loving work with as much awareness, warmth, and presence as we can manage to hold.

In the case of this year’s work retreat, we began with a group activity in which over twenty people collaborated (in almost total silence) in the creation of a beautifully landscaped path leading up the hill from the entry to Dharmalaya’s campus to our main building.

Soil parade

Path
The path-building process also served to “feed two birds with one seed” by providing turf and wildflowers to cover an earthbag retaining wall in the front of the building.

Circuit training

Soil prep

Mudding up the retaining wall

Wildflowers on the wall
From there, we branched into a variety of interrelated tasks developing our campus for sustainable and compassionate living, including green building, organic gardening, and natural landscaping.

In 2011, the Dharmalaya Institute (the Himalayan campus of the Earthville Network) held its first-ever international program: a work retreat in collaboration with SanghaSeva. That experience was so inspiring that we’ve been coming together again every year and, since 2012, also hosting silent meditation retreats with Zohar Lavie and Nathan Glyde, our gifted and delightful friends from SanghaSeva.

Last month, friends new and old from all corners of the globe (five continents!) came to Dharmalaya to participate in our fourth annual SanghaSeva retreats at Dharmalaya. As usual, we were feeling like family by the end, and mountains were moved — both outside and in.

Dhauladhars
Starting off with a silent retreat is a great way to land — to slow down and settle into a state of peaceful presence. For most of us, a week is a very helpful stretch of time to put us in touch with that tranquil, warm-hearted presence that lives in the center of us always but too often goes unnoticed as we are swept around in the winds of our experiences.

Circle
But most of don’t live our whole lives on a cushion, so how do we bring the warmth and presence of meditation into the rest of our lives (and vice versa)? That’s where our ‘work retreats’ come in: We create opportunities to practice mindful engagement in daily life by doing earth-loving work with as much awareness, warmth, and presence as we can manage to hold.

In the case of this year’s work retreat, we began with a group activity in which over twenty people collaborated (in almost total silence) in the creation of a beautifully landscaped path leading up the hill from the entry to Dharmalaya’s campus to our main building.

Soil parade

Path
The path-building process also served to “feed two birds with one seed” by providing turf and wildflowers to cover an earthbag retaining wall in the front of the building.

Circuit training

Soil prep

Mudding up the retaining wall

Wildflowers on the wall
From there, we branched into a variety of interrelated tasks developing our campus for sustainable and compassionate living, including green building, organic gardening, and natural landscaping.
We made adobe bricks for the new dormitory cottage.

Dance-kneading the brick mix

Making adobe bricks
We built a path climbing up an embankment to reach the site of a future bamboo bridge that will provide access to the upper story of that cottage.

Trailblazing
We created several new organic garden beds.

Garden arch

Happy Gardeners 1

Digging a new bed

Appreciating a job well done

A moment's rest

Happy Gardeners 2

Split-level bed
And put new life in the older gardens.

Making friends with cow dung :-)

Loving up the first bed

Planting new babies
We learned to work with bamboo, splitting and flattening it for use in the buildings.

Bamboo-splitting demonstration

Giving it a try

Doro's turn

Bernie rocks the bamboo
We did a lot of ‘sanding and varnishing meditation’, preparing wood and bamboo elements for the main building.

Sandman

Sanding the ladder

Varnishing the bamboo ladder

Workshop with a view

Walter primes the door frame
We gave the slate tiles in the dishwashing area a good polish.

Polishing the slate tiles

More slate polishing

And more slate polishing
On a rainy day, we even did some stitching to mend some ailing duvets.

A stitch in time?
And a few of us learned to make chapatis. :-)

Chapati class
Finally, we built a compost shed out of stone, mud bricks, bamboo, and recycled roofing material.

Base for compost shed

Jenny the mason

Earthy joy

Coming together
Looking over what we’d accomplished, we were amazed at what a group can do.

Final tour

Taking it all in...
But it wasn’t all work. In the middle of the retreat, we had a silent day, for much-needed rest and an inspiring wordless walking meditation with the birds down by the stream.

Zohar

A green friend
And, every morning, we greeted the sun with chi kung sessions to help us start the day in balance.

Morning chi kung
Perhaps most importantly, throughout all this, we found insight into ourselves and came together as a community.

Community

The group
We hope to see some of these faces, as well as new ones, on the horizon…

Sunset
For upcoming retreats and other programs at Dharmalaya Institute, see Dharmalaya’sevents page.

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