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a letter from jaya newsletter june 2010

A retreatant wrote me this a while back: "What I love about Open Dharma is the way it is like India throughout history... adapting, bending, taking in, yet always maintaining its essential nature."

Two historical surprises from the "season" in India, 2009-2010: 1) Indians are being hit hard by inflation—food prices increased by around 20% this month, with pulses like lentils at 45%. In January, Anantha Niketan in Tiruvannamalai even had to raise their price for our rooms and food at the last minute.

On the day the retreat was going to start, we all realized together that they would need 40% more than planned in order to cover their costs for food, labor, and running the Ashram.

The generosity of our retreatants helped Open Dharma nearly cover its retreat costs, despite this unexpected expense. 2) In March, the leaders of Sattal Ashram asked us to give up the spacious, octagonal chapel, with its large windows overlooking forest and lake. Although the chapel would lie empty much of the time we were there, the new spiritual leader felt too uncomfortable with our using the chapel for meditation, and especially for lying-down meditation. (In India it is even more "surprising" than in the West to see people lying down in a "place of worship." However, it was not a surprise to the Ashram that we were there to do just that!)

The participants of the 31-day retreat then graciously squeezed into what we came to call affectionately "the Barn"—as we felt a certain new kinship with Joseph and Mary giving birth to baby Jesus in the stables.

Uneven floors, fleas, small windows....

Instead of the usual guided meditation to complete the retreat, Ajayji had us dancing to a song called "All Izzz Well"—from a Hindi film (The 3 Idiots) where the eccentric, genius protagonist stays connected to himself in stressful moments by tapping his heart and saying:

"All is well, all is well."

I love to be amazed—again and again—by people and by the willingness to keep going, to be surprised by life, to open, to laugh, and to stay true.

I love to be amazed by how this transformative space called Open Dharma keeps on deepening, even as outer circumstances surprise us—extend us all beyond our expectations.

Meanwhile, at Dharmaloca:

~our first water lily bud nudged up above the surface of the water today (in the "pond" made from an old bathtub in the earth)

~the shower in the cottage is nearly ready

~a revolutionary discovery: broccoli leaves are delicious steamed or sauteed for a few minutes. That makes one more thing in this life that we thought we had to throw away, but that turns out to be one of the best things in the garden.

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