It is cold, still, frozen and brilliantly clear outside. I sit alone in the quiet of the Main House, the warmth of the wood stove rising up to the second floor. It is Christmas Eve.
Deep in the woods I know my colleagues sit in their cabins-- in retreat for the winter months. I feel the reassuring presence of the long history of our lineage in the halls and walls of this building, and the hills and trees of the land, providing refuge for us as we each practice in our spaces across the property.
In my current role as Chair of the Board it has been a wonderful opportunity this winter to spend time at the Dharma Centre. Along with a rotating cadre of my colleagues, we have chosen to experiment with an administrative model for these three months in which board members and other volunteers take the reins of the administration, in the slow months, so our administrators can be in retreat.
The advantage is two-fold. Administrators are provided with the chance to participate fully in the primary mission of our organization—to use the resources of the property to practice for the sake of all beings. As they return to their administrative roles in the Spring, a deepened connection with the DCC mission is provided, and their ability to serve the needs of all retreatants is enhanced.
For board members and other volunteers, the opportunity to spend time in the Main House and the office (as well as experiencing a short, working retreat on the property for several days or weeks) gives us direct and first-hand experience into the workings of the centre. Clearly this can only serve our ability to have clear insight in our decision-making process.
Working together, practicing together and serving together in these winter months has brought the board and the administrators closer in perspective and alignment. May our discoveries and experiences deepen our awareness about the operations and mission of our beloved Centre, and may all beings be served by our explorations.
Chris von Baeyer, Chairman of Board
My time at the Dharma Centre is nearing 2 years. A large part of this I have been working in service of those who come here to seek, explore and practice the Dharma. I have had the great fortune to receive many precious teachings and meet extraordinary practitioners. Through the kind and generous support of my teachers, fellow students and colleagues I was also able to undertake long solitary retreats over the past two winters delving deeply into my own practice. All of these experiences have contributed to the shaping of a unique training:
Working and doing service at the Dharma Centre can be challenging. At times it can feel like being in a large pot and being stirred. It brings the bottom to the surface. It amplifies experience. It demands to overcome the fear of suffering, to have the courage to put others first, to embrace all that presents itself and learn to remain impartial and compassionate.
Retreating at the Dharma Centre is like sinking into the embrace of the forest. Feeling supported and inspired, sensing the energy and blessings that have soaked the land over decades. Giving space to all that is coming and going, surrendering to infinite discoveries, falling in love with learning. A time where every moment is a small awakening.
Being at the Dharma Centre to me is about bridging those experiences. It is like serving a great master. It teaches one that everything is a teaching. When serving and when receiving, when being professional and when being contemplative, when being with others and when being alone. It is challenging at times and deeply humbling. It holds great gifts for anyone who is a seeker.
I truly pray that many more will continue to come to this special place to practice, to serve and to discover the infinite profound beauty of the Dharma.
Marion Herlet, Practitioner in Residence
The Dharma Centre of Canada is a place of infinite possibilities. It can be a place of refuge, samsara, nirvana, a place to serve, a place to learn, a place of love or deep suffering, a place to find the key to liberation. To me the Dharma Centre of Canada represents the golden rosary of lineage, taking refuge, and fearless devotion to awakening. I find that the intention shapes the experience.
As a Practitioner in Residence my experience is of devotion to service. There is lots of hard work and many challenges in this unusual place where people gather to find something… Service is the practice. Building merit is the aspiration.
As a retreatant, deep in the forest in Beaver Dam, the experience is of openess and grounding. Finally feeling as part of the land in all its form, deeply moved by extraordinary beauty, having the time and space to let the teaching speak strong and clear from deep inside the being. The profound silence allows to unfold treasured teachings.
Out there, free from worldly toils, the exploration is fresh and clear.
This winter's three months retreat was a unique and important time to renew one’s aspiration, reflect, study, and dive fearlessly into practice.
Still building merit.
This year, as the Dharma Centre Staff, Spiritual Advisors and the Board of Directors begin to offer another season of extraordinary blessings, my wish is that more and more people may find their way out here.
May all beings have the opportunity to attend teachings and explore at the Dharma Centre of Canada.
Marta Castiglioni, Practitioner in Residence