Natural Dharma Fellowship Summer Transitions
I am writing this letter from the deck of Wonderwell Mountain Refuge, on a crystal clear June afternoon, during our very first Annual NDF Dathun (month-long practice period). What a blessing to meditate together in the golden light of summer.
Some transitions in leadership are afoot this month at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge, Natural Dharma’s retreat center in New Hampshire, as Lama Samten Bryn Dawson, a core Dharma Teacher with Natural Dharma Fellowship, prepares for a leave-of-absence to further explore widening contexts of spiritual community and higher education (see attached letter). Her departure, while it tugs at the heartstrings of many in our community, is a testament to her awareness of the multiple dimensions of human flourishing, and also to her ongoing courage to explore what it means to be a beneficial presence in the world. The wisdom and compassion she develops on her journey will doubtless benefit all of us. I know I speak on behalf of everyone at NDF when I express boundless gratitude to Lama Samten for the love, dedication and hard work she has offered our community and to Wonderwell Mountain Refuge, where she has acted as resident teacher and manager for two years. Lama Samten stays on as a Dharma teacher with Natural Dharma Fellowship, and will remain in our hearts during her travels!
Lama Samten’s departure coincides with the arrival to the NDF leadership team of Elizabeth (Liz) Monson, currently a core teacher with Natural Dharma Fellowship, who will take over managing responsibilities at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge. As an extension of this work, Liz will be stepping into the role of Associate Spiritual Director of Natural Dharma Fellowship. In this capacity, Liz will work closely with me to sustain and develop NDF’s gradually expanding programming and to deepen the longterm vision of supporting the transmission of the wisdom teachings of Buddhism to the West. We will work together to consider how to make our present training programs more thorough and effective, how to expand our programming, and how to enliven aspects of healthy community, among other areas. The two of us will also work together with the Board to consider how to best support NDF and Wonderwell’s increasingly complex infrastructure. We look forward to working with the sangha over the coming years to explore ways that our vessel, Natural Dharma Fellowship, can increasingly express and embody the dharma for the greater good.
In addition to these transitions, Wonderwell’s building operations have recently improved due to the leadership and teamwork of Matt Ferris, Michael Bruss, Chris Hall (Wonderwell’s new Facilities and Grounds Manager), George Imbrie and others. Wonderwell continues to host dedicated live-in staff members Berry Shepherd, Dan Gilner and Mike Greenberg, as well as many volunteers, gardeners and contractors, who contribute time, energy and skill to the flourishing of this sacred space. Finally, under the leadership of Donna Lewandowski, the kitchen at Wonderwell has evolved into a place of integrated dharma practice, while generating delicious and nourishing food for hundreds each year. Gratitude to everyone involved!”
May your practice of the dharma flourish this season and always.
— L. Willa Miller
Letter From Lama Samten Bryn Dawson
Dear Natural Dharma Fellowship family and friends,
In reflecting on the past two years that I have witnessed and participated in Wonderwell becoming a true refuge for contemplative practice, I am grateful to call it my Dharma home. I have felt privileged to be in the midst of so many transformational and healing spaces created by the teachers of NDF, as well as the teachers and sangha of other local groups. Each of you has played an important role in providing me the gift of a life lived for the awakening heart.
In August I will begin a transition towards exploring urban contexts and practice communities, a period of extended solo retreat for inner reflection, and planning for my continued education as I clarify the vision of how I will continue to embody and share the Dharma. Though I will no longer be in residence at Wonderwell, I remain in support of the work of Natural Dharma Fellowship and Kagyu Thubten Choling monastery. As I alight in traveling shoes, I extend the invitation to all to stay connected via email and otherwise, to share in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (email@example.com).
It is good to see that Wonderwell is in compassionate and capable hands. Going forward, the team of Liz Monson, Chris Hall, Berry Shepherd, Michael Greenberg, Dan Gilner, and Donna Lewandowski will continue the work of sustaining Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in its unfolding potential as a study and practice center.
With a heart brimming to Lama Willa and the circle of Natural Dharma Fellowhsip, I bow to all of your courage and beauty expressed with grace in this practice of awakening.
Lama Samten Bryn Dawson
EcoSattva Tip of the Month, From Dan Gilner:
Our world continues to face increased drought caused by a shifting climate. This drought not only effects us here in the United States but is a serious issue confronting our brothers and sisters all over the planet. New NASA studies show that unsustainable use of the worlds fresh water resources, both above and below ground are causing our world to actually run out of fresh water.
Saving water is thus not only important for those in areas of drought, but allows us to stand in mindful solidarity with the areas and people’s of our precious planet that are struggling with access to fresh water. This mindful use from all of us helps to create a new paradigm of water use and water resources management.
As we go through our day to day life, there are many actions that we can take to deeply connect with the kindness of water:
— Drink local water: Drinking local water is of paramount importance. Bottled water is not only a massive source of plastic pollution and waste, but it furthers an industry that both wastes and displaces ground water resources in an environmentally destructive way. The United States has phenomenal municipal water, and it is almost certain that what is coming out of your tap is much healthier than what is coming out of the bottle.
— Upgrade to water efficient appliances: All of our appliances have a life-span, when they fail and it is time to replace them, investing in appliances that are both energy and water efficient can go a long way to saving water (Toilets, faucets, and showers combined use nearly 70% of a households water usage, with toilets accounting for 30%).
— Transition from watering lawns by hose watering or sprinkler system watering, to EPA certified WaterSense sprinkler systems. These can save a house using an irrigated water system (such as a sprinkler system) around 9,000 gallons per year (http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/outdoor.html).
Monthly Words of Wisdom:
“We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.”
— Kalu Rinpoche
There will be no Dharma Sunday in July but please stay tuned for listening opportunities for the next Dharma Sunday in August.
Wonderwell Garden Updates
Summer is in full swing at Wonderwell! Our vegetable garden is currently yielding produce that we are utilizing for meals in our retreats. This is a great aspect of Wonderwell’s current sustainability initiatives, and is also providing our retreatants with fresh, organic, low/no impact delicious produce!
Please contact us if you are interested in opportunities to come work in the vegetable and Mandala gardens. We hope you can come share in these outdoor contemplative practices that connect us to our beautiful natural environment, and our food systems.