Why Cultivate Unshakeable Stability?
If there is a dimension of reality that is absolutely still, unmoving, the ground of being from which all existence flows, then what kind of mind would one need to be able to dwell in its presence?
AND HOW WOULD THAT HELP OUR WORLD?
After more than twenty years of study, practice, and preparation, I entered a long-term retreat in silence, solitude, and thousands of hours of meditation to try and find out.
Why Long Retreat?
Beginning in 2004, I spent three to eight weeks every year in solitary retreat, focusing on different aspects of the spiritual path in both Christian and Buddhist forms. While the experience of regular short retreats can be profound and life-changing, I saw how difficult it was to sustain the necessary subtlety – during an active daily life – in practices that were designed to evolve over the course of months and years in a stable retreat environment.
The key to meaningful retreat practice is to be able to focus entirely on meditation, until it is natural to sit unmoving for many hours at a time. This requires optimization of physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional energy, in order to offer greater and greater freedom to access the deeper layers of the mind. For that to take place, it is essential that there be no other demands pulling one's mind away from the practice.
In August 2017, I entered a retreat hermitage in the high desert of California's Eastern Sierras to begin a series of strict retreats: three months, six months, and so on, building up stamina, stability, fundamental balance, and inner silence. In September 2018, I moved off the grid to Colorado, where I stayed in two different remote retreat locations through the end of March 2020.
After successfully completing more than two-and-a-half years of retreat, and even as we were all reeling from the pandemic, I had the opportunity to assist my teacher, B. Alan Wallace, in founding a new retreat center in Crestone, Colorado, not far from where I had been in solitary retreat for so long.
This retreat center is called the Center for Contemplative Research at Miyo Samten Ling, which in Tibetan means the "Hermitage of Unwavering Samadhi." I have lived here as a resident teacher and full-time meditator since June 2020.
In March 2021, I was called out of strict retreat to become the Executive Director of the Center for Contemplative Research. I will serve in this role for the foreseeable future, while maintaining the lifestyle and consistent practice of a contemplative hermit.
Even when acting as a spiritual teacher, and now, as executive director of our nonprofit, I remain without formal income and rely on the generosity of donors. Therefore, if you feel drawn to it, I would be most grateful for your help to support my essential needs at Miyo Samten Ling. I have already discovered the power of a Circle of Support, in which many people, each offering a modest amount each month, have become directly involved in the purpose and enactment of my practice in solitude. Each one of you is included in my heart and daily prayers, as part of our united efforts to benefit our world in so many different ways.
Please see the Circle of Support page for details on how to make a regular monthly donation that will go directly to cover my personal expenses while serving our retreat hermitage and global mission.
As before, I will continue to take some time each year to emerge from my hermitage, and to share what I have learned – both as a scholar and as a practitioner – by leading short intensive courses and collaborating with Alan Wallace to lead longer group retreats. For the foreseeable future, these will all be held online. If you are interested in hosting such events within your own communities, whether Christian or Buddhist, please write to me from the Contact page.