By Peggy Rowe-Ward in February 2018
Jayna Gieber, one of my great Dharma sisters and friends on the path, passed away at 12:30 a.m. on October 18, 2017 due to metastasized pancreas cancer. She made her transition with her beloved husband Jonny, daughters, granddaughters, cat, and dog. Her family brought to her home in Battle Ground, Washington. She died peacefully surrounded with love. The speed of her transition has stunned all of us. We are grateful that the spirit carried her with such grace and ease.
Jayna has Native American spiritual roots and did training with Joanna Macy in addition to being a Reverend. She attended her first retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh in 2004 and received the Five Mindfulness Trainings in our tradition. She traveled to Vietnam with Thay in 2005, and was ordained into the Order of Interbeing and received the Dharma name, True Recollection of the Mindfulness Trainings, the same year. She also attended a summer retreat at Plum Village and numerous retreats at Deer Park monastery, and participated in retreats in Oregon and trainings with many Dharma teachers, including Larry and myself. She was one of the founders of the Earth Holder Sangha and had been in leadership in several Sanghas in her area since 2004.
Jayna practiced deeply with her despair and heart break connected with the ongoing destruction of Mother Earth. She took her despair and moved it into spiritual activism. For the past five years in Portland, Oregon, she was actively engaged in public outreach connected to deep ecology, which included public speaking, peace marches, and flash mob sits. In 2014, she was selected to be on Al Gore’s team, where she was recognized as a minister in the climate activism movement, and was trained to be an eco-warrior in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Jayna celebrated over thirty-five years of sobriety. She was open and honest about her past experience with addiction, and her transformative journey into healing and wholeness. Jayna previously survived breast and skin cancer, and wrote a book, Snatched from the Fire, about her life journey. She was working on a book on her stories with Thich Nhat Hanh.
We submitted her application for Dharma Teacher in our tradition, and she was being considered for the next transmission ceremony.
I was a mentor and spiritual guide supporting Jayna for thirteen years. I am heartbroken and also filled with love of Jayna and for Jayna. Jayna was emotionally mature, wise, stable, kind, and fun. She worked hard to transform her despair about climate change into spiritual activism. When she ran into a brick wall in life or in her practice, she called and we sat with these places. It has been my honor to have a friend who shared her highs, lows, challenges, and delights.
Jayna and Jonny practiced deeply with their love, and they adored each other. They lived and loved beautifully, enjoyed their two daughters and took great delight in their granddaughters. I know her granddaughters will retain some of their adventures, as Jayna brought them to silent sits, peace marches, garden crafting, soap making, and all kinds of Sangha celebrations.
The week before she passed away, Jayna shared with her family: “I don’t want to leave you guys, but I am choosing to believe that I am not really leaving you.” In her final days, she also shared that “love is all that matters. I love everybody.”
- Peggy Rowe, True Original Vow
Jayna’s openness, her willingness to ask for input and guidance, as well as her deep aspiration to bring the issues of climate change and mindfulness practice together as a Sangha have touched me. Jayna recognized the fire energy in her relationship with activism and looked into this with the clear aspiration to practice peace is the way. Many people gravitated toward Jayna during the retreats at Deer Park. I feel she is an elder in our Order of Interbeing community.”
- Brother Phap Ho (Brother Protection), abbot at Deer Park Monastery
I got to know Jayna when I mentored her to be ordained into the Order of Interbeing in 2004. She reminded me of our teacher, in that behind her gentle and deeply loving way was a fierce determination to care for all beings and especially Mother Earth. She held the promise of making things right so deeply in her heart that she inspired us to show up, ask the hard questions, and do the work of transformation. She walked her path with courage, joy, and wisdom. I have loved her for all these years and that love is now more precious than ever.
- Barbara Casey, True Spiritual Communication