In September, a breakthrough occurred in our search for a property to begin a rural retreat center and community. Real estate developer Pritam Singh, who developed the award-winning and environmentally sound Truman Annex community in Key West, Florida, as well as many other properties, has offered to help in our efforts. After practicing in another spiritual tradition for more than twenty years, Pritam came upon Peace Is Every Step and Thich Nhat Hanh's other books and felt a deep conviction to practice and to help share the practice of mindful living widely. To our great joy, Pritam has offered his time and the resources of The Singh Companies as a gift to work with us establishing and developing this center. On December I, at Airlie Conference Center in Warrenton, Virginia, Sangha members from Washington D.C., Charlottesville, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and even Paris, joined Pritam, architect Guy Grassie, and Pritam's assistant, Ken Braverman, to discuss the functions such a center might serve, the forms it might take, and the process for accomplishing this. We began with sitting meditation. Anh Huong Nguyen then read a statement by Thfty about starting a retreat center. Therese Fitzgerald, Pritam, and I shared introductory thoughts, and then we met for the rest of the morning in small groups to set our visions down on easel paper and in discussion. We concluded the morning with walking meditation (indoors-it was a cold December rain outside). After a beautiful lunch, begun in silence, followed by mindful conversation, we spent the entire afternoon as a large group continuing the discussion on where we go from here. We finished with a short period of sitting. All of us had the sense that our dream was getting closer to reality, in terms of property and in terms of community building.
A similar meeting was held in Mill Valley, California, on December 15. In addition to talking about a national retreat center in Virginia, we also talked about the possibility of finding a small house and beginning a practice "corner" in the Bay Area. This seems to be a topic all over the world. Sangha members in Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Montana, and several other places have recently shared with us their thoughts about starting a small center, or as Thfty has said, "Zen corner."
A full report on our plans and our progress to date will be available soon. If you would like a copy, please send a 9x12 self-addressed, stamped envelope. Then do let us hear your comments. We very much look forward to proceeding together with you.
Arnie Kotler, for the Community of Mindful Living