Centre Schedule

Song from the Northwest

Sunshine Coast Retreat House News

November 2015

Moving on, and on, and on . . .

Yesterday our friend Syd said to us “You’re going already?  You just got here!”  Yup.  Welcome to our world.  We’re in the countdown to another departure to New Zealand.  What a full summer it has been here in the northwest rainforest . . .

Drought and Fire and Flowering . . .

Our beautiful rainforest home was feeling the stress of lower-than-usual rainfall in the winter and a dry, dry spring when we returned in late May.  We had serious drought water-rationing for most of the summer, with no outdoor water use allowed, and we stretched limited gray water and prayed to the devas to keep our precious plant companions alive.  Now, of course, the fall rains are drenching us, the streams on our forest walks are in full flood and the soundscape is alive with the glorious sounds of water, water everywhere.

Grief.  For the garden and the forest, yes.  But everyone in our Roberts Creek community responded to the terrible death of a young, talented and charismatic young man.  We didn’t know Daniel, and that in itself is a sad thing, but we strongly felt and met with the tsunami of emotion that swept through our Roberts Creek community.  Forty-five days of Bardo prayers.  “From beginningless time until now . . .”

 Joy.  The brightness of Sybrand Kamermans and wide-eyed baby Kai, visiting from New Zealand, lifted our hearts.  Their visit brought Sara Fitzpatrick, her son Oso and partner Scott through the garden gate.  Carlie Sanford and Ben Jones got married — the “real” wedding down the road and later in the day, very simple, private marriage blessings in our garden.  So lovely to feel the grace and optimism and courage of young couples (and their children) in our space again.  Our neighbourhood is filled with happy changes as five new families settle in.  Last night was the first time we’ve had Hallowe’en trick-or-treaters in many years.

Anxiety.  We woke up one morning to an orange sky and smoke from a large forest fire burning a very short distance from Sechelt.  A strange beginning for an anapanasati retreat.  How vulnerable our environment is; how much we take having enough water for granted.  All over BC fires ruled the summer.  One courageous human life cut short fighting “our” fire brought home how much we owe to those who place themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe.  We have no way to know how many animals, birds, reptiles and insects lost homes or perished, how many micro-organisms vanished as the fire penetrated deeply into the forest floor.

 Beauty.  Meditators in the garden, some budding, some in full bloom.  Brandon Schwinn managing the kitchen.  The majesty of the Buddha’s teachings, of Namgyal Rinpoche’s expression of them, Bonni’s skill leading all beings to the festive board of liberation.  Re-connecting with deeply valued friends on Vancouver Island.  Work projects showing up for Matthew in a most unexpected way.  Idaho wilderness retreat with The Open Path.  First time published in a book!  Small contribution to a film on healing.  Tender new connections in the local indigenous community forming . . . We are so blessed, so very grateful.

The Dance of Dharma . . .

There is visible maturing taking place.  Thirteen years of consistent, persistent practice makes for magnificent retreat work.  The complexity of all four layers of Satipatthana opened up beautifully for people in our first workshop in June.  Skillful steps of tranquility waltzed effortlessly into the power of insight in the July retreat, and tangoed into the healing warmth of loving kindness in August.

Matthew has guided the regular Tuesday night group since then as they integrate experience ‘on the cushion’ into kinder, deeper observation and interaction in daily life. Chenreizig sadhana practice continues to generate the quality of radiant support that is the lifeblood of this centre . . . like a circle dance, including everyone.  We’ve also reviewed the Kargyu Ngondro with the help of Dzongsar Khenytse Rinpoche’s tough little book NOT FOR HAPPINESS, and created new, cunning methods for geriatric prostrations!

The life and influence of Namgyal Rinpoche, which we celebrate every year in October, inspired a Red Manjusri/Sarasvati retreat.  Since four of the dozen of us were fresh from a month of this practice at Wangapeka in April, it was smokin’ hot jazz.

Last weekend, at UBC in Vancouver, the INDRA’S JEWELLED NET workshop unfolded the profound interconnection of all that lives.  If only everyone could catch a single glimpse of what human being truly is, and commit to that potential in oneself and others — how quickly our actions would align with wisdom and compassion!


And while we’re gone until June . . .

Deep bows to Karen Meredith, our dear friend and Dharma sister from Ottawa, Feldenkrais practitioner and long-time meditator, who will come for a short retreat and stay on to support and learn in our community for eight winter weeks.  It’s fortunate for us that Karen is able to tele-commute in her day job!
Our small band of loyal friends will continue to care for the house, meeting and practicing together weekly and sharing with the Vancouver group once a month.  Without their support, on every level, this place of transformation would disappear.  Deep bows to all!



Press Release for new book with articles by
Bonni Ross
Cecilie Kwiat

Sumeru announces publication of:


Voices of Canadian Buddhist Women

Lotus Petals in the Snowis the result of outreach extended across Canada with the goal of bringing together the work of scholars and stories from practitioners,                                               scholar-practitioners,Dharma students, teachers, nuns and laywomen. With pieces covering a vast landscape of experiences, this book is one of the few to focus entirely on the voices of Canadian Buddhist Women.

Book Cover

 The book, organized alphabetically, offers up stories of motherhood, grief, travel, art, the universal nature of suffering and several works dedicated to notable teachers and organisations who have left a profound impact upon the participants’ lives.


Each story is authentic and demonstrates the uniquely feminine voices of girls, mothers, goddesses, crones, dakinis, nuns, bhikkhunis and all of the various emanations of the female form (both in the absolute and relative sense of the word). These may all just be convenient labels though, as a good story is a good story regardless of gender but reclaiming our voices as women who have been rendered silent in many domains –  including Buddhism, does deliver collective power.


This book was produced in the gift economy. Contributors donated their works. Profits from online sales are being donated to the Buddhist Compassion Tzu Chi Foundation of Canada and all profits from direct sales support local Dharma activities across Canada


Tanya McGinnity, editor

ISBN 978-1-896559-22-3 (pbk)

$19.95 USD, 218 pages, royal octavo (6.14” x 9.21”)

News Update 2015

March 2015

Hello everyone,

Well, it has only taken three years to get the two-countries newsletter thing sorted out!

We have been in New Zealand since November last year, and are having a very full experience of friendship, community and teaching. Adjusting our arrival-departure schedule to accommodate visa requirements and a more sensible rental cycle for our kindly landlords, Jane Hobday, Graham Sandlant and Sybrand Kamermans, meant we had some badly need rest and recuperation time.

We were very fortunate to “land” at David and Judy Pooch’s bach on the water near Matakana . . . the perfect combination of quiet rest with nearby foodie heaven! Somewhat restored, we headed off on the first tour of Northland for both of us. Rural New Zealand has a timeless quality that always restores us. Our first encounter with the massive Kauri trees that once covered much of the land was profound. All ancient beings convey their power, and these threatened forest masters, visited at twilight as the whole forest was coming to rest, wove tendrils into our hearts.

Cape Reinga, enclosed in strangely shifting mist, was our turnaround point . . . there’s nowhere else on land to go. We sat in stillness at the spot where, in Maori tradition, departed ones leave this life in this land. We had landed in Auckland to the news that an old friend’s son had died, and our daily prayers for his journey and his mother’s well-being deepened as we felt into this transition space between worlds.

December was a month of people connections, slowly settling into the familiar rhythm of our home here. We were happy to meet Kai Skywalker Fakan, now 5+ months old as you can see below . . . nearly born born at Toi Toi House, good as! Our first community picnic revealed a big transformation in the demographics of the group, with more young families changing it up for the old wrinkly people!

After Christmas we headed to Wangapeka for the annual Garden of Mindfulness community retreat. Inspiring, fun, rich with learning and sharing . . . we were only able to stay for a few days, but you can have a taste of the whole, if you like. Anna Wilde crafted this video which captures the whole GOM spirit:

In January, it was time to get to work! What an amazing program the Gangstars (our splendid organizing group . . . Jane Hobday, Kath Mitchell, Ramona Clark, Diane Johnston and Chani Grieve) worked hard to create. Prepare to be amazed, as we still are:

annual Study Group exploration, continuing with Western Mysteries, this year focussing on the Qabbalistic Tree of Life;
two weeks of Anapanasati (Meditation on Breathing) retreat, emphasizing the transition from development of tranquility to insight;
boat cruise, picnic and hike in Abel Tasman National Park with our friend Cyrese Lingard, from Boise Idaho, Jane Hobday, Kath Mitchell and Mark Schrader
Monday morning Chenreizig practice and Wednesday evening silent meditation at Toi Toi House;
overview of Satipatthana (the Four Foundations of Mindfulness) in weeknight classes and intensive weekend workshops;
a week-long Introductory Retreat at Wangapeka;
introduction to Vajrayana, again a month of weeknight classes and weekend workshops
weekend exploring Ngondro at Wangapeka coming up on Friday.

Woven into all this . . . a flying trip to Christchurch for gastronomic indulgence to celebrate Matthew’s birthday and a wonderful month long visit with Bonni’s son, Quinn Arnfield. What a pleasure it was to introduce him to our New Zealand world.

April will be retreat month at Wangapeka, continuing to explore the relationship between form and emptiness as we have been doing for the past three years. This year, the theme is Sound and Silence. A big surprise will be the wind harp crafted by Matthew and Chani Grieve (with inspiration and unhelpful meddling from Bonni.) Stay tuned . . . there might be a sound clip before this is finished. We’re excited that Canadian students Brandon Schwinn, Marie-Andree Papineau and Sarju Sooch will be joining us.

In May we’ll conclude the Nelson teaching program with a Living the Dharma city retreat focussed on kindness and compassion, followed by the opportunity to receive (or refresh) the Bodhisattva Vow. Then packing . . .

Back in Roberts Creek in June! We have a full retreat program planned through the summer into fall. Here’s the program outline:

Summer/Fall Retreats 2015


Overview of Satipatthana — Mindfulness as Foundation
Residential and Non-Residential
June 13 and 14 — 9 am to 4 pm

Familiarity with mindfulness in mainstream culture is a wonderful support for more wholesome living. This complete path of liberation through awareness training was originally offered by Sakyamuni Buddha in the Satipatthana and Mahasatipatthana sutras. These complex and subtle teachings are fundamental to all traditions of Buddhadharma, but we don’t often have the opportunity to fully appreciate the vastness of the matrix they provide.

In this workshop, we’ll outline the scope of the work and have an opportunity to practise the basics and share. Our skill with this “foundation work” is the essential element that can enhance (or undermine) our spiritual journey.

Anapanasati 1 — Deepening Tranquility
Residential and Non-Residential
July 4 to 16- Residents arrive on Friday, July 3 between 3 and 6 pm
First class Saturday, July 4; last class Thursday, July 16, 8 am

We live; we breathe. As long as we can breathe, and know we are breathing, we can practice. The meditation on breathing (Anapanasati) is an accessible, profound meditation that is a complete path-in-itself.

One-pointedness of mind is the fundamental skill on which all of Sakyamuni Buddha’s practices rest. This retreat will emphasize accessing deeper levels of calm. It is open to all.

Residential spaces will be offered first to those who plan to attend this retreat and the following retreat.

Anapanasati 2 — Cultivation of Insight
Residential only, attendance at prior retreat required
July 17 to 23
First class Friday, July 17; last class Thursday, July 23, 8 am

Building on the foundation of calm — samatha — established in the previous retreat, the practice will shift in emphasis to direct seeing — vipassana — with the support of mindfulness — satipatthana.
Loving Kindness — Spacious Heart, Open Mind
Residential and Non-residential
July 31 to August 9 — Residents arrive Friday, July 31 between 3 & 6 pm
First class Saturday, August 1; last class Sunday, August 9, 8 am

The warm, expansive quality of metta both soothes and invigorates us. It arises so naturally in some situations and vanishes so completely when we feel misunderstood, threatened or ignored. We’ll put cultivation of this state in formal practice to the test — through individual creative activities, and a dash of psycho-drama.

Introduction to Ngondro — Vajrayana Foundation Work
Residential and Non-Residential
September 26 and 27, 9 am to 4 pm

For those who have a current student-teacher relationship with Bonni.

Manjusri — Discriminative Wisdom Mind
Residential and non-Residential — Pre-requisite 100,000 Chenreizig mantras
October 2 to 11 — Residents arrive Friday, October 2 between 3 and 6 pm
First Class Saturday, October 3; last class Sunday, October 11, 8 am

An element of mystery . . . which form of Manjusri will we practice? The only way to find out will be to attend this retreat!

Application Process
We continue our quest to simplify things!

Deadline for application for all retreats and both workshops is June 1. If there is space, late applications will be considered.

Space is limited to 3 residents plus 1 service person and 8 non-residents. A waiting list will be maintained, so please be patient.

Deposits are required to hold a space for you. Deposit amounts are:
$20 for each of the weekend workshops — Satipatthana and Ngondro.
$50 for each of the retreats.

To apply:
1. Email your request to John Wellwood john.wellwood@telus.net with a copy to rhouse@telus.net Please remember that registering for a retreat is a commitment, not a hope!

2. Mail your deposit cheque, payable to Sunshine Coast Retreat House, to: John Wellwood, 703-1616 West 13th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6J 2G8