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”)