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We wish you Happy Losar (Tibetan New Year), which is celebrated on March 2. May you enter the new year with enthusiasm, joy, and determination to cultivate your love, compassion, and wisdom!

Our winter enews is usually short because we’re in retreat and every day is pretty much the same. Our daily schedule has five meditation sessions and a study session each day—snow or shine, no days off (because there’s no day off from cyclic existence). So there’s not a lot of exciting news to tell you, except that our minds and hearts are changing, slowly, gradually. We’re enjoying the beauty of living in community and the natural beauty of the Abbey.

May all of you experiencing a cold winter with lots of snow stay warm; may everyone who, like us, is concerned with the lack of precipitation this winter have snowfall and rainfall; and may all of you in Australia beat the heat.

Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Winter Retreat
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The first month of retreat was great! We were sad to say good-bye to the seven guests who came for the one-month retreat. They were a great group: they not only were eager in their Dharma practice, but they were also harmonious, cooperative, and all pitched in to help with daily tasks such as washing dishes. All of them took refuge and precepts or renewed the precepts they had taken before. And all of them did the aspiring bodhicitta ceremony, pledging never to give up bodhicitta.

At the concluding go-around, the retreatants shared what they had gained from the retreat and expressed their appreciation for having had this great opportunity. Some of them observed that doing retreat really bolstered their self-confidence; others said it gave them a chance to do some “internal housecleaning” and to finally resolve and set aside disturbing thoughts and feelings. Heather shared her insights on “ Dropping Our Garbage” in a Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talk.

To culminate the retreat, we did Lama Chopa puja and tsog together, and then the retreatants stood up and bowed to the sangha with great sincerity.

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Retreat from Afar
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From time to time, we hear from the participants who are doing the Retreat from Afar. There are over 200 of them in 17 countries: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia, England, France, India, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and USA. They are doing well and appreciate this opportunity. Here is a sampling of their correspondence:

“My experience with the Vajrasattva Retreat from Afar so far has been so valuable. For years I’ve placed memories of wrong mind, wrong speech, and wrong actions each in a sack, pulled the drawstring tight, and then placed them on a shelf where I hopefully would not think of them. Venerable Chodron’s message leading us to open those drawstrings; to regret the thought, speech, or action; and to let Vajrasattva purify is so powerful. Many of my sacks are open, and I am able to focus on not repeating (these negativities).”

“I live in Israel, in the Galilee—not far from Nazareth. I have joined the Retreat from Afar every year since 2008. Every year I think to myself that this year it will be impossible for me to join you, since my life is so busy. But I cannot let this precious opportunity slip by, so I join you anyway. The amazing thing that happen every year is that throughout the retreat, no matter how busy I am, there is an hour gap for this practice, and as the retreat ends, on that same day, even if I think to myself that I would like to continue doing the practice for a little longer, this gap disappears like a sand castle when the tide comes. This is how well you support us (me, at least) from afar.”

“I live in the UK in the most Southeastern corner, a place called Birchington-on-Sea. I initially committed myself to one month, but I would like to carry on, as I feel I’m only just getting warmed up.”

“I am enjoying doing Vajrasattva through all the mental ups and downs. A funny example: today I read a journal entry from 2 years ago and I was feeling the exact same insecurity struggles I felt today, even though today I am in Ethiopia! What a perfect example that it really is all in our head, not in the external situation! I am living in the Bale Mountains in southwest Ethiopia as a member of the Peace Corp.”

“I am a very elderly lady living in a small rural village in South West Scotland. I was so grateful to come across Sravasti Abbey in my delvings into Buddhist sites.”

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Since we’ve been deepening our practice in retreat this winter, we haven’t been out and about teaching the Dharma. However, with some of the community finishing retreat on March 17 and the rest on April 14—and with the monastic varsa retreat ending April 15—we will soon be sharing the Dharma at other locations.

Our classes in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene are coming up, and I will give several talks locally. Then I’ll be in the Midwest and East Coast—Milwaukee, Boston, Cleveland, and Chicago—in late March and early April.

In late April and early May, I’ll head to Australia to take part in the MITRA Conference: “Destination: Mindfulness” in Sydney and to teach in Brisbane, other Dharma centers in Sydney, and at Chenresig Institute. See the schedule at the end of this email for more information.

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Appreciation
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We are able to live and practice at the Abbey due to the kindness of many people. This becomes especially evident during retreat when people bring weekly food offerings and supplies.

One person even loaded all our recycling (we have lots of it) into his SUV and took it to the recycling center and also took our garbage to the dump. (Since the Abbey is in a rural area, we don’t have curbside garbage and recycling pickup.) We’re very grateful for all this help.

Jonathan, who was a community resident for over two years, returned to be our cook for the three-months; Cesar, who is still visiting from Mexico, is helping him. Having volunteer cooks makes it possible for all the residents to participate fully in the retreat, and we are grateful. Kuni and Mui from Spokane also come to cook from time to time, offering special dishes from their native Thailand.

Several people have been kindly sending us gifts lately—books, barley green, tissues, food, toilet paper, office supplies, and so forth—and we haven’t been able to thank you because we don’t know who you are! When you order things online and have them delivered to the Abbey, there’s no indication in the package who they’re from. So we apologize for not writing to thank you, and request that when you order something online for us that you drop us an email to let us know it’s coming. That way we can dedicate our merit for you and also thank you properly.

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Talented Friends
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Susan from Boise, ID has made comfy, warm slippers for the sangha and many of our guests, too. They’re great for keeping our feet warm in Chenrezig Hall. In addition, she’s made many slippers for Youth Emergency Services, our local organization to help the homeless teens in our area. Her personal effort to make all of these slippers by hand sends the message to the teens that we care about them.

Michelle just sent us a gorgeous homemade quilt (with matching pillow case) for Chenrezig Hall. Nathalie made an applique of Je Tsongkhapa that is hanging in Ananda Hall. And Sage offered a copper plaque of om mani padme hum in Tibetan lettering, that she made. What a group of talented and creative people that generously share their work with us and all our guests. Photos of these gifts are here.

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Our New Mailing Address
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After all these years of directing offerings and business correspondence to Seattle, we have now opened a secure post office box in our local town of Newport. Please change your address books.

Sravasti Abbey
PO Box 447
Newport, WA 99156-0447

Leah in Seattle has volunteered her amazing accounting skills since the inception of the Abbey and will continue to do this. Similarly, Susan, who pays the bills and monitors the accounts, has been our bookkeeping volunteer since the Abbey began. “Gratitude” isn’t a big enough word to encompass our appreciation for the integrity and stability that Leah and Susan have contributed to the Abbey’s financial recording and reporting over these years, and we thank them both.

As an important aside, the way our financial system is set up ensures that your donations are properly used and accounted for. The person who signs the checks (Susan) does not have access to the accounting books, and the accountant (Leah) cannot write checks or access the bank accounts. They even live in different states!

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SAFE & Other News
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As we prepare to share the Dharma abroad, we’re also getting ready for a new 12-week session of the Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) distance learning program, which begins April 29.

Feedback from the people who take the courses continues to come in. Carrie told us, “I can’t express my gratitude enough for this course. Please know that through my study, the Dharma is impacting my friends, family, co-workers and others as the compassion and kindness spreads like ripples of water on a still lake.”

Many people report that SAFE supports them to maintain a daily meditation practice and deepens their study. Check out the details and write the SAFE Coordinator to sign up.

In other news, Suzanne, who’s taken several of the SAFE courses, wrote to share about her brush with death.

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Losar Greetings

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