Open Door Dharma Circles
Open Door via Zoom
June 2022 schedule. All are welcome, no charge.
- WEDNESDAYS | 8:00–9:00 am
- SUNDAY June 12 | 8:30–10:00 am
- SUNDAY June 25 | 8:30–10:00 am
- All times are Pacific Daylight time
[NOTE: Occasional in-person gatherings will be offered in Portland through 2022.]
Open Door Dharma gatherings offer simple refuge–a time away from roles and day-to-day drama, to connect with our deeper selves and find our ground in shared practice. We open with chanting and reflections on dharma teachings. Quiet meditations then open to dharma-flavored sharing and Q & A. Practicing together cultivates ease, balance, resilience, and compassion.
Contact us for updates or more information.
Open Door Dharma Circles
On Zoom, seeing and hearing each other “live” supports our sense of community, despite physical distance. If you prefer to keep your camera off, you’re welcome to turn your camera off, or put up a photo or image up of something you love to represent yourself.
Background: Living Earth has offered workshops, residential retreats, and meditations since 2000. With deep appreciation and affection for the decades of teachings of Ram Dass, we embrace the wisdom of Eastern and Western spiritual paths. Our Open Door practice reflects Buddhist principles and practices along with devotional aspects of Hinduism, woven with threads from the Abrahamic religions and indigenous Earth-centered traditions.
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Living Earth’s Open Door Dharma programs are offered by Betsy Toll. Betsy met Ram Dass in Los Angeles in 1985, and worked intermittently with him on a project for Seva Foundation in 1986-87. Since then, in addition to Ram Dass, she studied with Joanna Macy, Frank Ostaseski, Roshi Joan Halifax, and other pioneers on the western dharma path. In 1988, Betsy moved to Oregon with her husband and small daughter, working in environmental and social change activities and bringing Ram Dass to Portland for workshops and lectures. She founded Living Earth in 1998, and for nearly 20 years offered retreats at Breitenbush Hot Springs until 2020. She began volunteering in hospice and chaplaincy in 2008, and in 2016, Ram Dass gave her the name Anjani, for the mother of Hanuman, embodiment of selfless service and compassion. She continues to offer programs in the Portland area.
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What is this path or tradition?
In the 1960s, countless Western seekers were drawn to the Himalayan foothills searching for a wisdom or depth of meaning that Western culture didn’t seem to offer. By the magic that seems to abound in India, many encountered a barefoot Indian sage known as Neem Karoli Baba (affectionately called Maharajji). At Maharajji’s feet, they drawn to the timeless path he embodied of devotion, service, and love. One of those seekers was an American named Richard Alpert, who in time became renowned as Ram Dass.)
Maharajji’s path of love and service — engaged spirituality — offers the possibility of being active in our daily roles and responsibilities, without forgetting who we really are. We only need to clean away the heavily layered, habituated identities we’ve adopted in the course of our lives so our essential nature — our Buddha nature, or our soul as Ram Dass called it — can softly shine. It’s just that simple for some folks, but for most, the process is gradual and can sometimes feel endlessly hard. Going off track, forgetting, or giving up can happen over and over. That’s where the value of community and belonging, a satsang, comes in.
In Open Door Dharma gatherings, our tapestry of spiritual threads includes Buddhist and Hindu wisdom and devotional practices, interwoven with threads of Western understanding, our personal spiritual origins, and the world’s enduring spiritual traditions. These combine to make up the fertile ground in which true service arises.
All backgrounds, experience, and curiosity are welcome. Sweet singing voices and creaking rusty pipes all chant together. Longtime practitioners sit alongside new friends just stopping by to see what this all about. Together we’re learning how contemporary Western dharma, with roots in ancient global traditions, can be fruitful in our lives, here and now.
About Ram Dass
In the mid 1960s, Richard Alpert was a highly regarded Harvard psychology professor who, after a couple of years, was fired for his early experimentations with psychedelic substances. Picking up the pieces, he was soon among the very first wave of post-war Westerners who went to India and eventually found themselves sitting at Maharajji’s feet in the Kumaon foothills of the Himalayas. From the former professor’s first encounter with Neem Karoli Baba, his life was changed–the rest, as they say, is history.
Maharajji gave Richard Alpert the name Ram Dass, meaning Servant of God. In India, Ram Dass immersed himself in meditation, studies, and practices that loosen our attachment to, or our stuckness in, separate ego-identified roles. When he returned to the U.S. in 1969, countless students and scholars, housewives, hippies, activists, and artists from all backgrounds flocked to hear what he was teaching now. Ram Dass’s workshops, retreats, lectures, interviews, and books skillfully blended his intellectual clarity and sense of humor with devotion, insight, and compassion. His commitment to the fundamental teaching to love and serve everyone and remember God reflected his surrender to his guru.
Spiraling forward, Ram Dass continued to lecture, write, and open hearts around the world. In the late 1970s and ’80s, his pioneering work with hospice, death, and dying finely honed his understanding of service.
With colleagues in Seva Foundation, Ram Dass supported innovative international public health programs restoring sight to the blind in India and Nepal and developed service programs and environmental project supporting underprivileged communities in the U.S., Mexico, and Native American communities. Touring widely, he encouraged formation of scores of small service groups across North America, who in turn shaped a range of locally responsive, heart-centered service programs wherever they lived. His engagement in the 1980s in the development of holistic, sustainable business principles influenced a generation of idealistic entrepreneurs and public servants. Service in myriad forms was Ram Dass’s vehicle for deepening his spiritual awareness throughout his life.
After experiencing a catastrophic, near-fatal stroke in 1996, Ram Dass continued his work from a wheelchair, writing and teaching for another 23 years, pouring himself into service until his death in December 2019. Ram Dass’s life work of more than a dozen books and countless articles can readily be found online and in bookstores and libraries. A great array of additional material from conversations, letters, lectures, and countless notes is also being collected, housed, and made publicly available at ramdass.org.