Open Door Dharma Circles
The Zoom link is open a few minutes before each session. All are welcome, no charge.
May-June 2022 schedule
- 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
Open Door Dharma gatherings offer simple refuge–time away from roles and day-to-day drama, to connect with our deeper nature and find our ground n shared practice. Our usual format opens with chanting, followed by brief reflection on dharma teachings and quiet meditation. Practicing together cultivates ease, balance, resilience, and compassion.
Small in-person gatherings in Southeast Portland will be scheduled this summer.
Contact us for updates or more information.
Open Door Dharma Circles
Our dharma gatherings open with a period of simple chanting (participants mics are muted). Dharma reflections and a period of silent meditation follow. On longer Sunday sessions, we have a few minutes before closing for community check-ins, announcements, or questions related to practice and the teachings.
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.
Living Earth has offered residential retreats, meditations, and workshops since 2004. With deep appreciation and affection for the decades of teachings of Ram Dass, we embrace the wisdom of teachers trained in 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 founder Betsy Toll first met Ram Dass in Los Angeles in 1985, and had the opportunity to work with him on a project for Seva Foundation in 1986. Her own path took a turn at that point, and in the decades since then, she has studied with Joanna Macy, Frank Ostaseski, Roshi Joan Halifax, and other pioneers on the western dharma path. Her connections to those teachers flowed from her relationship to Ram Dass over the years. For 15 years Betsy offered workshops at Breitenbush Hot Springs, in Oregon, until it was nearly destroyed in a 2020 wildfire. She continues to offer programs in the Portland area.
What is this path?
More than fifty years ago, countless Western seekers were drawn to the Himalayan foothills in search of a wisdom or depth of meaning that Western culture seemed to have lost. By the magic that seems to abound in India, many encountered a barefoot Indian sage known as Neem Karoli Baba (affectionately called Maharaji). At Maharaji’s feet, they were immersed in 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.)
Maharaji’s path of deep love and engaged spirituality offers us the possibility to be active in our daily roles and responsibilities, but 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, begins to softly shine. “Only” can be just that simple, and it can also sometimes feel so hard. Going off track, forgetting, or giving up isn’t uncommon. We come to realize that satsang or sangha–our conn
ection with others who are following the same or a similar path–is of immeasurable value as we go along.
In Open Door Dharma gatherings, our tapestry of spiritual practice and service includes Buddhist wisdom, Hindu devotional practices, chanting and meditation, woven together with threads of the world’s enduring spiritual traditions. Together these make up the fertile ground from which true service arises.
All backgrounds, experience, and curiosity are welcome. Sweet voices and creaking pipes all chant together. Longtime devotees and practitioners join friends just beginning their spiritual exploration. Together we’re learning how contemporary Western dharma, with roots in ancient Eastern traditions, can flourish and be fruitful in our lives, here and now.
In the late 1960s, a one-time Harvard psychology professor named Dr. Richard Alpert was among the first wave of Westerners who went to India seeking a deeper meaning and understanding of life that western culture didn’t offer. Many of them eventually found themselves sitting at Maharajji’s feet in the Kumaon foothills of the Himalayas. From the professor’s first encounter with Neem Karoli Baba, his life was changed–and the rest is history, as they say.
Maharajji gave Richard Alpert the Hindu name Ram Dass, which means Servant of God. In India, Ram Dass immersed himself deeply in meditation, knowledge, and practices that loosen our attachment to separate ego-identified roles. He brought Maharajji’s teachings back to the US, where countless students and scholars, housewives and hippies, activists and artists from all backgrounds were ripe to listen. The counterculture generation of that era flocked to Ram Dass’s workshops, retreats, lectures, interviews, and books, where his intellectual clarity and sense of humor blended 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 from that time, Ram Dass’s work continued to echo and open hearts around the world. In the late 1970s and ’80s, his work with death and dying further honed his understanding of service. His engagement in the development of holistic, sustainable business principles influenced a generation of idealistic entrepreneurs and public servants.
With colleagues in Seva Foundation, Ram Dass supported innovative international public health programs restoring sight to the blind in India and Nepal and developed programs to serve underprivileged communities in the U.S. and Mexico. Touring widely, he encouraged the creation of scores of small service groups across North America to shape a range of locally relevant, heart-centered service programs wherever they lived.
Service was Ram Dass’s vehicle for deepening his spiritual immersion in Maharajji’s wisdom throughout his life, even after experiencing a catastrophic, near-fatal stroke in 1996. He continued writing and teaching from his wheelchair for more than 20 years, pouring himself into service until his death on December 22, 2019.
Ram Dass’s life work of books and articles can readily be found online and in bookstores and libraries. A great array of additional material from conversations, letters, lectures, and countless notes are being housed and made publicly available electronically at ramdass.org.