The bell rings. I open my eyes. The light of morning pours in my window. I lay in my bed conscious of becoming awake to another new day in the desert. As I sit upright and leave the warmth of my sleeping bag, I notice the cooler air all around me and hurry to get dressed in warm clothing. January in the desert can be windy and cold in the morning and evening. Stepping outside, I feel the briskness of the wind this morning as it blows my hair all about my face. The horizon comes into view and l am aware of a beautiful blend of colors—purples, blues, oranges, pinks and a bright globe emerging over the mountain shapes. Standing on the earth I notice the hardness and solidity that supports my weight, so often taken for granted. At that moment I realize . . . “I am breathing.” I feel whole and peaceful as I experience my own aliveness, the sand beneath me, and the dry air around me. I am really present for this moment.
Dharnma Dena is located near Joshua Tree, California, in the high desert, surrounded by mountains. It has grown from a few vacation cabins in the beginning to a comfortable complex of buildings for retreat purposes now. Over the past several years, facilities have been added, enlarged and remodeled including a recently enlarged meditation hall, through the generous labors and dana of Ruth Denison and her students. This process is an integral part of Dhamma Dena and has allowed it to grow very naturally as its needs demanded. There are often positions for older students to stay as managers, builders and/or cooks.
Accommodations consist of dormitories and a few private rooms and cabins. If arrangements are made in advance, it is possible to accommodate a family with children in a private cabin. Deliciously prepared, simple, balanced vegetarian meals are provided.
The famous hot pool and saunas at nearby Desert Hot Springs help soothe and relax tense bodies and minds. And the desert itself offers hikes and vistas unobstructed by trees and dense population . . . lots of wide open spaces. The openness, warmth and fresh air of the desert environment soon penetrate within, as well.
For information regarding scheduled retreats or self and work retreats, visit www.dhamadena.org.