Responsiveness

Letter to the community October 26th
As I creaked my way across the casita floor towards the threshold, something inside knew I’d gone far enough. So I didn’t step foot off the porch.

 

For days.

I sat there in waves of grief and gratitude.

Not really meditating.

Just giving this oversaturated body/mind/heart what it called out for.

 

Awake to the privilege that made this rest possible… 

I slept-in.

I watched the horizon, and soaked in birdsong.

Danced with the shimmering ponderosas in the wind.

Took-in the thunderous presence of Wild Horse Canyon.

 

There were so few of us humans on the land. And the deer sensed that space.

As a mama and her fawn nested by my casita, I realized what I was seeing.

The wild was reclaiming her place. 

 

This visit to the land was so different than the “pre-times.”

 

In the pre-times, I’d turn off onto that familiar, bumpy road (heart upwelling!), and go straight into teaching, into a meeting, or into retreat.

 

This… was a first.

 

This time, I brought a cooler and a camp stove. Some matches and a sleeping bag.

I cooked my meals and boiled water.

This time, I stepped out into thinner air and my body moved toward the land’s day-to-day stewards, Katya and Katie… Muscle memory that couldn’t be honored. An ache at the heart for keeping a distance.

 

I visited Vallecitos five times this year, to connect with staff and the land, both to work and to rest. Each time, the understanding of my white skin privilege soaked deeper. Understanding crossed the boundaries of these cells, deep into the matrix of my bones.

 

By pure accident of birth, I am of the White dominant class. Spared the violence Black and Brown bodies meet every day. And responsible for dismantling it.

 

Even with the protection of happenstance (…and design), the suffering of the world pierced that protective shield and took its toll on me.

I really needed to rest. And Vallecitos gave me that gift.

 

You may be hearing that call to rest. Or perhaps you did back in March when our world grinded to a halt.

 

Like me, some of you were able to heed the call. Some of you were forced into a state of non-doing that was a far cry from rest, some of you lost your jobs and have been out of work in a way that you did not choose. And for some of you — the nurses, EMTs, service workers, doctors, journalists, social workers, those who come from or care for vulnerated people — life turned up the volume. 

Too loud to take it all in.

A cacophony.

 

Parents became teachers.

Lovers became caregivers.

The elderly and immunocompromised were told, Shore-up your supports, but keep your distance.

Many faced intense loneliness and overwhelm.

 

Inequities rose.

Black and Brown people rose higher.

 

And now the anticipation of a certain Tuesday is weighing on my heart. Yours too, I imagine.

We are living in a time in which the thin veil of U.S. democracy is being lifted by the sweat, blood, and tears of Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color. It’s in front of our eyes. (White friends,) Are you taking it in?

 

Even in this vortex of uncertainty and groundlessness, you and I… we’ll keep rising. 

As a White woman who aspires to behave as an ally in each moment, I acknowledge that our roles in this uprising depend upon our lineages, and how our minds and bodies are doing.

 

BIPOC friends, it’s not my place to tell you your right role. What I can share is that I want Vallecitos to be a place where you can feel a deep welcome to cultivate the practices that bell hooks puts forth,

 

Awareness is central to the process of love as the practice of freedom.

 

What that means for you is yours alone. As Guiding Teacher, it is my deepest aspiration to build a refuge that offers you space for that exploration.

 

The poet Ruth Forman’s words embody so much of what I want to say to you in this moment:

i wish you abalone dreams

i wish you peace

i wish you doves in your kitchen

moonlight in your bathroom

candles when your eyes close and dawn when they open

i wish you so many arms across your shoulders

so many lips kissing your ears that you smile from the inconvenience

i wish you all your babies’ love attacking the center of your heart

just so you know they are there

 

…and, if you want, a warm cushion, chair, or floor space at Vallecitos when we can be together again.  

 

On the land and off the land, on the cushion and off the cushion… we will continue to rise to the undoing, the unlearning, and the space-making, the heart/mind decluttering that fertilizes a new groundcover to spread. With great devotion, we will unearth a way of being with ourselves and each other and this Mother Earth that we can’t yet conceive of. And in the meantime… we will grow our capacities to become warriors for Mother Earth.

 

One way we’re doing this is to make sure that Vallecitos is still here and ready for your return. Will you consider contributing to this effort?

 

Volunteers have been coming to the land to raise up the East Cabin. They’ve been planing felled trees and making them into new beams so that this historic structure can continue to be of use for our beloved staff. Board members have been on hands and knees digging individual thistles out of the ground — that’s what (organic) land stewardship looks like! And it looks like you sustaining Vallecitos through this uncertain period by offering a gift that is personally meaningful.

 

And as we prepare to gather again, it looks like me and the Vallecitos leadership sharing with the sangha about the First Peoples who put markings on the ponderosas that greet us. Making Vallecitos’ history whole by acknowledging the Ute and the Jicarilla Apache who stewarded this land for thousands of years before White settlers stole it. It looks like building and tending an altar –when we can gather on the land there again– that acknowledges these Peoples, the lineages that we teach from, and the lineages we come from.

 

Would you put your hand to heart and ask what you can offer to keep Vallecitos intact? For those of you who are struggling to pay rent and put food on your table, this request isn’t for you. Deep bows for enriching this sangha with your practice and your you-ness.

 

For those of you who have the means to offer a gift to this place of refuge, please do. Will you give a gift in the name of learning how to live with a responsive heart? I’m asking because your generosity… it’s needed.

 

As we grieve the suffering and anticipate the future with fear, will you join me in holding the joy, too? Let’s rejoice, even for a single moment, in the beauty of our sangha and the sacred gifts of the land. Help this beauty live on today with a gift.

 

With love,

Erin Treat, Guiding Teacher

 

P.S. I miss the power of what happens when we’re on wild land together. I grieve that as we move forward, the “when” of our future gathering is still unknown. I miss practicing with you, being under the ponderosas with you, taking you on the Upriver Trail. Please consider giving so that we can gather again at Vallecitos.

 

 

Letter to the community June 4th

During the past week, I have been stirred with emotions of grief and anger. In the midst of this, it’s important for me to make this commitment: I will re-call your names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and Manuel Ellis.

I will re-call the names of black transpeople, women, and men whose names we don’t yet know, who have been brutalized and killed by police and white vigilantes. I will stand with your families and communities in our commitment to work to end systemic racism in our country, and white supremacy in our very own hearts.

 

This has led me to ask the question: What does Vallecitos have to do with these tragic, senseless losses and the unrelenting violence that black, brown, and indigenous communities face day-in and day-out in this country?

 

Everything and nothing.

 

Nothing… Vallecitos is a secluded retreat center on Ute and Jicarilla land. Set far, far away from the civil unrest, ripping grief, confusion, outrage, and the crushing injustice raging across our cities.

 

And everything… Separateness is a distortion of right view. And Right View is one of our values and you’re going to see more action from us on this. This is something I’ve learned so much from the Dharma about. This is what it means to awaken.

 

As Guiding Teacher and a white, straight, cis-woman with unearned class privilege who has the joy of being in deep relationship with BIPOC, my daily life still stands in stark contrast to the lives of many of our sangha members of color, those who are trans, non-binary, queer, poor, (self-identifying) fat, disabled, and/or immigrants. My responsibility to dismantle white supremacy is different than yours, and I have more privilege to redistribute. All of that is true.

 

And it’s also true, that as the Buddha taught, separateness is an illusion. Much of my commitment to dismantle the racist infrastructure that enacts violence on black and brown bodies, comes from the dissonance between the freedoms I enjoy and the freedoms my black, indigenous, and friends of color can’t. I’m also inspired to act by the possibilities that are nurtured in the flagship Belonging Retreat we hold, diverse teaching teams, and the relationships that continue to grow out of our shared ground in the Dharma of liberation.

 

And, if I’m committed to the truth of things, I’ll admit that the majority of our practitioners are white. We are committed to being an increasingly racially awake community through curating community care resources, through continuing to cultivate deep relationships with teachers of color, through continuing our staff and leadership’s un-learning of white supremacy, and raising-up the colonial history and indigenous stewardship of the land upon which Vallecitos rests. You’re going to see more from us here.

 

In this moment of tragedy, confusion, facing ignorance, and the burn-out that can ensue, let’s turn towards Ruth King’s teachings in Mindful of Race. In her book, Ruth presents her rendering of Michele McDonald’s RAIN which she calls “Working with racial distress.” It may just be a source of release and relief for you.

 

Recognize: What’s Happening?,
Allow: Can I be with What’s Happening?,
Investigate: How am I relating to what’s happening?, and;
Nurture: How do I care for this distress?.  

 

“With RAIN, we are investigating the unfinished business of the heart through the body. We are transforming our conditioning by seeing behind, beneath, and beyond the object of racial distress in service to freedom.”

 

Might Ruth’s guidance be of service to you, to your loved ones, and to your community in this time? I know her teaching supports my unfolding. Here is an unparalleled offering for you.

 

Finally, we at Vallecitos are curating an ongoing list of community care resources. All the while acknowledging that you and I (and the next sangha member) occupy different realities. In this spirit of recognition, we offer them to you.

 

In deep care,
Erin Treat, Guiding Teacher

 

P.S. These recent events are deeply tragic, and what’s really tragic is that they’re not new. I am not here to send you this letter to look good. I am here to voice our commitment to what you know we’re already committed to: Dharma in the service of liberation for all beings.

 

Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist

 


 

Letter to the community May 13

It’s a disorienting time. Many of you are concerned for your health and the wellbeing of your friends, (chosen) family, and communities. You’re still staying close to home and physically-distancing. Some of you are facing sickness and even death.

 

This…while state and federal governments are talking about “opening-up” again. Restarting the economy. All the while, human lives, particularly BIPOC, disabled, elderly, and immunocompromised folks, are hanging in the balance.

 

Know that all of us at Vallecitos, care for you. 

 

And as a member of the wide, dispersed-to-the-wind Vallecitos sangha, you know the truth of interdependence. So it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that we are cancelling all retreats on the land this season. It breaks our hearts, but we know that this decision is motivated by sila (ethical action).

 

Within the next few weeks registered and wait-listed folks will receive an email regarding your cancelled retreat. If you are experiencing financial hardship and need a refund immediately, please get in touch with Melissa at refuge@vallecitos.org. If you are in a position to donate all or a portion of your retreat fees to Vallecitos, we will graciously accept your support during this trying time.

 

We know there’s little we can do to support you from afar. Please accept these humble offerings as a gesture of our care:
  1. Join “Evening Dharma” with beloved Vallecitos teacher Brian Lesage on Sunday, May 31st at 5 Mountain / 4 Pacific / 7 Eastern.
  2. Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism: A Four Week Intensive for Practicing in Daily Life with Pamela Weiss, Tuere Sala and Jozen Gibson
  3. Awake in the Wild: A Supported Home Retreat with Mark Coleman and Christine Lustik
Thank you for being in this with us. Because of you, our beloved sangha, Vallecitos will weather this storm. Thank you for your practice, your support, and more than anything else, being there for one another.

 

Deep bows,
Erin Treat, Guiding Teacher
Jessica Denison, Executive Director

 

Letter to the community May 7th
Recently we made the tough choice to cancel retreats through June 27th. Sometimes it’s hard for me to hold these two truths… First, we can’t be on the land. And in the same breath, the land still holds us.

 

In my heart, I hold the land and, sometimes, I can feel the land of Vallecitos holding me. The land of the Ute and Jicarilla Peoples. The land that is home to so many beings that are coming alive this time of year – the herons, the osprey, the deer, elk and wild horses to name a few.

 

While we can’t be on the land, we can still come together for upcoming online offerings.

 

Wishing you, our beloved sangha, much peace and protection now and in the days to come.


 

Letter to the community April 15
Thank you for your compassionate patience. I’ve felt your support while crafting a wise response to this unfolding crisis. Vallecitos is cancelling retreats on the land through June 27th.

We are in conversation with each teaching team about offering alternatives. For some there may be an invitation for a radical pause. For some, it may look like a daylong, or even a home retreat. 

 

Within the next few weeks, registered and wait-listed folks will receive an email regarding your cancelled retreat. If you are experiencing financial hardship and need a refund immediately, please get in touch with Melissa at refuge@vallecitos.org. If you are in a position to donate all or a portion of your fees to Vallecitos, we will graciously accept your support during this trying time.

 

For alternative offerings open to the whole sangha, we’ll send you an email or you can check our website.

 

In it with you,
Erin Treat, Guiding Teacher

 

Letter to the community April 6th
As we face the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, we connect when we move in the direction of  practice, stability, and vulnerability. We are actively seeking out the latest public health advice, and consulting with our Board and other trusted advisors in preparation to modify the retreat schedule. We anticipate changes, but are not yet ready to make decisions.

For those of you registered (and on waitlists) for retreats, we will email you regarding the status of your retreat as we know more. We will also be posting updates on retreats, online dharma offerings, and events here.

We want to stay connected with you during this time. Stay tuned for more Wednesday Evening Dharma with Vallecitos teachers and sangha. Subscribe to our listserve to receive announcements.

Vallecitos is a place like no other. We exist to provide refuge that grounds you, connects you with Mother Earth, and supports liberation of body, heart, and mind. Retreats at Vallecitos are a vital support for the well-being of so many, and we want to ensure safety and health for all. Thank you for your support and your practice.

With gratitude,

Erin, Jessica, and the Vallecitos Team