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An example of a wonderful group meditation space at a retreat some of us had previously attended in Oregon, USA. We plan to eventually have several of these buildings, but we’re starting off with the biggest one in our plan…a space large enough to fit one hundred people!
From building our prototype yurt, we’ve learned firsthand how a space like this is a lot more than just a building.
Our plan is to incorporate the lessons we’ve learned from studying ancient sacred sites and from building our prototype yurt into this building.
We also plan to source as much of the material as possible from the renewable resources on our own property to ensure it’s as sustainable (and cost-effective) as possible. To accommodate about one hundred people, we’ll need a space about fifty feet in diameter, or about two thousand square feet in total. So we have some creative work to do to figure out how to accomplish this task and fulfil the vision on a tight budget.
GUEST COLUMN BY MICAL AKULLIAN — It was the morning of Day 5 of my ten-day Vipassana retreat in the Sierra Mountains. In the ancient language, Sanskrit, “vipassana” literally means “seeing deeply.” In 2010 California, it means a group of 20-odd people gathering in a secluded summer-camp setting. This is all fine and good, except that if you kept any animal in a cramped cage for 10 days it’s bound to get a little pissy.  My revolting mind seemed less like puss rising to the surface, and more like a wake up call from my own intuition. I had been dealing with pain for the last few days knowing full well that a big portion of the technique we were engaging was to learn how to give pain another name. Yet, something inside me was telling me that this whole process was non-organize, spiritually-speaking.  I began to model all of the other ways that I could inflict pain throughout my day as a form of meditation. While he existed merely as an image on a screen (oddly enough the meditation halls were decked out with two giant flat screen monitors, used solely for our daily Goenka lectures on DVD) I could somehow feel him watching over me, monitoring my progress.  I didn’t want to be a failure.
I had signed up with the noble ambition of upgrading my level of meditation and spiritual awareness.

So although those five days of meditation were a wonderful experience, I bailed on Goenka’s spiritual boot-camp.  And while I did leave a little sheepishly, tail between my legs, it was a life lesson in humility. For me, spiritual liberation cannot be a goal set for the future, like some form of degree, only to be attained once I pass all my exams and get all my credits.  Spiritual liberation is the subtle and beautiful moments during my day when I choose peace over chaos, acceptance over resistance, love over fear.
Mical Akullian is a holistic counselor in San Francisco who received his Master’s degree from San Francisco State University. He recently returned to the city after living for a year in a spiritual commune in northern California. And meditation leading to an expectation is all wrong.I wish you had gone to Spirit Rock,not this phony guru for and introduction to meditation. Throughout history there are countless stories of people stepping away from the routine of life to seek deeper meaning and purpose. Simplicity, solitude, and silence are common themes to the explorers of life's questions and the discoverers of life's answers. Some people naturally can just leave their daily routine and quickly enjoy simplicity, solitude, and silence. Being naked with our mental activity is surprisingly relieved as we discover the color and sound, vividness and simple beauty of just being present in our retreat. The important thing is to know is that there is an inner world where the deeper meaning and purpose we seek awaits us. It is getting from identifying ourselves as a personality to a broader awareness of being that is important. From our inner vastness we understand we are no better or different from the people in our life, no matter how their personal circumstances appear.
We need to consider how it’s aligned to the sun, how it flows with the natural landscape, the geometry in the design, the nature of the materials, the harmony and aesthetics of the structure, and so much more. Our purpose: to sit in meditation for ten days, specifically not communicating with each other.

Hey, why not make the same point by biting my tongue whenever eating became too mundane?  Or, hell, just stub my toe on purpose.
Now I realize that meditation is not something to be achieved or overcome.  It is the process of surrender, of unfolding, of allowing sanity to replace madness  a gift to oneself.
Our willingness to settle into some days of simplicity, living without plans, just being, opens a path. Being present in our new environment with all our senses starts a journey from our mental busyness to the heart of awareness. It has just one drawback: it only fits about ten people and we’ve already outgrown it! Our goal is to create a beautiful and peaceful atmosphere, one that feels powerful from the moment you enter it. No talking is allowed – not to the guy sitting beside you at mealtime – or even to yourself. Last winter, I convinced my editor to send me to Woodacre, California, without cell phone or email access for a week to pursue an interest in the word silence. It’s kind of like the spiritual equivalent of discipline-testing reality shows like, Survivor. For 358 days a year, your calendar runs from morning to night with meetings, dinners, birthday parties, families.
This lightness of being carries awareness into something that words can only attempt to describe as eternity.
In modern culture with its emphasis on doing, intellectual achievement, and materialism our connection with eternity is what is missing.

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