Bodhi Manda Zen Center, nestled in the hot-springs haven of Jemez Springs, NM, is a beautiful retreat center. After a long year of safety at home, over twenty-five attendees from across the SSSIO-USA Southwest Region, and beyond, gathered for the annual ‘Land of Enchantment’ Labor Day Retreat 2021. Each was welcomed by the natural beauty and spirit of the beautiful Bodhi, and felt the longing to be connected again in heart-to-heart fellowship. All gathered in gratitude while enjoying the grace of sharing meals created from the bounty of the garden.   

It had been a year of collective loss, grief, change and intense self-reflection. Yet the love of God, humanity and one another was palpable. The theme: ‘See Always Inside- Be IN-dependent’ brought thoughtful reflections and conversations about the current situation. One guest speaker shared how challenges are gifts from God to help awaken and move us forward in our spiritual journey. Another guest speaker explained how restless dissatisfaction in life arising from ‘spiritual hunger’ can only be appeased when the spirit within is realized. “World peace is possible when all the people of the world wake up to the facts governing universal life and when there is a heart-to-heart feeling of goodness, love, and oneness among the inhabitants of the world,”he quoted from a letter written by Sathya Sai Baba to His students.

The ‘Inter-Faith Devotional’ program under the stars was a divinely inspired event where the Spirit was evoked with diverse prayers and songs from many faiths. The resident Buddhist Priest opened the ceremony with a Buddhist chant. All participants were then privileged to witness a sacred prayer and hoop dance by members of the TEWA, a local, indigenous community. A beloved Rabbi recited a Jewish Prayer, ‘Kumi Lach’ and sang Song of Songs with her husband. All chimed in with a meaningful Muslim Prayer. As day fell into night, attendees were inspired to journey within with a feeling of love and unity.



Selfless service was a central activity of the weekend - daily cleaning of the Sutra Hall, pulling weeds in the garden, organizing the pantry, washing dishes and windows of the dining hall, and chopping vegetables for meal preparations. All these activities were symbolic of the inner spiritual practice of clearing away inner enemies of worries and fears. In the end, there was a sharing of laughter, love and prayers; a feeling of patience and peace, and soaking in the natural healing waters of the hot springs. And along the way, the gift of being in the presence of the One, which was the greatest treasure. May it always be so.







1 .”Spiritual Hunger” in Nine Gems – Guru Poornima, 2021 Study Guide. Retrieved from