The 39th Annual Southwestern Region Sai Retreat occurred over Labor Day weekend in early September 2022, at the Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. The relationship between the Sai Organization and the Bodhi has been long-term and a very mutually beneficial and meaningful one. Usually, the format includes guest speakers from all over the country, along with services activities, devotional activities, and time for reflection and communion with the natural splendor of the area. In 2022, the planning committee members were inspired to take a deeper dive into how service and inner reflection lead to an inner transformation of individuals and groups. The format of the Retreat was redesigned to emphasize this theme: From Information to Transformation.

Instead of inviting guest speakers, frequent opportunities for silent reflection and meditation were scheduled, along with the usual time for service.  The program also tapped into a variety of local resources such as a wonderful talk from the senior Teacher (Roshi) in residence at the Bodhi Manda; and a number of interfaith activities such as chanting the Catholic Rosary, singing beautiful Jewish songs from the Song of Solomon, and witnessing and learning about indigenous spiritual practices from the region.

A virtual presentation from a speaker in India, Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s personal photographer for many years, rounded off the inspiring retreat. Interspersed throughout was a focus on how being at the Retreat lent to the understanding of personal and collective transformation.

There were also many delicious vegan Buddhist meals prepared, by the staff at the Bodhi with the assistance of the participants. Plenty of time was set aside for the enjoyment of the beautiful grounds and natural hot springs. Every activity, from the moment of waking up to lights out was suffused, intentionally, with a focus on the internal and external manifestations of transformation. Participants were able to take part in a dialogue about how human values, such as Truth, Right Conduct, Love, Peace, and Nonviolence were manifested through their inner work, which they shared with the entire group.

Participants were also offered a session on Cutting the Ties that Bind - a series of exercises on letting go and making peace with relationships, people, and situations that have caused problematic attachments. Study circles focused on Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s quotes related to transformation were followed up with a sincere heartfelt sharing by each study circle group. Organizational officers met and began a transformational planning process for the region that is now firmly underway.

Throughout the Retreat, service activities were videoed and photographed, and interviews with participants were documented, so that their profound experiences of could be be shared far and wide. The guidance, love and inspiration of Sri Sathya Sai Baba shed light on all who came to Jemez Springs that weekend, and this light is now made available to the reader through the following video.