Archive for the ‘Living at the Mountain’ Category

Shalom Land Use and Development: Moving from Dreaming to Planning

October 7th, 2012


A report from Tom Ronen Goddard

It’s been a touch over a year since Shalom Mountain moved from a privately owned company to a community-supported not-for-profit organization. Part of the excitement and, I’ll admit, some of the anxiety about that transition had to do with the diverse and creative ideas that members of the Shalom Community had about what to do with the now-consolidated 50+ acres of beautiful land upon which Shalom sits, as well as the current structures that we use every day.

To help address those issues, in December 2011 the Shalom Mountain Inc. Board of Directors appointed me as the Director, Land Use and Development. My functions include initiating a conversation across the community about what, if anything we could and should do to enhance our use of the precious resource that is the land and structures owned by Shalom.

To that end, in January 2012 we pulled together a diverse group of community members who had, over the years, expressed an interest in participating in a sustained conversation about these issues, and call the group the Land Use and Development Advisory Group (“LUDAG”). This group has met a half-dozen times or so since February, although we took a bit of a break over the summer. Shalom people have pretty active lives, especially when the weather’s nice!

LUDAG is blessed with the participation of two talented and dedicated architects, Deborah Fausch and Peter MacDonald, whose expertise helps guide the rest of us (Charles Ross, Joyce Harvey-Morgan, Judi Johnston, Peter Britton, Sequoia Sun, and Susan Lamprecht) as we begin the painstaking tasks involved in figuring out what both what the community wants to do and what we can do, given the constraints of the values of the community, state and local laws, and the realities of the existing structures and land.

The LUDAG has developed a series of goals, and is in the process of mapping to those goals the physical planning solutions and needed research. It is hoped that this process will guide our work in the coming year.

The goals we have identified so far are:

  • Financial sustainability and growth (i.e., supporting and enhancing existing programs and finding additional sources of revenue compatible with Shalom culture and mission)
  • Programmatic sustainability and planned growth
    • Improve and enhance housing for interns, staff, resident teachers
    • Repair or replace bungalows
    • Provide common space for residents
    • Develop housing/places for short-term individual/solitary retreat
    • Develop incubator retreat center
    • Provide expansion plan for existing retreat building
  • Ecosustainability (including the possibility of building with recycled and reused materials and reducing waste energy consumption)
  • Preservation and enhancement of sacred lands (e.g., the men’s, women’s, and children’s temples, the High Meadow)
  • Community enhancement and development (including exploring such ideas as creating opportunities for residential community based on Shalom principles, mutual support between the retreat center and residential community, and the development of other residential Shalom communities off-site)

So, what’s next for LUDAG? Over the fall and winter, we’ll be conducting research into some of the ideas involved in achieving these goals, with the objective of presenting our findings and proposed plan for land use and development to the Shalom Board and Executive Council. Nobody’s in a particular rush to start any particular projects other than those involved in serving the immediate needs of the Mountain. However, we do feel a responsibility to move from the stage of pure dreaming into an era of research and planning, so that as the Shalom community’s needs and aspirations, as well as its resources, continue to evolve, we are ready to match new resources to those needs.

If you have an interest in being involved in some aspect of our work on land use and development, please shoot Tom an email at

Living in Community

October 26th, 2011

Elizabeth Helen Bullock

To live in community. What does this mean? “I know what it is to be a human being.” A commitment to see one another without contracted eyes. To see with the eyes of a mystic, the eyes of the Divine, the eyes of wonder and curiosity and discovery. Such was yesterday here on Cattail Road. The local Shalom community gathered for a beloved, wounded and glorious member who has touched each of us with her courageous vulnerability, generosity, loyalty and brilliant joy. We gather, 12 of us, to witness our friend’s work, through our own Divine, wounded and glorious eyes. Beautiful, painful, harsh, restorative – we see and hold and love her – intimately – ‘into me you see’ – bold, holy work.

The universe seemed to gather her grandest gifts to send this woman on her way as she is moving 3,000 miles next week. Clear blue skies with summer-warm sunshine for an October day in the Catskills, gold and red leaves dance still on the branches in the gentle wind. They wave and dance above their neighbors who have moved on, already having let go of the branch, floated to the ground, and begun the slow transformation back into the earth. Dusk falls as our youngest male, just about to turn 22, builds and lights the fire in the stone circle. An ancient art, his fire is strong and graceful, and the song of his presence streams in the warmth and symphony of the fires dance as the light leaves and the almost full moon rises to watch over our conversation, laughter, loving.

Our friend sits with us, and it is not pretty … her deep work leaves her with a head that is aching and a body that cannot partake of the bounty of the pot luck laid on a cloth on the flat granite outcrop near the fire. This is what it is to be human. Pain, grief, penguin jokes, being held in the stone circle, in the universe’s embrace, in the radical embrace of a community of 12 who send her off to the next part of her journey with our love that will always be in her heart as she will always be in ours.

After the Ecstasy, the Chicken Coop

October 10th, 2011

Elizabeth Helen Bullock

After the ecstasy, the chicken coop.  Before the scoop on the coop, an inquiry.  How often do we find that just as a rhythm of practice begins to solidify, flow, ground us in the routine of devotions and ritual, just at that edge where we may be comfortable in the uninterrupted rhythmic dance of our morning routine – an interruption.  Travel, visitors, a retreat, a friend stopping by, a hurricane, an early phone call … an interruption.  We step out of rhythm – what do we step into?  How do we surf the interruption wave?  What of our practice, our prayers, our meditations come with us as we ride the wave?  Do any?  Do we drop each one as we focus on the event at hand?  Or do we use the new unfolding circumstance as a place to learn more about our practice, to give it a new platform from which to experience astonishment, clarification, joy?

Two days ago, an interruption.   Part of my morning is to ‘let the chickens out.’  I notice on this wet morning that the coop needs cleaning. Desperately, or so it appears to me, as I peered past the black and grey feathered hen who is now ‘brooding’.  A milder fall day, grey sky, threat of more rain, heavy air of wet leaves on too tall grass, dying fern, sweet and rotting apples nearby from a tree that must be ancient.  My zafu, unexpectedly, became shovel and trowel – my alter space the bowels of our small, 10 hen, coop.  Smells that nearly overtook my post-coffee, pre-breakfast stomach.  A far cry from the Celestial incense usually burning.  Shovel, shovel, shovel.  Shovel – empty. Shovel – empty. In-breath, out-breath.  Rhythm.  A prayer, an ode to these egg laying hens, life, abundance.  I begin to push now as it begins to feel endless – get this done.  I notice – rhythm has become tension – so I begin again.  Shovel – empty. Shovel – empty.  The brooding hen does not move.  An egg is nestled in her chest feathers.  How many are beneath her? Trowel – empty. Trowel – empty.  A young hen enters the coop, clucking her complaint.  She hops into a newly cleaned nest box checking out the fresh wood-shavings, hops down, walks out.  Trowel – empty.  Shovel – empty.  The brooder broods.  The young ‘un returns, clucks, and squeezes beside the brooder facing the opposite direction.  The fresh smell of wood shavings, the promise of fresh eggs, deep stillness.

Glorious bounty we collect each day – eggs warm with bright yolks.  They feed us, the young couple who live on this land, and our near neighbors.  Beautiful chicken feathers lie amongst queen anne’s lace and cattails and on the small patch of grass surrounding our home.  Yet, again, after the egg-stasy, chicken shit!  In-hale, ex-hale.  One of the older hens walks across the stone step and shits all over it as she walks across.  Really?  You have 24 acres and you choose this stone?  The one place I must step to come in and out? In-hale.  Ex-hale. Egg-stasy.

My morning began, on the edge between the dream state and the awake, with the words whispering in my ear, “pray without ceasing.”

It has been my intention, my meditation, my prayer to live in practice whatever unfolds.  Oh, what a beautifully interrupted morning it was.

On Community and Ceaseless Caring

September 14th, 2011

by Elizabeth Helen Bullock

As I drove from the manor today, Livingston Manor, home to Shalom Mountain, Inc., a wave of appreciation moved through me as I thought of two beloved members of the Shalom community – and today happens to be their birthday!

Judi J. first came to mind. Over the past two weeks I have been a witness to her tireless efforts on behalf of the home and land that are the heart of space for the Shalom Mountain sacred retreat and study center. Throughout the summer I have watched her plant, tend, nurture, weed, water and harvest an astounding array of organic vegetables which then served to brighten the palate of many Shalom retreatants and provide a welcome fresh diversity for the cooks. For any who have had their own vegetable gardens, though they bring rewards and delights they are a lot of hard, hard work! In addition, with a courageous energy, Judi also tended to the substantial number of perennial gardens that adorn the front lawn and perimeter of the house itself. This used to be the job of a hired gardener and he could barely keep up!

What is most remarkable is that Judi has never been a gardener – the whole process was an enormous learning curve to boot! Wow! And all of this is not what had her in my thoughts on this morning of her birthday. Over the past two weekends Shalom hosted two events, each with over 100 attendees. First, the Labor Day Work Weekend and then two beloved Shalomers’ marriage and attending festivities. Each event required unending amounts of organization, clean up, pick up, food shopping, and all that goes into preparing a retreat center to feed, house and orchestrate full, multi-event days. Each time I walked across the street from my home, whether before, during, or after one of these events, Judi was there, working, helping and yes, she did enjoy (I believe!) the wedding, the work weekend, the dancing, feasting, celebrating of each event, she wove in and out of house and gardens in her mud boots, often with Jetson in tow, tail wagging, and Judi smiling and hot and sweaty and always on the move!

A deep bow to Judi and her loving care of not just the physical heart and soul of Shalom but its representative loving care of each one of us in this community. By the way, on a personal note, she found time to bring me up to the mountain one day just before the work weekend when I was unable to walk due to a leg injury so that I could re-bandage my leg and take a shower (this post hurricane!).

So what more about community? This same beloved being was one of the cooks at the Science and Mysticism Retreat this past April. I arrived having just lifted my head from the dark pain of grieving my husbands death in mid-January. A leap to get myself to the retreat that turned into a weekend of blessings beyond my wildest imagination. One of these blessings was Judi. My husband and I had lived together for 8 weeks at Shalom a few years ago. I chose to sleep in Room 10, the room we had called home during that time. On Saturday morning I woke early and could not stop sobbing. After an hour or so, still early, I crept to the kitchen to be welcomed by Carol S., the other cook, and Judi J. They both hugged me and as I was about to crawl back to my room with a cup of coffee, Judi invited me to sit next to where she was chopping fruit and just be. Her simple invitation allowed me to stay and cry a little, sip a little, and be ‘loved up’ a lot that morning.

This is what Shalom mountain is about. Skillful loving in many, many ways. Carrie J., another Shalom beauty, is also celebrating a birthday today. Carrie drove from Chicago to run the Labor Day Work Weekend. The ones who usually do this enormous task were getting married the next weekend and asked for a pass this year. Carrie stepped in. Drove 13 hours to get here. Ran the weekend with skill and wit as though she had always done so. And then 4 days later got in her car and drove back to Chicago. Wow. Like Judi, this is only one example of Carrie’s engagement with the community. She co-led a Shalom Retreat with Lawrence S. in the Chicago area this year. She has taken on a responsibility involving marketing and communications for Shalom Mountain, Inc. Like Judi, she has been a good friend to me as we laugh and talk and dance together on the Shalom Room dance floor.

So, Happy Birthday to Judi and Carrie. Happy Birth-day to Shalom Mountain, Inc. Deep bow to all of you, all you represent for Shalom Mountain draws, encourages, and supports incredible human beings like Judi and Carrie.

Deep gratitude to this community that welcomes me, again and again, and anyone who walks through the doors with grace and beauty and love and acceptance – however we show up, needy, in joy, afflicted, in grief, radiant or angry – all are embraced.

September at Shalom Mountain – Love is in the Air

August 27th, 2011

Tom Goddard

by Tom Goddard

The Shalom Mountain retreat center Labor Day work weekend starts a week from yesterday. By late Friday afternoon, the early birds who are committed to finding their favorite place to sleep — whether it be a perfect place to pitch a tent or Room 10 (my fave) or a spot on the floor of the Meditation Room — will be staking their respective claims before the late birds start to arrive. The registration table will be getting busy, and much celebration will be going on as people who have not seen each other in months, or even years, will be laughing and embracing on the front lawn, the porch, the Pavilion, the High Meadow. All as preparation for a time of loving the physical facility, not to mention the goofiness of the auction on Saturday night and the astonishment, wonder, and delight that always characterizes the talent show on Sunday night.

How delicious.

As a resident of the neighborhood — just across the street, north of the garden — since April 2010, I’ve now felt into the rhythm of more than a full year’s cycle. Each season has its special charms. Winter’s brilliant white and deep silence create a vast, contemplative retreat space. Spring’s dance between warm, blue-sky days and cool, foggy drizzles produces the berries in June and July that put sparkle in my breakfast. In the summertime, the open windows allow both breezes and the exciting sounds from the retreat center to waft through the house.

I have a special place in my heart for September on the Mountain. It was in September, four years ago, that I first lived here, during a mentorship led by Alistair and Pat. The leaves start to turn in earnest, the weather is nearly flawless (tomorrow’s tropical storm notwithstanding!), and the Shalom Retreats are back on the monthly calendar after a summer of amazing specialty retreats. In addition to the delights of the Labor Day work weekend, the Men’s Gathering inevitably brings several dozen men to the Mountain for a weekend of reconnection and deep soul work.

This September has an extra something to it, I’m noticing. After the successful transition from the Stewards’ loving care over the last four years to the launch of community ownership in the form of the new not-for-profit governance structure, there seems to be a vibration of new energy coursing through the Mountain’s blood. The energy of new life one expects to find in spring is in the air as autumn approaches.

It’s palpable:

Love is in the air.

Tom Goddard has been a member of the Shalom Community since 1997, and leads the Men’s Gathering and retreats on consciousness at Shalom Mountain. He serves as a member of the Shalom Mountain Executive Council. Tom is the CEO of The Integral Company and Integral Healthcare Solutions. He received his doctorate in psychology from George Mason University and his law degree from the University of Arizona.