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The Diamond Mountain Blog

This is an unofficial blog of news and info from Diamond Mountain University and Retreat Center which was founded by Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of the Dalai Lamas.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Last Posting

I've been trying to write something about Ian's death for several weeks. I've written a few drafts and then put them aside. It's been a stressful and weird time for everyone up at Diamond Mountain and for people all over who are connected to this place. All the normal emotions around losing someone you care about have come up mixed in with, for me, new and more complex emotions. In my last blog I posted two letters that showed two sides of the same story. I consider Christie one of my teachers. I got a lot out of her meditation classes at DMU and anytime we spoke and I'd ask for her advice about some aspect of my studies, she always gave me very grounded advice. In response to some meditation problems I was having she asked me once "Have you been sleeping regularly? Have you been eating well? Have you been getting enough exercise?" The answer was "No" to all three and I felt like she was really looking out for me. Those questions were the same ones my mother would ask me. So when I read her letter I heard a different person then I had known and I was worried about her. I still am. There's so much more to say about the events up at DMU since February that it's impossible to fit in a blog post. There's been a lot of internet media attention and comment about it. This is the first time that I've read something in a published article and have been like "That part is not true at all" and known it to be so because it was about an organization and events that I am involved with. There have also been a lot of good and insightful comments from people upset by Ian's death. Good questions have been raised. One thing I've come to see is that Diamond Mountain has become more of an intentional community than a retreat center or school. Having lived at an egalitarian commune in Virginia for four years and listening to the stories of many people who have created or lived at different intentional communities, I know that it is a long process to create organizational structures to promote communication and decision making that serve all the different personalities and motivations of the people living there. I certainly didn't help my friends up there create that sort intentional community and I feel sort of bad about it. In the four years I was around, Diamond Mountain worked pretty well as far as life on the camp ground is concerned. My friend, Michael, who lives up there has said that he feels like the camp ground works the best when there is less organization and rule making. For the most part, I agree. If there were just a few old heads around, I think that would be a good approach. But the events of the last year, what with new volunteers coming and going, interpersonal drama inside and outside the retreat, and now Ian's death, make me feel like Diamond Mountain needs some amendments to how we do things. I feel like it can be something very simple centering around how the board and volunteers communicate at meetings and keep each other in the loop as decisions are made and carried out. I feel like my above “great idea” is sort of a moot point because I am no longer on the ground out there. I don't like suggesting ideas that I am not able to help implement. I guess that part of my purpose for writing this entry is to try and let the larger world know that folks up at DMU are thinking along these lines, at least I am and I know I'm not alone. I feel that Ian is ultimately responsible for the actions he took which led to his death, of course. I know that the folks up at DMU are going to take steps to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, to the extent that a group can protect individuals from themselves. I forgot to mention that I've moved out of Arizona. My plan, as much as I can plan, was to care take for a year then move or re-commit to another year. My year ended in January and in the following months my life has turned my eyes East to Virginia. I am back home in old Virginny. I have to tell you, it's a huge bummer to be leaving DMU at a time like this. I've seen and done the most beautiful things of my life up there. I feel like I'm leaving during its darkest hour. On a bright note, a really cool thing happened on Wednesday, my last day up there on the land. One of the retreatants was staying in the extra room at the commissary house to help out for a while. It turns out that a handful of the retreatants want to come down to the camp ground to help out for short periods then go back up their houses and continue the retreat. I think this is cool because it shows that people are not stuck in a mental rut and are adapting to circumstances by changing the parameters of their retreat time. A three year retreat of this magnitude is a big experiment. We've all been learning a lot about how to maintain it and now we're all grieving and wondering about how and what lead to Ian dying. I'm wondering what part did I play in all this. It's an uncomfortable and necessary self reflection. I am reminded about something that happened at my old commune years before I moved there in 2001. There had been a woman living there who became suicidal. A team of people came together to try and help her get the help she needed and keep her company. She had always said that she wouldn't kill herself on the commune's property. Despite all the efforts of the care team, the woman succeeded in killing herself off of the main property. The fallout, I hear, was hard. There was some anger at the care team, blame, and I think a couple people ended up moving off the commune. The community, no doubt, tightened up its policy around people who become suicidal. Diamond Mountain is going through something like this now. I want to thank everyone who has read my blog over the last year. I've had the great honor of reading your comments and meeting some of you. We are a culture that is up to our necks in information to consume so I am humbled by the fact that people care to read what I write. It has been a huge growth process for me, this blog. I'm going to continue writing. I'm playing with the idea of starting my own blog and write about things pertaining to this new life in Charlottesville. I'll be hanging out with a new dharma group being facilitated by my buddy, Kevin, teaching the same material as was taught at DMU but reflecting his life experience, as it should be. From what I've seen so far, there's lots of good debate and questions in that group so it should be fun. Dharma groups are like any other group of people. It's not so much about the material covered as it is about learning about other people and therefore yourself. I want to give a special thank you to Jerry of Bowie who comments a lot on what I write. I've really appreciated your perspective and that you always call it like you see it. It's meant a lot to me, thank you. When I get a new blog up I'll post the address here on the DMU sight. I'm still working on getting someone up at the camp ground to take over these blog posts. I'm going to miss the desert but I know that life here in the Old Dominion will be pretty interesting. I always try to make my life predictable, but I really don't like it that way. Farewell to you Bowie, Arizona. I barely knew ye. No other town like it on earth. It was the perfect place for me to get my head straight or slightly crooked depending on how I look at it. Crooked is a better direction to deal with this off kilter world. Sincerely and with Love, Matt Gallup

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Tragic event

I wanted to post this letter from Geshe Michael Roach before I started writing about this whole situation up at DMU. http://diamondmountain.org/an-open-letter-from-geshe-michael It's a very good letter that describes what's been going on up here since Feb. Here's a letter from Lama Christie McNally with her version. http://www.scribd.com/doc/90220087/A-Shift-in-the-Matrix

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rambling Thoughts

My time as care taker of the Great Retreat is rapidly coming to an end. I spent my first year at DMU coming back and forth between terms. I'd camp for a month in a tent then pack it up and head east to make money as an itinerant house painter. The next two years I had the luxury of a home in Bowie while we were building cabins in the most difficult terrain I had ever worked in. All the while, I was studying and meditating on material that is hard to describe in one word. The collection of texts from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is profound, alarming, ridiculous, provacitive, painfully beautiful, intense, scary, Holy, familiar, strange, boring, practical, hysterical, contradictory, perfect, rock solid logically, open to interpretation. You can use it as medicine or as a poison. It's like every other religion or spiritual path and nothing like them. It makes valid every other Path while tooting it's own horn. It has every reason to toot it's own horn. For some people, it's just what the doctor ordered.
Looking back at all of this is over whelming. It was like being in therapy for four years and the therapy worked. Except it was free and I didn't know I was in therapy because I was working too hard and having too much fun. Which is the only way I would have ever gone to therapy.
I was taking my laundry over to my man, Johneo's, house to hang on his line. My line is too shaded. I looked toward Diamond Mountain in the distance. I thought to myself "I had to come here to become ok with myself. I'm the same person I was four years ago but now I'm at peace with myself." I am, in some ways, through some lenses, a "worse" person then I was four years ago. I was sober and vegetarian for seven years. Not anymore. I have vows against intoxication and harming life. I willfully and conflictedly break them on a regular basis. I'm alright with it. I'll take the hit. It's what I need to do now and it will no doubt change. That's who I am. I would rather live in a world where I'm so naturally high that I don't need a drug to do it for me. I would love to go to the super market and just not have the option of buying organic, free range bison ground beef. I should even know better. I know how animals are treated in factory farms. I know what it's about. I've ripped the heads off freshly killed chickens, plucked them, sliced them open and cleaned them. I helped raise a bunch of steer from babyhood only to round him up later, watch him tremble with fear as he smelled the other steer we had butchered behind the barn, blow his brains out, cut off his head, and help tug his innards out onto the frozen ground. And then I ate him. It felt wrong and it felt right. If I was smart I'd distance myself from that culture as much as I could. The karmic blow back from that sort of thing is going to be hard. But I'm not smart. I'm not a raw food eating, vegan, leather avoiding, non alcohol drinking yogi. Nope. I am what I am and how can I help you. I also know that this could change at any moment and will. Everyone and everything is constantly changeing. We'll keep on changing until we die. My favorite mantra is "I'm wrong."
Whenever I write in this blog I want to tell you details of the care taker experience. I stop myself because none of it is important and most of it is just gossip. The care takers are a bunch of normal people doing the same thing with different motivations. We mostly get a long and work well together. Sometimes we act like fools and let each other down with how we treat one another. It's like a slightly disfunctional relationship. The point is to grow together. I don't know if everyone up there thinks of it that way. It doesn't really matter. As long as I think of it that way then that is my work. That's the best and only thing I can do.
I have to wrap it up. I've got a lot more to say and I'll save it for later posts. If you are out there and are supporting this retreat, thank you. Serving it has already changed my life and I can only imagine what it is doing for people inside the retreat. It's an insane, audatious, holy undertaking. Two more years to go. come out and get a piece of it before it's over. It will never happen this way again. I'm pretty sure the larger American buddhist community will not even take notice. You're not going to read about it in Madala, Tricycle, or Shambala magazine. Course, we don't really read their stuff so I guess I know where that comes from.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Parable made Real

I had the great fortune to play music with my friend Jarrett while his Lady, Mira, taught yoga at Yo downtown this weekend. I like to do asana but I admit I like playing for yoga classes more. Jarrett and I played guitar and the students sweated. At the end of the class, while the students were in corpse pose, I was looking out the window. I was thinking of a friend who is having a very difficult time lately. I was thinking of all the people that that situation touches. I got a little lost in the pain of the whole thing. Then something amazing happened. I'll preface it with a story.
There's an old story my teacher told once. What point he was illuminating at the time is lost to me right now. The story is as follows. A man was walking through the jungle and suddenly realized that he was being stalked by a huge tiger. He quickened his pace and started looking for a way to evade the beast. He saw a tree with branches pushing out over a sheer cliff only big enough for him. This refuge could keep the tiger at bay. He crawled out on the limb and settled in. The tiger came out into the open and paced around the base of the tree. Suddenly, the tree branch tore away from the tree and the man had to hang on for life. He looked down, thinking he could drop to the bottom of the cliff and survive but saw to his horror another tiger below him waiting for him to fall. He looked up to the edge of the cliff and saw the first tiger looking down at him and snarling. Horror above, horror below. He then saw a small wild strawberry plant within arms reach on the cliff with a ripe berry. He reached out, plucked the berry, and ate it with much happiness and relish.
So I was looking out the window in a downtown Tucson yoga studio, falling into the pain of my friends situation, when I noticed an ivy vine clinging to a high post outside. The sky was blue and gentle. The grey metal post was covered in an elegant vine of green ivy. Each leaf was so perfect and small. I could hear the cars go by and the people's voices outside. Inside the room all was quiet relief of corpse pose. I put myself in one of the curls of the ivy vine. I suddenly felt an enormous peace. In that space with the leaves and the sky and the post was utter stillness and peace. There was no war, no famine, no politics, no drama, no pain. The leaves were healthy despite the pollution of the cars and the dryness of the desert. I became so happy in that moment. It was remarkable. I plan on cultivating that feeling for the rest of my life. Since completing my year of care taking, I've had a lot of these sort's of first-time moments in regards to mental states. I'm still going up to DMU to serve when I can but I am free now to go when I need to. I'll go up tomorrow to deliver food. They are tucked into a long two month deep retreat period up there, I believe. This next year will be the quietest for them, I think. The time when some big meditative shifts will occur. It's very exciting.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Letter

I'm attaching a link to the Diamond Mountain main page. There's a letter there that the DM board and Geshe MIchael Roach put out that sums up some of the recent major events of the Great Retreat. Personally, I've very happy about how it has turned out. It seems to be about the best solution to a potentially big problem. I am continually amazed at the example all my teachers set for me. Navagating though sensitive community issues is difficult and it can become even more complicated when one is trying to apply the world view they have been studying and trying to bring into their everyday life. I imagine that Christian monastic organizations have been doing this in the States for a long time now on the level of a large spiritual community. Well, rather then keep writing out my disjointed thoughts about what happened, I'll just connect you to the letter.

Friday, February 10, 2012


It has been entirely too long since the last post. I lot has happened in my world. Way too much to cover in one blog post. We just finished up the second Quiet Retreat Teaching event at DMU. All in all a great time. Lots of high lights. I'm sorry to be so brief. I'm still a bit exhausted and will require time to let everything sink in.
I hope to be starting a big job in Tucson in March. My friend Eric is hopefully starting a remodel job there and needs help. This would be the first big job I've had since the retreat started. Not surprisingly, it only surfaced after my one year commitment to DMU was over. To me it feels like it's been a three year commitment. The two years of building were as important a part as the year of care taking.
Just when you think you understand the world, the rug will get pulled out from under you. Just when you think that we are not connected, connections slap you in the face. Lately, I feel that there is a call urging me to take responsibility for the blinders I put on myself concerning the larger world. Where do big problems in the world come from? I feel like there is a lot I can do in my life to help counter act these problems. I keep thinking about the power of and idea who's time has come. Weather positive or negative, they are unstoppable.
more to come,

Monday, January 16, 2012


I'm sitting in the Bowie community center using their internet connection. They have a couple of desk top computers for folks and a strong wi-fi signal. Some kids are watching a VHS of the Disney movie "Alladin". The kids love it. It is an engaging movie, I had forgotten. Gilbert Godfrey is the voice of the villain's parrot. Hysterical. Robin Williams as the Genie of the Lamp.
In the main room here is a banner covering one window that reads "The people who walk through this door are special". There is a door next to the banner but there is a two by six propped against the handle so that it cannot be opened nor walked through. Funny.
The weather is amazing today. Some rain in the morning and last night. You can smell the creosote strongly in the air when it rains. There was a rainbow when the clouds cleared up. The sky stayed deep purple over the mountains near DMU. You could see sheets of lighter blue rain rolling out there while the sun was bright over Bowie. It is really dramatic. The town itself seems very beautiful today, even with and especially because of it's run down parts, which are everywhere. I saw a little white house/shack that had used asphalt roof tile nailed to the trim near the ground as weather proofing. Then they laid broken concrete against the tiles to keep them in place. It probably cost the owner nothing. I think that is sort of beautiful. Everything passes Bowie by, economy, trains, the interstate, politics, visible government, everything. And because that is so rare, it is beautiful.
People you love are equally as rare and beautiful. I've been trying to keep them in mind all day long and feel grateful for them. Seeing how loneliness was my biggest problem out here, it's the perfect head space for me. I have to say, that after a few weeks of this, I do feel strangely happy. I'm having trouble feeling stress about not finding work and various other factors that I have historically used to feel bummed about. It's nice to let that all go for a good long time. Oh, I also saw a fake nail on the ground in a puddle that was half the color of the sky and half the color of pearl, which was the color of the clouds.