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.
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