Saturday, October 27, 2007

first donation

Today is a special Spirit First received its first donation, an unexpected $100 donation from my teen-aged friend Emmanuel. Emmanuel's gift is a pure offering, beautiful and inspiring to the dream deep in the heart of me. Emmanuel believes in me, he believes in Spirit First, and he wants to show his support by giving from the money he saved while working part time at a nearby cinema. I am honored, and humbled, by so beautiful a gift. Thank you, Emmanuel.

In about a week I will be opening a bank account for Spirit First and Emmanuel's contribution will be our first deposit. One hundred dollars is the beginning of the incredibly beautiful, peaceful world we seek to create on a Virginia mountainside. There's something about the first donation that makes this all seem so much closer to becoming something very real (it already is real).

I think I am going to cry.
Keep alive within you and bring under wise control
that courage which makes you long to undertake great works,
which others might consider it folly to attempt.
~ St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier

photography by permission
cindy lee jones

Thursday, October 25, 2007

God is the friend of silence. See how nature...trees, flowers, grass...grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~ Mother Teresa

photography by permission

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

where we are this week

Not long ago I was teaching a class in Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, and as I looked upon the grandeur, the columns and statues and art, the shops and pools and restaurants and elegant sleeping rooms, I thought to myself how all of this, everything that I looked upon, came about from a single idea from a single person. This is how we create. And it shall be the same with creating a beautiful, serene meditation sanctuary in a wood, a retreat center called Spirit First.

This week I am creating the organizational structure for Spirit First. To the six of you who have agreed to serve on the founding board of directors, I thank you. Thank you for your willingness to serve, thank you for your faith in me and what I am doing, and thank you for the gifts you bring to the table. Your presence helps make this dream come true.

This week I am also writing our bylaws and our articles of incorporation. (I think I was supposed to have filed the articles of incorporation prior to being assigned an EIN but it's okay. Those of you who know more about the IRS than I probably already knew that!)

I am also developing an advisory board, a board that will expand during the next several weeks.

And so, we continue to grow.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

photography by permission
cindy lee jones

willing to fall

Many of us struggle with fear of failure. While fear possibly can stimulate one toward working hard and then lead to accomplishment, more often fear paralyzes, preventing us from even making an attempt.

Love seems to me believing enough to do everything to make a dream come true while loving enough to be willing to fall.

I love my dream of Spirit First enough to be willing to fall.

photography by permission
graham jeffery

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Starting something new is scary, taking me out of the safety of my familiar, my confirmed. What if I can’t do this? What if I can’t finish it? Even worse, what if I’m not supposed to be doing this?

I remember the day I first envisioned Spirit First. It was a crisp Saturday afternoon in the month of March. I saw a picture of a labyrinth and in an instant I imagined an entire meditation center holding that labyrinth. I saw gardens and fountains and sanctuary where people from every discipline and every faith gather in peace. I saw a place of quiet, a place of healing, and it called to me, begged me to breathe life into it.

On that same day a quotation fell across my desk, one I had never seen before, and it was written like this: “Never doubt in the darkness what God has shown you in the light.”

Those words became a prompt for me, a reminder in the face of uncertainties that on the other side of doubt my vision remains in brilliant light.

I must admit I have had moments of doubt, whole moments strung together that turned into weeks, but I kept coming back to my vision (or my vision kept coming back to me). I wasn’t sure I can create something so beautiful and build something so big, but I have come to realize that my work is in doing everything possible to make the dream come true, not in worrying about if or how it will work out.

And now, I give Spirit First my best effort. So beautiful a vision as this makes me want to be brave.

photography by permission
cindy lee jones

Monday, October 15, 2007

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation. Tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego.
~Jean Arp/Hans Arp

"Cloud Shepherd" by Hans Arp

by diana christine

my purest truth
is found within
this present moment

my most exquisite memory
my greatest expectation
nothing but a thief

my richest gifts
here and now

behind the name

I suppose it shall be from time to time that someone among us will ask how we came to have the name of Spirit First. And I shall, of course, tell them how it came to be.

I have always been drawn to the words in the scriptures that say, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you," and I began to wonder what would my life be like if I always put Spirit first. How much closer would I be to who I really am if I practiced Spirit first?

And thus, the name of the organization came into being.


Sometimes messages come to us from the most unexpected places. I recently saw a magical children’s movie called “Return to the Secret Garden,” and as the story goes, a young girl was unable to get into the special garden because another child had thrown her key into a lake. She was unable, that is, until someone suggested to her the key was not necessary, that she needed “only to open her heart.” As I watched the film, something stirred within me and I realized there was a message here for me. I pondered the message and asked myself, “What have I been thinking is the “key” to creating Spirit First?” That was easy—money, I have believed money is the key (and, perhaps, the obstacle). Now, though, the message was coming to me that money (the key) is not needed, but that I simply need to open my heart. (Not that money is not needed, but that it is not to be worried about. When the girl opened her heart, the key appeared back in the lock and the gates opened for her.)

Several days later I was talking with one of my friends, explaining to her the message I felt from the movie just as I have written it for you here, and her response became another message for me. “Just look at your name,” she said. “The key was written in the name of your organization, ‘spirit…first.’ You don’t create the meditation center, or even the organization, until you first create its spirit.” Oh, my goodness, how could I not have seen what was now so clear?

The key is an open heart, and in that heart the spirit of a thing is created, and so it shall come to pass. We take an idea, nourish it and nurture it, and create its spirit (this, the gestation period). Once the spirit of a thing is created, we then bring it to its birth. The key for all of this is the opening of my heart, opening to the Universe with trust and joy and gratitude, and allowing what will be.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

first steps

This is a sacred moment. Today marks opening steps toward making a dream come true. Today I applied for and was assigned an employer identification number (EIN) for Spirit First. We are not yet given birth, but we are now conceived (and recognized by the IRS).

Sacred moments call for our mindfulness, our quietness, our gratitude. Light a candle. Burn an incense. Feel what it feels like. Drink its nectar. Taste its sweetness. Give thanks.

As with preparing for any tender birthing, my greatest attention is called for in making this dream come true. Let me ponder carefully each step of this path.

And as I mentioned earlier, I may not know everything I need to do to make Spirit First come true, but I know what I need to do next...file with the Commonwealth of Virginia to become a legal corporation. This I shall do in the coming days.

the dream

I have a dream, a dream of a meditation retreat center located in a wood on a scenic mountain ridge in the Commonwealth of Virginia. My dream is a peaceful sanctuary filled with beautiful gardens, labyrinths, mandalas, trickling fountains, wooded walking trails, and quiet oases; I dream of a place of refuge, a place of tranquility, a place of prayer, a place of healing.

I dream of a place called Spirit First.

Spirit First is a meditation retreat center that embraces every discipline, every faith in its devotion to meditation and mindfulness, in its dedication to prayer and the inner life, in its commitment to peace and tranquility. Spirit First is a place of inclusion devoted to honoring our spiritual paths.

Those who come to Spirit First do so to meditate or to study, to think or to reflect, to write or to ponder and do it in a quiet place. Sometimes, though, we gather at Spirit First as a group to meditate or practice yoga, hear a master deliver a message, join a gathering of Sufis in dance. Sometimes we have guest leaders from the spiritual community such as Sharon Salzberg, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sai Maa, Zuleikha, Coleman Barks, Naomi Shihab Nye, Christine Kane, and many, many others.

In the beginning I asked myself the question, "How dare I dream a dream this big? Who do I think I am to dream thus?" Then I looked around me at the universe in all its wealth and I began to realize that with the abundance of the earth that sustains me and the beauty of all that inspires me, the more perfect question would be to ask, "How dare I not dream a dream this big? Who do I think I am to live my life and not work to make a dream like this come true?"

And so, with much courage and equal amounts of humility, gratitude, and trust, I begin the opening steps of bringing Spirit First into physical form. I honor the dream born in me.

photography by permission

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

This is my answer to the gap between ideas and action - I will write it out.
~Hortense Calisher

the beginning of a dream

An idea is a being, breathing and struggling for life, as real as anything you would call “real.” Ideas are gifts from God, precious treasures from the Universe, and must be treated with our greatest honor. Ideas are light, and beauty, and truth. Treat your ideas with your tenderest care. Be attentive. Be gentle. Listen deeply.

I would like to share with you my idea that has become the dream I hold with longing in my heart. I shall write of my dream in these pages and give record to its unfolding. You, in the reading, are made witness to that which I dream.

Dreaming is not for the weak or the faint of heart. Dreams call for valor and beg for bravery, and I am now called to my greatest courage to step into these great waters. I dare to dream but do so with honor for so lovely a vision, with gratitude for so wondrous an idea.

I dare not only to dream but to begin the work of bringing the dream to completion. How scary it is to begin a thing without knowing what my capability might be to bring it to pass. But never you work is to do the work, and it is the work of the Universe to bring it to harvest. It is possible the gift is in the working, not in the having.

While I have images of how I see my dream unfolding, I am not married to an outcome (I will remain open to what will be). I am, however, committed to the integrity of the work. I will not usually know all that I must do on the path to fruition; in fact, I will not likely ever know all that I will have to do to achieve my purpose, but I will always know the next thing I must do. Like driving on a dark, foggy night, I will follow those steps I can see, and when I do, the next steps will appear. One can never complain of lack of direction as long as there remains one more known step that has not yet been taken.

I have dared to dream the dream of creating the sanctuary of Spirit First, and I will share with you every step of this journey.

...let your worship song be silence

What is worship? Who are this man
and this woman bringing flowers?
What kinds of flowers should be brought,
and what streamwater poured over the images?
Real worship is done by the mind
(Let that be a man) and by the desire
(Let that be a woman). And let those two
choose what to sacrifice.
There is a liquid that can be released
from under the mask of the face,
a nectar which when it rushes down
gives discipline and strength.
Let that be your sacred pouring.
Let your worship song be silence

~ lalla
What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous. ~ Thomas Merton

Monday, October 08, 2007

the practice, Yael Flusberg

at the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet. -plato

and always remember
that love is

not a feeling
fleeting and random
like running thoughts

not a gift that
visits the lucky
the blessed
the deserving

but a practice
renewed each time you
show up
rehearsing what you want
to become

it will
deepen with time
you will
hold the space

stay at its center no matter
how clear or snowy the reception

our mothers were right when they
told us to keep at it

like anything else
if you practice love regularly
you cannot not
get better at it

that is the secret:
practice love like fluid breaths
practice love like open arms
practice love like child’s play
just practice.

written by Yael Flusberg

photography by permission

our mission

Spirit First promotes the practice of meditation and the development of spiritual awareness and mindfulness. We seek to serve by providing education, tools, and networking that support those on a spiritual path. Spirit First encourages holistic attitudes, healthful living, gentleness with the earth, and compassion with the world.


Welcome to Spirit First...a holy, a gentle, a quiet place. A place for contemplation. A place for acceptance. A place for peace. A place of love.

Spirit First is inclusive and provides a home or retreat for those who seek meditation and contemplation regardless of chosen discipline or faith. If you are Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, or Christian...if you are Sufi, Native American, Taoist, something else or nothing else, you are welcome to this place of quiet and study. At Spirit First we practice going within, and we support each other in our efforts to do so.

Within our various disciplines, at Spirit First we honor not only common ground (how usual is it for one to celebrate that which he sees as being like his own self?), but we also honor and celebrate our differences, for every part of every one of us is necessary for the whole.

We work together to deepen our mindfulness, explore our meditations, strengthen our principles and practices, and become more of our authentic selves. May we, as we put Spirit First, open up more deeply to the truth of who we are and discover ourselves in the silence within.