Sangha Profile

Ordinary Dharma/Manzanita Village Christopher Reed and Michele Benzamin

Ordinary Dharma 247 Horizon Avenue Venice, CA 90291 Tel: (310) 396-5054 We offer classes, retreats, and Days of Mindfulness.

Manzanita Village P.O. Box 67 Warner Springs, CA 92806 Tel: (619) 782-3604

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Manzanita Village, our country retreat, is now two years old. Since May 1993, we have had more than a dozen retreats; hosted visiting teachers, Asian and Western, from different traditions; and enjoyed the presence of many visitors who come for a few days up to several months.

The hills and mountains you pass through en route to Manzanita Village are beautiful. There are many parts of Southern California that are wild and relatively unspoiled. The non-human world, the biosphere as it manifests here, offers continual support to practice authenticity, awareness, and kindness. It offers a breathtaking spectacle of beauty, interpenetrating forces, and a gateway to the  unconditioned.

Manzanita Village was the fulfillment of an ongoing dream and a search for land that began several years ago and took us through nearly every county in Central and Southern California. With very limited financial resources, we had almost given up the possibility of finding suitable land, when we found Manzanita Village in dilapidated condition after years of neglect. Practice has become the practice of work, and we have learned, little by little, to do the work of construction and restoration in a relaxed and mindful way, without getting caught in deadlines or expectations. We've learned that we don't have to view work as a means to an end or just a way to get things done. We can use work, not only to practice mindfulness, but to celebrate our lives in the here and now. It is possible to work in a relaxed way, and such work can be as concentrated and insightful as sitting in the meditation hall.

Practicing mindfulness in a community is much easier than practicing alone. The challenge of community living seasons and softens us, demanding honesty and  patience with ourselves and each other. Although it seems to be a challenge, as it gathers momentum, it starts to take care of itself. Starting a community is not easy. If you can help in any of the following ways, we would be most grateful:

  • Come and visit. Share your time, joy, and energy with us. Our model is Plum Village and we feel it is deeply important to develop a sanctuary where Thay's teachings can be practiced on an ongoing basis.
  • Full-time residents. There is room for three full-time residents. Gardening and construction skills are especially needed.
  • Grant writing. Can anyone help with grant writing to further our work with innercity children and community-service work?
  • Donations. We need financial help. There are still many things we need to do to make Manzanita Village fully livable. Roofs still leak, plumbing needs fixing, rewiring needs to be done. We are incorporated as a nonprofit religious organization recognizing Thich Nhat Hanh as our spiritual head. Your contributions are fully tax-deductible and are very much needed and deeply appreciated.

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