Skyline, Winter - 2001

By Diane Pendola


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Winter solstice.
A moment of stand still,
where darkness and light
hang in the balance.

The night is long.
The winds howl.
Rain beats down the valleys.
Snow shrouds the high places.
Cold grips us in the cave of our hearts
where we huddle against unseen forces
that throw long shadows against
the flickering of our small fires.

If only we had the hope
of the fire within us,
we would take the courage of the light
into the shadows and witness
their reverent bow and retreat before it.
If only we had the mind of light
we would not let the cold lance of hate
so disable our souls
that we stand still in our fear,
cowed by the cast of our own shadows
upon the cave walls.

We would turn, instead,
with the earth’s turning
and rise in the darkness,

the light itself revealing us.

The earth itself, revolving out of night,
a season so new
we will weep to meet each other
wearing our own luminous face.

12-2001 - By Diane Pendola

September eleven, two thousand and one:

I have heard it said by many people that everything has changed since September eleventh. What has changed for me is my sense of urgency in the work of transforming my own consciousness. It is the most fundamental way that I know to contribute to a collective transformation of consciousness towards peace.

I have heard people, in all sincerity, lament our bombing of Afghanistan and the loss of innocent civilian life, but in the same breath excuse such suffering and death as “collateral damage”, the natural consequence of war. In a shrug of the shoulders the question floats in the space between us, “what else can we do?”

I feel that such a question reveals our lack of imagination, as though, as a species, we are doomed to war, to violence and to the pursuit of narrow self- interest. What I have come to see, as a consequence of 9-11, is there is a “group mind”- a shared state of consciousness- which a majority of the American people support. We support it by our choices, our life-styles, our recreation, our consumerism, our dependence on fossil fuels. We support it by how we think and how we act. It is a mind that can see war and violence as a necessary means for maintaining our American way of life. It is a mind supported and strengthened by the all-pervasive presence of the media in our lives. It is a mind in which the ends justify the means, as though violence can ever result in a peaceful end.

Our President, George Bush, well represents this group mind, which might also be called the will of the people or the majority consciousness. It is clear to me that as a nation we are not yet capable of a non-violent response to acts of terrorism and aggression against us.

Awakening is important:

The Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh who, as a monk in Viet Nam, experienced the devastation of war and eventually the pain of exile from his homeland, speaks to this when he says,

We have a large responsibility as citizens. We think that the government is free to make policy, but that freedom depends on our daily life. If we make it possible for them to change policies, they will do it. Now it is not possible yet. Maybe you think that if you get into government and obtain power, you can do anything you want, but this is not true. If you become President, you will be confronted by this hard fact. You will probably do just the same thing, a little better or a little worse.

Thich Nhat Hanh points out that President Bush represents a group mind. He is operating in a field of consciousness that is supported by you and me. It is not possible yet for our nation to embody a peaceful and non-aggressive response to violence because we are not yet non-violent ourselves.

Therefore we have to see the real truth, the real situation. Our daily lives, the way we drink, what we eat, has to do with the world’s political situation. Meditation is to see deeply into things, to see how we can change, how we can transform our situation. To transform our situation is also to transform our minds. To transform our minds is also to transform our situation, because situation is mind, and mind is situation. Awakening is important. The nature of the bombs, the nature of injustice, the nature of the weapons, and the nature of our own beings are the same.

He goes on to say that this is the real meaning of engaged Buddhism. I would say that it is the real meaning of engaged spirituality, no matter what religious or cultural tradition informs it. In the twenty-first century we must discover within ourselves the peace and the unity for which the human spirit has yearned through millennia. We must “awaken” to our kinship with every other human being, not to mention every other-than human being which shares the water, air, soil and life-systems of our earth home. We are on the edge of history. We are on the edge of our planet’s ability to sustain a consciousness of violence towards each other and our earth. We must transform that consciousness. We must change our minds.

Our stubborn hearts:

When Buddhists speak of “mind” they do not mean our intellect or mental capacities primarily, but our whole being, our whole consciousness. The Christian tradition would be more familiar with the term “heart”. Jesus speaks of the necessity of conversion of “heart”. He speaks to his disciples of the stubborn resistance of the human heart to change, to conversion. Thus he applies the prophecy of Isaiah to the many people who come to hear him speak, but do not take his words to heart.

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
See and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
Their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,
For fear they should see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their heart
and turn and be healed. (Mt: 13: 14-16)

How do we convert our hearts? How do we change our minds? How do we transform ourselves and our world? How do we awaken… open our eyes, ears and hearts and be healed, whole, at peace?

Our Collective Wisdom:

We have, as part of our collective heritage, many who have pointed the way, who have embodied within their own being some facet of the inexhaustible brilliance of light and truth which is available to each of us to illumine our own life path. I believe at this moment we are in need of the entire spectrum of our collective spiritual inheritance. Jesus Christ is not the property of Christians any more than Gautama Buddha is the property of Buddhists. They are an integral part of the evolving human consciousness. The prophets, shamans, saints and sages of every wisdom tradition and culture (including the wisdom of our scientific and secular cultures) belong to all of us. They belong not only to humanity but to the entire reality. We do well to call on them now.

Emerging Religious Consciousness:

Old habits of mind are dying. A new mind is being born. This transformation of mind reverberates through the entire reality and effects all of our institutions, including our religious institutions. Something new is emerging that is not just an unfolding of the old. It is a mutation in consciousness, and though our spiritual traditions can give us guidance, we also need to have the courage to break with the old structures and traditions that would abort this birth.

Since September 11, I am more painfully aware than ever of how religious belief has been and continues to be the source of conflict, violence, justified war and legitimated murder. It is apparent to me that the only religious consciousness that holds any moral authority whatsoever in today’s world is one absolutely dedicated to non-violence. This word,“non-violence” does not adequately convey the fullness of its meaning. In Christian scripture the meaning of non-violence is exemplified in the body of teaching called the sermon on the mount. Here we find sayings such as:

In this inaugural discourse Jesus speaks of, and from, the transformed mind and spirit. This is a mind that loves friend and enemy alike, as oneself, because the awakened mind realizes our “oneness” with the entire body of creation. What is truly implied in the word non-violence then is the “law of love” and the vital awareness of our essential communion with every other human being.
The radical goodness and integrity of existence

Teresa and I have lived together on this land and in this place we call “Skyline” for nearly twenty years now. My father was raised on the neighboring ranch place and my grandfather was born very near to this place. We choose to live close to the earth in these red foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Zen master Dogen has said that to be enlightened is to be intimate with all things. We attempt to cultivate this intimacy with ourselves by entering the depths of our own being through meditation and contemplative practice. We attempt to cultivate this intimacy with nature by attentive presence to the particular world in which we live and move and have our breath. We acknowledge we do this imperfectly, clumsily. We are only now learning how to be in mutually enhancing relationship with the other-than human life that abounds around us. But as we listen more and more deeply, discovering our own infinite subjectivity, we develop our innate capacity to enter the subjectivity of every other-whether that be rock or tree, river or hawk, friend or so-called enemy. And we find, “Thou,” a sacred other, a reflection of our own true face, our own true nature, our unitary Self.

Raimundo Panikkar, one of the great religious minds living today says of non-violence:

Authentic non-violence must be more than a mere means for obtaining whatever is sought… Nonviolence is an end in itself, because it embodies a form of life that believes ultimately in the harmonious structure of reality. Without this faith in the radical goodness and integrity of existence, nonviolence is not only impossible but ceases to be non-violent and contradicts itself.

This place is teaching both of us the radical goodness and integrity of existence. It is helping us to embody a form of life that believes in the harmonious structure of reality. With Panikkar we believe that the activity of building a better world is not a mere technique of manipulating or programming the future, but the very art of the present. (Blessed Simplicity, p. 86) We seek to live a life centered in love and non-violence, not for the sake of some other life, but for the sake of this life. We enter the sanctity of the present moment precisely through this world, not some other world. We enter our own minds, our own hearts, our own bodies and touch the Source that brings the universe to birth. But we also touch our fear, our aggression, our violence and our greed. To transform our inner world is to change our outer world. To fully enter the present is to shape the future. We are connected at the deepest level of Being with every other person and created thing. Our actions reverberate through the entire web of life. Therefore we choose to cultivate a mind and heart- a consciousness- of peace, kindness, compassion and non-violence so that the entire web of life may reverberate with the consciousness of love.


Teresa and I are looking for ways to share our experience of living and working on this land and in this way, with you. In the spring of 2002 we plan to begin offering space for individuals and small groups to spend time here. We realize the work of transformation is at once personal and collective. We all have a need for community and networks of support. We want to provide a place here at Skyline where we can reflect together; pray together, ritual together and support each other in entering our own interiority and the interior depths of the other-than human world all around us. As Thomas Berry says only if there is a profound intimacy with the inner self, the inner spontaneities of nature, will we have the will or the psychic energy to bring about the difficult transformation in human life that is required of us. We are nourished by the natural world both physically and spiritually. We cannot have one without the other.

In as much as we can help inform this entry into the larger Self through instruction in contemplative presence, meditation and other awareness practices, we will do so. We want to be conscious participants in the creative unfolding of the what Panikkar calls the “cosmotheandric” intuition, a vision of reality that perceives the cosmic, the human and the divine as constitutive dimensions of the real that cannot be separated from one another.

I was blessed to have met Raimundo Panikkar when he was a professor and I was a student of religious studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Little did I know what an indelible imprint he would leave on my thinking or how thoroughly he would shape the direction of my spiritual unfolding for the next 28 years. Through his influence I entered into a spiritual quest that would take me into a conversion back to my own Judeo-Christian roots, while instilling within me a deep trust of the religious impulse woven into the very fabric of the divine-human-cosmic relation. Along with that trust he gifted me with a spiritual freedom to enter other wisdom traditions and be changed, converted even, by my encounter with them.

Teresa lived twenty-five years in a Carmelite monastery, embodying a contemplative practice and way of life informed by the teachings of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and the whole Christian mystical tradition. She continues to live a contemplative life here at Skyline, a monastery without walls, and without institutional boundaries.

We draw upon our roots in Christian spirituality while realizing that much of Christian theology and practice has contributed to the alienation of the human being to the natural world. This alienation, this split between body and soul, earth and spirit, human and divine, has contributed to the devastation of the planet and a corresponding impoverishment of our own inner world and spiritual depths. We dedicate ourselves to healing this split. We understand that a new spirituality is required to meet the demands of our times. We want to participate in bringing this new spirituality to birth. As Panikkar says, Service to the earth is divine service, just as the love of God is human love. All that remains is for us to spell it out in our lives.

Recommended Reading:

Being Peace: Thich Nhat Hanh
The Cosmotheandric Experience: Emerging Religious Consciousness: Raimundo Panikkar
Blessed Simplicity: The Monk as Universal Archetype: Raimundo Panikkar
Befriending the Earth: Thomas Berry
In the spring of 2002 we will be opening our doors for private retreats and workshops for small groups who share our vision. Using both the ranch house and the cabin, we can comfortably accommodate a group of twelve people. Here is a description of our accommodations:


This is a two-room cabin equipped with bathroom, shower, hot water and cooking facilities. The bedroom/sitting room has a futon that folds down into a double bed. It also has a twin bed, a comfortable chair and an open rock fire place. The kitchen/sitting area has a wood cook stove, a four-burner gas range and oven, a 33” refrigerator, table, chairs and space for an extra sleeping pad.

The suggested donation for use of our cabin is $60.00 a day.


This is located on the lower level of what we call the “Ranch House”. It overlooks the garden and lower horse pasture. It includes a room with a queen-sized bed adjacent to a small kitchenette. There is a bathroom with shower next to the bedroom that is entered through the outside.

The suggested donation for use of the garden apartment is $45.00 a day.


This is a three-level old-time ranch house. It includes the garden apartment. The two upstairs rooms have twin beds. The middle level bedroom also has twin beds with a private entry onto the back deck. There is a private room off the front porch that also has a twin bed. And the lower apartment has the queen-size bed. It has three bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. It has a large group meeting room.

The suggested donation for small groups is $250 a weekend. (Minimum of six, maximum of nine people).

All individuals and groups provide their own food and meals. For groups who would like us to provide food and meal preparation, prices can be negotiated.

All accommodations can be rented out for longer periods of time for a reduced rate.

We are located in Sierra foothills of northern California, off Hiway 49 about midway between Nevada City and Downieville. We care for 200 acres of privately held forestland, bordered by the Tahoe national forest. Despite the forest fire of two years ago, it is still very beautiful. The fire opened up some spectacular vistas including views of Bullards Bar reservoir towards the south. We have a year round stream that runs through the property and the riparian areas are forested with mature Incense Cedar, Douglas and White Fir and Ponderosa Pine. It is very private here with many walking trails and solitary places. Come and see.

We make our facilities available under the auspices of Skyline Harvest, a California, non-profit corporation.
PO Box 338, Camptonville, California, 95922 (530) 288-3300, email:
Diane Pendola and Teresa Hahn, co-directors

Love knows no seasons,
no races, no nations, no colors.
Love knows no ages, no times, no societies, no states.
Love knows no occupations, no economic levels, no parties,
no opinions, no favorites, no enemies.
Love knows no boundaries, no limits, no cultures,
no persuasions, no priorities, no places,
no prejudice, no conditions, no end;
Christmas is Love, is forever, is here and now.

-Carmelite Monastery of Reno-

©Diane Pendola, December 2001. You are welcome to print or make a copy in electronic form for personal use or sharing with interested persons as long as the copyright notice is not removed or altered. Please do not print it in any other publication, or sell it, by itself or as part of another work, without express written permission of the author. Thank you!

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