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Please help Teja continue and deepen his practice
£360 raised
103% of £350 goal
13 contributors
2 Years running
Teja was in line for a fully supported place in an "intensive" self retreat as a monk, but due to his decision to continue on without the robes, he will not take this place. However, he's been offered a great scholarship and we can help him to attend.

Hey there, I hope we can help Teja with this. Every little bit helps, including social shares.

Here are more details about the retreat and about Teja's journey.



The deadline for the retreat fee (£350) is the 31st of January.

Details on the retreat:

"I have been in contact with the forest refuge in Massachusetts (US) about doing between a month or two of "intensive" self retreat. I was in line for a fully supported place as a monk, but due to my recent decision to continue on without the robes, I will not take this place.

The coordinator at the forest refuge has been so helpful and kind in discussing with me my options, and he offered a great scholarship so I still may be able to attend. Since I will be paying an extended visit to family in the region in February, the retreat would begin on March first and end anytime between March 31st and the end of April (depending on how much is raised). I made the commitment in 2013 to do at least a month of continuous practice each winter, so this will help me continue to honor that commitment.

Especially, now that I have decided to transition from the robed form to try to bring my practice more into situations of engagement with our current issues on planet earth, to have the focused inner practice time allows me to continue to walk my path in all sorts of circumstances throughout the rest of the year.

Even more that I have been noticing more and more how the moment we neglect our own journey to try to reach out to 'save' the world, we burnout soon after. So for me, this is my way of remembering what it is I love and so filling up my heart so that it is resilient enough to go out and meet the world.

Further, I've been stepping into a grassroots approach to the path (not relying overly on the established institutions) in the sense that I have been trying to bridge retreat/monastery practice with that which is "the world," and so enthusiastically trying to explore with others how we can bridge that gap between sacred and mundane. This is because these splits between what you can experience on retreat and what you can experience in daily life are so pervasive that the rebel in me finds it exciting to explore how to dismantle all of that.

Having spent a lot of time with forests and mountains and feeling such reverence, my heart almost demands that I stretch the boundaries so i can die knowing I lived in honor of the gifts I received from this great earth. Thus, I feel not overwhelming fear to live such an uncertain way. Instead, it s a joy to be guided along.

As far as logistics go, the minimum to be raised is about 350 pounds, as that would cover the one month minimum. For two months it would be about 700. In the case that we have surplus raised, that is no problem since things like boots for the us winter sleeping bag, and herbal medicine (keep me strong and resilient enough for travel) are very helpful as well. Timing for all of this is for at least the 350 to be raised by perhaps the twenty second and end of the month the complete latest."

More info on Teja's journey:

"Perhaps in two words: earth monk.

I have been in the committed dharma practice realm for about seven years now, and throughout that time, I have craved to see the earth loving people come together with the dharma loving people. I have been in both worlds these past several years. I would often become frustrated at visiting dharma centers and witnessing an often lack of connection with earth as sacred, I remember plastic cups, strong chemical cleaning products, white walled heavily heated meditation halls, and a very vague recommendation to connect with "nature."

Amidst all of this, I would be the one eating meals under a tree (even in the rain), sleeping outside to connect with the elements, not washing my hands with that heavily scented chemical soap, and going outside to pray and do my best to understand how to listen to trees, plants earth, and the various creatures around.

Of course, I would find myself sticking around such dharma centers to practice because I loved the people, the dharma, and that precious opportunity to explore the practice.

Taking it back eight years, when I was at the age of twenty... I remember becoming disillusioned when I was at university in Colorado, how I was hungry to learn but the intellectual classrooms felt a bit dry and removed from what my heart sought to explore. So after finding Suzuki roshi's book Zen Mind Beginners Mind and feeling like it was what I had always felt and longed to express, combined with being disenchanted by university's definition of knowledge, I sought a different way.

I remember feeling hopeless, like what i loved most was not supported by society. I remember feeling like I saw something that no one else saw (or had the courage to say), and wondering if I should just abandon this heart voice to be a more effective university student and seek the culturally supported model of "success."

I wondered this because, something was pulling at me, nagging me but I couldn't explain it or give it a coherent or rational voice, so how could I know that trusting it would be "following my heart," when I had seemingly nobody to look to on such things. So the alternative to listening to this voice was much easier, since I was quite good at impressing people enough to get a job, and I was the guy who would not even have to study much or attend class often to do decently on exams.

So "success" was the comfortable route, but it slowly became unbearable for me to the point that I couldn't bring myself to even attend class anymore. Sure, I would enjoy going out to concerts or up into the mountains, but I really craved something that I could devote myself to. So I was open to something, anything to satisfy this longing.

This was 2008, when I made the decision to go live at a monastery in Nepal. Looking back, it was funny because I had only attended one meditation group by this time, so to go there in that way was a big jump for me. I just knew that I needed an extended time in a place that would challenge me, that would inspire me, that would encourage new life. In Nepal, I found myself quickly picking up Nepali, which gave me a refreshingly different view of the world to be able to see it from the eyes of a culture on almost the exact opposite side of the planet from where I was in Colorado.

Speaking the language gave me a quick brotherhood at the monastery with several of the monks (they were almost all between the ages of five and twenty) who basically took me in as family. To see how little everyone had there, yet how happy they were, could do nothing but simplify my ideas of happiness and fulfilment.

Despite a relatively difficult schedule, that found me often teaching three two hour classes (combo of english, science, math, art) a day, i was enthusiastically dedicating each free moment I had to exploring meditation practice. To my delight, I had so many wonderful openings in my practice at that time, that a new way of seeing emerged, a simpler way that made me feel more content, patient, and compassionate.

Alongside the practice, I was able to set up a library in the room I was staying in, so I would always have the monks come in to take out books and share their lives with me. I could walk from my room to the monastery and have every monk I passed give me an enormous smile. Every now and then, volunteers from the west would come, and sometimes would remark at how they could see me staying there for the rest of my life, since I was so at home and fulfilled.

I pondered this, but something made me want to return to the States after seven months to finish university, probably the pressure from my father. So I returned, and it was such a relief to see US culture with patient and sacred eyes. And I did finish, but ended up just taking the classes I loved, despite them not fitting in to an established curriculum but was able to use my rascal wits to convince the academic advisor that they all fit in to the 'international studies' major, hehe.

At this time also, I worked at both a Nepali restaurant and a tiny Ethiopean restaurant. Both places were little families for me since they reminded me of the simplicity and joy that people of simpler cultures can bring to my life. The woman that ran the little Ethiopean place, Hanna Selassie, quickly became my best friend, my mentor, my sister, my mother...

And we both brought such radiant joy and peace by serving our spiritual practices undercover alongside the food. That restaurant didn't even have a sign back then, so people would have to stumble in out of recommendation, smell, or intuition. So I began to discover that when you are on the path, you encounter dear supportive friends, family wherever you go. With this, after completing university, I got rid of all my possessions and hitchhiked around through some wild places in the West of the US up into Canada.

Then ended up in Nepal again for a few months, then Ethiopia for a few months (coinciding with Hanna's first visit in so many years to her homeland), then SE Asia. My hair became long, some dreadlocks emerged, and a beard puffed from my face. After these journeys, I decided to return to the US upon hearing how my father was diagnosed with a life threatening illness. So I spent some time with him and the rest of my family before hitchhiking on a beautifully synchronistic journey from one side of the country to the other.

This landed me in a small town in Northern California, where to my delight I found fellow committed dharma practitioners, people living close to the land and plenty of wild places. So I stayed there for a couple of years, even ended up building a cabin with the help of a friend, as I learned the plants of the region and took delight in growing foods and collecting wild medicines/edibles. It was such a luxury also to have three solid dharma teachers in the region to learn from consistently, alongside fellow sangha to connect with when times were hard.

Yet, Nepal has a claim on me, and called me back in the winter. I stayed out in the mountains, in a non-touristy region, where the bus could barely reach, this of course was to my delight. I stayed with a family i have been close to since the first time I was in Nepal. They are so convinced that I am of their own family, being a vegetarian, nature and dharma lover that they are so incredibly warm hearted and generous to me. We cooked meals over the fire together, had all sorts of beautifully silly and inspired talks in Nepali, and enjoyed the simplicity of the mountain life.

For me, it was a gift to spend so much time with the older generation's wisdom, since they haven't been sped up into twitchyness by all of the modern technology that a lot of us young ones have been exposed to. If they weren't generous enough, the father helped build me a little hut in a quiet place, so I could do solitary retreat.

And after a lot of practice, and three months time in such simplicity I returned to my little cabin in Northern California, where I realized I was ready to explore changing forms to catalyse going deeper in the practice. With this, I visited several monasteries to contemplate ordination, and at Plum Village I met a wonderful monk who invited me to Burma, where I soon found myself in robes.

After Burma (encouraged by health issues due to some dangerous burmese cooking ingredients), I was sent to a forest monastery in Sri Lanka where I was able to practice for 6 months, living in a little concrete hut in the forest. I loved crossing paths with enormous snakes, with porcupines, with two types of monkey (one type with a moustache), with all sorts of creatures. I loved the simplicity, of only needing to go down from the solitude once a day to pick up food with my bowl from incredibly devout and generous villagers.

I loved the opportunity to focus on exploring the practice. What a gift. Of course, it was not easy by any means, but the love of it allowed me to revel in the solitude. Eventually, due to an expiring visa and an invite from a teacher, who's teachings helped clarify my practice a bunch.

I found myself back in the West, between England and France (visa stuff again prevented me from settling into France, as I initially wanted to for nine months, and from the UK is where I now write.

I have sent out some updates on the journey from these past nine months, so if you want some of these writings just let me know and I will add them here."

On transitioning out from the robed form:

"The motivation behind transitioning out from the robed form is to have more flexibility to find ways to bridge the monastery/retreat centre with "the world." To come down off the mountain, and discover creative ways to make the practice resilient enough to be able to meet the various challenges of our current world. Particularly, I've been really enjoying discovering ways with others to do this. It is clear that if we are going to find ways to support the healing of our Earth, we need to bring together spiritual practice with action. So I've been exploring this by- participating in the response to COP21 in both London and Paris... beginning to more and more hold spaces for people where we explore this issue with practices to support it... stretching my heart's resilience by contemplating/deeply feeling wounded areas (Auschwitz, Post-attack Paris, and hopefully doing something in a factory farm site in the future)… countless one on one deep soulful meetings with others… and most importantly the commitment to wisdom and compassion that moves the heart where it needs to go with eyes that see through the apparently fixed forms. And so, these are my intentions that I have been watering, and as you may expect, with such big intentions come difficult internal rearrangements to meet them, so I have been trying to stay attentive with my practice to allow such often uncomfortable feelings to move through."

Email updates:

"If people wish to receive email updates from my journey, they are welcome to send me an email at since I send out stories and inspirations from time to time.

Big love and thanks."

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