“Southern Dharma is my place of refuge and renewal. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy – I have encountered my shadow side here as well. I come here to enter my life more deeply. Although travel to other locations is enjoyable, my deepest experience is always here.”
Kimberly Childs is a painter, author, long-time practitioner and all-around beautiful human being. On a recent visit to Southern Dharma (she frequently stays in a friend’s cottage in the Practice Community), Kimberly pulled out a small sketchbook filled with dozens of brightly colored sketches of plants, birds, fish, and mountains. Some of the pictures were of Southern Dharma, so I asked her if we might use one to create some new thank you cards that we could use to acknowledge acts of dana. She agreed and offered to cover the cost of the printing and envelopes as well, a generous gift.
“I’m so focused when I paint and yet relaxed and aware – it is very much a meditative practice. When I’m in a beautiful outdoor location I take it in through painting. Often I get into the “flow” and hours go by without my noticing.”
Kimberly, like so many other Southern Dharma supporters, feels a special connection to this place. This place that has, for now, lost its tangible, sensory relevance to teachers and retreatants. Nowadays, a retreatant might be just as likely to associate Southern Dharma with our Zoom profile picture than with the actual Meditation Hall, constructed with so much patient, loving attention years ago. And yet, for the few who still come here, this land continues to offer its teachings.
“Watch: sunlight filter through leaves, mist on the mountains, Woolyshot Branch coursing through the boulders, and meditate with a group, eat the wonderful food in Noble Silence, nap, walking meditation, listen to the birds, identify wildflowers, talk with the dedicated volunteers and employees. The sound of the bell echoing through the valley brings my heart to my mouth. Southern Dharma is sacred ground.”
To say that we have been deeply touched by the presence of every single person who has come to visit with us since the pandemic is neither accurate nor sufficient. It is not accurate because there has been no physical contact of any kind, and not sufficient because the way in which we have been changed by each other’s presence in this space, at this time, defies simple quantification. We watch people move about this land in the way that we watch the fawns, and the snakes, and the box turtles: with curiosity, with focus, with reverence, and with delight.
“Southern Dharma is a refuge where I can contemplate life with like-minded people. I feel safe here. People understand if I don’t want to talk or walk very slowly, savoring every step. The ritual of ringing the bell, eating in silence, bringing mindfulness to everything I do is how I want to live my life. I can do it here.”
Kimberly Childs grew up moving between London, New York and her grandparent’s Kentucky farm. Determined to find her spiritual family she searched through 1960s San Francisco and found Guru Sri Chinmoy’s ashram in Queens, New York. While with the group, she co-owned three vegetarian restaurants. Later, she obtained a masters in social work and supported alcoholics and their families. When she lost her voice to spasmodic dysphonia she turned to Peggy Millin’s women’s creative writing circle as a way of healing. She Writes Press published Childs’ Remember Me As Loving You: A Daughter’s Memoir in September, 2017. Kimberly now resides in Asheville, NC.