Daily Life

The Greatest Gift

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By Dawn King

This is the holiday season and filled with thinking about gifts, what to give and what we might receive. But you might sunburst-lodge-christmas-tree_2016reflect on “What is the greatest gift you already have?”

You might be thankful for family, for home, for the long-needed sporadic, but drought-quenching rains we’re enjoying on the southwest coast.

But the greatest gift you have is You—your consciousness, your life. This is the Creator, God, IN and AS YOU.

There is a Sufi saying: “La ilaha ill-Allahu” meaning the Creator (“Allahu”) is everything. Literally it can be translated: “There is nothing other than You, only You are God.” Sh’ma Yisrael (“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the LORD is one”) is a similar Jewish prayer.

If we contemplate this, that everything we know of IS the Creator, then we realize we are one with the Creator. We can then make the leap to realizing each of us is potentially the Christ child, the spiritual Christmas gift, the savior, or liberator, anticipated by the world’s great religions.

Sunburst’s founder, Norman Paulsen, liked to use the Christmas Tree as an analogy for a human being. My version is that the Star atop the tree represents your Pure Self. The rainbow of colors, as we have represented on our Lodge Christmas tree, represent your spinal chakras, with red (life force) at the bottom.

We can open the flower of our ourselves—develop and express our gifts, our talents and virtues—and live more fully. Let’s aim for realizing our oneness with the Creator every day of 2017.

Beginning With New Resolve

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by Dawn King

Indigenous peoples have always celebrated the winter solstice as a time of new beginnings. Each of us is then thought of as being a year older and hopefully wiser. It is a time for people to come together in observance of natural phenomenon, such as at Stonehenge, as well as for sharing food.

img_4686adjSunburst observes this unofficial New Year with ongoing silent meditation, a dinner and observances at our standing stones and labyrinth or lighting of candles.

Winter solstice is the start of the winter season, a time of reflection, a season for nourishing the soul as well as the body. In northern latitudes we see the days grow longer after this solstice, although the earth is cooler until spring’s equinox arrives, three months later.

This year’s Winter solstice is particularly meaningful as we set our intentions for deeper soul connections. To help fulfill this resolve, we will participate in the year-end Kriya Meditation Retreat. Starting 2017 on a spiritual note can only be a blessing to ourselves and our world.

For more information on Sunburst’s Winter Solstice Meditation or Light and Renewal Kriya Retreat, click here.


On Being Thankful

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By Ischa Beharry

As humans, we have a tendency to take so much for granted that we forget that the very air we breathe, the sunlight that gives life to us and our planet, the food that magically grows from a tiny seed – all these are major things in our lives; yet do we thank the Divine daily for them? If only every day was a day of thanksgiving, what a life that would be!img_4371_jk-kitchen-brunch

Gratitude can contribute immeasurably toward our joy because it is an essential aspect of love. As such, it draws us to the source of all love. To express loving gratitude for our blessings, whether great or small, brings us greater attunement to the Infinite, and a greater awareness of Life’s responding love. In addition, the divine laws of abundance become more fully operative in our lives when we acknowledge and appreciate the Giver behind the bounty of spiritual and material blessings.

How can we proceed to be grateful often? By catching the moment and inwardly saying, “Thank you God” for any little grace that comes to us. By practicing being thankful for the smallest of things is to dwell on good. And to dwell on good is to magnify it. A mind thus enlivened with gratitude is mirrored in the outward behavior of its host. 

Reflecting on this year as it soon comes to an end, I cannot but with deepest gratitude and appreciation think of the efforts of all those who actively support the mission of Sunburst. From our daily activities, to major events, the love and commitment of many have made 2016 a powerful and meaningful year of both personal and collective growth.

2016_11_19_sacred-geometry_27A heartfelt and special “Thank you!” to the ministers, childcare helpers, brunch cooks; the office, kitchen, and administrative
staff; our dedicated work crews and temple keepers, permaculture expert Sean Fennell (and his helpers) in growing food as an expression of feeding body and Spirit; Erika Eddy for her amazing workshop on Chinese medicine; Moksha Badarayan who, amidst her busy teaching schedule, finds time to host an unforgettable yearly “Star Party;” Rev. Ron Gibbons for his fascinating workshop on the Mandala; Michelle Schaefer for her illuminating workshop on Ayurveda for Wellness; Craig Hanson for his presentation of Sacred Geometry in nature; andSunburst-musicians the dedicated yoga teachers: Patty Paulsen, Dawn King, Jennifer May and Carrie Smith; and for all our musicians who help create such a sacred space including the Kings (Valerie, Al, Dawn), Leela Badarayan, Peter Schaefer, Les Boyer, and Ann Kathleen; and any Karma yogis I missed. You are doing your part to make Sunburst happen!

To all our friends and guests, we appreciate and are most grateful for your presence and support in our lives. To each and every one of our sisters and brothers at Sunburst, without whose individual and collective efforts Sunburst would cease to exist, I salute you all and say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

And to our Eternal Well-Wisher, without whom we would cease to exist, with utmost gratitude I say, “Thank you, Beloved Spirit, for all your love, light, patience, understanding, compassion, kindness and grace; for your precious gifts of friends, family and community, and for the countless blessings you bestow upon each of us daily.”


Permaculture As Spiritual Practice

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By Sean Fennell
At Sunburst I employ the principles of Permaculture to observe how I live daily, how I connect with the wisdom of the Earth, with myself and with others. This is the outward journey, having been sculpted inwardly through my practice of the twelve virtues and the eight-fold path of conscious living.

Sean FennellThis practice supports a continual path of transformation and growth in my everyday life. It helps me approach ordinary activities in extraordinary ways.

Where Spirit, Nature and people meet in oneness in activity, as well as in non-activity, is that place where I find my center. Permaculture is the marriage of the spiritual with the natural and social and is, therefore, one of the highest expressions of spiritual practice.

Permaculture begins with the individual, and is contingent upon one’s thoughts, ethics and beliefs. This, in turn, is what one can fully utilize in creating a sustainable way of life, starting from the inside out.

By employing the benefits of meditation, deep self-reflection, time spent in nature and group interactions, one’s creative expression and endeavor can translate into a life that’s fun, rewarding and sustainable for oneself, for others, and the Earth!

“If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable” is the Permaculture mantra.

Sean demonstrating the permaculture method of planting trees.

Sean demonstrating the permaculture method of planting trees.

A Spectacular Heavenly Event

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By Ischa Lea

Saturday, August 13, 2016 was finally there, charged with anticipation as we prepared for yet another evening of great fun and excitement at Sunburst. Decorating the Lodge, preparing snacks, laying tarp upon the sacred Wheel of Life hill for eager campers created a high-energy environment perfect for those who would stay awake all night looking at the heavens. Celebrations for our customary annual “Star Party” had begun. The Perseid Meteor Shower was to make its grand entrance!

Sunburst-star-party-2016_03Moksha Badarayan, our renowned Sunburst science teacher, held her large classroom full of eager students, both mature and young, spellbound as she presented a three-part slide show on astronomy that included the latest discoveries and scientific information that kept us riveted in our mental journey through outer space, traversing the Milky Way! How amazing to hear the many theories put forth by science as they try to define and categorize the very subtle differences of what constitutes “life” in outer space – mind-blowing and intriguing propositions that elicited much teacher/audience participation, with the tiny “grown ups” asking the most interesting questions, resulting in the most interesting answers! Needless to say, Moksha’s acumen and preparedness placed both her and the kids among the “stars” that night!

Sunburst-star-party-2016_02And the evening was just starting! On the patio outside lay mounted three gigantic telescopes, manned by an amazing group of seasoned astronomers, including Sunburst’s own Steve Anderson. Not only were we all in awe peering at the rings of Saturn, the moons of several planets, watching the space station whiz by, but an occasional meteorite would streak by too, further building the excitement of the evening as  some made “goop” as a science experiment, drank hot homemade chai, snacked, and continued their periodic visits to the telescopes.

The grand finale marked a short pilgrimage to our Wheel of Life hill that held a 360-degree view and upon which some of would spend all night scanning the heavens, “ooing and aweing” as the heavens presented the ultimate light show – incredible meteors with their comet-like trails streaking across the land! Oh what a night to remember – warm, starlit, fun-filled and joyful. Looking up I could only sum it up in a few words to Moksha camping beside me: “Look what beauty our Heavenly parents have created for our enjoyment.”

Thank you, Moksha for making “Star Party 2016” a memorable one!

Moksha holding her classroom spellbound.

Moksha holding her classroom spellbound.

3-D Big Dipper

3-D Big Dipper

The Light Divine

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By Ischa Lea

What is this light that within glows
A thousand rays in all direction goes
What is this peace, this joy it holds
That none can explain, merely concur
If to him, to her its witness shows?

Darkness if there be, matters not
Its presence made invisible,
Vulnerable, inconsequential, weak
For in this light is held the joy I seek
Yes, this light powerful yet so meek

O great light, soother of souls
O devourer of ego, of falsehood all
Bare we become, stripped to the core
As a young babe in our mother’s arms
Pure love to receive, O light divine

Where there is love there can only be light; where there is light there can only be joy; where there is joy there can only be peace; where there is peace there can only be God; where there is God, there can only be virtue; where there is virtue, there is only pure consciousness; and where there is only pure consciousness, there lies bliss, there lies the one, the all, the beginning of the pure light we once were and the light we are again to become. This is the beginning, the journey, the end.


Shaping Time 

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By Sharon Ray

In building a life of inner harmony, it’s so important to slow down. This is not easy. It’s not easy to create space in our lives, but it can be done through choices. Inner harmony is a form of peace, certainly. In order to have peace, it’s important to have quiet time, and to have it every day, especially on the days that we have “off.”

Sitting with a good spiritual book and a cup of tea or coffee is a balm to the soul. Taking a rest in between paragraphs or chapters just to look around the room to listen to the sounds: the rain on the roof, the birds chirping, the hum of the refrigerator. These are moments of pure consciousness, of pure conscious awareness. These are moments when we are consciously connected to our true and eternal Self. That Self is looking out of our eyes. It is listening with our ears.

Time alone with the Divine, doesn’t just happen. We literally have to “carve out the time.” That means we have to take something out to put our quiet time in. Developing this true inner life of harmony and to make it our home, whether we are at work or at play, is essential to our happiness.

On what days and at what times can you make space for simply sitting? What do you need to take out of your day, or reschedule, in order to enjoy some time with your own True Nature? Make a date with your pure Self to just enjoy Being.

“There is nothing else worth seeking in this life!”
– Norman Paulsen, Sunburst’s Founder

Young woman standing in the middle of autumn meadow with high go

Leaving a Legacy

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By Ischa Lea

A dear friend, Rita, once shared with me one of the best questions one can ever ask oneself when adversity strikes: “Lord, where have I not been in integrity.” My humble friend never realized what great teaching she was imparting to me. Those words, simple yet profound, are my friend’s legacy. On par with any enlightened teacher, they continue to hold deep roots in my consciousness, a benchmark for my own self-scrutiny and a gift worth sharing with all.

The month of January was not only a new beginning, but held a reminder to the world of the legacy of a great man, Martin Luther King, Jr. Wherein lay his greatness? Like Mahatma Gandhi, he, too, noted the suffering of his own brothers and sisters. Yet, like Rita, King and Gandhi were not embittered souls seeking revenge or wasting time casting blame. They opted to do something noteworthy instead. They opted to walk the path of peace, love, and integrity. Both leaders followed the commandment of the Master Jesus to “turn the other cheek,” to offer love where hatred was commonplace.

I have so often questioned, “What could I possibly leave as a legacy?” The one thought that continues to override all others is that I must practice vigilance by asking myself in all instances, “What would love do?” Granted, the emotional side of my being does have its occasional outbursts; however, subsequent actions are usually guided by deep introspection—guided by “What would love do?” I’ve come to that place where I do not “beat myself up” as much, dwelling on “Where did I go wrong? Instead, I do my best to prevent unhappy outcomes.

The following poem was lovingly provided to me by a dear brother at Sunburst from the obituary of someone he knew. Tony Johansen’s legacy to the world resonates of a great soul, full of love, kindness, compassion, and wisdom. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., he, too had a dream for our world.

What Would It Feel Like

What would it feel like
Not to live in a world gone haywire
Where everything we did
Gave to the world
More than we took from it?

What would it feel like
If we woke up in the morning and
The feelings of despair were gone
And we leapt from the bed
Eager to contribute the next thing
To the great turn around?

What would it feel like
To climb on your bike
Or walk to the bus
Instead of the car
To dig up an asphalt parking lot
Plant a vegetable garden
A duck pond, a small forest?

What would it feel like
To read to the blind, tutor a child,
Push a wheelchair
Knowing your few needs were met
And worth was measured in love
Not money
To sit quietly and listen
To those in conflict
With themselves and others?

What would it feel like
To bring the stillness of your own heart
To the turmoil of another’s heart
Gentling their waves with your calm
Letting their waves pass
Through you and away
Like wind through bamboo?

Tony Johansen

Pause machen

Seeking Guidance

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By Ischa Lea

Many years ago, I took a short leave from my job to explore the Tampa, Florida area. I was very excited at the possibility of moving from New Jersey to a warmer climate. More importantly, I wanted to live closer to friends and relatives. Having listened to its praises from people living there, Tampa seemed very promising, but I did some research on my own and proceeded to fly out there to see for myself.

Very excited about relocating, I returned to New Jersey and prayed about the idea. I instantly felt an overwhelming sense of discomfort. Anxiety suddenly replaced excitement. Gone was the heightened euphoria of just hours before! I knew then, without a doubt, that my intuitive spirit, my true Self, was guiding me to make the best choice. Its direction was the polar opposite of what my own research, knowledge and reasoning had dictated: a support structure awaiting me in Florida, possibilities of good employment, and fine weather.

Had I gone against my true Self’s direction, listened to my ego/mind’s promptings and relocated, I would have forfeited two golden opportunities–that of meeting my incredible spiritual teacher and later on meeting my beloved life partner and best friend. My ego/mind had guided me toward the fulfillment of a great desire, but my pure Self had guided me toward a great destiny! I was reminded of the words of Joseph Smith, Jr.: “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask from books, but to go to God in prayers, and obtain divine teaching.”

Every sincere spiritual seeker has asked at one time or another: “How do I know if it’s my pure Self speaking to me or my ego/mind?” To ask this question regularly is to truly step into humility. To me, humility means allowing my heart to open itself to receiving divine wisdom, truth, and guidance directly from the One Source of all, and the life within. Humility is hardly a mark of weakness; rather, it is the greatest expression of strength there is, for to step into humility is to step into wisdom.

To ask whether the pure Self is speaking indicates one is on the right track to receiving clarity. When the pure Self speaks or directs us to do something, it often feels liberating. It also often beckons us to stretch our comfort zone. As we’re well aware, the ego/mind loves for us to stay in our comfort zone for that’s the easy way. The pure Self, on the other hand, pushes us beyond preconceived ideas and desires into what’s truly better for the present and the future.

The pure Self’s prompting is inspirational. It wants us to take action, and our need/desire then becomes a blessing, a gift, and not a chore. There’s a sense of true fulfillment when one accomplishes an inspired task, especially when it pushes one beyond a perceived limit. Spirit wants us to grow, expand, and express ourselves through living in our full God-given potential. We can use our individual gifts to be all that we can be, and support all others to equally express their unique talents and gifts to their fullest.

Listening to my pure Self has led me to living a life  filled with meaningful experiences, personal growth and learning, great joy, real friends, and unlimited possibilities. I’ve learned that the truest barometer of spiritual awakening is how well and how much we express virtue in our daily lives. It is the surest yardstick by which to measure just how much closer we may be getting to the goal of Self-Realization. We don’t have to think about virtue so much, but simply experience the depth of joy that results.

Each of us is here to experience and express fully the beautiful spark of the Divine that we are, to live Heaven on Earth. How can we possibly do that unless we listen for divine guidance, the fount of all wisdom and true knowledge?

Some of the qualities of decisions guided by the pure Self are: Inclusion of others, willing action, good intentions toward that which enriches not just a few but everyone. It helps us to respectfully allow others to do the same, following their own inner guidance.

Love is the gateway to receiving the pure Self’s direction. Love becomes the axis on which our thoughts, words, actions and decisions revolve. To love our Creator is easy; to love each other, wholly respect and support each other, wanting the best for one another, can be much harder.

Each day, let us be able to say: “Thank you, God, for having guided me to do all that which is pleasing to you and thus good for all with whom I share a common bond and responsibility. And thank you for letting me see your divine spark in all of your children.”

Self-realization is yoga or “oneness” with truth—the direct perception or experience of truth by the all-knowing intuitive faculty of the soul.
Paramhansa Yogananda.


“Falloween” – A Spiritual Celebration of Halloween

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Honoring Harvest Time and Departed Loved Ones

By Ischa Lea

Entering the sanctuary grounds in childlike secrecy, Sean and I sneaked into the children’s meditation room where we quickly donned our individual costumes. And, like little kids, we excitedly peeked through the window trying to guess who the wonderfully costumed individual walking down the pathway might be. What an immense, gorgeous Mexican hat and mask he wore! Turns out, it was none other than our dear Andy, whose beautiful antique car became the culprit that gave its owner’s identity away!

Greeting us as we walked through the kitchen door at the Lodge and dressed in full regalia stood a lovely Native American, Sharon Ray, busily tending to several warmers to ensure that all food would be at the right temperature and delicious throughout the evening.

“Wow!” she exclaimed. “Ischa, you look so beautiful I want to take you dancing!” And a pretty good dancer she was, breaking loose on the floor later in spontaneous reverie as Peter Schaefer, Guardian Tree Spirit, played his haunting flute melody.

Barbara’s Garden Fairy

Gracing our assemblage, resplendent with iridescent wings and carrying her magical wand was Barbara McCaughey. Little did our garden fairy suspect that I had whispered a small wish as she glided by, that the garden fairies in the sanctuary grounds outside would have much fun playing through her in our midst. And which party would ever be complete without a fortune-teller also? Smiling, all decked in perfect attire and carrying a crystal ball in her hands, Sunburst’s Vedic astrologer, Valerie King, with subdued voice and eyes softly peering at our auras, stood ready to declare her mystical insights.

Alas! We couldn’t have a party without good food, right? Delicious finger foods and treats graced our buffet table as everyone indulged themselves while being entertained by several “Falloweeners” exhibiting their great talents through the performance of several heart-warming, hilarious skits:

  • As pretend stressed-out new parents, Heiko and Emily Wirtz, with newborn (a butternut squash with a drawn-on face), pacifier in her mouth, swaddled in warm blankets and sleeping peacefully in her carriage, made their grand entrance, inviting all to help cuddle their lovely “baby girl.”
  • Mr. Compost, Sean Fennell, was a comical sight to behold as he sauntered onto the floor adorned in “mud,” composting vegetables, fruits and every imaginable bug—worms, spiders, centipedes—as well as mice, butterflies and birds. Thankfully, none were real and the mud was dark chocolate frosting with edible gummy worms on his face and arms!

“Mr. Compost”

  • And what major event on Earth could ever go unnoticed by our inter-galactic friends? Beaming down in the midst of our celebration were none other than our cosmic buddies Spock (Craig Hanson) and Lt. Uhura (Miriam Lamb) from the USS Enterprise, as well as Lt. Lukara, wife of the great Klingon warrior Kahless, who proceeded to narrate a most intriguing story of how she met her husband.
The Star Trek crew

The Star Trek crew

Music, dancing, musical chairs and fun prizes completed an amazing event; but also gracing the room with their unseen presence and energy all evening were many departed ones, whose photographs adorned a beautiful altar honoring the Day of the Dead, stood guard over the Lodge and the evening’s numerous events.

It has been said that our divine Parents created their divine children through whom they might enjoy the countless worlds and all things therein. Falloween proved to be an awesome forum for them to do just that! Laughter and fun filled the air that night, expressed in joy unbounded. It was a true celebration of SAMHAIN, the Gaelic festive night marking the beginning of the darkest part of the year whereby the veil between realities becomes increasingly subtle. A time to revel in the harvest, rejoice in the light (bonfires) that will illuminate the long nights and invite the faeries and loved ones past and present to an awesome celebration!