Jay Cutts, a former East Mountain resident now residing in Los Lunas, has organized and led a meditation retreat in the East Mountains near Tijeras for the last 15 years. 

The gathering has no affiliation with any religious tradition but welcomes all people who find, “sitting still, listening honestly has value,” Cutts said. “Sitting” refers to meditation in the Buddhist tradition.

The retreat is located in the National Forest off Raven Road, and lasts seven days beginning June 22, though participants can attend for whatever part of the week they wish or even part of a day, according to Cutts.

Jay Cutts

“At the retreat everything is optional,” he explained.

Cutts said there is “an early morning sitting that’s very quiet, where you can sit as short or as long as you want, it’s about an hour and a half.”

“In the late morning there’s an hour of sitting, two 25-minute timed rounds with walking in between followed by a talk,” he said.

Some of the talks will be tapes of Toni Packer speaking, Cutts said, adding that he practiced with Packer at the Rochester Zen Center in the 1970s and early 1980s. Packer left the Zen Center in the 1980s to begin her own teaching of non-religious meditative inquiry, he said.

In the early afternoon participants at the retreat gather for a “dialogue or group inquiry,” Cutts continued, adding, “That’s a very fruitful process. Mostly it’s pooling our energy together to listen to something, to wonder.”

Cutts went on to say, “It’s solitary, not a social experience, and yet at the same time because we’re not conversing with each other, interacting socially, we feel each other’s presence very intimately.”

He said that each participant can also have one-on-one time with him during the retreat.

“I really feel very strongly that the real transformational changes that need to happen in our life aren’t going to happen just from daily meditation,” Cutts said. “They need this extended time and they need working with other people. I think the retreat is a critical aspect of it.”

He explained: “The possibility of transformation is a very real possibility and the ultimate transformation is in those moments that we’ve all experienced when the sense of being a separate person has somehow gone away and one just feels that they belong. Everything around is touching me. It’s a very simple thing but it’s utterly different. There’s no need to resist the world because that’s what I am. That’s where my energy comes from.”

The meals are vegetarian, and participants pitch in to help prepare them.

Participants bring pads or mats to sleep on and some camp at the site, Cutts said. Participants also need to bring sheets, towels and toiletries. A mat and zafu are welcome and there are chairs and cushions as well for sitting meditation.

Shoes are left outside the building and electronic devices are strongly discouraged.

The cost is $290 for all seven days or $60 per day, which includes meals and lodging. Those interested in participating in the retreat can contact Cutts at 505-281-0684 or visit meditationnm.wordpress.com.

Cutts is having an introductory workshop June 8 for those who want to try meditation.

Cutts began meditation practice at the Zen Center in Ann Arbor Michigan while attending the University of Michigan in the late 1960s and early 1970s.