In the moment
One House of Peace offers space to practice mindfulness
Imagine a place where you can stop on your way home from work for a cup of tea and a half-hour of silence, a place where no one asks you who you are or what you do for a living or demands a smile when you don’t feel like giving one. Imagine a sanctuary for peace right in your own neighborhood.
This is exactly what Caverly Morgan had in mind when she founded One House of Peace, a nonprofit dedicated to the practice of awareness. After 12 years of intensive Zen practice, including seven years living as a monk in a Zen monastery, Morgan is now devoting herself to sharing her practice with others. At One House of Peace, she facilitates twice-daily meditation sessions, with Zen Awareness Practice discussions every Thursday and Sunday, as well as monthly day-long workshops. The center also offers tai chi and yoga classes, massage therapy, working meditation and “peace through service” days in the community.
“To me, the whole point of peace is that there’s space for everything,” Morgan said over tea in the center’s garden after a Sunday morning sit and discussion. “What causes ‘not-peace,’ or agitation, is the process of rejecting something. So seeing that it all can be exactly as it is and it’s all fine exactly as it is is really the heart of the whole project.”
Morgan came to Zen on a whim, when a book by Zen teacher Cheri Huber led her to a retreat in North Carolina. Growing up in Virginia a self-described “skeptic who saw religion as somewhat of a crutch,” the idea of one day becoming a monk was the furthest thing from her mind. The retreat, however, was life-changing.
“Until that retreat, I hadn’t seen that maybe there was life outside the conditioned reality that I lived inside,” Morgan reflected. “And from that moment on, the rest of my life has been pursuing that alternative, living the reality that is outside suffering—to the best of my ability, moment by moment by moment.”
Morgan intended a brief visit in Sacramento last summer, but it soon became clear that “everything in the universe was saying this was the right place to be.” She had a vision of creating a center devoted to awareness practice, where anyone could come receive assistance and support in turning their attention inward. In August, she met Roberta Jan-Johnson, a retired kindergarten teacher who shared her desire for conscious community. In fact, Jan-Johnson and her husband had bought the house next door to their own in Curtis Park with the intention of someday turning it into a place for daily meditation and classes. With Morgan’s vision and Jan-Johnson’s space, One House of Peace was born.
Morgan describes practicing awareness as “an opportunity to access what’s beyond the illusion of a separate self.” She says that “deeply experiencing our fundamental interconnectedness with everything there is in the universe … that’s as God as it gets.” Yet awareness practice also means that “someone could be joining in with us who is just practicing being mindful all day and would never describe themselves as religious if you paid them.”
For Jan-Johnson, the experience of daily meditation has taught her “to live in the present, and take each day as it comes.” She added, “What I like particularly about awareness practice is you get to come from where you are. So whatever is going around in my mind, in my heart, I get to deal with that directly and learn some tools to deal with it.”
Morgan agreed that the opportunity for direct experience is what makes One House of Peace unique.
“It’s not about ideas, it’s not about concepts, it’s not about religious doctrine. It’s about a direct experience of peace.”