Our beloved Toni Packer passed away August 23, 2013, in the presence of friends, at the Livingston County Center for Nursing in Mt. Morris, New York. Though she never considered herself to be either a teacher or the founder of a religious center, for many of us she was the embodiment of the possibility of both awareness and meditative inquiry. Her love for what she called the work of this moment was contagious and the clarity she evidenced was radiant.
On October 12, a splendid day of autumn light, warmth and color, over 100 friends and family attended a memorial gathering for Toni at the Center. After a period of quiet meditation together, we listened to a talk by Toni from the July 2002 retreat. Many participants then stood, and gave moving tributes to her and expressed their appreciation of her life and work. Some music followed. Toni was fond of the Beatles "Let it Be," and we sang it together and then an impromptu "Nowhere Man." More music filled the air as the gathering had lunch and enjoyed some chocolate afterwards, remembering Toni's love for it. In the afternoon Toni's son Remo, together with family and friends, spread some of Toni's ashes on the Center land and waters.
The tributes and expressions of appreciation were recorded, and some excerpts will be transcribed for inclusion in the next Enewsletter. To sign up to receive the Enewsletter, please click on the "Join Email List" at the bottom of the page.
Also, an article about Toni by Joan Tollifson is in the winter edition of Buddhadharma: the Practitioner's Quarterly. A portion of the article may be viewed here, but the entire article, along with some excerpts from Toni's work, is available only in the print edition.
Staff and Friends at Springwater Center
Photograph's from Toni's Memorial Gathering
"What is it That Dies?"
The following quotation by Toni is from a January 1996 Newsletter article:
Yesterday, as I walked up the hill, some shriveled flowers lined the path - an early frost had snuffed out their delicate lights. Other hardier plants were blooming during the warming day. Your question came to mind: "What IS it that lives and dies?" We usually ask this question when someone close to us dies or when we ponder our own death. Rarely do we want to know what it is in a flower that has died. We take it for granted that the earth displays constantly appearing, changing, and disappearing colors, forms and textures.
A moment ago, there was a loud thud against the window. I looked out and saw a beautiful bird lying quietly on the patio, eyes half-open, the white dappled belly and yellow tail feathers freely exposed. The body was still warm but without the lively motion that ended in a crash and fall.
What is it that died? What is it that is born? A bird has died, another one has hatched, an old man has exhaled his last breath, a baby has left the womb, a flower has frozen as another one opened its purple petals. What is it that is born and dies?
Summer 2013 Newsletter