New Year’s Retreat in the Tradition of Ruth Denison

at Dhamma Dena

Thursday Dec 28, 2023 - Monday Jan 1st, 2024

We are pleased to again offer our New Year's Retreat in the tradition of our founder, Ruth Denison. It is a special time for old and new sangha to gather and to practice together in the spirit of celebration of the Dharma and the new year. A traditional time to turn inward, this retreat offers us the opportunity to slow down, becoming calmer and clearer.

The retreat will be co-taught by Nick Herzmark and Sakti Rose, senior teachers in Ruth’s tradition. All sessions will be conducted according to Ruth's unique teaching style, one that emphasizes attention to the outer, inner and innermost life of the body and its ever-changing sensations. This method of practice offers students a way to stay connected to the experiential truth of Anicca-- Change itself within each present moment.

This retreat will introduce Satipatthana (Four foundations of Mindfulness) practice. An ancient teaching which leads to deep release and freedom by simply using mindfulness - attention to the breath, body and mind to liberate the heart. In the spirit of the new year, practices of lovingkindness and compassion are offered to renew our spiritual and personal connections to life as it is. Continuing with Ruth’s tradition, the retreat will culminate in our untraditional New Year’s Eve fire ceremony and ringing in of the New Year – to mark the arising and passing of all phenomena.

Please join us in (mostly) silent community of peace, love and deep inquiry. Invoking the attitude of lovingkindness coupled with the deep silence and beauty of the desert. Our New Year's resolution is to more fully accept ourselves, release pain, confusion and connect to our true nature.

“Meditation is not a search for something; rather it is a journey of opening to discover what is here. We are dedicating ourselves to look deeply at dukkha (suffering), to heal, with deep sincerity, dedication and faith. The outcome of this practice is a loving, boundless heart.” - Ruth Denison

Note: Dhamma Dena was founded in 1977 by innovative Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison (pictured below), one of only four westerners initiated as a teacher by the eminent Burmese meditation master Sayagyi U Ba Khin. You can read more about Ruth here.


Nick Herzmark, MFT Forty five years ago I met my teacher, Ruth Denison. She had a profound impact on my life. Her very being seemed to express power, kindness and a direct understanding of life. She was grounded in her body and was able to convey profound truths to many of us that she met. She taught me how to connect deeply with the flow of life through my own body. Through the four foundations of mindfulness and her profound wisdom she inspired me in creating a clinical practice based on Buddha’s unique path. It is a unique privilege to offer what was passed along to me all these years later here at Dhamma Dena. I hope during this upcoming New Year's retreat, to be able to share some of her wisdom with you.

Sakti Rose, MA, SEP About twenty seven years ago, I was fortunate to be introduced to Ruth by my then partner, Nick! She married us many years later in the zendo during a retreat.  Over the years, she was a teacher, a mentor in my Theravada training and teaching, and a close spiritual friend.   She is still present in my everyday life thru my own work as a body oriented therapist and occasional Buddhist teacher. As in my clinical practice of several decades, I trained and am passionate both as a Naropa trained Contemplative Psychotherapist and as a Somatic Experiencing trauma therapist. This work couples my enthusiasm for healing the mind and the body both thru sensory awareness in the body’s movement joined with my personal dharma practice of 40 years. Meditation in this desert setting has always allowed me a safe space to unwind, settle onto the earth, and listen to the heart of peace, joy and moment to moment awareness happening in the here and now. Our bodies hold the keys to the dharma flowering if we only take the time to listen.

Retreat Info


This retreat is offered freely at no cost. Dana is a word in the ancient Pali language which means Generous Giving, which the Buddha tells us is a heart quality that arises from our gratitude and deep connection to each other.  All of the teachers on this retreat are offering their time and knowledge on a Dana basis and receive no compensation.  The practice of Dana, is part of the Buddhist legacy that has been passed down for over 2,500 years, beginning in Asia and continuing till today. Historically, teachers at monasteries would offer teachings out of generosity, and the community would support the teachers and the centers, generously giving to the level of their ability.

The teachers and the center, in offering the teachings and retreat freely, are acting in a manner that reflects their alignment with the Buddhist teachings and their mutual interdependence with the community. In addition, the practice of Dana invites us to disrupt the transactional consumer economy where everything and everyone is commodified and to live into a world where we can support all beings, and the planet, through generosity and care. You can make donations to Dhamma Dena and the teachers at any time through paypal or venmo, or by sending a check to: Dhamma Dena, PO Box 183, Joshua Tree, CA 92252. Please write "New Years Retreat" in the memo and indicate how much is for the teachers and how much is for the Center.

Covid Protocols

In order to attend this retreat, proof of Covid-19 vaccination and negative rapid test upon arrival is required.

Please review our full COVID-19 Protocols for a residential retreat here.

Important Dhamma Dena Policies

Before attending a retreat at Dhamma Dena, please also review our important policies.

Questions? Please contact us at

Retreat FAQ

What is the nearest airport to the center?

Palm Springs International Airport (PSP)

Will I be able to get a ride to and from the airport to the center?

We offer rides to and from the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) for $30 each way. You can specify that you need to be picked up or dropped off in your registration and we will contact you to arrange that. You can also email us at Please be prepared to wait for consolidated pick-ups and drop-offs and please avoid late night or early morning arrivals and departures.

I want to come but I can’t afford to get there. Is there any support I can get with travel costs?

The Open Dharma Foundation offers scholarships for helping to cover the cost of travel for retreats. You can apply here:

Does this retreat include food and lodging? What will those be like?

Yes, this retreat includes lodging and 3 vegetarian meals daily, prepared by retreat cook extraordinaire, Valerie Holze. Dhamma Dena has been lovingly (and often creatively) built by Ruth Denison’s students over the course of the last forty years. The structures and atmosphere can be described as rustic, quirky, beautiful and a work in progress. There is a main house where the kitchen and the office are located, the zendo (or meditation hall), two main houses for retreatants, as well as a range of other structures and trailers to stay in. On the grounds, there is also a walking labyrinth as well as four outhouses, two outdoor showers and a bathhouse.  

I’m on a special diet. Will I be able to cook my own meals?

Food provided for retreatants will include options for a variety of diets, and we ask that you indicate your dietary needs in the registration form so we can meet them. We do have kitchens available if your diet requires that you cook your own meal. Please indicate this is what you plan to do on your registration form (or email us at so we can arrange a kitchen for you to use.

How much dana should I give?

There is no one answer to this question. We encourage you to give dana according to your heart and your means and to cultivate and appreciate the beautiful quality of generosity within.

Can I bring my dog or pet?

No, we cannot accommodate dogs or other pets on this retreat. If you have a service animal as described in the American Disabilities Act, please let us know as soon as possible so we can reserve you an appropriate room.

Is this retreat wheelchair accessible? Will it meet my access needs?

Yes, the facilities are wheelchair accessible, offering two ADA bedrooms and bathrooms and a fragrance free environment. Please let us know your access needs when registering. Dhamma Dena is committed to making the center accessible to all who would like to come.

What do I need to bring?