Celebrating Dennis Howard – generosity embodied

On our first Day of Mindfulness for the beautiful Spring Season we listened to a recording of Kate Wolf’s “Give Yourself to Love” played by Dennis and Ondrej. We also shared about some of the many gifts Dennis offered to Deer Park and many members of the Sangha during his time staying with us.

We had received news from monastics in Plum Village, France that Dennis Howard, Order of Interbeing member, True Mountain of Insight, had been found drowned in La Roche Bernard, Bretagne, France, where he happily had been living on his boat for some months.

Solar BrotherhoodWhen we remember Dennis, we come in contact with: joy, kindness, music, coffee, Earth Tub, walking, guitar lessons, health and medical, Smokey the dog, solar panels, and children. Dennis lived wholeheartedly during his time at Deer Park and offered what he could from his vast experience.

In 2007 we held a dedication ceremony for the solar project. Early in 2008 we were able to start generating most of our electricity through the three arrays. This became a reality much thanks to Dennis and several brothers persistent engagement. Dennis, you are here with us every day.

More brothers and sisters then we can count received guitar lessons by his Airstream trailer through the years he lived here. At any occasion Dennis was happy to offer his beautiful voice and inspiring music during retreats or days of mindfulness.

The brothers and sisters of Deer Park want to offer our prayers to his children and many friends across the world. May we find ways to see Dennis in our lives and continue the joy, generosity and creativity that he offered us.

Here is a video clip from Vienna, Austria with Dennis playing “Breathing in, breathing out”:




5 responses to “Celebrating Dennis Howard – generosity embodied”

  1. Very sorry to hear this. I met Dennis at the Wake Up Retreat in Plum Village in 2013. I will always remember the fanastic duet he took part in, combining Amazing Grace and House of the Rising Sun. I think he found peace in his music and his practice. He had a warm smile.

  2. Dear Noble Community:

    Thank you so much for this lovely remembrance. My apologies for taking so long to share about Dennis here. Such sad news, but what an extraordinary person Dennis was. So many of us remember him and feel fortunate to have known him.

    My family’s early retreat experiences at Deer Park were often stressful, sometimes intensely so, due to some challenging issues our then very young daughter had to contend with. A number of sisters and brothers in the community were very understanding and supportive of us during those times, and Dennis was very much one of them. He advocated for us at times when needed, and he even said he always looked forward to us camping behind his trailer despite the sometimes jarring and disturbing interruptions that emanated from our tent in the middle of the night (which he said he actually enjoyed!). Our tent location also afforded us the benefit of being close to Dennis’ music-making and to his wonderful dog Smokey. His presence, interest, and care were always a joy and a comfort to us.

    Despite Dennis’ frequent assertions that he had no interest in ordaining as a member of the Order of Interbeing, I ordained with him at Deer Park in 2009. Naturally, he was way too busy during the retreat to attend any of the ordination family’s pre-transmission ceremony gatherings and basically waved off any real concern about anything surrounding the impending occasion at a time when there was great controversy and, for many, anxiety due to uncertainty over whether or not Thay would actually lead the ceremony himself following the now-famous Colorado retreat, which he missed due to his hospitalization from a severe lung infection. On the morning of the ceremony, I took a spot on a cushion next to Dennis toward the back of the dharma hall, where we sat quietly in meditation as people slowly filled the space. As many no doubt know, Dennis had a serious problem with his eyesight (despite those phenomenally piercing blue eyes!). After a while, I saw Thay enter the hall. Dennis was still sitting peacefully, eyes closed. I knew that even if he opened his eyes he was highly unlikely to be able to see Thay at the front of the hall, so I gently touched him on the shoulder, told him it was me, and whispered in his ear that Thay had just entered the hall. Dennis heaved a huge exhale and half collapsed, almost falling off his cushion and grabbing my shoulders to stay upright, and said in a whisper as he patted his chest and shook his head, “Oh, thank God!” So much for that cavalier attitude! I was delighted to wind up ordaining in the same family as Dennis (and so many other inspiring brothers and sisters), and Dennis was clearly deeply pleased and moved to have endured the experience himself (!).

    Dennis left Deer Park shortly after that, and we, like so many others, missed him. Even though I heard about a number of aspects of his amazingly diverse and truly incredible and colorful life over the years, I don’t feel I ever got to really know Dennis. However, I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I had to share some time and space with him. Farewell, dear brother. Peace is with you. We inter-are. I will see you in the ultimate dimension back at Deer Park, our home away from home that helps teach us where home really is: in the here and now.

    Bowing deeply,

    (Chan Phat Son – True Buddha Mountain)

  3. I just today found out about Denis’ passing. I considered him a close friend of mine, I remember listening to his beautiful music and I hired him and Aundree for a house concert once. I enjoyed sharing time with him when I visited Deer Park on Sundays and Thursdays, I also remember his talented daughter, who came to Deer Park some summers and a few times performed with him. With his vast experience in health care administration and as a former paramedic; he was a true advocate and helped to promote the health of the brothers and sisters at deer park and Thay himself. He also played a leading role in preserving some of the undeveloped land around the deer park monastery. He was a rather selfless person always available to help others. after he had almost completely lost his eye sight a few years ago he was planing to sail around the world, to encourage other humans with disabilities to follow their dreams. A few weeks into the trip, somewhere of the coast of Mexico, the American coast guard took away his boat which also was his home and he returned to San Diego, starting over with nothing, though always he had his guitar and he was an outstanding musician. A wonderful brave, bright man, serving others. He certainly had a colorful and exciting life, he also had a great purpose. He touched the life of many, including mine. I last heard from him in January, he called from France and left a message wishing me a happy new year, since then I thought about him often and meant to call him, I didn’t get around to it, my life has been so busy. Today I found out that he has left this dimension. Now I can not call him anymore. Just a reminder to spend time with family and friends while we have them, the impermanence of life, who knows if we have a tomorrow. Breathe and be happy in the here and now
    (Beautiful garden of the heart)
    Encinitas, CA

  4. Beautiful. I did not know him in this dimension, but he is with us. Thank you for sharing this. I am listening to the Dharmacast from April 2015, and his music is what I need to hear right now, along with the sharing by brother Phap Ho and the music by monastics.
    With gratitude,

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