Staff & Volunteer

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Hanlie
Co-Director
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Sunam
Volunteer
Co-Director
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Luke
Maintenance Manager
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Nicole
Hospitality Manager
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Kat
Caretaker
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Juan
Volunteer
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John
Volunteer
Caretaker
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Steven
Volunteer
IT Assistant

HANLIE VAN WYK

Co-Director

Hanlie’s fascination with human behavior started while growing up in South Africa. An adventure seeker and serial entrepreneur she started her first of several businesses at the age of 23 followed by a career that spans three decades and four continents. 

As a social scientist she was inspired by Nelson Mandela who said: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love”. This quote also formed the basis of her PhD.  In the last decade her focus was on behaviorally designing the world of work to humanize workplaces by creating a culture of tolerance and connectivity.

She started meditating and doing spiritual retreats in the early 2000’s. A friend introduced her to Asian Classics Institute courses where she received teachings from Geshe Michael Roach, Lama David Stumpf and Lama Marut.  She taught herself yoga from The Tibetan Book of Yoga, expanded her repertoire to Ashtanga, Inyengar, and Bikram only to find her way back to the yoga of Lady Niguma. A trip to the temples of Thailand forever changed her life. After moving to the US she found her Sangha in Chicago. 

Hanlie took the long road to get to Diamond Mountain. She was the last volunteer to arrive before the COVID-19 lockdown and the instant she set foot on the property she knew she was not going to leave in any hurry. She is on a mission to create a retreat center where guests can find their spiritual oasis in the desert and leave feeling spiritually reconnected, mentally rejuvenated and physically restored.

How Understanding Karma and the Buddhist Principles has helped her:

For me the value lies in applying the principles to every encounter, situation and interaction. As a closet nerd I strive at all times to bridge the gap between principles, theory and practice. The result is equanimity, perpetual learning and loads of fun!

LUKE ZERKLE

Maintenance Manager

Luke, a.k.a. ‘Master Luke’, has multiple trade skills coupled with the patience and dedication for problem-solving that are worthy of a true Jedi. As the youngest of 15 children growing up in a hard-working family of mechanics, welders, roofers, builders and backyard inventors, he naturally learned and assimilated many of these skills at a very early age.

Luke is a California native whose family moved to the quiet town of Bowie, Arizona in the late 80s. During a two-year stint in Las Vegas he worked at his brother’s successful roofing company, learning the trade and eventually becoming a foreman with his own work crew. Upon returning to Arizona in the late 90s, he met his life partner, Kaia. During the course of building their homestead in Bowie, he discovered the world of solar power and a talent for woodwork.

His sought after skills led him to a relationship with Diamond Mountain Retreat Center in the early 2000s where he took part in many of the building projects leading up to the three-year retreat in 2010. He masterfully crafted the beautiful mesquite doors and windows in the intriguing Blue Sky dome. He felt an immediate sense of kindredness to the place and the people.

In 2019 he took on the position of facilities manager. Luke’s patience, compassion, love of nature, pursuit of spiritual growth and talent in multiple trades make him a perfect fit for the job. His mission at Diamond Mountain Retreat Center is to maintain a beautiful and comfortable environment for people to relax and enjoy their retreat experience.

VENERABLE SUNAM

Volunteer Co-Director

“Happiness is when the bass starts to play” - isn’t this the perfect life theme for an ordained nun?”

Venerable Sunam is passionate and joyful in everything she does and mixes  “rock ’n’ roll” with  a touch of German efficiency. She is a licensed veterinarian, successful IT project/program manager, and is working as a database specialist for multi-million dollar international projects. As volunteer co-director she goes above and beyond to create a remarkable retreat experience for guests and retreat producers. 

After decades of chasing her own happiness with egoism, hazardous sports, lots of work and not getting anywhere, Ven. Sunam discovered Dharma in 2005 by reading the Diamond Cutter by Geshe Michael Roach. Ever since she has been studying, teaching, and translating ancient texts with joy and happiness, transforming herself  into a kinder person. Ven. Sunam has studied all 18 ACI Courses and 11 DCI Seminars, has attended nearly all LAM RIM Retreats and several Translator Terms. She is also a certified Sivananda yoga teacher since 2004.

She fell in love with Diamond Mountain and the desert during her first visit in 2014 and has the passion to preserve the silence, nature, and magic of this exceptional place while transforming it into “the retreat” place for modern time. She supports Diamond Mountain as a volunteer from Germany in any online subjects.

How Understanding Karma and the Buddhist Principles has helped her:

Through applying the principles in my life: become a much happier person, be able to work part time in a management position, time & money to travel the world to attend teachings, having deeper fulfilling relationships with people, a loving relationship with my family esp. my mother after decades of tension.

NICOLE MAJEWSKI

Hospitality Manager

Nicole is a creative soul that has a passion for designing beautiful spaces, cooking delicious healthy meals, and teaching yoga. 

She studied at the New York School of Interior Design, Parsons New School, and the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising and applied her skills in the interior design and fashion industries.  Soon after she decided to pursue her fascination with flavor at the French Culinary Institute and worked as a private chef and food stylist in NYC.  She discovered the magical power of yoga while at a Three Jewels silent retreat in Nicaragua and shortly after escaped to India where she studied yoga on the beaches of south Goa.   

In 2011 while living on the Upper East Side in New York her friend invited her to a Buddhist teaching at Pure Yoga, a few blocks away from her apartment.  Intrigued but not having any expectations she was blown away by Geshe Michael’s teachings on emptiness.  Everything for the first time made perfect sense to her and she has been studying ever since. 

In March 2019 she came to volunteer for the Lam Rim retreat at Diamond Mountain.  Falling in love with being surrounded by the dharma all day every day, she joined the team.  Nicole is the hospitality manager and private chef at Diamond Mountain Retreat center. Working with our sister organization, the Yoga Studies Institute, her knowledge of yoga philosophy and asana classes keeps staff, volunteers and retreatants healthy and balanced. 

She is on a mission to create the perfect retreat experience for all our guests and volunteers. 

How Understanding Karma and the Buddhist Principles has helped her: 

I have been able to transform the way I look at life and deal with everyday situations. I am surpassing my dreams and creating new and bigger dreams in a skillful way.

VENERABLE LOBSANG KADING

Caretaker

Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." -Margaret Meade

Spending part of her childhood in Africa instilled in her a deep appreciation for beauty and simplicity. Kat attended school at Nairobi International School, played violin professionally, studied with British Riding Academy and Ethnomusicology at UCSC. 

Passion and belief in successful evolution for humankind drive Kat. During her early twenties, Kat worked for the president of a fast-growing start-up fulfilling multi-national contracts with royalty and governments. This extraordinary experience implanted the confidence in her that any problem can be solved while having lots of fun. For the next 30+ years she launched successful start-ups in catering, film, fine art publishing, a school, a newspaper, and developmening products benefiting rural communities globally.  With two pre-school sons, Kat moved to the wilderness in Southeast Arizona where she built their homes. 

In 2002 in the same wilderness she met Geshe Michael, and life changed.  She gave away businesses, sold land and moved to Diamond Mountain. For the next nine years she helped build and operate the first buildings on the land as a volunteer. In her exuberance, she also completed advanced coursework; finished a 3-year retreat; became an ordained nun; worked for the Asian Classics Institute;  and helped launch the Sedona College of International Management in Arizona. 

Now joyfully back at Diamond Mountain, Kat serves as caretaker for retreaters and ceremonies, continues studying and volunteering for world-view groups.

How Understanding Karma and the Buddhist Principles has helped her:

Using the four steps and the four powers has given me a logically-proven way to tailor-make my life. It's been super-fun to practice and watch relationships shift, beautiful homes appear, health restored and wisdom spread, with happiness and freedom in others around me, too.

JUAN JASSO

Volunteer

Juan grew up in the beautiful city of Guadalajara, Mexico.  He loves Mexican proverbs such as “Relax, worse things have been lost in war” and  “Slowly, since I'm in a hurry.” He graduated from Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente  (ITESO University) with a degree in International Relations. For three years after university he worked as a yoga teacher and translated ancient Buddhist texts from English into Spanish. 

He has many secrets like being a flamenco guitar player, a martial arts practitioner and is trained in Thai massage therapy.

He was introduced to the ACI courses in Guadalajara in 2013 and he was hooked.  The next year he came to his first of many retreats at Diamond Mountain Retreat Center.  He loves sharing his knowledge of the dharma and has taught ACI classes in Thailand and Mexico. He is famous for asking  so many questions on a trip to India that Geshe Michael still tells the story about him winning a debate with a Geshe. 

In 2019 Juan came to volunteer at Diamond Mountain. He is kind, patient, always willing to listen and teaches meditation. At the moment he supports Diamond Mountain as a volunteer from Guadalajara. 

How Understanding Karma and the Buddhist Principles has helped him:

That working with karma and emptiness anything is possible... even stopping baldness and finding love in the middle of the desert.

JOHN DUTCHMAN

Volunteer Maintenance & Caretaker

John feels responsible for all the things you might never notice at Diamond Mountain. He works behind the scenes to make every interaction a five-star experience for visitors when they are here. He likes to figure out tricky puzzles, loves efficiency and being useful. If you want something done, ask him and be delighted that a short while later, it’s done.

His experience working at Taco Bell, Toyota, in the Army, warehousing, compressed gas industry and CNC machining, gives him the broad range of experience that makes him ideal for working on the Diamond Mountain maintenance crew where there are myriad of challenges coming at you and you have to figure it out.

 He likes the challenge of making eggs for large crowds, is an amateur photographer and has an eclectic and ever-growing music collection. And, if you see him doing the dishes, leave him to it.

How Understanding Karma and the Buddhist Principles has helped him:

Serving by being useful and applying the Dharma to everyday life is what matters most to him despite completing the ACI courses and studying the Three Principle Paths. You will often hear him asks ‘to what end?’, causing you to pause and reflect. When asked about his greatest accomplishments he says: “If I died right now, I can say I stopped killing bugs intentionally”

STEVEN HORKEY

IT Wizard & Music Buff

Steven’s two main interests revolve around psychology and music, with his main passions being amongst his instruments and voice. He plays approximately seven instruments but if you ask him, he'll probably tell you singing is the most personally powerful.

Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Steven is a regular at Diamond Mountain since he grew a fondness for the Dharma years ago. In early high school, he began considering how many people who have what others seem to want, aren’t fulfilled. While looking further into what such a goal actually consists of, he discovered the teachings laden within all wisdom traditions, and particularly those articulated in Buddhism.

Steven started as a regular retreater at Diamond Mountain and has since started managing their advertising and website development. When available, Steven often utilizes his time at Diamond Mountain to record and further his music projects. 

He is also a research assistant at the University of Arizona's SEMA Lab, where he contributes to a mission of using new Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Technologies to enhance mindful awareness. He recently graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Neuroscience & Cognitive Science and works as a freelance software developer and musician when he’s not volunteering with Diamond Mountain.

How Understanding Karma and the Buddhist Principles has helped him:

Having spent a relatively good amount of time on retreat, I feel like I can confidently say that the practice of meditation in the context of the dharma has been the most impactful blessing to enter into my life. I believe that self-awareness is the driver of progress for both the individual and the collective, and that through discernment and earnest effort we can achieve anything. 

 

JOE PERRIZO

Maintenance & Music Man

After being at DM for two years, Joe suddenly remembered his guitar at home in Wisconsin. The next time he went to visit his 3 kids and 8 grandkids, he made sure to bring it back to Diamond Mountain. Since then he plays at every opportunity and keeps practicing getting even better.

Joe spent two years in the Army - including a stint in Vietnam - and three years in the navy during peacetime. After that he worked in different industries until he decided to get an engineering tech degree 

He found Geshe Michael’s teachings on the internet in 2002 and followed it until 2009 when he retired at 57. He then got in his car and drove out to see the Sangha for himself and meet Geshe Michael in person. During this time, he worked with a lot of very cool people building cottages in the retreat valley. During a three-year retreat, he volunteered to deliver food and gas to the those in retreat. To this day he is the only one who can navigate some of the trickier roads to what is fondly called the ‘back forty’ (a small group of remote cottages). 

Other than being our on-site musician, Joe applies his thirty years of engineering tech skills to help maintain DM land which he describes as “beautiful, sparse and goes for miles”.