Bringing Your Practice Home

By Katharine Kaufman

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Bringing your Practice Home with Katharine Kaufman, November 21-23, 2014

Many poets, thinkers, and dreamers have talked about the inner voice, and a time of changing slightly what we are doing. The nudge leaves us trembling or is just a whisper, barely audible. At certain times in our lives there is a call to listen inwardly and be with ourselves. Maybe we are exhausted from busy days, or we feel stagnant in our yoga practice, or we can’t find time in our schedule to practice. Some of us travel and need a short daily boost. Maybe we want to devote an entire day each month to resting, sitting and yoga. Perhaps a close friend has died, or we find ourselves at a new intersection in our lives and our perspectives are changing. We might feel dull and would like to re-awaken our creative voice.

Regardless of our circumstances, the call is there—nagging perhaps, or a faint insistence that occurs in the guise of, “I need to do something differently.” It could be that our feedback comes from our circle of friends or co-workers! Small cracks in our thought habits occur, and the thought of other possibilities enter. If we are listening to this inner voice than our practice has already begun. How to continue? How can we possibly attend to practice as well as keep everything else in our lives afloat?

As we go into fall and winter we have the opportunity to be supported by the seasons toward this internal direction. This retreat is designed to inspire one’s own path.

Shambhala Yoga O'Hern - For Web60

We will learn various ways to create yoga and meditation practices. We’ll start with this sense of what ritual is for us as individuals and then practice resting postures, and improvise from that place. We can create a practice conceptually, that has the elements we want, and repeats. We will practice the art of deep listening and let the space guide us. We may think we want one thing when we begin, and because we are listening and feeling closely, it turns into something else. We will brainstorm about where we find comfort, and delight, and think about places we can practice—conventional and not! We will sit, stand, and lie down. There will be led sequencing as well as spontaneous variations based on ancient wisdom lineages. We will consider incorporating contemplative artistic practices into our days as well such as dance, drawing, and writing.

My sense about this retreat is that the exploration and practices discovered are really ways to learn how to continue on the way of befriending, oneself. Can we take refuge; can we actually rest happily, in this rich sense of aloneness? What do we already know?

I practice by myself as well as with others. Both ways seem to me important aspects of learning of who I am and what it is to be with myself. This kind of closeness that develops creates the desire, ability, and confidence to want to be with others and our circumstances in a similar intimate way.

Here’s to listening to the small voice—our Way-seeking mind.

All Best,
~ Katharine


Katharine_Kaufman2Katharine Kaufman, MFA, is ordained as a priest in the Soto Zen lineage. She studied Yoga in India and practiced and taught for many years at Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop and Wendy Bramlett’s Studio Be. Katharine is an adjunct professor at Naropa University where she teaches Contemplative Movement Arts and is a student of poetry.


Emotional Enlightenment -Approaching The Inner Sanctuary of the Heart

By Paul Shippee

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Emotional Enlightenment: Direct Path To Compassionate Communication with Paul Shippee, December 5-7, 2014

Peeling away the protective layers of our habitual patterns of thinking and reacting we come to vulnerability, soft spot, the inner sanctuary of the heart. Things are no longer black and white, either-or, but we enter the tender areas of felt experience and glimpse previously unknown realms of our being. Compassion and empathy can now come alive as felt experience.

For emotional healing to take place we move from exclusively head-thinking to the open fields of heart-thinking. As Rumi said, “Somewhere out there beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a meadow; I’ll meet you there.” We discover unexpected aspects of ourselves that feel strange but good. We would like to claim these aspects because we sense the power of truth in them. As we let go of automatic and familiar judgment and blame reactions we discover hidden adversaries that are termed shadow and shame and blame. Those names point to all the conditioned ways we have covered over our heart, pushed the world away, sabotaged relationships and condemned ourselves with limiting beliefs by suppressing unwanted emotions like fear, sadness, hurt, grief and joy.

There is always some ambivalence in working with emotional healing. As we uncover, see and own shadow aspects of ourselves we also glimpse the authentic aspects and begin to feel the power of befriending both of these.


Emotional healing is a lived and felt experience full of wonder, sadness, grief and joy. It is not an easy journey but is rewarded with delicious empowerment and a grounded satisfaction with who we really are. We find we can see through and abandon deception, confusion and hiding as we discover the raw directness of liberating honesty. Things become real and vivid and true as we learn ways to deal with uncertainty and change.

Working with emotional healing often feels like trying to catch the wind with our bare hands. The experience of transformation, transition and change feels elusive and slippery as we expose our old obstacles to authentic presence and true compassion. As the hidden fortresses of blame and shame and judgment begin to crumble and slide away from our grasp we may feel alternating mixtures of relief, surprise, fear, open-heartedness, tenderness, fresh air and homecoming.

Suddenly, the old fixtures of defense, aggression, impatience and fault-finding reveal their mask –their superficial lack of authenticity- and we begin to see the world in a new brilliance and also to feel the presence of nowness in our body. Even deeper and more subtle, we begin to touch the profound inner sanctuary of the heart. Strength and courage flow from somewhere in our being as fear and lack of confidence melt away. With this freedom comes a responsibility to stay connected with our feelings and needs and to enjoy an empathic presence with all beings.


Paul Shippee Paul Shippee, MA Psychology, studied Nonviolent Communication (NVC) intensively with founder Marshall Rosenberg and other NVC trainers. He has facilitated NVC groups continuously for the past 8 years and teaches NVC workshops around the country.

Principles of Traditional Tibetan Medicine to Harmonize Ourselves

By Nashalla Nyinda

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Introduction to the Principles of Traditional Tibetan Medicine with Nashalla Nyinda December 12–14, 2014

Tibetan medicine is an ancient and time tested comprehensive approach to holistic healthcare for the body, mind and emotional well-being. Focused almost exclusively on creating and maintaining equilibrium within one’s body and mind; the system aims to help one to know oneself, and thus how that relates to the external environment.

There are 4 treatment methods according to Tibetan Medicine


I always encourage people that the first two treatment methods of diet and behavior are the first line of defense and the most important in recovering balance or management of a condition. This is because this is done by the patient on a daily basis and is not necessarily dependent on the physician. AND IT’S EASY to both learn and apply!

In the upcoming Introduction to the Principles of Traditional Tibetan Medicine weekend intensive at Shambhala Mountain Center, we will be focusing on these first two aspects of treatment and self-care.

What we will learn

During this weekend retreat, we will learn how to return harmony to our body and mind by refining our relationship to the elements and seasons. You will be given tools for identifying the three humors, for encouraging equilibrium, as well as learn how to apply general antidotes when the humors are imbalanced. The ultimate goal is to foster balance in the body and mind while encouraging a direct relationship to self.

Tibetan medicine understands that everyone is an individual, and therefore looked at as a unique makeup of the 5 elements and how that combines to form the “3 humors”. I believe as a physician of Tibetan Medicine that the modern world can benefit from the ancient healing arts of Tibet by making people aware of themselves. Who are they as an individual, how that relates to their symptoms and health issues and then make the connection to the natural cycles and seasons, qualities of food. This is an aspect I not only feel passionate about – but feel it will help give people very simple basic tools to enhance their well-being.

Nature is the blueprint 

Because the external and internal elements are interrelated and in fact based on the same material Tibetan Medicine takes the viewpoint that the sciences of anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology are all based on the 5 elements.

The combination of the elements make up our 3 humors, literally translating as “faults” in Tibetan because they are not stable, they change. This follows the law of impermanence. This development of the 3 humors is based on the principle of the 3 root poisons.
Passion – Aggression – Ignorance.

The Root Tantra tells us that the 3 humors reflect an individual balance for each person, wholly unique to them and their experience of health or imbalance in body, mind and spirit. There are 7 possible combinations or patterns of how these 3 humors can dominate within each person. Yet from the physician’s role, each person is treated as an individual with individual instructions. A doctor’s skill is in informing the patient what their dominant elemental pattern is, and how to balance this through diet and lifestyle.

The 3 Humors                                                                        Root Poison

rLung (pronounced Loong) WIND                          passion / attachment / desire
mKhris-pa (pronounced Tri-pa) BILE / FIRE          aggression / anger
dBedkan (pronounced Pay-can) PHLEGM             ignorance

7 possible constitutional possibilities for how the humors can display themselves 
Single wind
Single bile
Single phlegm
Duel wind + bile
Duel wind + phlegm
Duel bile + phlegm
All 3 humors combined- wind + bile + phlegm

WHY and HOW will this Tibetan approach increase one’s health, mental and emotional well-being?

The seasons, cycles, stages of life one is in all play a role in how the 3 humors operate. By bringing awareness and a solid simple, yet profound understanding of these aspects, many symptoms can be decreased or eliminated. We will have easily referenced tools and handouts which are the guides. I am passionate about empowering people to be an active participant in their healing process. You will walk away with confidence that you can use the aspects of diet, behavior and harmonizing with the seasons to empower your healthcare. Even if you’re just looking to optimize your natural healthy state; this course is a powerful lens to enhance all aspects the body, mind and spiritual practices.

What are the applications towards my spiritual practice?

Specifically if one is a serious Buddhist practitioner; there are aspects of recognizing and working with the 3 humor’s energies directly in mediation practice can enhance and deepen practice. We will touch on those. If you’re new to meditation; the aspects we will cover are still applicable to basic relaxation or yogic practices that are non-denominational. There will be time for individualizing and catering to what you’re hoping to get out of this course.

People used to ask me when I lived in Asia studying, ‘Why if you come from a culture so rich with modern medical advances do you study such a old system?’ My response was always that if a medical system which is the same today as it’s been for hundreds of years, is still in practice, and continues to produce good results with little or no side effects, it seems to me it has more value in studying it than modern medicine.

What is the importance or relevance of Tibetan medicine in today’s modern heath care system? The answer is simple. Despite advances in modern medicine people are still unhealthy, unhappy or both. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, auto-immune disorders, simple and complex digestive disturbances and a now massive wave of ‘food sensitivities’ and allergies or inflammatory conditions are on the rise. Emotional and psychological disorders are widespread and the number of people on antidepressant medicines is staggering. Patients take one drug to balance out the side effects of another.

This is not to say that there cannot be a marriage of the two worlds. One of the things that I strive to do as a western person explaining a system which is sometimes very different from what we know in a cultural context, is how to apply the principles of Tibetan medicine to daily life. These then can be further applied into whatever medical treatments one is currently undergoing. Many people seek conjunctive and alternative treatments to enhance their allopathic treatments, and this is also very helpful.

Come Join me and learn tools to enhance your well-being! Whether Buddhist or non-Buddhist, healthcare practitioner or not, all will benefit and gain new tools for heath. Please join me as we explore the time-tested wisdom of Traditional Tibetan Medicine.

I look forwards to seeing you at Shambhala Mountain Center this December 2014!


Also on the SMC Blog


Nashalla-NyindaNashalla Gwyn Nyinda TMD, LMT has over 14 years of experience in Tibetan Medicine. She earned her Menpa degree (Doctor of Tibetan Medicine) from Qinghai Tibetan Medical College, Tibet and The Shang Shung Institute of Tibetan Medicine. She also has an Interdisciplinary Studies BA from Naropa University with a focus on Asian Medicines and Buddhist Psychology. She has taught these techniques worldwide to Tibetan doctors as well as Western health practitioners. Nashalla and husband, Dr. Tsundu S. Nyinda, are co-directors of the Tibetan Medicine & Holistic Healing Clinic in Boulder, Colorado.

Radical Self Healing

By Charley Cropley

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Radical Self-Healing with Charley Cropley, N.D., October 3–5, 2014. 

You are innately Self-Healing. You passionately love yourself and you are endowed with the intelligence and power to Heal yourself. You simply have not ever been taught how to do this.

You do this by performing your most ordinary daily activities, eating, moving, thinking and relating with love and wisdom. i.e. with your spirit.

The challenge is that you are bound by a lifetime of habits. Stupid, selfish, harmful habits that are compulsive, even addictive. You have been unconsciously entrained in these sick behaviors by your family and culture. These habit “demons” govern every aspect of your behavior and are the cause of your illness and suffering.

To heal your body, you must Heal the ways you use your body. The ways you nourish, move and rest her.

To Heal your mind, you must Heal the ways you use your mind; the ways you judge and criticize yourself, the emotions you are addicted to and the ones you refuse to feel; and, above all, your deeply rooted beliefs about who you are; and your power to Heal your body and mind.

These habits do not die easily. There is only one way to Heal them. You must find your true identity that loves you more than your false self loves… well chocolate, coffee and wine; or slouching and self-criticism; or gossip and people pleasing.

You must be willing to approach your sick, addicted, stupid, selfish, altogether embarrassing self with great compassion and complete honesty. In short, you must cultivate a relationship, a living dialogue between your suffering self and your wise, compassionate self. You must come to intimately understand the sick parts of your psyche. Embrace them as a mother does her child and patiently re-educate them to behave as more responsible, adult members of your larger bodily, psychic community.


In the weekend program I’ll be leading at Shambhala Mountain Center, you will come to appreciate that you are constantly receiving specific instructions from your body, your mind and from other people telling you exactly what to do and not do. You are being spoken to, constantly by Life, by the Divine. Your body is telling you unerringly how to feed her, move her and rest her. Your mind and heart (emotional body) do the same. The art is re-learning how to understand this sensory, mental, emotional language; As a gardener listens to the language of plants, you must return to this caring, innocent curiosity towards yourself. This is innate, natural to you.

“Radical Self-Healing” will teach you how to directly connect with your own innate goodness in a no nonsense, absolutely real way. You will then practice, both alone and in groups, expressing this source of Self-Healing in the ways you eat, move, think and relate.

The art of Self-Healing is a brutal war, an elegant dance, a living marriage between our “seemingly” opposing demons of habit and the angels of Health.

You will at least come away with a sense that your most ordinary activities are living sacraments, in which your lovers and enemies, your human and divine wrestle.

Through instruction, meditation, visualization, writing, conversation and real practice, both alone and in groups, you will taste the flavor of “Radical-Self-Healing”.

We have two days, 8 meals, two showers… to practice wielding your Self-Healing power through the ways you eat, move, think and relate. You may return to your life with a clearer understanding and greater confidence that you yourself are what Heals you.


Be sure to check out:


Charley-CropleyCharley Cropley, ND, is a Naturopathic physician who after 35 years of practice, uses no medicines. He teaches his clients that they are endowed with Self-Healing capacities exactly equal to their condition. They learn that illness itself is what heals them. It awakens their love of themselves and guides them in the heroic work of Healing their own self-harming ways.

Family Camp: A Special Retreat at Shambhala Mountain

Article by Rachel Seely, photos by Samira Caamano

Family Camp at Shambhala Mountain Center is a special time to appreciate and value ourselves, our children, our families and friendships, and our culture. Taking the time to focus on this aspect of life in a contemplative and supportive atmosphere is a gift that I will always cherish. And one I believe my daughter will as well. This year’s Family Camp was SMC’s largest in many years. We had over 108 participants, which included 65 children, 27 who went through the Rites of Passage program.

Join us for Family camp 2015 — click here to learn more

Picture 2

Having that many children on the land brought blessings of wakefulness and freedom. Immediately the children developed their own relationships to each other and the land. Parents often marveled at the feeling of being held by the land, which is no small feat when in the process of letting go physically and emotionally to our children. The land became a cradle for the kids to explore the phenomenal world in a safe and accommodating manner. Kids ran freely within the space, with only the occasional reminder to be quiet near the main shrine tent and lodge rooms. They were always on the move, having fun, exploring new things, taking risks and developing new relationships with each other, their parents, and the land itself. I was personally excited to experience the land in a new way too. It felt as if the land perked up and responded wakefully to the fresh energy of the children’s exploration and wonder. I noticed many things on the land that I had not noticed before.

Our days started with family meditation, often led by previous Rites of Passage graduates. A sense of ownership and leadership was instilled into the children’s programming from the start. We were lucky to have brilliant and skillfulPicture 3 coordinators for our 2014 Family Camp. Steve Sachs and Rachel Steele lead our program, accompanied by the Rites of Passage teachers, Kelly Lindsey and Kerry MacLean. We also had the special honor of having Acharya Dan Hessey open our Family Camp with a beautiful, simple explanation of Lhasang and Lhasang ceremony, followed by an introduction to Shambhala Meditation for children and parents. I felt this clearly established the ground for the time we would spend together. The space of basic goodness and the acceptance of vulnerability was felt and appreciated throughout the program as parents worked with their hearts and minds, as well as the hearts and minds of their children and partners. I often swelled with tears as I experienced immense gratitude for what we were choosing to do together and for our children.

The children’s program was split up into age groups for morning activities while parents were given time to themselves for practice or personal time. Each day we had a parenting circle led by Steve Sachs in which we explored parenting and child rearing from the point of view of basic goodness. We were all touched by the vulnerability and insight which arose from each other as we explored aspects of ourselves and our children that were troublesome or confusing. I left the parenting groups feeling supported, enriched, and empowered to transform aspects of my parenting style and the ways in which I view my daughter and her behaviors. Afternoons consisted of “unfettered time” and family activities. Parents and children were introduced to the theme of working with the elements, and the traditional Buddhist Maitri Rooms developed by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to help us connect with nature, the elements, and the energies within ourselves. We also had many wonderful circles of singing, a talent show where fearlessness manifested abundantly, nature walks, a final banquet and an amazing dance party. We had a lot of fun!

A significant aspect of Family Camp was the Rites of Passage ceremony. The children in this group worked together all week learning contemplative arts such as calligraphy, kyudo, ikebana, poetry, bowing and lighting a shrine. They are encouraged, through their participation in the Rites of Passage program, to be in the world with gentleness and fearlessness and to begin to take more responsibility within the family and society. Parents are encouraged to trust and support their children as they let go of old ways of being together and habits holding on. These children shined as they went through the powerful “letting go” ceremony with their parents. Many parents and witnesses were touched by the significance and simplicity of the ceremony.

I really can’t say enough good things about Family Camp and the wonderful people who coordinated this program. I am fortunate that my daughter has been able to participate in Family Camp for two years at SMC. If you ask her she will tell you, “I love Family Camp.” It is something we look forward to every year individually and as a family. And now that Family Camp at Shambhala Mountain Center is growing, we will look forward to seeing other families year after year as our children grow up together and learn to be “who they are” in the world and with each other. I truly feel that having the support of this kind of family community rooted in basic goodness will not only help our children find peace within, but will help them be empowered as they face the difficulties and future of our struggling society.

FamilyCamp3Here’s what several children had to say about it this year:

“I have a much better handle on meditation. I also learned that I am a WARRIOR!! In the future, I know that I will be thankful that SMC taught me this. I will always strive to be kind, gentle, and fearless.” –Ava Keel

“I learned to appreciate the elements, love this area even more, and to appreciate all the teachers so much!” –Sheldon P. Williams

“(I learned) so so so much patience.” –Matthew

“(My favorite part was) all the love,  support, and kindness from almost everyone.” –Sierra Karsh

“I learned about fire, earth, air, water, and space. I also learned how to meditate more and calm myself down and that the warriors shout ‘Eeee!’ when they are shooting in kyuodo.” –Maxine Rhodes



Shambhala Mountain Center Hosts Family Camp August 2-8, 2015 — Click here to learn more!

Loving Your Way to Enlightenment: Discussing Relationships and Spirituality with Camilla Figueroa

Camilla Figueroa co-leads, along with Keith Kachtick, Loving Your Way to Enlightenment: Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Couple, September 12–14

There’s a Buddhist belief that a genuinely loving relationship is the practice for which all other practices are preparation.  In this conversation, we explore romantic partnership as an opportunity for spiritual awakening and cultivating unconditional love as a path to enlightenment.

Camilla Figueroa, MSW and founder of Dharma Yoga Therapy recently took the time to have some discussion with us on this ever-relevant topic.  Please click below to her our conversation.  And, if you’d like to download the audio, click here and find the “Download” button.

Also, be sure to check out Keith Kachtick’s recent post Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Couple: The Metaphor of Ya​b-Yum.


Camilla-FigueroaCamilla Figueroa, MSW, is founder of Dharma Yoga Therapy and is certified in Thai Yoga Massage, Dharma Yoga and Phoenix Rising Therapy.

Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Couple: The Metaphor of Ya​b-Yum

By Keith Kachtick

Keith Kachtick leads Loving Your Way to Enlightenment: Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Couple, September 12–14

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke makes clear that a loving, romantic relationship is the practice for which all other mindfulness practices are the groundwork. “Love is high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become world for himself for another’s sake.” The ancient Tibetan tantric practice of Yab-Yum recognizes that romantic coupling is as an opportunity for profound spiritual awakening, a practice that invites us—deeply challenges us—to love our way to enlightenment.

Traditionally, in Buddhist thangkas and sculptures depicting Yab-Yum, the confluence of “masculine” compassion and “feminine” wisdom is presented metaphorically in the sexual union of a male deity, seated in Padmasana (lotus pose), with his female consort facing him on his lap. The symbolism is two-fold: Yab-Yum (literally “father-mother” in Tibetan) implies a mystical union of karuna and prajna within our own individual nature—the two Dharma wings that lift each of us to buddhahood; united, the two awakened beings (regardless of gender) then give birth to a romantic communion embodying the blissful, non-dual state of enlightenment.


Much easier said than done, of course. But for anyone in a committed relationship, the Yab-Yum ideal of unconditional love—borne out of opening our hearts and fine-tuning our communication skills, as well as deepening our understanding of our partner’s needs and desires—is an opportunity and wonderful challenge to recognize and celebrate the highest in ourselves and in each other.

Ultimately, it’s all about soulful harmonizing. “We know little, but that we must hold to what is difficult is a certainty that will not forsake us,” Rilke reminds us. “It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult. That something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it. To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. This more human love resembles that which we have prepared for with struggle and toil all our lives: a love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute one another.”


Also, be sure to check out our recent interview with Camilla Figueroa: Loving Your Way to Enlightenment: Discussing Relationships and Spirituality


Keith-KachtickKeith Kachtick, founder of Dharma Yoga, has taught meditation and yoga worldwide since 1999. Keith writes for Yoga Journal and is author of You Are Not Here & Other Works of Buddhist Fiction and Hungry GhostHe co-leads, along with Camilla Figueroa, Loving Your Way to Enlightenment: Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Couple, September 12–14 at Shambhala Mountain Center. To learn more, please click here.

Establishing the Ground

By Ryan Stagg

Ryan Stagg is a Shambhala Mountain Center community-staff member.

Today I rose with the sun and trekked up to the Great Stupa to meditate within its silent sanctuary. As I moved along the path my nose and ears went numb in the cold air that had settled in the valley overnight. The creek was burbling and there was a hint of warmth in the freshening morning breeze. Then I listened to the crunching gravel as I circumambulated the stupa, letting my breath and heart slow from the hike and with any luck accruing a little merit for the day ahead. My eyes were teary from the cold and the pollen, and I had the sensation that the whole earth was made to spin about the stupa by my strolling feet. Then I bowed and sat before the enormous golden Buddha and after awhile sunlight began to flood forth through the eastern window, illuminating the chamber. I’ve never known a better way to begin the day.

I stayed long at work out of excitement for the things I was learning and the projects to come, and then in the late afternoon I set off to Marpa point at a torrid pace. The rocky summit stands high above the scattered lodges, tents, shrines and stupas that compose the mandala of Shambhala Mountain Center. It is a fitting acknowledgement to the great Tibetan yogi known for bringing teachings from India to Tibet. It is a wonder, and a testament, that his influence resounds so many centuries later in the mountains of North America.

As I ascended, the shadows of pine cast long upon the mountainside and I saw an elegant doe grazing peacefully between them. Robins probed for worms, nuthatches contorted on the limbs of fir trees, and a steady breeze blew scattered clouds along the ceiling of the sky. The drone of an airplane echoed, reminding me temporarily of all the bustle and commotion I had left behind for the summer. It was an unanticipated liberation to put my cellphone, car keys and wallet away in the tent. What were once my constant companions, plugging me into the networks of modern society, were suddenly superfluous objects—paperweights and an unwieldy timekeeper.


Approaching the summit of Marpa point, the pine and fir gave way to lichen covered granite and low, barbed shrubbery. Prayer flags of blue, yellow, red, green and white flapped and fluttered. In each crisp note of the whipping flags there was a whisper of my lived experience; of the precision of mind in reflecting its environment.

I softened my step and relaxed my squinting brow. Reaching the crest line behind the rocky peak I browsed the little rock piles that stood precariously here and there. I was breathing deeply and feeling satisfied by the burning in my legs. I veered south, measuring my ambition and time as I eyed the trail that wends several miles along the perimeter of the land.
But no sooner than I set out, an odd scene stopped me in my tracks. I wasn’t expecting the memorial to Allen Ginsberg—a granite slab with lion’s feet. Upon the neighboring rock was old Charlie sitting with his legs crossed and conjuring a fleeting melody from a little wooden flute. A sense of absurdity set in, my head askew as Charlie greeted me and embarked on an extended explanation of the origins of his Native American instrument somewhere in South Dakota. As he spoke my attention wandered here and there. I noticed the gilded spire of the Great Stupa in the west, the colorful flags upon Marpa point to the north, the rolling expanse of landscape to the east, and here in the southern quadrant, the inexplicable yet appropriate pairing of Allen and Charlie.

In the midst of this curious symbolism I gleaned some vague truth…some assurance; a sense of my belonging in this swirling array that both soothed and concerned me. This life I was making in the mountains and forest, in work and in play, was mine to interpret, mine to enjoy, and mine to sacralize.