Courageous Women, Fearless Living Celebrates Its Eighth Year


Photos by Barb Colombo

Shambhala Mountain Center will be hosting the 8th Annual Courageous Women, Fearless Living retreat from August 19-24, 2014. This innovative and contemplative program was founded in 2005 and has helped over 300 women with a current or past diagnosis of cancer. Through nutrition, Tibetan healing, integrative medicine, meditation, yoga, art and community building, women are given powerful tools to meet the totality of their experience directly and courageously.

“Our goal is for our participants to return home with a new circle of support and friendship; with the mental, emotional, and contemplative tools to support them in their journey through cancer; and with greater self-awareness, confidence, DSC_7664and appreciation for life,” says Judith Lief, one of the lead instructors of the retreat. Lief is a contemplative hospice pioneer, senior meditation instructor, former dean of Naropa University and author of Making Friends with Death.  She is joined for this retreat by a team of experts with similarly impressive credentials including Victoria Maizes, MD, Executive Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona and internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine, and Linda Sparrowe, a writer, yoga instructor, mentor and practitioner with deep roots in the Vedas, Sanskrit, and women’s health. Read more from these inspiring instructors below:

“In the same way that it takes a village to raise a child, maybe it takes a village to heal from a serious illness like cancer. Confronting illness can be such an alien and lonely journey. At the Courageous Women retreat, I have been inspired over and over again by the village we form, if only for a few days. Within this village friendships are made, stories are shared, and deep healing occurs – for staff as well as participants.  This kind of healing continues without regard to the ups and downs of life, the remission or progression of cancer.” — Judith Lief

DSC_7701“When things go really bad, and whatever is happening seems completely solid and hopeless, the only ally I have found is a sense of humor.  By humor I don’t mean ha-ha trivialization, but a sense of lightness that punctures the heavy-handedness of my own dramas. What a relief to know that S.O.H. is always lurking around, ready to pop up just when I need it most.” —Judy Lief

“Living with cancer can indeed be a long journey, sometimes confusing, often frightening, and hardly ever predictable. People often say, take one day at a time, but I love that Tulku says sometimes even that’s too much. Do what you can, but don’t forget to “rest along the way.” Cultivating a yoga and meditation practice can help you stay in the present moment, be gentle with yourself, and give you a respite from the emotional chaos and physical challenges you may be facing.” —Linda Sparrowe


“When you are dealing with the medical system, you are caught in the hassle of finding doctors, going to appointments, enduring procedures, and basically running from one medical consultation to another, not to mention dealing with insurance companies, worrying about finances, and all the “collateral damage” that comes with a cancer diagnosis. In the midst of this claustrophobia and fixation on disease, simple sense perceptions can collapse all this pain for an instant and give you a fresh perspective A glimpse of the new moon, a spring flower in the meadow, a hawk perched high and proud in a pine tree. The evening star. A child’s laughter.  How precious!” —Judy Lief

To read more about this retreat and its instructors–Acharya Emeritus Judith Lief, Victoria Maizes, and Linda Sparrowe–click here. This retreat is also open to caregivers and loved ones of women on the cancer journey.

The 8th Annual Courageous Women Retreat is being generously supported by the Eileen Fisher Foundation and the Beanstalk Foundation, both of whom have awarded grants to fund program scholarships. To apply for scholarships, please visit



Floral Notes and Bardo: Into Crystals, Refracting


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Yesterday a stream of powerful teachings in, through, from, the Stupa. I sat within the stream, arriving nowhere, continuously–to my delight, terror, amazement.


Here’s what happened:

Acharya Emeritus Judith Lief spent many years compiling and editing the teachings that Trungpa Rinpoche gave over the course of thirteen three-month long seminaries. Until earlier this year when “The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma” was published, these teachings were not available to the public.

To celebrate the publication and the teachings themselves, there have been “Resoundings” or “read-a-thons”–folks have been reading the books aloud all across the globe. The final “Resounding” took place yesterday, with Acharya Lief, in the Stupa.

I was moved by the words. I moved the words. The whole thing was huge and fluid.

We were resounding the vajrayana teachings, which… are utterly beautiful and shattering. I was shattered and swept into the air–crystals refracting brilliant light.

After the first session–three hours of continuous resounding–we exited the Stupa. Looking up–rainbow colors, so vivid, in the clouds around the sun, behind the Stupa. ohwow…

I went down to lunch and nearly yelled at my friend when he told me he wouldn’t be attending the afternoon session because he was going to do laundry.

Moments later another friend of mine turned a cold shoulder towards me. I don’t know why.

I felt shattered, more.

The teachings emphasise the importance of building a strong foundation in the Hinayana–cause no harm; and the Mahayana–cultivate empathy. It’s crucial to do  this before entering into the Vajrayana–sacred everything, engage.

I recently took Refuge in the Three Jewels–formally entering the Hinayana stage of the path. Historically, I have often felt anxious to “get to the good stuff”–a.k.a. the Vajrayana magical stuff. I felt so glad and inspired touching into the stream of vajrayana teachings yesterday. It feels good to glimpse it. At the same time, I am becoming more and more respectful of my current spot. I’m in less of a hurry.

The teachings are brilliantly alive here, at Shambhala Mountain, where I live. I am here. I can stay here and progress along the path at a natural pace. I can afford to go deep into each stage.

It’s happening in unexpected ways.

Things don’t need mouths to speak–communication is happening all the time. There is always feedback. There is a message in each moment. That’s what the teachings say. That’s what I say.

This morning I was sitting at the table eating breakfast. I was looking around at the few other people scattered around the room–My fellows. My community. My family.


I have been feeling blown-out. I have been feeling as though I have no grip on what is happening. I have been sensing that the idea that there will ever be relief is just wishful thinking. I’ve been experiencing devastating loneliness. And I KNOW… I KNOW…

I KNOW… because I have felt this before, because I am somewhat familiar with the pattern, with how things arise and give way, how insight and growth occurs…

I know that the thing to do is:

Hang in there. Be curious about it. Don’t try too hard…

We’re all hanging in there (in here) together. That insight brought relief at the breakfast table. Being kind then felt like a very simple and effortless thing.

Sitting in space, trapped in space without a home… all of us. Seeing–the source of warmth?


PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center. His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.