Spring at 8,000 Feet

by Jared Leveille

Jared Leveille is the Land Steward of Shambhala Mountain Center.  

Photo by Greg Smith

The invigorating quality of spring is making itself evident throughout the land. Bright green grasses and many-hued wildflowers are breaking through last year’s decay, birds are calling for the rising sun, and the creeks are full with the rush476102_10150631565777304_1792262271_o (1) of snowmelt. We all feel the season brimming with possibility and renewal. I heard the first rumble of thunder a moment ago, off a ways, and listen as it reverberates across the valley– speaking a promise of rain, which is so precious in this arid climate. There is a tingling in my skin as I breathe the crisp air in the fading light.

My first few land crew volunteers have arrived, and I love experiencing our mountain valley anew through their fresh eyes. We have a lot of projects to work on, but know how precious it is to have the opportunity to really get our hands dirty– to touch the earth.

PasqualFlowersI encourage you to visit the land stewardship’s new Facebook page – Shambhala Mountain- Friends of the Land. With it, I’ll try to keep everyone up to speed on things I’m working on, share some of the beauty I come across during my days, post a daily picture of the land, and perhaps, at times, ask for support and help with particular projects. It is not possible for a single person to properly steward the land. Expanding awareness can help us all play a part in the protection of this fragile environment. We can foster a deeper sense of community through recognizing we are not separate from the spring’s emergence, from the urgency of change–and that the earth is indeed a part of us.

Some springtime inspired listening…


Top photo by Greg Smith

Bottom photo by Paul Bennett

Deepening Our Connection: SMC’s Land Steward on the Four Seasons Program

By Jared Leveille

Jared Leveille is the Land Steward of Shambhala Mountain Center.  

Jared Leveille

Jared Leveille

2014 is an exciting year for environmentally based programming, and it got off to a great start in March with Martin Ogle‘s program “Gaia: Engaging the Rhythms of our Living Earth“.  As a participant of the weekend, I was thrilled to help engage the group in closer observation of the land as we explored storytelling, solo observation points in nature, art, symbology and journaling.  The Gaia Theory- which describes the earth as a single living system depending upon a myriad of contributory relationships, interactions and processes shares an interesting common thread with a major tenet of Buddhist philosophy- interdependence- which surmises that all phenomena, human life included, exists in mutual dependence upon one another.  Among the group were scientists, educators, environmentalists and nature lovers and each one of us had something important and relevant to share over the weekend, which seemed to support the ideas we were delving into.

Exploring Trees and Wildflowers‘, our next program in the Four Seasons series, will be held in June and will be hosted by a trio of teachers who each have a unique and profound connection to the natural world.  This program will have more of a bioregional flair, and we will be examining plant communities that flourish here on our 700 acre property, as well as learning about some of their cultural and historical uses.


Photo by Greg Smith

In developing a series of environmental programs here at Shambhala Mountain Center, we hope to rekindle a sense of respect and reverence for the earth, as well as renew the delight and freshness we feel when we can deepen our connection and understanding.  When I am out on the land, everything I encounter, whether it be a newly emerged wildflower, a rushing creek, or a dead pine tree, is a teaching.  Before we can help our world, first we all must find ways to develop a more profound relationship, a kinship, with the natural environment.  Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche joyfully reminds us – “Look.  This is your world!  You can’t not look.  There is no other world.  This is your world; it is your feast.  You inherited this; you inherited these eyeballs; you inherited this world of color.  Look at the greatness of the whole thing.  Look!  Don’t hesitate – look!  Open your eyes.  Don’t blink, and look, look – look further.”

To learn more about the SMC land, and keep up with what the natural world is up to, follow Jared’s Friends of the Land page on Facebook. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Earth!


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.

Earth, I know you’re alive. People, I know you’re alive. Plants and people equally alive. It’s a stretch for conceptual mind to accommodate that.

We’re not living in harmony with the earth, okay?

But… We are aspiring to.


The other evening, President Reoch held another fireside gathering for the staff. In Shambhala we call these sorts of things “salons,” yet no one seems to be very clear about what a “salon” is. Seems like:

A salon is a gathering, not a party. A salon is celebratory and yet, sincere. A salon is neither business nor recreation. A salon is authentic and social.

So, Jared the Land Steward started a fire. Zane the Rusung (a protector role) attempted to do so but it went out, at which point he said:

“I don’t start fires, I put them out.” Which is true.

Folks asked the President any questions that they wanted to. The ice breaker was about the financial situation of Shambhala and Shambhala Mountain Center. It’s a hot topic. His answer was as short as possible (long) and satisfying. There seem to be skillful changes occurring.

One point: we all need to be less embarrassed about money.

Next question: Jared asked about our relationship to the earth. In Shambhala, the teachings are incredibly clear regarding how we ought to relate to the natural world:

It is sacred, and it is alive along with us.

President Reoch admitted: “We are not walking the talk.”

Yesterday, I sat with Jared for an hour and absorbed his wisdom. He’s in touch. He spends most of his time outdoors, relating to the nature. The living quality of the natural world is apparent to him–clearly apparent. A lot of the time, I feel like I am staring right at something that I am not seeing.

I wish for the boundaries between myself and the living earth to shatter, more and more as I live here. I want to be friends with the flowers and rocks and trees. I want to know them by name and love them like I love my human friends, and my cat. I want to sense their living presence at all times. I do to some extent, but I still feel sort of removed.

I think that many of us are dealing with a dualistic, Newtonian hangover. Our vision is blurry and so we’re still acting clumsily. But, I also feel like we’re coming-to. We’re shaking our heads to clear the fog and asking for help. That’s what I’m doing.

I’m saying: “Jared, I want to walk in the woods with you. I want to shake this unhelpful conceptual fog and connect emotionally to the wind and snow and trees. I want to feel the urgency.”

I feel it more now than ever before. I live with the earth here. And there are lots of opportunities coming up to deepen my connection.

This evening I’m participating in the third staff Ikebana class. Through this art-form, we contemplate and celebrate our connection with the natural world, with unseen inspiration, and with our own human ability. We join “heaven, earth, and humanity.”

This Sunday, Jim Tolstrup will be leading a sweat lodge for the community. This happens every month or so. Jim is connected to Shambhala as well as the Lakota tradition. I don’t know anyone who is more tangibly connected to our earth than he. Being around him always inspires me.

Throughout the coming months there are going to be other teachers and opportunities to explore: weekend programs in which we’ll spend time getting to know wildflowers, the stars, the seasons. Ahh… I live on this mountain, immersed in nature. I’m spending time with you, Earth!

Right now, as I write, snow is melting from the roof, it’s sunny outside, pine trees are waving at me. I say “hello” out-loud. It’s really real.

–February 13, 2014


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.