Stupa at night with lights

ONLINE • Big Sky, Big Mind: A Contemplative Astronomy Workshop

Andrea Schweitzer and Jim Tolstrup

September 10–12, 2021

  • $75.00 – Generosity Policy - Subsidized Rate
  • $150.00 – Program Price
  • $200.00 – Generosity Policy - Supporter Rate

This program is canceled and will be rescheduled.


In this contemplative astronomy workshop, experience your personal connection with the universe. Throughout history, human beings have looked to the skies to follow the rhythm of the seasons and to ponder life’s mysteries. We can learn from ancient wisdom, from current understanding, and from our own contemplative journey. In this online program, you will get a taste of each.

This program takes place just before the fall equinox, which is an ideal time to find balance and to reignite our passion for the beauty of the universe. Our explorations will include:

• Interactive astronomy activities
• Guided tours of the constellations
• Periods of contemplation
• Presentations of astronomical lore from Celtic, Tibetan, and Native American traditions

All the activities take place within a relaxed and rejuvenating atmosphere. We will close each evening with a peaceful night sky meditation.

What is Contemplative Astronomy?

It’s fair to ask: What is a contemplative astronomy workshop? Contemplative inquiry is a time-honored practice that has no doubt led to important discoveries about the universe we inhabit. By bringing together scientific understanding and personal experience, human beings can establish connections between the abstract and experiential. In a study reported in the Journal of Contemplative Inquiry about learning astronomy, the students who engaged in contemplative study “reported experiencing a sense of physical embodiment, heightened sensory awareness, somatic relaxation, and mental stillness. Students also described experiencing insight …, a reawakened sense of curiosity, an intrinsic motivation to understand the observed physical phenomena, and a deepened awareness of their cognitive and emotional processes.”

To put it another way, contemplative astronomy can unite body, mind and spirit under a big, big sky. You will not only learn about the night sky, but you’ll learn about meditation and contemplative practices that can enhance your experience and understanding.

Who Should Participate in this Workshop?

Experience is not a prerequisite, nor will it exclude you from this joyful exploration of mind and sky. You need only to appreciate looking up at the universe. Whether you are an experienced stargazer with an astronomy background, an experienced meditator, or have no experience in either one, you are welcome to join this weekend. If you do have meditation experience, you may find that a few minutes each evening or an early morning spent stargazing, in awareness of the moon’s phase and the seasonal patterns of the stars, can be a wonderful addition to your contemplative practice. Begin or deepen your meditation practice, and take home a meaningful connection to the night sky.

What People Say About Big Sky, Big Mind

“I was ecstatic to be part of this program. It significantly expanded my understanding of the glorious night sky …[and] deepened my sense of connection to the magic of our existence on this planet.” – Rachel Becker, previous participant, from A Weekend in Space 
“Who has not felt a sense of awe while looking deep into the skies lit with countless stars on a clear night?” –His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Program Schedule

All times are in Mountain Daylight Time (MDT)
Friday, September 10

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Saturday, September 11

10:00 am – 12:00 pm

2:00 – 5:00 pm,  Optional 30 minute sessions for meditation instruction with Jim OR individual constellation story appointments with Andrea

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Sunday, September 12

10:00 am – 12:00 pm


Portions of this program will be recorded and registered participants will have viewable access to the recordings for one month after the program ends.

Financial Assistance

This program offers tiered pricing to accommodate most instances of financial need. If you would be unable to attend at the lowest end of the tuition, we do have a limited number of scholarships available. Please apply here by Sept 2. Please note that scholarships are awarded in the order that they are received, so apply early.


Andrea Schweitzer

Andrea Schweitzer, PhD, is an astronomer with the Little Thompson Observatory in Colorado and a professor of physical sciences for Western Governors University. Having collaborated with NASA on programs such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Voyager missions, she balances her work with her personal practices of stargazing, yoga, and meditation.

Jim Tolstrup

Jim Tolstrup, a director of Shambhala Training, has been a practitioner of indigenous wisdom traditions since 1977. He is a co-founder and the past president of Cankatola Ti Ospaye, a non-profit supporting Native American elders. Jim is the executive director of the High Plains Environmental Center in Loveland, Colorado, and author of SUBURBITAT – A guide to restoring nature where we live, work and play.

Program Details

This is an online program that will be conducted on Zoom. After registration, you will receive an email with simple instructions for downloading and using Zoom on your computer, laptop, or other device. At least 24 hours before the start time, a link to join the retreat will be sent to you via email.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be sure to add "" to your email address book, to ensure that these emails don't get blocked as spam.