Author: Rachel Becker

Offering

Hello world, I wrote this poem last fall as a rumination on death and life, impermanence and transition. Now as I prepare to leave SMC for new journeys, it seems fitting to share.   gathering up the courage to say goodbye to good friends gathering up the pink in the clouds as it swells into peach and then dusty blue gathering up the things i need for today in my old pack. pulling together the sound the wind makes through tall dry grasses golden ice of late october the dreams of morning hearing scratching in the wall or floor gathering up the swollen parts of my heart for you to hold the honey and peanut butter, avocados and incense smoke to coax you, tether you back into this world for a moment stuck on cobwebs in the rafters for just a sound, a smell of this Earth i gather up deer bones from the mountainside and trees and the dry, cold dirt i lay them next to mine, bound together, hinged to hold us for as long …

Your Virtual Guide to the Perimeter Trail

There is something undeniably magical about the land at Shambhala Mountain Center. Literally and figuratively, it is the heart and foundation of the experience here. The powerful energy of the land can be experienced by simply being; in meditation, yoga or contemplation — but walking and exploring this area is meaningful in its own way, offering a chance to shift gears and restore the precious connection to our wild, natural environment. A great opportunity to experience the land is via the Perimeter Trail (also known as the Shambhala Mountain Trail), a roughly 5-mile loop that circles around the 600-acre property of SMC. The trail is lovingly maintained by the Land Crew, and takes you through a diverse range of landscapes — from meadows, to marshes, forests, and rocky vistas. Along the way you can expect encounters with ancient rock formations, mysterious shrines, and the occasional moose. There is a largely untouched and highly diverse ecosystem to discover—home to countless wildflowers, pines, aspens, and juniper; coyotes, moose, deer, salamanders, and hummingbirds. After living here for over a year, I’ve finally completed the full Perimeter Trail …

A Weekend in Space

Last summer I had the pleasure of participating in SMC’s Contemplative Astronomy program: Big Sky, Big Mind, led by astronomer Andrea Schweitzer, Ph.d , and Jim Tolstrup, Executive Director of the High Plains Environmental Center and former SMC Land Steward. The program was an engaging variety of practical lessons about our universe, (ranging from night sky constellation viewing to kinesthetic astronomy, in which we examined the spatial relationships of our solar system and the earth’s rotation using inflatable planets), and spiritual explorations of our relationship to the stars, as individuals and as a culture — through nighttime meditation, discussions, and a presentation by Jim on ancient Lakota star knowledge. As a space nerd myself, proudly sporting my NASA t-shirt, I was ecstatic to be part of this program. It significantly expanded my understanding of the glorious night sky but also deepened my sense of connection to the magic of our existence on this planet, by exploring how the pull of the sun’s gravity on Earth affects our daily life and perception of seasons, time, and direction …

Celebrating the Garden Project

We spent this past snowy May Day morning celebrating an incredible act of generosity that has made a real impact on our community culture here at Shambhala Mountain Center — the sponsorship of the SMC Garden Project by the Aida & Mike Feldman Philanthropic Trust & the Feldman Family. This grant allowed us to build a geodesic dome greenhouse last September, which has provided over 2,000 pounds of food (mostly greens), and also allowed us to purchase a bright red Massey Ferguson tractor, which has helped our land & forestry crews immensely. We gathered with Sonia Feldman (granddaughter of Aida and Mike) and Larry Rich from the foundation, along with members of the SMC community and governing council for brunch festivities: beautiful foods prepared with the microgreens grown in the greenhouse, speeches & toasts to the shared experience, and a tour of the greenhouse. Watch the slideshow below to see how this project came together! Our deep gratitude goes out to the Feldman Family Foundation for giving our aspirations the chance to become physical reality, and for supporting our …

Life Since Meditation

The first time I tried to meditate I was nine or ten years old, with my best friend Emily in the basement laundry room of my house. We picked out some cushions, played a Native American flute CD on my boom box, lit some incense and repeated “oommmmmmmm” over and over in unison, hands resting on our knees, thumbs and pointer fingers pressed together. In retrospect I’m not sure what we thought we were doing — but we had a good time doing it.  This was a typical kind of activity for us — exploring something we’d probably heard about through our new-agey liberal moms — or just trying to understand our world, ourselves, looking for magic, wonder, new frontiers. These pursuits also included writing letters to fairies (with the occasional response), mixing up flower petals and household chemicals for spells in our Potion Room, doing rain dances, and contacting spirits with the Ouija Board. At the heart of our adventures was a quest for something of the supernatural — a glimmering reflection of what …

Watch: Chapman University at SMC

This January, a group of students from Chapman University, a liberal arts school in southern California, visited Shambhala Mountain Center for a course titled: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Madness: Mind, “Self”, and Society in Tibetan Buddhism. This collaboration between Chapman and SMC began in 1992, established by Michele Kiloran, which makes this most recent visit the 24th year. The majority of the course is held at Chapman’s campus, with the pinnacle being the ten-day retreat at SMC. Students have the opportunity to learn about traditional Tibetan Buddhism as well as the more secular teaching of Shambhala, with activities ranging from Ikebana, calligraphy, Kasung practice, yoga, Kyudo, and other aspects of Shambhala culture. There is also a fundamental emphasis on meditation and mindfulness practice. As a recent Chapman graduate myself, it was interesting to see this course in action and to experience the integration of these two worlds. Film student Jason Segal created the beautiful video montage above documenting the Chapman experience. You can visit his website here to see more of his work.