Lama Foundation: At the Top of the World
September 10, 2006
After leaving the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, the writing group I am with heads further north towards the Lama Foundation. Well known to meditators of varied practices around the world, the Lama Foundation, calls itself a “spiritual crossroads.” According to the mission statement, its purpose is to “be a sustainable spiritual community and educational center dedicated to the awakening of consciousness, spiritual practice with respect for all traditions, service, and stewardship of the land.”
Located twenty miles north of Taos, at 8,600 feet elevation, it is surrounded by national forest on three sides. In 1996, that forest was swept by fire and devastated the huge ponderosa and scrub oak ecosystem for miles along the western slope of the Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) mountain range, which runs from southern Colorado to just south of Santa Fe.
The terrain that stretches westward from it includes Ute Mountain, the flats of the western mesa cut through by the Rio Grand River Gorge, and beyond to San Antonio Mountain. Both Ute and San Antonio stand like ordinary tall mounds, yet each holds a singular place in the hearts of the locals and natives here.
I have driven this stretch of road from Taos into southern Colorado for years, sometimes choosing Route 285 on the other side of the gorge and driving directly alongside the San Antonio mound. Always, I have felt as if I were literally “at the top of the world” as other-worldly as it can be in this sparsely populated, high desert country with Tres Piedras the only likely looking stop between Ojo Caliente to the south and the Hispanic settled town of San Antonio, over the border in Colorado to the north. Even though I have climbed mountain peaks, no other place has provided that same unique sense of strangeness.
This is the landscape as we turn off the main road and begin the climb to Lama.
We climb, ever upward with the winding road always ahead. Reddish dirt spread with loose rocks from the recent rains that have carved out ditches alongside. Washouts abound, as it seems we are entering a long extended journey that requires an alert mind; constantly aware of how far up we have climbed.
Glimpses, as we are closer, of the new shoulder-high growth that from the main road looks only green along the ground from which the burnt trees, once giant ponderosas shedding their long needles and cones, now stand as silent and scarred sentinels, rift of the once mutual companionship of one another for hundreds of years past.
High elevation that cannot be taken for granted. It requires attention and accounting. Others voice their concerns about the narrow road and the fact that there is room for only one vehicle across. How are we to return in the dark?
Splashes of red and vivid yellow wildflowers, the red trumpet and St John’s Wort are present as we move forward up and into the never-ending mountain.
We actually find the end of the road, and there are others here. Quiet prevails as we walk the winding path and pass the large display of prayer flags, before we reach the main building. Away — removed from what we know of as unified systems of communication, warmth, comforts, and conventionally built construction.
We walk onward to the once considered heart of Lama that was destroyed by the raging fires. What now stands are the remnants of adobe walls and large vigas that held the roof, which at one time fashioned the center of the Foundation. Rounded walls that parallel each other, form walkways that lead to the heart of the building, still containing many differently shaped openings, some multi-arched provide an unexpected glimpse of the outside, a scene that rocks the senses. Old growth that survived, new life of grasses and wildflowers, evidence of fire on the mountain; spikes of blackened trees across the mountainside dotting the ridge lines and falling into canyons and crevasses.
At the Center, one can feel the core of heat around the heart, can smell the burnt wood of the trees which toppled around it, scored of its make-up, laying bare the soul and heart of those who originally built it.
Exposed is the evidence of care that went into its building, details that would otherwise be covered up, golden flecks of straw sticking out of the dried adobe mud, the ends of beams that would be buried beneath the construction now open for inspection, arches that admit light into the inner walls, curved walls that surround the center, breached by Nature even as it was built with Nature.
Shadows cast. Always there are shadows with the light.
As I stand here on the land of the Lama Foundation, once again I am reminded of the ‘top of the world’ with the afternoon sun falling into the western horizon. We will leave after sunset, after we have eaten and ceremonially broken bread, and shared Dances of Universal Peace with the Lama staff.
Sending you ‘hayam’ (love that wanders the earth).