Vail, Colorado, A Winter Wonder Land

2014 finds me living in the Rocky Mountain village of Vail, Colorado. As a resident of sunny southern California for many years, the abundance of snow and the lifestyle associated with winter sports is a revelation in human ingenuity and adaptability.  With a winter total thus far of 17 feet, there is a whole new meaning to the lyrics of the song, “Let It Snow” !

Vail and the nearby village of Avon- Beaver Creek were created as winter sports playgrounds. The snow is an amazing soft fluffy powder that is irresistible, the country side indeed a sparkling world of iridescent white.  My appreciation of the necessary techniques of a good photographer who is in the right place at the right time with the proper lighting and equipment continues to grow. These photos represent only a fraction of the surrounding beauty. For a better view, right click on the photo and back arrow to return to the blog.

The system of snow removal that allows people to continue their daily lives is impressive. I must admit that the almost daily ritual of shoveling my parking space has rapidly lost a sense of play!  But there is time for play with snowshoeing and rides on the ski lifts. My wish for you all; wherever and whatever this new year brings it will include health and happiness, prosperity and peace of spirit.

Blessings and Love in 2014!

Tibetan Buddhist Art

Similar to Christianity in which there are numerous denominations, Buddhism also has different sects. Tibetan Buddhism is a style of practice developed by Buddhist practitioners in the geographic section of Asia, north of India, which includes such countries as Nepal and Bhutan, as well as Tibet.

Having studied Eastern philosophy through the avenue of Yoga, I was attracted to Tibetan Buddhism with it’s apparent similarities to other Eastern practices. As in Hinduism, there is great emphasis on the use of art in Tibetan Buddhist worship. In these photos (with my minimal photography skills!) I present but a portion of the artwork in the main shrine room of the Tara Mandala Temple.

Thankas are large paintings usually done on silk fabric which depict the life of the Buddha or other important deities. A torma is a figure sculpted of  barley flour and butter, often quite ornate in their embellishments. Seen as an offering cake (hence flour and butter), the torma is eventually scattered across the land or water as an offering, as an act of non-attachment.

Tibetan Buddhist practice often involves periods of  specifically outlined prayer chanting, interspersed with silent meditation and mantra practice. All aspects of one’s psyche are acknowledged; from the fierceness needed to dispel negativity, to the rapture of bliss, to the peace of open space.  Undeniably there is a huge cultural aspect to Tibetan practice and this is an obstacle for some. However I have found the practices to be of great benefit in “reprogramming”  some of my unconscious egotistic intentions. As I have traveled the US these past years, I have been surprised at the widespread availability of Tibetan Buddhism in places as far away as Montana and Utah. If you are so inclined I would suggest you look into a Center in your area.

Enjoy the Art!

Blessings for a very happy Thankful Season!

Tara Mandala Buddhist Retreat Center

A Retreat Center is often a facility established to provide an opportunity for personal practice and study away from day to day life in civilization. Many times this type of Center is in a rural setting. Often technologies such as computer and phone service are limited. “Retreat” can be defined as a place of privacy or refuge. In the Buddhist tradition students are encouraged to go on retreat to help strengthen their meditation and associate practices.    I have been involved with various spiritual Retreat Centers and fully appreciate the deepening of one’s understanding and growth by stepping out of the “mainstream” of life.

In the early months of this year I made the decision to enter a 2 year study program at the Namgyal Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, NY.  Upon application to the program and meeting with the Director, it was explained to me that the Namgyal Institute is strictly a study facility and offers minimal practice opportunity. This is a viable approach for study, but was not what I had envisioned for my time in a 2 year program. Subsequently I found the Tara Mandala Buddhist Retreat Center in Pagosa Springs, CO. For more complete information on this beautiful Retreat facility please go to their website at www.taramandala.org.

In these photos you get a glimpse of the beauty of Tara Mandala both in nature and in esthetics. Due to the cold temperatures of the Colorado mountains, the Center is only open from May until October. There are numerous volunteer positions for Buddhist practitioners who would like to help support their practice with service. My primary work was with the gardens, both temple gardens and vegetable gardens. I would encourage those of you who have a semester schedule, with freedom in the summer, to explore the opportunity of  living and working in a full time practice environment.

For a better visual you can click on the photos for a full view. To return to the blog use your “back arrow” key. My next post will focus on some of the art of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition celebrated at Tara Mandala.

Happy Autumn!

Namaste

Summer in Pagosa Springs, Colorado

The “traveling yogi” within me is most happy when discovering and exploring  new territory. I had not heard of Pagosa Springs, CO prior to accepting the work study position at the Tara Mandala Buddhist Retreat Center. What a lovely surprise! In the southwest corner of Colorado, this village of approximately 9,000 is surrounded by the lower Rocky Mountains. The area has active hot springs, and as seen in these photos, the springs are a tourist highlight. Mineral deposits known as “frozen waterfalls” dot the San Juan River, with resorts catering to the bathing visitors. My favorite local spot is the Healing Waters Hotel and Resort where for $10 (can you do anything for $10?) you can soak in 3 different pools with temperatures ranging from 95 up to 110 degrees. The outdoor 104 degree pool is my favorite. Not for those of you with Ayurvedic Pita constituencies!

The summer at 7,500 feet is fabulous. Winter? We will see what Divine Mother has up her sleeve. Next up will be news from the Buddhist Retreat.

Love and Blessings to you all!

On the Road, Once Again

Dear Girls and Boys!

What a summer it has been! I have been away from the blog for several months, largely due to poor internet access. I hope all is well in your lives.

In my last posts I had hoped to settle in Ithaca, NY for a couple of years to participate in a Buddhist Studies program there. As it turned out, I was a bit early. The Namgyal Institute of Buddhist Studies will be moving into a larger facility possibly by 2015. At THAT time they will offer a workstudy program. Oops, a good idea ahead of its time! :-) Therefore I have decided to participate in another Buddhist workstudy program in Colorado. As Colorado is a bit of a drive from New York I am once again on the road.

These photos were taken at Assateague State Park in Berlin, MD. Once in Maryland it is possible to travel a good distance on the islands of the Atlantic Ocean to connect to the Mainland via the 17 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge. I recommend this excursion to all you East Coasters. Not so wild ponies and beautiful long clean beaches are worthy of the visit. Now it is onto the Tara Mandala Buddhist Retreat Center in Pagosa Springs, CO. I hope to have photos and an update soon.

Blessings and Love for a happy Labor Day holiday. May the “back to school months” bring interesting adventures your way. Namaste

All Blooms

All Blues” is a jazz composition by Miles Davis first appearing on the influential 1959 album Kind of Blue. The spring weather in Ithaca, NY has prompted this post entitled “All Blooms”. Living in Southern California for half of my life, possibly I am easily impressed by an area that has “full on” spring. That said, I cannot recall being in a place where every tree, bush, flower, and weed is blooming!

In these photos I attempt to offer a tiny vision of this spectacular phenomenon. Certainly the adage “April showers bring May flowers” applies here. There is a pay back for the long months of snow! If anyone has similar experiences in your area I would love to hear from you.

As we head into the longer days of summer I hope everyone has an opportunity to enjoy Nature in all its beautiful forms. Mountains, beaches, desert, woodlands….. get out in Nature and Breathe!!


Namaste

New York State of Mind

My Dear Friends, Family, and Other Interested Parties!

It has been some months since I have updated this travel journal. Time slips by and without the luxury of dependable internet connectivity or an Iphone, staying connected is not as easy as the cellular phone ads would have you believe. I do admit to a certain level of lassitude as well!

Since my last post I have made a decision to come off the road and settle for a bit. I have chosen the city of Ithaca, NY as a stopping place in order that I may participate in classes at the Namgyal Monastery, Institute of Tibetan Buddhist Studies. This branch of Namgyal is the US seat of  His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The program is a two year course which I plan to begin in the fall of this year, 2013.

Thus I have been involved with the process of securing housing and employment, as well as becoming acquainted with the city of Ithaca and its residents. In these photos I share with you a few photos of winter scenes and the local terrain. I will look forward to continued sharing as I come to know the city and its personality.

I hope that the first quarter of 2013 has been rewarding to you all on many levels. Please feel free to contact me via post or email. I would love to hear from you!

Om Mani Padma Hum

Sivananda Yoga Ranch

Holiday Greetings from New York!

The Sivananda Yoga Ranch is 90 miles northwest of New York City, making it an easy retreat center for urban residents. I arrived here in November for a 3 month work exchange program. In exchange for work in the kitchen, laundry, and housekeeping departments, I get room and board and the availability of  6 hours per day of Yoga Sadhana. Sadhana is the Sanskrit term for practices aimed at developing one’s spiritual potentials. It is valuable to me to live in a community that shares and supports my interests in yoga and Eastern philosophy. With the practice time and the work time, there is very little “free” time, thus blog posting becomes a bit problematic.

In these photos you meet some of the fellow residents with whom I share many hours of work and study. As most of them are in their early 20’s, I feel rather fortunate just to keep up! Living in close proximity with others is never easy, therefore the lifestyle provides a groundwork for the development of patience and allowing. I feel very blessed to have a lifestyle that can afford me such an opportunity.

As we have safely navigated the Mayan Calender and will soon be celebrating the New Year of 2013, I send to each and everyone blessings for a joyful and loving holiday. We have so very much for which to give thanks. As we bustle about in our celebrations, be sure to include a few deep breaths of thanksgiving.

Happy Happy Holidays! You can click back and forth on the photos for a better view.

Namaste

Niagara Falls, New York

Many persons traveling across the Northeast US will make a stop at Niagara Falls. The Falls are actually a combination of three different waterfalls, and mark the boundary between the US and Canada. Combined, the three falls make for the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world. They were also the sight of early developments in generating hydroelectric power, hence the acknowledgement of Nikola Tesla.

As you can see in the pictures here, it is possible to stand inches from the edge of the Falls. This is a truly awe inspiring experience! After a summer of white water rafting, my appreciation of the beauty of moving water is co-mingled with a humility for its power. The availability of authentic New York Italian cuisine in conjunction with the Falls makes this a noteworthy visit, even if slightly off the main route.

Next stop for me, the Sivananda Yoga Ranch in the New York Catskill Mountains.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

The autumn season finds me in a beautiful State Park in upper Michigan; Mackinac Island.  For those of you in southern California, envision Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles. One of the attractive points for tourism to Mackinac Island is the prohibition of motor vehicles. The only modes of transport are horse draw carriages and bicycles. The island is approximately only 8 miles in circumference, but as a State Park it is riddled with biking and hiking trails. I have been surprised at the volume of tourists. Apparently it is a must see adventure for the North Mid Eastern United States.

The autumn season has brought cool to cold weather, autumn colors for the foliage, and a very pleasant number of  tourists. In the summer months the population can swell to 15,000. Year round it is 500! I have appreciated the cool weather after a summer in Georgia. The biking and hiking have been wonderful ! And the seasonal job income will allow me to spend the winter months at the Sivananda Yoga Ranch in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

I hear of a heat wave from my friends in southern California. Sounds like October Santa Ana winds? Wherever October finds you, I wish that there is happiness and fulfillment in your life. Remember to count your blessings. They are ever present, but do need to be acknowledged.

This is a very scenic area. Do click back and forth on the back arrow to get the full viewing of the photos.

Blessings for an autumn season full of light!

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