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Publish Date: 8/18/2006

Prayer flags cross a trail at Shambhala Mountain Center. According to Shambhala tradition, the basis of enlightened society is the understanding that human beings inherently possess wisdom, compassion and goodness.Times-Call/Richard M. Hackett

Center of peace
Shambhala Center offers variety of programs

 RED FEATHER LAKES — Tickets have long been sold out for the Sept. 17 event at Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama will visit and bless the The Great Stupa and speak about how compassion can bring peace to our lives and the world.

“This is a big deal for us. It’s an incredible event,” said center director Allan Cross, adding that the center is expecting 2,000 to attend.

His Holiness also will speak at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Pepsi Center. This will be the Dalai Lama’s first visit to Denver in nine years.

Ticketless? No problem. You can still get into the mindset of His Holiness with programs year-round at Shambhala Mountain Center. Don’t share in the Buddhist tradition? Again, no problem.

“The focus switched from a religious nonprofit to an educational nonprofit,” said Jim Tolstrup, the center’s land steward, about the center’s $12 million expansion in the 1990s.

The completion of the Sacred Studies Hall and Shotoku Children’s Center, the purchase and renovation of Red Feather Conference Center and the construction of a new guest lodge have added 35,000 square feet of program, dining and housing space to the facility.

Shambhala Mountain Center is now able to host more than 500 people during the summer season and 150 in the winter. The center operates on program tuition and fees, donations and volunteers.

Cross said the center sees 30,000 visitors a year through its programs, and 10,000 visitors hike to the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, the largest and most elaborate example of Buddhist sacred architecture in North America.

The mountain valley retreat in northern Colorado, 80 miles north of Longmont, has been both an introductory and in-depth training center for students of the Buddhist teachings for 35 years.

The center now offers massage, a weight room, contemplative arts, yoga and outdoors programs, as well as access to a nearby country club for golf, horseback riding, fly fishing and rafting at the 15 area lakes, activities that can complement whatever religious affiliation you might have.

Yet the center still retains its rustic simplicity. Cell phones don’t work here, and television is absent. Staff members communicate via radios. Overnight guests can dwell in canvas tents during their stay.

It’s a contemporary translation of an ancient tradition, which is not for “people attracted to investigating and not necessarily committing to Buddhism,” Cross said.

A sign along a trail reads “mitakuye oyasin,” which in the Lakota Sioux language literally means “all of my relations,” a phrase that embodies the Shambhala mission.

“This correlates with the Buddhist tradition that we are not solid, but constantly transforming in a sacred hoop of life, and we are not inherently separate from the beings we protect or destroy,” the sign continues.

Jewish leaders held a conference here last fall, programs have had African-based influences and recently Tolstrup asked a group of Native American elders to speak at the children’s center.

“They asked what they should speak about, and I asked ‘What would you tell your grandchildren?’” he said. “There is an ecumenical vision behind the center. It points to the universal desire to have a decent society and a good, meaningful life.

“This center is offered to the world for Christian groups and Jewish groups and all different kinds of cultural groups. It’s the grounds for a dialogue for all people and all cultures.”

Laura Golten of Boulder was a participant in the Force of Kindness program by leading meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg earlier this week.

“It’s an absolutely gorgeous spot,” said Golten, a biologist. “It’s a peaceful atmosphere. And the dharma talks every day is a direct transmission of the teachings. It’s inspiring for daily practice. This is a jump-
start to my daily practice at home.”

Golten said she has practiced meditation for nine years, has read Salzberg’s books and attended a book signing and reading by the teacher at a Boulder bookstore.

Golten said she was excited for the program and praised the staff and teachers.

“It’s a concentrated period of time that focuses the whole on mindfulness. That’s an opportunity that’s very different that we can do and will do in our lives,” she said. “As a biologist, it’s a nice setting. It’s important and special to be in the wilderness and the natural setting.”

“There is no question transformation happens here,” Tolstrup said. “It’s where people come to reconnect with their self and nature. To recover their own sanity. To slow down.”

For more information about Shambhala Mountain Center and its programs, call 970-881-2184 or visit

Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at

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