© 2009 mcullen

Shambhala Mountain Center

A few weeks ago, Dara and I drove up to the Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC) outside of Fort Collins. We’d been meaning to go for a while, but it’s a pretty long drive and we always remembered it at the wrong times.

At SMC you park just inside the entrance, and from there walk a half mile or so to the main buildings, and then another half mile or so up to the Great Stupa. It was a great fall afternoon, just warm enough, with the sun shining and the Aspens changing colors. Perfect for a walk in the mountains. Actually we both probably would have been happy with a longer walk up to the Stupa.

The floor of the interior of the great stoop is beautifully tiled with various patterns and designs. On the left side, there’s a pomegranate tiled into the floor, with seeds spilling out of it. In Nepal, the gompas all had wooden floors, so the tile was a noticeable departure from what I’m used to seeing in these buildings. And I noticed the pomegranate, but didn’t look as closely at it as I guess I should have. You see, they carved out chunks of the pomegranate in the floor, filled the cavities with bright red marbles, and didn’t do anything to keep them in place.

So I’m walking along as quietly as possible, looking at the objects in the recessed shelves along the wall. Bam. My first foot goes into the marbles and they’re rolling across the floor, bouncing off the baseboards and furniture. I pause, take take a step back and my second foot goes into the other marbles and even more of them are rolling across the floor. Dara, who was a few steps in front of me, struggles to contain her laughter and runs behind the Buddha statue, leaving me standing there like an idiot with marbles still rolling across the floor. I manage to step get myself out of the marbles without making more of a mess, and start putting them back into place. As each marble is dropped back into place, it makes a ticking sound. Tick, tick, tick, people are still meditating with very serious expressions, tick, tick, tick, Dara is still hiding, tick, tick, tick.

It really highlighted one of the big differences we both noticed, compared to the gompahs that we saw in Nepal. Over there, it seemed that Buddhism, and life in general were approached with a certain amount of humor. And I can only imagine that if I’d done the same thing there, the monks or nuns in charge of the gompah would have been laughing along with me. While we were there, we attended a ceremony celebrating Buddha’s birthday; the monks were all laughing and chatting, and one of the younger ones was wearing a monkey hat.

The stupa is very nice, but we both decided that unless you’re going to be spending more than an hour or so at SMC, it  isn’t worth the drive from anywhere farther away than Denver or Boulder. If you’re coming from further away, or even from those places, it would be better to find some other things to do in the area in order to make the drive more worth while.

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