It is hard to describe my visits to Ari Bhöd*. It is a bit of an adventure just bumping up the winding dirt road to get there. But it is hard to encapsulate the experience. I can tell you what I’ve done when up there…
On my first visit:
- Watched four Tibetan lamas create a sand mandala & listened to them chant a prayer and blessing
And as a volunteer:
- Cleaned bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen of winter dust and mouse droppings
- organized a couple of freezers
- organized closets and bedding into categories – family guests, lamas, and rimpoche
- climbed up the hillside to cut fir branches for the smoke offering
- ate wonderful food
- learned to clean and fill butter lamps
The activities have been oddly fun and invigorating but fairly mundane on the surface. Each time I go up there I lose track of time, feel peaceful, and as my friend, Marilyn, puts it, “experience of sense of spaciousness.” Good, sustaining energy.
I am not sure of a purpose for my time there, but I feel strongly drawn. Images that remain:
- White smoke above snowy ground billowing out of the outdoor fireplace chimney (Joey told me the name for this stove, but I’ve forgotten)
- Prayer flags blowing in the strong mountain wind with crisp blue sky as a backdrop
- Evergreen boughs on the ground and the sound of the machete as branches are trimmed and cut
- Linnea (and Yeshe) in the kitchen brewing up nourishing and enlightening foods
- The 3-D mandala, Zangdok Palri
- The wonderful scent in the empty temple
- Radiant faces and smiles
And each time I visit, the lingering sense of peace. The soul-support for just being.
* Ari Bhod is a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center that hosts guests, visiting monks, lamas, and rimpoches. They host a summer camp for Tools for Peace. They are home to several stunning and unique mandalas, including at least two three dimensional mandalas. The center has many volunteers and a small group of residents. It was founded by the Venerable Lama Chödak Gyatso Nubpa.