By LOU McCALL
My perspective on the Lama Foundation is personal. In high school, my sister worked at a bookstore and came home with the book, Be Here Now. It was written by Baba Ram Dass, illustrated and edited by Lama residents, and originally published by the Lama Foundation. I first went there in 1975 and met the author, Ram Dass. I was stricken with the place and the people.
In the 1990s I spent a week in silent meditation with about 50 others. I camped in a tent, worked in the kitchen, and felt like I was part of the community. Over the years I became friends with people from Lama who were known as “Lama Beans.” I always wished I was a “Lama Bean!”
Lama stories abound. The Lama Foundation offers a hermitage retreat cabin way up the mountain. There people can stay without company, telephones, or communication with the outside world. The kitchen crew brings food and leaves it in a bear-proof box, picks up dishes from the previous meal, retrieves notes if the retreatant needs anything, and leaves supplies. A friend of mine had a life-long fear of being alone and stayed at the Hermitage. Her companions were her journal and the Hermitage journal, which she wrote in feverishly, and a few critters who came to visit. She left with a profound love for solitude. She stayed there for “…three nights and four days filled with fear and rodents and timelessness and joy and all the hermits who’d been up there before quoting scriptures, giving out house advice from the hermit journals…” I thought of my friend as I gazed up at the Hermitage on a spring day. What a wonderful service…and that is just one of many good things that goes on at the Lama Foundation.
People from all over the world visit the Lama Foundation. Many local residents do not know that this spiritual retreat and educational center of world renown is just outside our back door. They may be even more surprised to learn that in 2017, the spiritual community celebrated its 50th anniversary and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Be Here Now, just one of many books and products that come out of Lama.
In 1967, Barbara Durkee (Asha Greer) Stephen (Nooruddeen) Durkee, and Jonathan Altman started the community when Altman purchased 100 acres of land adjacent to the Carson National Forest. They began construction on the first buildings in 1968. With no electricity, the early buildings were made with hand tools, and the group lived by candlelight. With the generosity of residents and visitors, the first solar power system was installed, and the place continued to grow.
The year after buildings started going up, the foundation was incorporated as an “educational, religious, and scientific” organization with their mission statement “…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.”
Over the decades, many thousands of seekers have visited and lived at Lama. Whether for an event, a day, weekend, a summer, or many years, the residents live and work together with the common purpose of fostering the spiritual journeys of individuals and groups, toward an enlightened planet. The community, while maintaining their home sustainably, works together to create an ecosystem that accommodates groups, offers retreats, workshops, residency programs and other events.
In the summers, Lama operates as a retreat center, with summer residents coming to help, bringing the total population up to around 12 to 15. Currently the Lama Foundation is open to visitors who have been fully vaccinated and have completed their Vaccination Verification Form.
Retreats are offered by a variety of teachers and are a primary source of income for the group. Their programs include spiritual teachings, meditation retreats, youth programs, and permaculture certification. In the winters, summer residents are gone, things slow down, and the small crew goes within, working on the property, communing for meals, daily meditation and other practices.
Lama has fulfilled its educational mission in many ways. Small structures have been designed and built by architectural students from Colorado University-Boulder’s Environmental Design Program. Students come for a summer to build using sustainable design and low-cost construction methods, including off-grid cabins, deluxe tent platforms, and a beautiful shower facility. Lama residents notice a blossoming in the students over the summer. By the time they leave, they are a part of the family.
Lama Foundation July Online Programs
Persevering in our mission to connect, cultivate, care, and grow
Planning our summer during pandemic times has been challenging. Most events are online. In-person events are now open to those who have been fully vaccinated. If you are planning a visit, please fill out our Vaccination Verification Form as part of your registration process. More details and registration are continuing to evolve.
July 1 Lama Tea, July
July 2-3 Writing as Prayer, Mirabai Starr
July 6 Contemplative Environmentalism Panel
July 13 Environmental Activism in a World of Wounds Panel
July 14 Heart Club, July
July 16-18 The Path of Love and Truth, with Saraswati Rain
July 17-18 Contemplative Environmentalism Workshop, Paul Wapner & Lena Fletcher
July 23-24 Intro to Conflict Management Part 1, Thomas Renault. (Intro to Conflict Management Part 2 Certification will be August 7 & 21, and September 11 & 25 )
July 28-Aug 1 Teen Mindfulness, Julie Tato, Greg Weeks, Kima June
July 30-Aug 1 Into the Boundless Heart: A Movement Retreat, Zuleikha
Every Friday 6:30 pm
Shabbat, Online and in person for those who are fully vaccinated.
Most Thursday EveningsTo find out more about these events and to register visit:
Zikr, the Sufi Path of Remembrance, for those who are fully vaccinated.
https://www.lamatogether.org/events/ (575) 586-1269 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lama Foundation has been an open laboratory of experimentation, built on creativity, science, and faith. Buildings were constructed solely because they were needed and not necessarily because anyone knew how. Wise elders and mentors were sometimes available to lead the way, providing valuable education. It can be empowering, especially for youth, to create something bigger than themselves, to overcome challenges, accomplish intimidating tasks, and create a thing of beauty. Depending on who is there at the time, what is needed, the ever-changing cast of characters step up, figure it out, and get ‘er done. The coordinator of Lama, Jamil Paurel, calls Lama “A Mystery School. The mystery,” he says, “Is how we always seem to have what we need.
It is hard to describe what Lama is, and everything that happens there. It is a place where traditions meet, meld, and are shared. The residents meditate together, grow much of their own food, and share meals, much like in the monastic tradition. With their commitment to be a pan-religious center, they celebrate and support spirituality in all its forms. On most Thursdays, Lama offers zikr, the Sufi practice of remembrance, that originated in the Islamic tradition, and they observe traditional Jewish Shabbat the following day. Shabbat has been meeting consistently for over 35 years. (See Weekly Events for more information)
Along with zikr, there is a rich Sufi tradition at Lama. Murshid Samuel L. Lewis is the first American-born Sufi Master. Known fondly as Sufi Sam, he is buried at Lama, and Sufi practitioners from around the world come to pay respects. Sufi Sam wrote books published by the Lama Foundation and are sold in their gift shop.
Since 1970, when residents started printing prayer flags, Lama Foundation Cottage Industries has helped them grow. Their store now includes apparel, greeting cards, prayer beads, and the many books they publish. Please visit their online store to see their beautiful selection of gifts. store.lamafoundation.org
Lama’s best-known product is the book, Be Here Now, first printed in 1971. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Lama is offering commemorative merchandise, including Be Here Now T-shirts, the book which is packaged in a special anniversary edition of the original pizza box, as it was originally sold. Over the decades, over two million copies have been sold, the Lama Foundation still receives royalties. Ram Dass maintained close ties with Lama and held seminars there. He passed away in 2019 and one memorial was held in Taos, as well as one on Maui, where Ram Dass lived.
It has been a quiet year at the Lama Foundation. They are opening this summer with their regular retreat schedule to those who are fully vaccinated. They have a brilliant cast of residents and interns and are showing every sign of continuing to evolve and expand, doing good things in the world. As first stated on the cover of Be Here Now, “LOVE, SERVE, REMEMBER” is seen frequently on signs and prayer flags, a good reminder of why the Lama Beans are here.
Would you like to know more about the Lama Foundation? Please check out their website https://www.lamatogether.org. Click on Events to see their current schedule of monthly, weekly, and annual events and look for their activities on the Questa Del Rio News community calendar.