Words by - Ren.
Photos by - Raychel
Day three in Taos NM and we were in need of some spiritual soaking. So we drove twenty miles up into the mountains, crammed in the back of the 4-wheeler we were lucky to have, as the bus would've struggled hard to make it up the old mountain roads. We arrived at the Lama Foundation mid-afternoon, a vast stretch of 109 acres of land tucked between the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the Carson National Forest. The breathtaking views had us all gasping for air and in shear wonderment (the altitude mixed with our love of tobacco may have also played a roll in this.)
The Lama foundation is a beautiful and sacred place. It was founded in 1967 by Steve Durkee, Barbara Durkee and Jonathan Altman as a safe place for people of all religions to come and find common peace, study, share, grow, and practice together. “The purpose of the Lama Foundation is 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.” Many wonderful spiritual leaders have come through these mountains, including Ram Das who in 1970 presented the founders of the Lama Foundation with a manuscript which they collectively translated into “Be Here Now;” a book that has transformed the lives of many. The profits earned from this project and other collective works have kept the Lama Foundation funded throughout the years.
The grounds feature beautiful permaculture gardens, an open community kitchen, a dome building for practice, classes, and gatherings, and a field of tent housing. In 1996 a wildfire ripped through these mountains; scared trees stick out like matchsticks on the cliff sides. People have come together year after year to help rebuild the infrastructure that was lost, and by using the bruised trees themselves, as well as clay, straw, and other natural materials, they are building sustainable foundations that are inline with their mission statement to be stewards to the land.
The structure of the organization is quite open. With no “leader” and a very open mission statement, the Lama Foundation is supported and guided by the volunteers and residents living on site at the time. Every decision is made by a consensus vote taken unanimously by all participants. This process is one of the reasons why we were restricted in our ability to film and interview, as it's massively productive to keeping the residents and visitors feeling safe and, most importantly, involved. Everyone has a job to do at Lama, whether it is cooking a meal, running the small store, milking the goats, running a lecture, etc. In this format of ever-shifting consciousness, you can feel welcome no matter your spiritual practice. We certainly did!
We were invited to stay for dinner, a meal which put me close to tears, as the love, care, and wholesome joy could be tasted in every bite. Everyone sat together at long picnic tables, sharing stories and philosophies, journeys and experiences. I sat listening to these tales and felt my body absorb the nutritious rice and delicious Dal dish. As the bell rang and everyone sat up to help clean, not one crumb was left or one plate left undried, all placed carefully away in their respective nooks. Here, solidarity and family intentions are present beyond the basic human need to eat, talk, and keep house together.
But mostly what we found here was a community of openness, communication, stewardship, and passion that has been able to survive for over 50 years. Through fires, harsh winters and isolation, the Lama Foundation has not just survived but thrived. Their welcome and open nature to strangers like us was truly inspiring and heartwarming. I can only continue to hope that others are able to learn from these open and well rehearsed practices, seeing how truly productive the spirit of all-inclusiveness and communal values can be. This is a community of ever-rotating individuals living together and working towards the change they wish to see in the world. Whether they are participating for the day or for the season, everyone is fully involved, immersed, and passionate. This is a place where apathy simply cannot survive.
Words by - Ren.
Photos by - Raychel