Building a Retreat Center in a Sacred Place


In Tibet, we find that monasteries were not placed simply where it was convenient, but they were placed according to the principles of sacred geometry. The most desirable location for a monastery or retreat center was against a mountain and if there is a stream nearby, the stream should flow from left to right. Also, almost all monasteries and retreat centers are located near mountains where local deities lived or near caves where great practitioners, such as Milarepa or Padmasambhava, practiced and tamed the energies of the area.

Crestone is located in the San Luis Valley which is one of the highest intermountain valleys (almost at 7,000 feet) in North America. The valley is ringed by the continental divide on one side (looking across the valley as shown on above photograph) and the Sangre de Cristo (blood of Christ) mountains on the other side.

Crestone also has its sacred geography. The Native Americans began coming to the San Luis Valley 10,000 years ago to hunt buffalo and to pick pinons. At the Sand Dunes, just 20 miles South of Crestone, is Stewart's Crossing which is the second largest site in North America containing clovis artifacts. Another 20 miles, along the Sangre de Cristo mountains, is Mount Blanca a sacred mountain of the Navajo world.

"The Native American peoples have a long and historic relationship with the land that is now known as San Luis Valley and the surrounding San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. For local tribes of the Pueblo, Apache, Navajo (Dineh), Ute and others, it was a paradise for gathering food and medicinal plants, hunting, ceremonies, and other gatherings...Until they were dispossessed, the Native people maintained the area here as a place for peaceful contemplation and resolutions.
The Mountains are sacred to indigenous people. Pilgrimages are still made to the Sacred Mountains for medicine bundle renewal, rain, medicinal herbs, and ceremonies by various tribes. Nearby Mount Blanka is one such mountain. To the Dineh, it is called Sismajinii meaning "black sash trailing down." The sash is the range extending from Blanca northward to include Crestone community. It is revered eastern mountain of the Dineh cosmos. Blanca and three other cardinal direction mountains are mentioned as the pillars holding up the sky-universe in the Navajo spiritual geography."
                                                           --Paul Tohlakai, Sacred Mountains Foundation

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