My Impromptu Trip To The Great Stupa

 

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Happy Sunday evening, everyone!

I thought I would share a little bit of my impromptu Saturday day trip with you.

Upon waking up Saturday morning I was in a restless state of mind. I did not feel like working out, working in the yard, or anything productive for that matter. I did want to hike and get some fresh air to clear my mind from the weeks’ events but in my restless state I had no desire to go to my usual quick hike spots or head south towards the Boulder area trails. The voice in my head went something like this: ” Devil’s Backbone, nope; Coyote Ridge, nope; Horsetooth Open Range, nope; that place with a really big Buddha statue I saw on TV once. Yep, that’s it!” So with a quick Google search of places in Colorado with a really big Buddha statue I found the Shambhala Mountain Center . Bonus: the center is located near Red Feather Lakes in the mountains and surrounded by hiking trails including about 8 miles of hiking trail around the center property itself. Yay, I felt freshly inspired to carry on with my day and experience something new.

Due to my procrastinating earlier in the morning and feeling the need to eat before starting my 2 hour drive into the mountains, I got off to a rather late start. I did not mind. The drive north-west of the city of Ft. Collins is beautiful and has a very different look than some of the other mountain areas closer to my home. Besides, not sticking to a schedule is part of the adventure, right?  When I arrived at the center I was not sure where to go or what to do. Fortunately, there were many signs pointing to the ‘downtown’ of the center and the way to the Great Stupa. At this point I still was not clear on what a stupa was but I was excited to see it. There was a short hike to the downtown area where there were gift shops, bathrooms, meditation areas, and a big area for food. The center serves lunch everyday buffet style with everything from traditional meat lover dishes to vegetarian and vegan options. A ten-dollar donation is suggested.  Dang, now I know not to eat before visiting next time. The downtown area was loud and happy with lots of conversation.  I am sure this atmosphere was enhanced due to the fact it was the lunch hour. All along the downtown area there are guide posts leading the way to the Great Stupa and other points of interest. I followed the signs to the Great Stupa with my eyes peeled for exactly a stupa might be. I walked for 10 to 15 minutes along a trail passing little meditation areas and beautiful scenery. The further I got away from the downtown and closer I got  to the Great Stupa the more peaceful and quiet things became. Both in the people around me and within myself. Then I saw it. Nestled in the mountains is a glorious gold and white building standing among the trees. It looked like a temple. The standing Buddha above the entrance as well as the moon and the sun above the Buddha’s head particularly mesmerized me.The closer I got, the more sacred everything seemed. As I approached the stairs leading to the entrance I noticed places to leave offerings and incense was lit by pilgrims near the door. I observed people of the Buddhist faith walking in a clockwise direction around the Stupa and sprinkling holy water as they went. There was an information center near the Stupa so I made a quick stop to get more information on what I was seeing. Stupas, go back thousands of years. They were originally burial mounds rather like pyramids. 2,500 years ago the Buddha instructed his cremated ashes to be placed in a stupa. This created a shift in  the idea of a stupa being a place for the dead to the idea that a stupa is a place for the living. Stupas connect the living with essence of the Buddha’s teachings.

 

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I removed my shoes and reverently opened the door. Surprisingly, or not, entering the Great Stupa was very similar to entering my church. Sacred and transcending time. Full of images, smells, and symbols that speak to the mind that which words can not.  I was alone ( amazing considering all of the tourists and pilgrims) and I stood face to face with a large golden statue of the Buddha. I gave a respectful bow in acknowledgement the divine that dwells within every human and sat before the great statue in silence. I was drawn to focus on the face of the Buddha as I found the silent place in my heart. In the face of the Buddha I could see all humanity, our collective story reflected in his eyes. I hesitated to leave. After about 20 minutes others entered the space and I felt a quiet nudge to give them their moment of silence without my presence.

After exiting the Great Stupa I was invigorated by the sunshine and the smell of woods and incense. I really wanted to find the hiking trails and enjoy a brisk hike in my relaxed state being There were thunderstorms rolling in and I knew I had a 2 hour drive back home and it was getting late in the afternoon as well. I reminded myself that even if I did not do an actual hike today I had walked around mountainous terrain for about 2 hours exploring the center and that in itself was time well spent in the fresh air.

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I returned to the parking lot to check the center map posted by the entrance. While studying the map I ran into a couple who had just finished the hike around the center. I learned that to access the trail from the parking lot is the opposite direction of downtown. I also learned You can get to the Great Stupa from the trail.The couple said that the trail was rocky and difficult in spots, between 6 and 8 miles in length, but very beautiful and worth the challenge. I knew I could not hike the entire trail on this trip but I was determined to get a short hike in so I found the trail head and hiked for about a half an hour before the thunder and raindrops started. It was absolutely beautiful. Reluctantly, I turned around and made my way back to my car.

It was a great impromptu trip that I will make again. Now that I know a little more about the center I have a game plan: Leave earlthe morning; hike first and take a detour to the Great Stupa for meditation;  finish by going to the center’s downtown area for a vegan lunch; oh, and be flexible for a change of plan. 🙂

As always I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by the blog 🙂

Until next time,

Laura

 

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