Rocky Mountain

Ecodharma Retreat Center

A Home for Meditation in Nature

The Bodhisattva Path in Challenging Times

A talk given by David Loy at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church as a guest speaker in sangha led by David Chernikoff on November 22, 2016. Transcribed by Jeffrey Fuller and edited by David Loy

It’s been two weeks today since the election, and many of us are still in a state of shock — traumatized, disheartened if not depressed, anxious, angry, fearful and somewhat confused, wondering what’s going to come next — and wondering if there might be some silver lining to what’s happening. My response today has two parts. First I’d like to identify a very real silver lining, or at least the possibility of a silver lining, depending on how we respond to the situation. And then I’d like to say a bit about what I think is the most important contribution of Buddhist teachings to this situation, which can help us understand and respond to it.

Let’s begin with a Zen story that’s been circulating on the Internet. A student asks the master, “When times of great difficulty visit us, how should we meet them?” And the answer is, “Welcome.” This path that we’re on is not about avoiding difficulties. That doesn’t mean passively accepting those difficulties when they present themselves, but it does mean engaging with them, not trying to avoid them. Another story is also quite relevant here: the student asks the master, “What is the constant activity of all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas?” In other words, what is it that awakened people are doing all the time — what is special about the way they live in the world moment by moment?” And the answer from the master is, “Responding appropriately.” In one way that seems very simple, but in another way it’s not, because in order to know how to respond appropriately, we have to understand the situation that we are in. There are different ways of understanding a situation, different perspectives. And one of them is how short-term or long-term, how closely we are looking at the situation, and how much can we step back from it and look at the larger perspective.

Anyway, here’s the silver lining that I’m wondering about. Again, I’m not saying it’s definitely a silver lining, but it has the possibility to become a silver lining: is the distress that we are feeling now opening up a new potential that’s exactly what’s needed? And here I have to immediately qualify that, because as an older, white, heterosexual male, there are certain types of anxiety that I’m probably not going to have to be concerned about, compared to many women, or gay people, or people of color, or some immigrants. I acknowledge that, yet again, I am in a very privileged situation. Yet there are other important issues here too, other aspects to our distress that need to be emphasized as well, and even to be appreciated. Because perhaps the shock of this election can also help to wake us up. You will remember that Hillary ran her a campaign basically on the status quo: more of the same. And from what I can see, that’s why she lost. Because for an awful lot of people in this country, that’s not what they wanted. It’s important to remember here, among other things, that Democrats have controlled the presidency for 16 of the last 24 years, and that the gap between rich and poor during that period has continued to accelerate. So much for the party of the working class.

So how much has the election of Donald Trump shaken us up, and maybe, in the process, is it waking us up in a way that the election of Hillary Clinton would not have done? I am struck by something that the philosopher-provocateur Slavoj Žižek expressed very succinctly: “The real calamity is the status quo.” In which case, if people are responding, showing their dissatisfaction with the status quo, even if they are doing it for different reasons than I do, is that expression of dissatisfaction what’s needed? Again, that response can be understood in different ways, but let me share with you the way that stands out most for me. Here are a few sentences by James Gustave Speth, from a book he published back in 2008, which means he actually would have written it in 2007. Please keep that year in mind as you listen to what he wrote:

“Half of the worlds tropical and temperate forests are now gone. The rate of deforestation in the tropics continues at about an acre per second, as it has for decades. Half the planet’s wetlands are gone, an estimated 90% of the large predator fish are gone. 75% of marine fisheries are now overfished or fished to capacity. Almost half of the corals are gone or seriously threatened. Species are disappearing at rates about a thousand times faster than normal. The planet hasn’t seen such a spasm of extinction in 65 million years, since the dinosaurs disappeared.”

(More recently, a week or so ago it was announced that from 1970 to 2020, a short 50-year period, two-thirds of all the wild animals on this planet will have disappeared. Some years ago E. O. Wilson, the renowned Harvard biologist, predicted that by the end of this century, half of the earth’s species plant and animal species may be extinct, or so weakened that they will disappear soon thereafter.)

Anyway, back to Speth now: “Desertification claims a Nebraska-sized area of productive capacity each year globally. Persistent toxic chemicals can now be found by the dozens in essentially each and everyone of us.”

Something else I recently came across is that in the last 40 years, that is to say in the lifetime of almost all of us here, about one-third of the world’s cropland has been abandoned because of soil erosion, or because it’s otherwise unusable.

“All we have to do,” continues Speth, “to destroy the planet’s climate and biota and leave a ruined world to our children and grandchildren, is to keep doing exactly what we’re doing today, with no growth in human population or the world economy. Just continue to generate greenhouse gases at current rates, just continue to impoverish ecosystems and release toxic chemicals at current rates, and the world in the latter part of this century won’t be fit to live in. But human activities are not holding at current levels. They’re accelerating dramatically.”

Remember, he wrote this back in 2007. Did you notice that just last week it was announced that this will be the third year in a row that set a new record as the warmest in recorded history? If all this is true, we need to wake up to it in a way that we haven’t yet. Why haven’t we, and what does it take to wake us up to it?

Now in response to this, you might say that Hillary, unlike Donald Trump, acknowledged climate change, and intended to do something about it. But, given her public record, just how much was she prepared to do?

The analogy that comes to my mind is that we are all in a big bus, a bus that’s hurtling very, very fast toward a precipice. We don’t know what lies over that precipice, we don’t know if it’s a sudden drop or if it’s a bumpy collapse, but we have good reason to suspect it’s a very long way down. What happened in this election is that two people were fighting for the steering wheel. One person wanted to speed up, step on the accelerator and go faster, because he’s not concerned; apparently he doesn’t believe there is a precipice. But what about the other person? Was she determined to stop the bus? Maybe she would have slowed down a little bit, maybe turned the wheel a bit, but it seems to me that neither of our two main political parties is interested in acknowledging the crisis in the way that it needs to be acknowledged. Why? I’m reminded of the Louisiana populist Huey Long, who put it very well: “Your government is like a restaurant with Republican waiters on one side and Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of waiters brings you your food, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen.”

Suppose Hillary had won as expected. Would we all have sat back on the bus more comfortably into our seats? If Trump had been defeated, would that have encouraged us to become – or remain – more comfortable? I think you can see what I’m getting at here.

The other side of the question that constantly comes back to me, and it’s a question for myself as much it is for anyone else, is: why is it so difficult for us to respond in the way that’s necessary? The answer, it seems to me, is that for most of us our concern is not generated by personal discomfort. If you look at the history of the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution, the people who revolted did so because they were desperate, because they had no choice, because they had to put their lives on the line. And let’s be honest, for most of us here in the “Boulder bubble,” for how many of us is life essentially very, very comfortable? Whether you look at our lives historically or geographically, we are incredibly privileged. We are the most fortunate generation in human history when you consider the levels of disposable income, of medical care, of freedom and ability to do what we want. Or you can look at it geographically, in contemporaneous terms of what’s going on in the world now, and you will come to the same conclusion. How incredibly fortunate, how extraordinarily comfortable we are, compared to life for the vast majority of people on this planet. This is not a criticism, but it’s a statement about — and I’m talking as much to myself here — about how difficult it is, therefore, to generate the level of passion and concern and response that is necessary if we’re going to leave a decent planet for our descendants and for the other species on this earth.

Because we are all in this bubble together, it’s very hard not to take it for granted, and just assume that that’s the way things are. But we need to remember that the kind of life that we now enjoy — our great-great-grandchildren are not going to have that kind of life. The Boulder bubble is a bubble; it will be popped. The quality of life here that to some extent we can’t help but take for granted, that’s not going to go on forever. And it’s important for us, rather than simply enjoy our comforts until the bubble pops, to actually respond to this new challenge as much as we can now.

So that’s the sense in which the kind of discomfort and anxiety and trauma that most of us have been experiencing in one way or another during the past two weeks might become something positive. It’s been encouraging to see the sense of community that has been forming within some groups, people bonding together in the way that is needed if we’re going to be able to respond appropriately to the kinds of difficulties that we can now expect.

So please reflect on that. My concern is that those of us who feel momentarily moved to do something will over time — being surrounded by other people who are not so moved — lose that energy, and slip back into old, more familiar life-style habits. I think we have to be careful and ask ourselves whether we are doing that and really try to help each other rise to this particular kind of challenge rather than seeing this as a temporary difficulty that we eventually adjust to.

And to some extent our practice can encourage that. It’s possible to use our meditation practice, our Buddhist practice, as a kind of refuge from all of this. I’m concerned that we Buddhists have discovered our own solution to the climate crisis and other ecological and social crises. When we read something of the sort that I mentioned earlier, quoting Speth, we tend to become anxious, but hey, we’re Buddhist practitioners, and we know what to do when we are anxious, right? So we sit facing the wall for a while (laughter), let go of our thoughts and feelings and so forth, and after a while, okay, I feel better! That’s one kind of Buddhist response — but that’s not the kind of response that’s needed.

The second thing I want to talk about is perhaps the most important thing that Buddhism has to offer us at this particular point: the bodhisattva path.
The most essential thing about the bodhisattva path is that the bodhisattva has a double practice, or a two-sided practice. On the one hand he or she continues to work for their own awakening, they continue their own meditation and so forth. They work on their self- transformation and thereby realize or get in touch with that dimension or perspective in which there’s nothing missing, nothing lacking, no better, no worse, nothing to gain. But they also realize that that dimension by itself is insufficient, is one-sided. Although it’s important for us to ground ourselves in meditative equanimity (in Zen we talk about realizing emptiness), it’s important that that grounding enables or invigorates us to engage more compassionately and wholeheartedly in social and ecological activities.

And, on the other side, it’s just as important for activists to have a meditative practice, because otherwise it’s very, very difficult to avoid getting frustrated, burned out, angry, and even despair.

I’ve spent a lot of my time recently talking to Buddhist groups about how important it is to be socially and ecologically engaged. Here I’m reminded of one of my all-time favorite quotations, by Nisargadatta, who expresses this point very well: “When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that’s wisdom. When I look outside and see that I am everything, that’s love. Between the two my life moves.” This shows the relationship between the two pillars of Buddhism — wisdom and love, or wisdom and compassion — because insofar as we overcome the delusion of a separate self, insofar as we’re able to let go of ourselves in our practice and realize our non-duality with other people and the world generally, the love that he refers to is how one embodies that realization in how we actually live day by day. This kind of love is not a feeling but a way of being, the way of living in the world and relating to other people that’s implied by this realization of non-separation.

Many things about the bodhisattva path could be mentioned here. Traditionally one of the most important things would be nonviolence, consistent with the first Buddhist precept that we don’t injure living beings. And along with that, the idea of non-polarization, which seems especially important now. By non-polarization I mean not objectifying or feeling separate from other people who have different ideas, people that we’re trying to convince, or struggling with. It’s important not to label them as “evil.” From the Buddhist perspective, we’re not in a struggle of good against evil, but on a path that transforms delusion into wisdom (or ignorance into awakening), and that involves recognizing how we are all complicit to some degree within webs of delusion such as this election demonstrated.

It’s very heartening to see the resistance that’s already starting to catalyze. I’m sure most of you have heard about an incident that happened a few days ago at the Broadway show “Hamilton” in New York, where Vice-President-elect Pence was booed by many in the audience, and following the performance some of the cast came back onstage to make a statement. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that. My sense is we are going to see the strongest resistance movement since the Vietnam War, maybe since the Civil War. But what isn’t clear yet is whether this kind of movement is going to bring us all together in response to Trump and his administration, or are we going to see a growing gap between the people who are appalled by what Trump is doing, and the many people who elected him. Are we going to see greater and greater division, or are we going to accept that, despite the fact that they have different ideas and a different understanding, Trump supporters are also responding to pain, they too are suffering. Will we be able to find ways to communicate, to actually relate to them rather than deepening the chasm between us?

There are other things that the bodhisattva path emphasizes, such as pragmatism and skillful means – which highlights the importance of creativity — but I want to focus on what may be the most important thing: that the bodhisattva acts without attachment to the fruits of action. This is really important, but it’s also very dangerous if we misunderstand it, because it can encourage or rationalize a kind of half-hearted commitment. We might decide, for example, that we need to help convert a fossil fuel plant into a renewable energy plant. And we work hard for a little while but it doesn’t seem to be happening and so we say, “Oh well, I tried. It isn’t happening, but I’m not attached to the results of my actions, so I’ll just return to my cushion.”

Is that kind of nonattachment to the fruits of action that we need? No, I would say that is a misunderstanding of what nonattachment means. One way to make this point is to emphasize the distinction between a 100-yard dash and a marathon. When you’re running a 100-yard dash, the only thing that counts is getting to the goal line as quickly as possible; you don’t have to think about anything else. But you can’t run a marathon that way. If you do, you’re going to exhaust yourself awfully quickly. In order to run a marathon, yes, you are running, you are not just sitting by the side, meditating or watching the runners. You are moving in a certain direction. But at the same time, in going that direction, it’s one step at a time. [Demonstrates walking deliberately, one step at a time] Just this! Just this! Only this step! Well, maybe a little faster.

In Japanese Zen the term tada means “just this!” In this single step nothing is lacking, nothing is missing. We don’t have to be thinking about the goal, as long as we’re moving in that direction. You are completely one with every moment. And that is one way to understand what it means to be non-attached to the goal, non-attached to the fruits of one’s action.

Nonetheless, a marathon is only 26 miles or so, and even if you are quite slow, even if you walk it, you’re going to be able to finish it within a day. But what about the actual situation we’re faced with today, where we don’t know how far the goal line is, or how long it will take us to get there. Where we have to be in it for the really, really long haul, which is more discouraging or intimidating in the sense that we don’t know what or where the goal is, or if there even is a finish line. Here I’m reminded of something recited in Zen centers every day, the four bodhisattva vows, the first of which is very pertinent: “Living beings are numberless. I vow to save them all.” Or liberate them all, help all of them to realize their true nature. Basically one is taking a vow to do something that actually can’t be done, that can’t be fulfilled, which makes it a “goal-less goal.” Which means that it’s not actually about achieving a particular goal at all. It’s about a fundamental reorientation in the meaning of one’s life, away from my usual preoccupation with my own comfort, my own separate well-being. The vow is a commitment to transform those habits: “No, the fundamental meaning of my life is working for the well-being of everyone.” You can call this a goal, you can call this an attachment if you like, but I think it’s something deeper: it really is a transformation at the core that cuts through one’s usual self- preoccupation. And the reason I emphasize that is, if you think about what that vow really means and take it seriously, you are not going to be intimidated by the comparatively minor task of working with others to save global civilization from destroying itself. (Laughter) The point is, whether or not we become temporarily discouraged, we don’t stop, we get on with it. Because this bodhisattva commitment and activity becomes the only game in town, as the meaning of one’s life. And I think it’s not a vow that many of us can embody very successfully unless one also has a meditation practice, or some other spiritual practice.

However, that still doesn’t get at the most important thing that we need to say about what it means to act without attachment to the results of that action. What pushes me in this direction is what some scientists seem to be saying, among themselves behind closed doors: It might be too late. What if it is too late? Well, first question, too late for what? Too late to avoid a breakdown of the kind of global civilization that we’ve achieved in the last couple of generations? As Paul Ehrlich put it, in pushing other species to extinction, we are busy sawing off the limb on which we perch. It’s quite ironic, isn’t it, that just as we’ve achieved a truly global civilization, it’s busy destroying itself.

I’m not a scientist and not in a position to offer any authoritative judgment on this matter, but scientists themselves are very concerned about what are called tipping points: for example, the fact that Arctic ice is melting ever more quickly than expected, and without the white ice the ocean absorbs more heat, which causes more ice to melt and so forth. And another example is methane gas, which is much more potent than carbon dioxide. I’ve read that there are approximately 400 billion tons of methane frozen at the bottom of the Arctic and Antarctic Ocean, and also buried in the permafrost, the tundra – and both of these are now melting. We seem to be getting into a positive feedback loop, positive in the sense that the problem tends to aggravate and escalate itself.

So is it maybe too late? And if so, what does that mean? We just don’t know, do we? The extra problem with that, of course, is that normally there is something paralyzing about “not knowing.” It’s scary that we don’t even know what’s happening right now, and that we don’t really know what’s likely to happen, or what’s possible. We just… don’t… know.

But wait a minute! In Zen “don’t know mind” is an essential aspect of realization and practice. Enlightenment or awakening isn’t about suddenly, “Oh, now I understand everything about the way the world is and what’s happening.” It’s just the opposite. It’s opening up to a one’s “don’t know” mind. Bernie Glassman, founder of the Zen peacemakers, made this the first of his three principles: don’t know mind. And for practitioners, there’s something very invigorating about don’t know mind. One of my teachers, Robert Aitken, said, “Our task isn’t about clearing up the mystery, but rather making the mystery clear.” When we open up to what’s actually happening, we open up to a world that’s fundamentally mysterious. And essential to that mystery is how little we actually know. But that doesn’t stop us from acting.

When we open up in our practice, and “return to the Source,” it’s not about grasping that ground, to cling to it or rest in it, indifferent to what’s happening in the world, but to be taken by it, and thereafter we find ourselves manifesting something greater than our egos. We become a vehicle of something greater than ourselves. We become instruments of that Source. And that means our job is to respond appropriately to whatever situation that arises for us, as well as we can. What that implies, I think, is this: our task is to do the very best that we can, not knowing if anything we do is going to make any difference whatsoever. That’s an important part of what don’t know mind means. We don’t know if what we do is important, but it is very important that we do it. Because it’s what we are here for and what we find ourselves called to do.

Again, I think we can only do this if we have a meditation practice. That brings us back to that two-sided practice that I started out referring to. If we are able to ground ourselves in the equanimity, in the emptiness, in this fundamental perspective where nothing is lacking, then we can act in the world in the ways that are becoming necessary, with nonattachment. Continue to walk step-by-step and moment by moment in the direction that’s needed, as part of a fundamental reorientation of what it means to be a practitioner living in a world that’s changing so quickly. And doing the very best that we can, joyfully, without knowing if anything we do makes any difference whatsoever. We don’t know, but that’s okay. Knowing is not part of the job description. There’s a famous Jewish saying from the Perkei Avot which says something like that: “It’s not your responsibility to finish the work of healing the earth, but neither are you free to desist from it either.”

Let me conclude by saying that, if we’re not able to respond in these ways — if we still understand our practice only as a refuge, simply as away of avoiding the great challenges that we are now faced with – then perhaps Buddhism isn’t what’s needed right now. But I think this is exactly why and where Buddhism is so important, because it can teach us that our engagement with the world is not a distraction from our practice, but an essential part of our practice.

Thank you very much.

David Loy


Join Our Mailing List, and Get a Chance to Win a Free Retreat
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
All new subscribers will be entered in a drawing for a free retreat at RMERC.
Good towards any retreat in 2022; value up to $500; no cash value.

2024 Retreats

Beginner / Beginner’s Mind Silent Meditation Retreat

With Upasaka Upali and Nicoya Helm (Assistant)

May 2 – 5, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
If you have a meditation practice and have wanted to attend a meditation retreat, this long weekend is an excellent fit for first-time retreat goers. It is also open to anyone wanting time to unplug, enjoy Noble Silence, and deepen their meditation practice. The schedule is devoted almost entirely to silent meditation, but there is also time for hiking, one-on-one teacher support from Upali, and Dharma talks in the evenings. All levels of practice experience are welcome. Upali will teach most readily from a Pragmatic Dharma perspective, utilizing his formal training in Shamatha-Vipassana to teach meditative techniques. He also teaches…

SMS Awakening Activism: A Dharma Response to Gaza RETREAT CANCELED

With Thanissara, Elaine Yeh, Djuna Devereaux and Yong Oh

May 6 – 10, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Sacred Mountain Sangha in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Amidst the stark realities of our times, the need for a more resilient, transparent, engaged, and collaborative Dharma culture has been illuminated by the destruction of Gaza. This retreat emerges as a response to this need as a contribution toward its realization. Inspired by the interventions of the Buddha to stop wars and the courageous stands of spiritual movements against political injustices throughout history, we recognize a moral imperative to act and to resist the descent into chaos and the normalization of mass atrocities and extreme violence.cultivate mindful engagement guided by…

Healing, Belonging and Kinning: An Ecodharma Retreat

With Kritee (Kanko), Imtiaz Rangwala and Bianca Acosta

May 14 – 19, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
 Join us at the stunningly pristine and healing Rocky Mountain Ecodharma retreat center for a retreat designed for empowering anyone who cares about the healing and belonging in these wild times of polycrisis (climate, genocidal wars, xenophobia, pollution, rise of fascism and mental health crisis). You could be a community organizer, healer, educator, activist, artist, scientist, journalist, lawyer, author or storyteller working. Through silent meditation, movement/yoga, guided dialogue, a deep grief and rage ceremony, an extended “Solo” time in nature, small affinity group work, and dharma talks by the teachers we will explore how we can deepen our love for…

The Ecology of Self

With Blake Hestir, Sarah Sampson, “Choke” and Alex Julie

May 20 – 25, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
The Ecology of Self is a 6-day, 5-night adventure into deepening our relationship with Mother Earth. Our stories of separation from the Earth and each other are the seeds of the global challenges we face. Together we delve into the dynamic interdependence of self, community, and the living land, framed within a larger conversation about regenerative sustainability, equity, and well-being. Along our journey, we build community, practice nature-centered meditation, explore embodiment practices, enjoy tea ritual and expressive arts, and engage in vibrant discussion. Creating a strong culture of belonging and inclusivity is a crucial part of promoting individual and planetary…

Embracing Eco Dharma as A New Saint

With Lama Rod Owens, Reggie Hubbard, Rashid Hughes and Bhava Jaya

May 25 – 31, 2024
Cal-Wood Retreat Center
In this retreat we will explore themes around climate anxiety, the harm of individual and collective narcissism, connecting to the awakened consciousness of the earth as well as the sky, and developing renewed visions for climate change organizing and activism based on the recognition that all systems of violence intersect with climate change work. We will be relying on Lama Rod’s newest book, The New Saints, along with ancient Buddhist based practices, including mindfulness and tantra, and body-based practices to deepen our understanding of our body’s connection to the earth. This retreat is open to anyone regardless of practice experience.…

Awake in the Wild – Cultivating Awareness, Wisdom and Love in Nature

With Mark Coleman

May 26 – June 1, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Like the Buddha, people for millennia have sought refuge, clarity and wisdom in nature. In this silent, fully outdoor nature retreat, you will meditate in the serenity and beauty of mountains and meadows, while cultivating potent yet accessible sensory awareness practices that open you to insight, interconnection and well-being. This nature immersion provide the perfect antidote to our busy, digital and stressed lives. During the retreat, you will cultivate a receptive, embodied quality of mindful attention. This awareness supports learning from nature’s wisdom teachings on change, letting go, equanimity and sensing intimately ones inter-connection with all life. You will also…

Finding our True Nature in Nature

With Jon Aaron and Ben Connelly

June 3 – 9, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Within the beautiful surroundings of RMERC, and with the power of meditating in nature, we may discover our true nature. Let us cultivate a joy that supports facing the uncertainties of this world and the arising of appropriate response. This retreat brings together different traditions of Buddhist practice, integrating Insight and early Mahayana practices by drawing deeply from Yogacara’s Three Natures teachings. Held by the mountains, forest, and stream, supported by the container of noble silence, we will spend most of our time outside in the meadows and forests of the center.

Natural Awareness and Wisdom:Exploring Mindfulness in Nature

With Dave Smith

June 10 – 17, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
During this retreat we will explore the Four Foundations of Mindfulness with an emphasis on developing continuity of wise awareness as taught by Burmese master Sayadaw U Tejaniya. Instructions will emphasize the Buddha’s teachings on view, attitude and qualities of mind that support a relaxed and alert awareness throughout all activities. Through the development of a sustained and kind awareness we come to meet ourselves and the world with presence, ease and wisdom, naturally establishing the clear seeing and collectedness of mind that are the hallmarks of liberating insight. The retreat will be conducted in noble silence and will follow…

Belonging to Each Other: Falling in Love with Mother Earth Together – An Ecodharma Retreat for People of Color

With Kritee (Kanko), Kaira Jewel Lingo, Imtiaz Rangwala, Ramon Gabrieloff-Parish, Bianca Acosta and Asia Whitlock

June 18 – 23, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Join us at the stunningly pristine and healing Rocky Mountain Ecodharma retreat center for a retreat designed for empowering anyone who cares about the healing and belonging in these wild times of polycrisis (climate, genocidal wars, xenophobia, pollution, rise of fascism and mental health crisis). You could be a community organizer, healer, educator, activist, artist, scientist, journalist, lawyer, author or storyteller working on climate and social justice. Through silent meditation, movement/yoga, guided dialogue, a deep grief and rage ceremony, an extended “Solo” time in nature, small affinity group work, and dharma talks by the teachers we will explore how we…

Meditation, Embodiment and Awakening in Nature

With Peter Williams and Carla Brennan

June 24 – 30, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
This retreat explores the rejuvenating power of deep connection with nature through meditation. When we connect with the simplicity of our senses in outdoor meditation, our minds get quiet and we marvel at the ordinary wonders around us – the spray of colors in a field of mountain flowers, a dewdrop on the tip of an aspen leaf, clouds scudding across the high peaks. Practicing in nature connects us with our care for the world. As a group, we will explore our gratitude for the natural world, our grief for our impact on it, and how to make engaging with…

Pachamama Medicina: An Ecodharma Retreat for Indigenous-descendant Womxn

With Bianca Acosta, Andrea Valeska and Kritee (Kanko)

July 3 – 7, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
In Indigenous cosmology, womxn are at the center of the healing of people and land. By healing the womxn, we heal families, communities and our sacred lands.  This four day retreat for womxn descendants of indigenous peoples will provide space for participants to gather, share and practice Earth-based ancestral ways of healing. The leaders of this retreat believe in Land rematriation as a powerful way to heal our hearts and land from centuries of colonization. They view rematriation as a return to our Mother Earth, a restoration of symbiotic balance among all living things, and a return to Indigenous ways…

Exploring Ecodharma: a Deep Experience in Nature

With Johann Robbins, David Loy, Rochelle Calvert and Cornelia Santschi

July 19 – 28, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Book now and get $105.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until May 4, 2024.
This ten day retreat is a deep dive into being, in nature, abiding silently, joining inner nature with outer nature, and dissolving separation. Each day includes plentiful time for sitting, hiking/walking meditation, as well as meditation instruction, dharma talks, and small group ecodharma exploration. There will be a two night solo opportunity during the retreat, which is an incredible highlight. The overall intention is for deep silence, practice, and the joy and healing that comes with a profound connection with nature. This will be supported by instruction in a variety of nature meditation practices. There will be nightly campfire dharma…

NEW!! Transformation in Nature: a Supported Solo Retreat

With Johann Robbins and Cornelia Santschi

July 30 – August 3, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Book now and get $45.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until May 8, 2024.
If you have been wanting to do a longer solo retreat in nature, but were daunted by the logistics, or uncertain about how to spend your time or what to bring, this retreat makes all of that simple. Solo nature practice is an incredibly powerful way to realize who we truly are, to touch into being, and the reality of non-separation that brings. When we hang out in a beautiful spot for days, being aware, peaceful, and still, this calms and reassures the wildlife that usually try and avoid humans, and they come and visit, sometimes for hours. This opens…

Nonduality in Nature: The Direct Path of Beauty and Love

With Johann Robbins and Caverly Morgan

August 4 – 10, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Book now and get $70.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until May 20, 2024.
Our true being is awareness and love. This peace and happiness, which we all long for, underlies the ceaseless striving of the limited sense of self, or ego. Being in nature allows us to easily relax, and come into presence with the beauty around us, and the appreciation, gratitude and love that arises in response. Being in the mountains in the soft gentle time of high summer, with green meadows, alive forests, abundant wildflowers, high peaks adorned with snowy caps, the running creek, and all the birds, moose, deer, elk, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and others, is an ideal place and…

Touching the Earth

With Susie Harrington and Denise Ackert

August 12 – 19, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Do you long to embody the ease, freedom, and aliveness that is your true home? To do so, the Buddha implored us to “go to the forest, to the foot of a tree” as an onward leading condition for awakening to our true nature. In this home of spruce forests, alpine meadows, birdsong, and wandering moose, we practice immersed in the natural world. And we explore opening ourselves to the beauty, inter-connectedness, and preciousness of our true nature. During this retreat, we’ll be encouraged to look out and around, as well as inward, and to delight in what we see.…

Deepen Your Connection to the Web of Life

With Rochelle Calvert and Piero Falci

August 20 – 25, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Book now and get $50.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until Jun 5, 2024.
Gain a profound understanding of your inner connection to the natural world through insightful dharma teachings, immersive nature experiences and heartfelt reflective inquiry. This is an opportunity to explore the understanding of deep ecology, foster a sense of reverence for the Earth and empower yourself to become an active participant in its healing and preservation. Through the profound power of nature-centered mindfulness and somatic healing this retreat is designed to awaken vitality with life and rekindle your connection to the world around you. Through a harmonious blend of guided practices, mindful explorations of nature, and gentle somatic healing techniques, you…

Gratitude, Joy and Deep Belonging

With Peter Williams and Dave Smith

August 26 – September 1, 2024
Book now and get $65.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until Jun 11, 2024.
This retreat emphasizes the ability of meditation in nature to ease the mind into silence, happiness, and deep belonging. With much of the retreat happening outdoors, participants will become aware of all their senses and learn to appreciate the simple joys the earth is always offering. Gratitude becomes a natural state of mind. As practice deepens, one will gain insight into the fundamental truths, such as impermanence and interdependence, that lead to inner peace. The retreat will be held in silence with periods of sitting and walking meditation, movement practices, as well as mindful hiking on the stunning land of…

Deepening Your Practice: A Meditation Retreat for Experienced Practitioners

With David Chernikoff

September 2 – 8, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Book now and get $60.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until Jun 18, 2024.
This retreat is for those who want to deepen their practice and to listen to what the Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah called “the one who knows.” Ultimately, spiritual maturation involves learning to trust our own inner guidance and resting in the felt realization that we already have what we seek and we already are what we wish to become. In a caring, supportive environment, we’ll practice sitting and walking meditation in silence. There will be dharma talks on the retreat theme as well as guided meditations and some interactive exercises that highlight the transformative power of the teachings. This retreat is designed for…

SoulFire Murmuration

With Carol Kortsch and Jade Sherer

September 11 – 15, 2024
Rocky Mountain Eco-dharma Retreat Center
Book now and get $45.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until Jun 27, 2024.
This retreat is intentionally intergenerational for all women who identify with the Earth community and are open to exploring your true essence through your connection with Mother Nature.  We are calling you personally back to the circle.  We welcome all those who have attended our SoulFire gatherings or other nature-based retreats and who long for more opportunity to listen deeply. We intend to create a murmuration in our unity, growing our individual and collective strength.  Thus, discovering an emergent wisdom so needed in the world.  Studies of murmuration have shown that a single starling responds to seven of its closest…

Cultivating the Courageous Heart

With Jean Leonard and Sarah Heffron

September 17 – 22, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Book now and get $55.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until Jul 3, 2024.
Daily we are faced with our growing vulnerability and the challenges of being alive in this complex world, as well as possibilities for transformation, personally and collectively.  More than ever, we are seeing our common humanity and how interdependent we are with each other and the more than human world. This is an opportunity to meet the moment, ourselves, and one another with care, clarity and compassion. Courage is described as “the ability to do something that frightens one” and “strength in the face of pain or grief.”   Cultivating the Brahma Viharas – the heart qualities of kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity – develops the…

Silence, Stillness and Concentration

With Barry Gillespie

September 23 – 29, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Book now and get $55.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until Jul 9, 2024.
A traditional Theravada silent mindfulness retreat with emphasis on stillness, concentration and continuity of practice, leading participants to a spacious stillness of mind, a radiant calm. There will be regular seated and walking practice, daily meditation instruction, evening dharma talks, an optional daily gentle yoga class, individual practice meetings and time every day to hike/walk in the beautiful natural world surrounding the retreat center. All of the teachings will be based directly on the Buddha’s teachings found in the Pali Canon, in particular in the Satipatthana Sutta.

ArtLife – Awakening Original Creativity

With Jane Seaton

October 2 – 6, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
It is becoming ever more urgent to break free from the old paradigms strangling our world.  How are we each called to contribute, from our hearts and with our myriad skills, to no less than radically heal and evolve beyond this fractured reality?  Whether as contemplatives, healers, visionaries or social activists, our natural creative gifts support fulfilling our true life purpose. During this retreat, we’ll go on intuitively guided and sometimes marvelously surprising creative adventures. No prior art making experience is needed to engage with and be nourished by participating in this program. The kind of creativity that we will…

Zen and Ecodharma Retreat (Sesshin)

With Kritee (Kanko) and Imtiaz Rangwala

October 8 – 13, 2024
This silent retreat is for participants who want to learn about Zen tradition and deepen their surrender to the “Enlightened Mind”. Our sangha takes a trauma informed approach to healing, awakening and changemaking. As a result, at our retreats, we combine practices from the ancient tradition of Rinzai Zen with our current understanding of what individuals need to face and release our trauma. Each day will include indoor zazen (seated meditation), outdoor meditation (by trees, bonfire or flowing water), kinhin (group walking meditation), deep abdominal chanting, opportunities to share our experience with other participants, a talk at the interface of…

Deepening Kinship: Exploring the Intersections of Queerness, Ecology & Dharma

With Kirsten Rudestam, Emerson James and Jean Leonard

October 15 – 20, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Book now and get $55.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until Jul 31, 2024.
As practices, kinship and queer ecology can help us get in closer touch with the truth of who we truly are, as well as strengthen our inherent connection with the more-than-human world. In queer ecology, at the scale of the individual, to be queer is to be mutable; queerness signifies that which is unfixed and in a constant process of becoming. At the scale of the collective, queerness is relational, symbiotic and supportive.* In this retreat we apply these lenses of kinship and queer ecology to explore the paramitas, a set of 10 qualities or perfections of character, that, once…

The Body of Stars: Exploring Embodiment, Earth & Purpose through Astrology

With Ramon Gabrieloff-Parish, Renee Sills and Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish

October 24 – 27, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
PRIVATE RETREAT Exploring to Embodiment, Earth & Purpose through Astrology Astrology is a symbolic language that helps us attune with our intuition, open the gates of our imagination and live with a sense of inspiration, presence and purpose. As a model for complex systems thinking and mind-body coherence and integration that predates and underlies many forms of science and psychology, astrology goes far beyond the simplicity of “sun signs.” In this retreat, participants will explore astrology as a spiritual and contemplative method. We’ll engage with charts, signs and symbolism, to develop greater self and relational awareness; connect with our physical…

Awakening the Heart of Love; Walking the Path of the Bodhisattva

With Heidi Bourne and Laurie Cousins

November 5 – 10, 2024
Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center (RMERC)
Book now and get $60.00 off listed prices. Offer valid until Aug 21, 2024.
The path of the Bodhisattva asks us to dedicate ourselves to the well-being of all sentient beings – to show up as best as we can for ourselves, each other, and the natural world with a quality of no-matter-whatness. It’s an impossible though necessary task. Drawing on the teachings of the Buddha, our retreat focuses on cultivating the capacity to skillfully navigate our everyday lives with a steady receptive mind and a courageous wise heart. Held in peaceful noble silence throughout the retreat, our practices include foundational and transformative guidance on lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Please join us as…


NOTE: The first and last days of back-to-back bookings overlap by one day.

That is, you can check in the same day as another party is checking out, or you can check out the same day as another party is checking in. Check-out time is 11 AM, and check-in time is 1 PM (disregard times on the calendar).

Stay up to Date on Retreat Offerings, Webinars, and Ecodharma News!