A couple months ago, a dear friend of mine came to visit from Ohio. As a good hostess, I made plans everyday so she could see as much of the beauty that Colorado had to offer during her stay. One day I had special plans to take her to Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather, otherwise known as the Stupa. For me, there is a lot of magic in visiting this Buddhist Temple.
The Stupa itself is a grand building, mostly white and gold, accented with a few brilliant colors, looking like a perfectly wrapped gift in its picturesque setting. Surrounded by aspens, pines, and tall grass, the majestic building is tucked away in a small valley in the Rockies. A gentle river ribbons down the hillside, humming a melody that only the wind, trees, and occasional eagle joins in chorus. The Temple’s site was specifically chosen for the good prana quality of earth, sky, and water. While previously visiting the Stupa, it has always felt more like heaven on earth to me with its gentle winds and the crisp smell of pine filling the air.
For the pilgrim or visitor, the journey starts with a serene walk up the Path of Enlightenment. Along the path, pebbles are left behind, representing worldly worries or thoughts that travelers have discarded. This is one of the gifts of the Stupa, being in the present moment, which is something to revel in.
Many people bring prayer requests, leaving them at different places around the Temple. After a prayer meditation, the Stupa has another gift for all that visit: a tiny red marble symbolizing a seed from a pomegranate. This is beautifully inset among the many stone designs of the temple floor.
Many people don’t know, but I almost didn’t live to see this beautiful place again.
The two-lane highway, winds around open fields of flowing grass that nestle against the mountains. The sky is a brilliant blue, with an occasional white cloud slowly making its way across, just to give the brilliant blue contrast. A gentle breeze dances along the tall grasses, and cows and their calves lazily wander the countryside softly calling to one another.
Laughing and enjoying the beauty of the moment, there was only fun and friendship that filled the air. As we rounded the next turn, a little red car coming from the opposite direction was headed straight for us. The driver’s head was down, and I could see his cell phone in his hand as he was texting someone. Missing the curve of the road completely, he was now approaching a head-on collision with us. At the rate of speed he was going, there wasn’t even time to honk the horn.
Our joyful conversation immediately stopped, and the car became chillingly quiet. I veered off the road onto the foot-and-a-half shoulder, with the oncoming driver now headed directly toward me. In that split second, everything slowed down, I was hoping not to roll the car in the ditch and down the hillside that followed the small shoulder where we currently were. I hoped that my friend would survive the crash and that she wouldn’t be confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed. I thought to myself that I wasn’t going to make it, and I thought of the pain that would surely ensue.
At the last second, the driver looked up and slammed on his breaks while simultaneously turning the wheel. He was within inches of my car — so close that I could see down into his. I could see his well-worn red and black plaid shirt and his disheveled black hair. Dropping his phone and with both hands now on the steering wheel, he angled his body as if willing his car to move in a different direction. Tires screeched and by some miracle, he missed my car. Immediately, he then sped up and was gone over the next hill.
I pulled over, more in shock than shaken, and a car behind us pulled over to see if we were okay, having nearly witnessed my last few moments on this planet. I got out and looked at my car, not a scratch on it. My very talkative and cheerful friend was now extremely quiet, and we both continued our journey in silence.
When we arrived at the Stupa, the prayer requests that I had thoughtfully written out the night before were now irrelevant and meaningless. As we stared up the path, I took a moment and closed my eyes, letting the sunshine wash over me and feeling a gentle breeze on my face. I was filled with an immense feeling of gratitude: I am so grateful to be alive.