The Crestone Eagle • August, 2021

A sacred space continues: Miyo Samten Ling lays roots at former Nada Carmelite Hermitage

by Zaylah Pearson-Good 

It only took Lama B. Alan Wallace two days to decide that he wanted to purchase the Nada Carmelite Hermitage after a visit last spring. As founder of the Center for Contemplative Research (CCR), Lama Alan had been looking to establish a new retreat center that would accommodate dedicated contemplatives committed to long-term retreat (months to years). With 110 acres of quiet, mountainous landscape, and eleven move-in ready retreat cabins, a chapel, and a community building, the property perfectly matched Lama Alan’s vision. CCR completed the property purchase by July 2020, and the center was given the name granted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Miyo Samten Ling, meaning the “Hermitage of Unwavering Samadhi.” 

One of the retreat cabins at Miyo Samten Ling.

Vision for Miyo Samten Ling

As international headquarters for CCR, Miyo Samten Ling represents an opportunity to practice long-term meditation in an ideal retreat setting. Under the spiritual guidance of Lama Alan and support from resident teachers Eva Natanya and Doug Veenhof, retreats are open to devoted practitioners of meditation who are well-versed in the teachings of Lama Alan, which are themselves deeply grounded in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Retreatants may stay for months to years, with the minimum stay length being 6 months. Due to limited space and a clear intention for the center, retreatants must undergo a thorough application process. Currently, most retreatants are from the US; however, Miyo Samten Ling will likely attract a more international audience once COVID travel restrictions loosen. 

Since the property purchase occurred during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the evolution of Miyo Samten Ling has gone fairly unnoticed by locals. The CCR team has been hard at work making remodels, property adjustments, planning events, and hosting established retreatants on the spacious property. Within months of the purchase, CCR had already begun their first official long-term retreat. Currently, all 11 cabins that were move-in ready upon the purchase date are being occupied by devoted retreatants. A team of volunteers, led by Veenhof, took on the task of remodeling infrastructure across the property last summer and fall. New roofs for all the cabins, building a cottage for Lama Alan, and renovating some of the other cabins that have not been occupied for over a decade are future construction plans. 

Furthermore, Miyo Samten Ling is delighted to continue hosting Holy Catholic Mass led by Nada Carmelite Hermitage’s very own Father Eric. The continuation of Mass was originally agreed to take place for one year after the July closing date, yet Natanya shares that CCR welcomes the continuation of Mass for as long as the CCR is not regularly holding events there, to be planned in ongoing discussion with Father Eric.  

What is the Center for Contemplative Research? 

Founded by Lama B. Alan Wallace, the Center for Contemplative Research is a global network of groundbreaking research observatories that provide conducive environments for dedicated contemplatives to explore the nature and potentials of consciousness in close collaboration with scientists. Their mission is “to provide ideal conditions for contemplatives, scientists, and philosophers to fathom consciousness and re-envision global flourishing.” CCR focuses on the importance of cultivating skills of attention, introspection, and personal inquiry, of interdisciplinary collaboration and guidance from spiritual teachers, and detailed reporting on the outcomes of one’s practice. Participants in CCR see this path as opening doors to “new levels of human flourishing and mental balance” says Natanya. Rooted in objective science and the spiritual path of Tibetan Buddhism, Natanya also sees CCR as a unique opportunity to merge the eastern and western worlds. 

Who is Lama Alan Wallace? 

Miyo Samten Ling retreatants have regular check-ins with CCR founder Lama Alan Wallace. Ordained by H.H. Dalai Lama, Lama Alan trained for fourteen years as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He has an international following of students and has been teaching for nearly 45 years. Fluent in both Tibetan Buddhism and scientific inquiry, resident teacher Natanya shares that Lama Alan’s spiritual philosophy is “rooted in ethics,” and “aimed at genuine wellbeing.” Lama Alan also holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University in Religious Studies and is the founder of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. 

Who are the resident teachers? 

Doug Veenhof and Eva Natanya are both resident teachers at Miyo Samten Ling, offering support to retreatants while also deepening their own spiritual path. Both practitioners have been primarily in retreat since arriving at the center last year. Veenhof has been working with Lama Alan to develop a center like Miyo Samten Ling since 2014 and has been a teacher of Lama Alan’s approach since 2012. While a professional mountain guide in Nepal during the 1980s, Veenhof was inspired by how happy the Tibetan refugees he worked with seemed to be. His interest in Tibetan religion was then sparked, as he continued to ask how he too could find such deep fulfillment in life. His studies led him to write White Lama: The Life of Tantric Yogi Theos Bernard, a book that explores Tibetan practices, culture, and history, and how Bernard helped spread Tibetan culture to the West.

Natanya “followed her heart’s passion” by fully diving into religious studies both personally and academically. Having danced with the NYC Ballet for eight years, and the Royal Ballet of England for another year, she shifted her focus to studying Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity. While earning a PhD in Religious Studies, Natanya completed fieldwork at Tibetan monasteries in India. She first began working with Lama Alan in 2016, becoming the translation editor for two of his books on Dzogchen, or the Great Perfection tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In time, Lama Alan invited her to teach and from there she has made deep connections with Lama Alan’s Sangha around the world. 

Future events & updates: 

While no planned events are currently open to the public, Miyo Samten Ling will be promoting several virtual courses available to Crestonians. Russian monk Lobsang Tenpa will be teaching an online course in Cultivating Emotional Balance (CEB) Sundays, August 8, 15, 22, and 29th: https://contemplative-consciousness.net/lobsang-tenpa-cultivating-emotional-balance-short-course.

Natanya and Veenhof specifically want to invite SLV community members to consider signing up for this event. Lama Alan will be teaching at Miyo Samten Ling in September, and while the in-person retreat has already reached capacity, registration for the online version of this retreat will be available through the Events page on their all-new website: Centerforcontemplativeresearch.org