The Crestone Eagle • August, 2020

Endings & new beginnings: Farewell to Nada Carmelite Hermitage

by Eric Haarer

Thirty-seven years ago when I first drove into the San Luis Valley I found a home. A home in the mountains and the desert. A home in the (then) very tiny community of Crestone. And a home with a group of Catholic Carmelite hermits (The Spiritual Life Institute, also known as Nada Carmelite Hermitage) who’d moved here from Sedona, Arizona the year before in 1982. For nearly forty years, Nada Carmelite hermitage has been a home to many contemplatives, and a place of refuge and retreat for thousands of retreatants who’ve come to meditate, to pray, and to experience the silence, solitude, and beauty so palpable in this area. Now, however, it is time for this story to draw to a close. Diminished numbers and aging bodies made this decision necessary. For the past ten years three of us—Suzie Ryan, Connie Bielecki, and myself—have run and maintained Nada, something we are no longer able to do. It is time to pass the stewardship of this sacred space on to others. And now, after several years on the market, we’ve found buyers who are willing and able to do so, and whom we believe will love and care for this property as we have. (Information on the new owners is at the end of this article.)

Certainly there is grief at closing Nada’s doors, but there is excitement as well as we each begin a new chapter in our lives. Connie and I will remain in Crestone, and as the new owners of Nada have graciously offered the continued use of the chapel for Sunday masses, I plan to continue serving as priest for the local Catholic community. With lessened responsibilities we both hope to find the time to live the contemplative life we’ve preached about all these years!  For health reasons, Suzie moved to Phoenix in January. She’s receiving good medical care, and has great family support. She’s been such an integral part of Nada—and Crestone—that it is difficult not sharing this transition with her here. She’s been supportive from a distance, and certainly sends her love.

It would have been our preference to go out with a bang: an open-house and pot-luck where any and all could come and celebrate our thirty-eight years in Crestone, and to welcome our new neighbors from Miyo Samten Ling. What joy it would have been to mark this transition with you, our neighbors and friends. However, the pandemic made this wish impossible. And so we quietly turn over the keys to new friends who will now care for this property and maintain a contemplative presence on this sacred ground. (When the time is right, we both hope to share this transition with you more publicly.)

As we close this chapter in our lives, and begin another, we are filled with gratitude for all of the blessings received here in Crestone: for the past and present members of The Spiritual Life Institute who built Nada and made it “home”; for current and former members of the  congregation who worship with us; for the community of Crestone; for the other spiritual communities who have been so supportive over the years; for Darlene and friends at Darlene Yarbrough Real Estate for their help in this time of transition, and for the thousands of guests who have come to stay for a time here at Nada. All of you have immeasurably enriched our lives. A final note of thanks goes especially to Hanne Strong and her late husband, Maurice. Their vision continues to deeply affect the development of this unique and beautiful community of Crestone, and their generous invitation to us nearly four decades ago gave us such a wonderful home.

Who purchased Nada?

The new owners will call the hermitage “Miyo Samten Ling,” a Tibetan name meaning “The Hermitage of Unwavering Samadhi.” It will be home to the Center of Contemplative Research, a newly founded Colorado nonprofit in close affiliation with the well-known Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, both of which were founded and guided by B. Alan Wallace, PhD. The Hermitage will be a place for well-trained contemplative practitioners to spend months and years in long-term meditation retreat, in dialogue and collaboration with scientists who wish to study the nature of consciousness from a non-materialist perspective. For an introduction to the Center for Contemplative Research, visit www.ccr-usa.org.  B. Alan Wallace will soon dialogue with Eva Natanya, who is in residence as a teacher here at Miyo Samten Ling, in a 6-day intensive online retreat in August, called “Dwelling in the Heart of Reality: Parallel Practices in Buddhist Dzogchen and Christian Mysticism.” To register, visit http://contemplative-consciousness.net/lampeter-2020-virtual-retreat. Also already in residence at the Hermitage are Amie Diller, Managing Director, and Doug Veenhof, building and Land Manager. They look forward to meeting the Crestone community.