Far away in a remote countryside village in southern Colorado you’ll find a place dubbed “the Enlightenment Town”. Upon first impression, the village resembles an old Western movie that has long been forgotten. As I walked around “downtown”, a local storeowner said to me, “Oh honey, hate to tell you, but there ain’t nothing goin’ on here.” On the surface level, she may be right, but if you look a little deeper, Crestone is indeed a fascinating place.
Where in the World Am I?
Driving to Crestone felt like a modern day spiritual pilgrimage of sorts. Windows down, deep blue skies with a rocky, mountainous backdrop, endless fields of bright green shrubs and cows lazily grazing on either side of a long country road. The only music that truly resonated with this drive was a classical music radio station coming in through spotty coverage.
I finally reached the seemingly uninteresting and undoubtedly miniscule town of Crestone, Colorado. Crestone is a semi-arid high desert town with a whopping 127 residents yet is home to more than 25 major spiritual centers from all kinds of religions. There are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Islamic Sufis, Taoists, and Native Americans (to name a few) living side by side in harmony.
Crestone is no paradise by conventional means. The weather goes from sand storms to snow storms. At 8,000 feet, the altitude leaves you feeling like you never get enough oxygen. So what made all of these religions want to set up shop in the middle of nowhere Colorado?
According to Jonathan, one of the three residents of Haidakhandi Universal Ashram, Native American tribes would all gather in the valley in the summer, marking one of the only places that these tribes peacefully congregated. They called Crestone the “Peaceful Valley”, which accurately describes the area today with the hodgepodge of religions living peacefully amongst each other.
Further up the road from the Ashram you’ll find the Stupa of Enlightenment near the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s retreat land. Stupas are Buddhist monuments containing the relics of great meditation masters. They offer a sacred place in which to realize your own radiance and goodness. It is believed that stupas bring blessings to the builder, the landscape, and its visitors.
This particular stupa has relics from Tibetan meditation legends such as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and Tilopa. Behind the pure white structure looms the contrasting gray, rocky mountains. Many Tibetans who visit Crestone are comforted by how much it reminds them of their homeland. This could be another reason why you can find so many Tibetan Buddhist practitioners in the valley.
Personally, I found that being in Crestone welcomes spaciousness. It’s a land of no distractions, which can be exactly what’s needed for time in retreat, getting to know the inner workings of your own mind. I noticed a few small retreat cabins where people stay for solitary retreats, doing their meditation practices for weeks or even months at a time…just another reminder that this indeed is sacred land.
I recited some mantras at the stupa and paid my respects to the land for allowing me to receive the blessings and felt the magic that so many others feel in the unexpected spiritual mecca that is Crestone, Colorado.
Thanks so much for reading! While you’re here, take a look at my Facebook page. Let me know if you’ve ever been to Crestone. Tell me what you think!