Our community is located on 110 acres nestled into the slopes of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range north of Taos, NM. It is bordered on three sides by wilderness and by the small settlement of Lama further down. We are blessed to have vistas that stretch hundreds of miles from nearby mountains in Colorado, across the deep Rio Grande canyon to the vast landscape of the four corners region, and south to the beautiful landscape near Santa Fe and Albuquerque. This vista contains sunsets so awe-inspiring and unique as to keep those on the mountain in daily reverence of this place.
Mission Statement: The purpose of the Lama Foundation is to be a sustainable spiritual community and educational center dedicated to the awakening of consciousness, spiritual practice with respect for all traditions, service, and stewardship of the land.
The Lama Foundation is a 40 year-old intentional community that follows the aim of awakening consciousness through the ideals of selfless service, honoring all spiritual paths, and sharing in collective livelihood and governance. Over the years, the foundation has seen many respected spiritual teachers come and go, attracting many people who've shared in the making of this place. A dramatic shift occurred for the foundation when a massive forest fire swept through in 1996, sparing the communities core infrastucture, but changing it in many ways. For instance, the community, needing to rebuild many of its structures, offered natural building workshops which drew many people eager to learn from this growing field. Permaculture also became a deep part of the communties' vision and post-fire design. Yet, decades after the fire, the numbers of both summer visitors and year-round residents continue to be much smaller, putting more strain on the energies of the community.
Today, the Lama Foundations' primary means of survival continues to be the hosting of summer retreats and workshops, with donations and cottage industry contributing as well. While the retreats and their focus are a valuable part of Lama and the embodiment of its' vision, the community needs to diversify of its means of survival, both to become more sustainable ecologically, and in terms of how it supports itself. One way the community is beginning to pursue this is through its own gardens as well as resource and skill sharing with the larger community on the mountain. We maintain a close relationship with a local farmer at Cerro Vista Farm from which we buy weekly CSA shares to supplement our food needs during retreat season. We also maintain strong ties to the our neighbors at the Sangre de Cristo Youth Ranch/Locology, who have now have a new CSA farm that is heavily supported by community labor and serves as a classroom for the kids from the local charter school; Roots and Wings, and the youth ranch.
The slopes of these mountains are still largely covered in standing dead trees from the fire, with intact forests of alpine fir and pine nearer the top. The fire has dramatically changed the landscape and ecosystem, reinvigorating it with organic matter and sun. Mule deer, elk, and coyote prefer the scrub oak dominated landscape, while black bear and many others are drawn to the abundance of acorns in the autumn. Pristine watersheds quench the land of this high desert, and the Lama Foundation owes its existence to a small year-round spring which sustains the gardens, people, and abundant animal life on the property. This spring has been a sacred resting space along the Kiowa Trail for countless years, and is still held in deep reverence by people from the Taos Pueblo and beyond.
The community is off-the-grid, maintaining all its electrical and some heating needs from the sun. The roads are dirt. The only toilets are composting outhouses, and water is gravity fed from a spring house to a buried cistern above. Propane is used for cooking and some heating. There are many ways that the communities' infrastructure must continue to transition towards a sustainable model.
The name “Lama” comes from “la Lama” meaning “mud” in the local Spanish idiom, the term locals use to identify the mountain on which the Foundation sits. Many mistakenly assume the name characterizes Lama as a singularly Buddhist group. Another common misconception has been, since Lama is known as a “spiritual community,” that all members share one faith or are devotees of one guru or teacher. This is not the case; it is a unique feature of Lama that many different traditions and paths exist side by side as a “meeting of the ways”. This very diversity encourages seeing the unity beyond form.
The Lama Foundation was founded in 1967 by Barbara Durkee and Stephen Durkee (now known as Asha Greer or Asha von Briesen and Nooruddeen Durkee). It began with the purchase of 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land adjacent to federal forested land, and continues today as a place for people to visit and live. "Construction of the first buildings began in 1968. The following year, the foundation was incorporated as an “educational, religious and scientific” organization.
It was one of almost thirty communes established in the region around that time, and one of the most well-known, along with Morningstar East, Reality Construction Company, the Hog Farm, New Buffalo, and The Family. By 1973, the vast majority of these communities had closed, but the Lama Foundation was able to continue because it had more structure and discipline than most others. The community has gone through several stages, ranging from the search for spiritual enlightenment to a more modern focus on permaculture and natural building.
Ram Dass was a friend of the founders, and he stayed at the Lama Foundation as a guest when he returned to America from India. During his visit, he presented the Durkees with a manuscript he had written, entitled From Bindu to Ojas. The community's residents edited, illustrated, and laid out the text, which ultimately became a huge commercial hit when published under the name Be Here Now. Dass also held seminars at the Foundation. So did other spiritual leaders, such as Samuel L. Lewis, who was buried there after his death in 1971.