Mandala, Meditation and More with Buddhist Monks

By Steven Libowitz   |   August 30, 2018

The Tibetan Buddhist monks are coming back to Summerland to work on a Medicine Buddha sand mandala, offer prayers and healing sessions, and much more, beginning this Wednesday, September 5, at The Sacred Space. Tthe Ngari Institute of Buddhist Dialectics Tour is bringing the venerable Geshe Tsewang Dorje and Geshe Thupten Tulku Rinpoche to the Summerland gardens and show room located just off the 101 freeway. A religious ceremony to purify the environment, led by Geshe Tsewang Dorje and the Ngari Tour monks, opens the five day visit at 11 am, followed a half-hour later by the beginning of the construction of the Medicine Buddha sand mandala – which is created from colored sand and then ritualistically dismantled once it has been completed to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life. 

It’s quite a process to behold, as the monks apply the delicate sand granules by using small tubes, funnels, and scrapers to shape the desired pattern on the mandala. The monks will work on the mandala through Saturday, when it will then be made available for the public to walk around and view from 3:30 to 5 pm.

Other activities during the week include Twenty-One Tara prayers, at 3 pm on Wednesday; Protector Mahakala prayers at the same time on Thursday, September 6; and Protector Palden Lhamo prayers at 2 pm Friday, September 7, all led by Geshe Tsewang Dorje, who also offers a teaching on “Eight Verses on Mind Training” at 4 pm on Friday. Tibetan mask dances performed by Mr. Tsering Dorjee Bawa take place at 11 am on Saturday, September 8, followed by prayers to remove obstacles and prayers for the deceased, led by Thupten Tulku Rinpoche and Geshe Tsewang Dorje, at 1:30 pm, and Amitabha Buddha empowerment, conferred by Thupten Tulku Rinpoche. blessing gift of “katags”, at 2 pm.

The final day on Sunday, September 9, starts with a teaching on Medicine Buddha mandala and the general concepts of sand mandala practice in Tibetan Buddhism, led by Thupten Tulku Rinpoche, at 10 am; followed at 2 pm by the religious ceremony to dissolve the Medicine Buddha sand mandala, led by Geshe Tsewang Dorje and the Ngari Tour monks. At 4 pm, the mandala sand will be returned to the ocean at Summerland Beach to bless the world and environment.

People are invited to come and go as they please during the monks’ five-day visit, to join in prayers and offerings or simply to watch the monks make the mandala, as well as participate in the return of the sand to the sea on Sunday afternoon, when there will also be a pet blessing on the beach. Individuals will also be able to receive personal healing blessings and a blessing string for their wrists, while those who want to have a personal 30-minute healing session with Geshe Thupten Tulku Rinpoche should make an appointment by calling BiBi Do at (714) 309-7752 or emailing All healing sessions were sold-out the previous time the monks were at The Sacred Space, so early action is advised. The suggested donation for a personal session is $75, but all other events are free, though donations are encouraged to help pay for the costs to bring the monks to the country and to Summerland and to support their important work.

The Sacred Space is located at 2594 Lillie Avenue, Summerland. Call (805) 565-5535 or visit

Embodied Imagination Gatherings

Marina Lenney has created the Santa Barbara Embodied Imagination Meetup, in which people will come together as a group to work with dreams and memories to support creativity, imagination, and transformation using Embodied Imagination, a technique developed by Robert Bosnak. Lenney, who has been studying dreamwork for the past several years with Bosnak, is a graduate of Pacifica’s popular and well-respected Dream Tending program. The Meetup is open to those who are interested in cultivating their inner life, creative life, imagination, and personal transformation. The work, a mindfulness practice, involves slowing down, being present with the dream or memory, and being open.

The first meeting is slated for 4 to 6 pm next Saturday, September 8, when participants will be sitting in a circle to share dreams or memories, one at a time. Lenney will herself be handling the dream tending until group members are familiar with the technique and are able to support one another, though at this initial meeting, the group will work with making transits into dream images. On the website, Lenney cautions that working a complete dream takes about an hour, so not everyone may always work a dream at every meeting. However, participating as a listener can also have quite a beneficial effect and help to embody the dream images. Participants will be learning a technique to eventually work with dreams and creative possibility in their own lives. 

Admission is $10 for the meetings, which take place at a downtown Santa Barbara location that will be furnished after RSVP and, after a break for the rest of August, are expected to continue ever Saturday. Visit

Soul Rejuvenation Sessions Scheduled

Unity of Santa Barbara hosts two separate workshops with Tania Shanti Isaac next Saturday, September 8, in the chapel area. The “Chair Edition” takes place 10 am to noon and is a two-hour accessible workshop that blends a soothing restorative chair yoga, hands-on healing, and channeling for a transformative and nourishing experience. Sound healing and essential oils are also integrated in the workshop that is intended for those with physical challenges who are seeking to rejuvenate the body, mind, and soul. The regular three-hour version of the workshop, sans the chairs, takes place fro 1 to 4 pm. “It is my mission to create a safe and sacred space in which you can feel supported, safe, and loved,” Isaac explains on her website. “I take the time to cultivate a genuine, energetic connection. Each session is individually customized to remove energetic blockages and immediately shift the energy within you – to bring your body, breath, mind, and spirit into harmony.” Admission is $40 for the morning chair version, $50 for the regular afternoon session, and both are limited to 10 participants to ensure quality one-on-one experiences. To reserve a space, contact Isaac via email at, phone (818) 415-0652 or visit

Cranes at La Casa 

Hope sprung within the heart when we received an email from La Casa de Maria Retreat & Conference Center announcing the annual Capacitar workshops, a training in healing and transformation conducted in four modules once per quarter. The program focuses on developing personal and community vision and skills for those who are working in outreach services, in the healing professions, as well as in education, ministry, psychology, social work, spirituality, and volunteer work. Participants learn to teach and apply wellness modalities including Tai Chi movement meditation, breathing practices, simple massage practices, polarity, visualization, and other energy exercises, active listening, chakra theory and exercises, and acupressure protocols.

Alas it was a false alarm, perhaps an errant automatic email that somehow slipped through the cracks following cancellation of the entire 2018 schedule in the aftermath of the devastating Montecito debris flow of January 9, which leveled a good portion of the retreat center just below the San Ysidro Ranch. A check of the website indicates that it still says “Canceled” under each of the planned modules, as ongoing work and continued planning make residential events impossible. 

The good news: La Casa de Maria did hold its annual Peace Day event on August 6, when the Sadako Peace Garden – which just six months ago was awash in mud and debris – hosted more than 100 guests for the annual gathering with Santa Barbara’s Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to mark the 73rd anniversary of the detonation of a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima. Amid trees full of colorful paper cranes were made by students at the del Sol School in Manhattan Beach as part of their annual study of peace, former Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Perie Longo read her poem written for the event, which concluded with the lines: “No longer complacent with our place in Paradise, more aware than ever of our task, hearts weigh heavy with lives lost, the cost of the deluge, and beyond this refuge – our freedoms under siege.

Like Sadako’s cranes for peace, let’s keep showing up, like the child who hand-painted a flag with the words “Love lives here” and hung it low on a tree just down the road. What matters more? As Rumi said, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

Out of Town: SoulPlay and Bhakti fests

Two popular playful/spiritual gatherings hold their annual events at the same time in opposite ends of the state in the second week of September. Bhakti Fest, which celebrates the devotional paths of yoga, Kirtan (sacred music) and meditation as a vehicle for evolution of human consciousness through a heart-centered revolution, marks its 10th anniversary with a six-day residency September 12-17 at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. Participants can practice with some of the best yoga teachers in the world, dance, and chant to sacred music by world-renown Kirtan artists, and take a myriad of workshops with leaders in a variety of areas in the field of personal growth. Camp out beneath the stars or stay at one of the many accommodations on site, where guests can enjoy the swimming pool and free filtered drinking water, and a wide selection of vegetarian foods.

Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Govind Das & Radha, Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda. Amritakripa, Kirtaniyas, Maya Puris – and Montecito-raised Joss Jaffe – are among the nearly 60 sacred music artists appearing this year, while Deepak Chopra heads the list of workshop leaders, which also boasts such names as Jeffrey Armstrong, Shiva Rea, Dharma Mittra, Saul David Raye, Lorin Roche & Camille Maurine (The Radiance Sutras), David Nichtern, and Sita Devi Dasi among the 45-plus teachers. Ongoing offerings include the Healing Sanctuary, Sound Temple, Dance Temple, Mantra Dome, Bhakti Kids Land at Family Village, and separate sacred spaces for women’s and men’s gatherings.

Full festival passes cost $325, free for kids 12 and under, and there are significant discounts for student, seniors, and military personnel. Get tickets, details and the full schedule online at

Point your RV or other vehicle north during the same mid-September long weekend for the SoulPlay FallFest, which takes place September 13-16 in Pincrest in the Stanislaus Naitonal Forest above Yosemite. The conscious gathering focuses on “heart-opening connection, personal expansion, and blissful dance” as participants come together to create community of their dreams. Imagine setting up your home-away-from-home in a beautiful giant pine forest, with clean air, magnificent stars, and a peaceful creek,” the invite reads. “Imagine a world where you can walk around with your heart wide open, knowing that everyone you meet will have theirs open as well. Imagine meeting a whole community of people who have gathered to connect, explore, and play, while checking their judgments at the door.”

Sounds awfully appealing to these eyes, and that’s even before examining the details of the world-class presenters who will facilitate workshops in Dance & Movement, Intimacy & Communication, Yoga, Inner World Explorations, Creativity & Play, and many others areas. Attendees can also let go of their minds entirely to enjoy a diverse range of live musical offerings, to shake the body and tantalize the soul. SoulPlay is all about creating an experimental community to co-create the world we all want to live in.

Cacao Activation, Acro Fun & Games, Aqua Tantra, Authentic Relating, Blindfolded Contact Improv, Embodied Intimacy, ExpressSing Voice, Healing Across Gender, Liberation from Triggers, Practicing Oneness, Re-Wilding the Heart through “Earthing”, Somatic Awakening, and Wild Divine Connection are among the several dozen workshops, seminars, and other activities on tap for SoulPlay, while nearly a dozen more will offer hands-on healing sessions, and several musical acts provide the beats and soulful soundtrack.

Full four-day passes costs $379, and include accommodations, access to all workshops, yoga sessions, evening events, and access to all camp facilities for the entire weekend. Kids 12 & under are free, adolescents (under 18), pay $150. Info, details, and tickets online at


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