The Iron Knot Ranch lies at the end of a long dirt road in the mountains of southern New Mexico, a mere 45 minutes beyond the middle of nowhere.

Established under the guidance of the Tibetan Buddhist master H. E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, Iron Knot Ranch is a developing retreat center founded on the belief that the true nature of all living beings is inherently pure, wise and compassionate and that it is only a pervasive but superficial confusion that prevents us from knowing this to be so.

With this in mind, the work and spiritual practice of Iron Knot Ranch is dedicated to the discovery of this truth in ourselves and others.

While there I met a whole host of wonderful people all working and living together communally. All that they do if for the greater good of the world, each other, and helping all people on their individual path toward enlightenment. They work hard, eat well, and are very serious about their Buddhist practice. The day begins with breakfast, and then everyone is charge of their own specific chores and ranch management. After noon, the lunch bell is rung, and everyone piles around the table to laugh, play music, eat and talk. At sunset, people gather in the Shrine Room, chant together, and pray for those in need in their community, the local area, and the world. Dinner is a casual affair, and most of us just hung out in the kitchen playing guitar, laughing, and singing into the night.

Justin, pictured above, is in charge of building the Head Quarters building where I work today. He was very kind to me, gave me simple achievable goals, and lavished me with praise afterward. Easy work, but who wouldn’t want to work for a foreman like that?

Other people are in charge of different parts of the ranch. There is a candle room where they make candles of oil and keep them continually burning as prayers for people around the world. In addition the 17 gigantic prayer wheels are kept turning day and night by solar power. Each of the 20 ft. tall and 5 foot wide wheels contain billions if not trillions of prayers printed on giant reams of paper coiled tightly within the structure. Below is a sample of the prayer parchment.

I made fast friends with all the residents there, and although I wasn’t able to meet the head Lama (teacher) of the ranch for she was in retreat, I was able to meet with a Tibetan Lama. He asked me not to reveal his name or his photo online because of the current conflict with China. He was only going to speak with us for a short 20 minute time, but generously kept talking to me and a couple others who escorted me to meet him for nearly 3 hours. I asked him for his opinion on every question pertaining to Buddhism, the path of compassion, Tibet and China, and the way of peace I could think of. His answers, as you can imagine were at times hard to understand because of the language difference, but the meaning of his answers was not lost on any of those in attendance. I was forewarned that he would not send us away empty handed, and in addition to offering us tea, an apple, and bags of trail mix, he blessed me.

As I approached him, Katherine was kind enough to give me a silken scarf to offer him. Although not exactly the same, I likened it to the idea of giving someone a lei when meeting them in Hawaii. I offered the silk scarf to him, however he took the scarf, wrapped it around my neck, and gave me a blessing. He hugged me greedily several times, and wished me well on my trip saying, “Compassion, this is path you have chosen, it is a good path. However, compassion and emptiness are the paired wings on the dove of peace. But, as the Buddha said himself, don’t take me word for it, test it and see if it is true.” And with this we bade farewell.

When I told him I was an artist, he wanted to see my work. I loaded the website for him, and kindly, he looked through and reviewed every single image therein. Since I didn’t want to rob him of his anonymity, I drew some Lotus flowers for him, three being the number of perfection in Buddhism. Afterward, he displayed it proudly on his desk.

Although I didn’t stay long at the Ranch, I felt that I had the experience that I needed/wanted to have. I could have stayed longer, but the road is calling me, and leaving the state of Arizona (although the ranch is actually in New Mexico) has been difficult, it has become another black hole like Oregon. I would love to return again to this bastion of peace after the pilgrimage is over. But, I couldn’t manage the dual mind, my body, soul, and spirit wanted for the road.

I am so very very grateful to Deborah for arranging and funding my stay at the ranch. Deborah, woman that I had just met the night before did all the leg work to gain permission for me to attend, helped facilitate a ride there, and payed my way. It is no wonder she was a friend of Captain Rainbow…for she was as much of a beautiful human being as any that I have met upon this trip. Namaste.

Love, Art, & Peace to All.