Visiting the Bodhi Manda Zen Center

in spirituality •  8 months ago

Today on The Wizard Life I'll be giving a tour of The Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs, a small town in the mountains of New Mexico.

I stayed here for almost a year about 15 years ago with the intention of becoming a Zen Buddhist Monk. Life had others plans for me, but since it was nearby where I've been hanging out I decided to drop in and see how things were going.



Zen is a form of Buddhism which originated in India, traveled up into China and eventually made its way to Japan. It focuses primarily on the sitting meditation known as Zazen. Chanting is incorporated to encourage meditative states and also to serve as a way to pass down various ancient teachings. They also do Koan practice which is attempting to solve a riddle given by a Zen Master in a 1-on-1 interview. "What's the sound of one hand clapping?" is an example of a Koan.



Practice in the morning begins at 5am with the chanting of the Sutras. These are texts containing the teachings of Zen Masters from hundreds of years ago. I see it as a way to pass down knowledge without the need to write them down.

Chanting also has the benefit of putting the practitioner into a meditative state, especially if they've memorized the chants and can perform them without effort. It also creates a sense of oneness with everyone chanting along with you.



Zazen is the simplest form of meditation I've come across, at least in terms of complexity. Some have described it as just sitting and nothing more, though focus on the breath is often encouraged. Sitting may seem easy enough, but my body and mind have never been more challenged by anything than they have by this practice.

Ideally one is sitting in Full Lotus, a cross-legged position in which both feet are sitting on top of the opposite leg's thigh, because it is incredibly stable and leaves one feeling rooted to the ground. This can be difficult, especially for westerners who didn't grow up sitting on the floor, so there are numerous other sitting postures one can take as well. The hands are folded in front of the lower belly, or Hara, where one is meant to focus their attention on the in and out motion brought about by breathing.

I believe the intention is to allow the mind to slowly settle into awareness of the present moment by eliminating the introduction of new stimuli. I think of it as similar to how the surface of a lake will eventually settle to a flat mirror-like surface when the introduction of new disturbances (e.g. wind, skipping stones, etc.) has ceased.



One of the coolest things about this place is the fact that it is located on the side of an old volcano and has very hot water flowing just below the surface. This allows them to fill their beautiful geothermal Hot Springs and to heat all of their buildings.

Imagine waking up at 4:30am on a freezing morning and within 20 seconds you're completely submerged in hot water at just the right temperature. What a way to start the day! Some of the more magical moments of my life took place in these springs. I just dug up an old Haiku I wrote years ago inspired by one of those moments:

Floating in a spring
A silent breeze bites the skin
Stars fall with the snow

Geothermal water is a hugely valuable asset. Not only does it attract people to the center and heat all the buildings, it could also be used to power the entire center if they decided to go that direction in the future.



The Zen Center recently brought a gardener on board to grow an organic garden. The harvest feeds the students and guests of the center and the local community via the weekly farmer's market.


Bodhi Manda hosts WWOOFers who'd like to come help grow the garden. In return they are given a place to stay, three meals a day, access to the hot springs, and the opportunity to experience Zen practice.


There are also chickens on-site to provide the many eggs the center uses in its vegetarian cooking.



Bodhi Manda is primarily supported through its hosting of numerous group retreats throughout the year. These aren't limited to Buddhist activities, and include yoga groups, men and women's retreats, and healing sessions for those who have experienced various kinds of trauma.

If you're looking for a place to host a retreat, I suspect you'd have a hard time finding a better location. Visit their website for more information.



One of the reasons I decided to stop by the center was because they had offered me a position as the Daily Director. It's a tempting offer, especially considering it's a great community and a wonderful place to start a family, though I have some other exciting options to consider as well. I'll talk about that in a future post and let you know what I decide.

Thanks for stopping by!

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What a gorgeous retreat. Thanks for explaining more about Zen Buddhism as I dont know a lot about it. I practice vipassana, which does have things in common, such as breath meditation. it's probably even more stripped down than Zen.

Did you know that the reason we can't sit in lotus is because we never did as kids? If kids are always moving and flexing their hips in different directions, they are more likely to have the hip rotation to enable them to sit in this pose. For some people, it will now be physically impossible to do it even if they try to practice all the time - their anatomy just won't allow it. Dem bones, huh? And we might be different on either side, too - I can't rotate one hip as much as the other, so I can do half lotus but not full. Most days I'm happy if I can just sit, whatever the pose. I love the way yogis call it 'sukhasana' - easy pose. Come to a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and breathe. xx


I had heard that about kids who sat on the floor growing up being way more likely to be able to sit full lotus easily. I really wanted to be able to do it, but had to give up as it became clear my bone structure wouldn't allow it no matter how much stretching I did. The other cross-legged positions feel asymmetrical to me, and eventually lead to discomfort. I like standing and walking meditation nowadays.

Would you be willing to describe the vipassana meditation you do? I'm not totally clear on the specifics beyond attention to breath.


Standing and walking is nice too. Or kneeling with cushions. Sometimes its a battle to simply sit, isnt it? I will do.. later.. at work cheekily steeming!


Yes, who would have thought sitting would be such a challenge? Looking forward to your reply on vipassana when you have the time.

Awesome post. I practice zazen meditation every day. And I love your comparison to the surface of a lake.


Thanks @stephenparato! How long have you been practicing and where did you learn Zazen?

I started listening to one of your podcasts and perused some of your posts. I think I'm going to enjoy your content!


I've been meditating daily for 3-4 years. I actually read about Zazen after I was doing it for a while haha.

Thank you! Your content is awesome too!


Just started doing it intuitively, eh? Very cool!


Yes indeedy!

Your explanation of Buddhism works for me!
When you spoke of Thisness I could instantly tap into that state of awareness. I like how your powerful presence remains light and cheerful - this should encourage more people to tune in and wake up with loving-kindness for themselves and their surroundings. Can't wait to hear what else you focus on.


Thank you for your touching comment @sukhasanasister. I've found Thisness to be a difficult thing to convey to others, and that being so has deeply troubled me for years, because it seems so simple, obvious and important to me. Knowing that it translated so clearly to you is deeply encouraging, and nearly brought me to tears (which for someone as emotionally repressed as me is the equivalent of most other people bawling their eyes out).

This sounds like a really nice place! Love the geothermal hot springs and especially the organic garden to provide fresh and healthy food for the community... Great concept.
On a side note, thank you very much for your upvotes on my posts. Really helps me to get started in my early days on the platform :-) Thanks and all the best!


There are a lot of good synergies going on in this place.

Thank you for consistently posting content that I'm happy to upvote!

Good luck with making the right decision!


Yikes, now I'm thinking about it in terms of avoiding making the wrong decision... stressful! ;)


I'm sure you'll survive ;)! Any big decisions need a little nervousness at the very least :D

Every one of us has his or her own way of meditating to connect ourselfs within the now this is probably why you became a wizard my friend ;)

really awesome tour my friend you are an amazingly peaceful tour-guide!
I loved the fact they use the warm water from the ground.
I also really like the zen kitchen... I love cooking it can be very cleansing and social at the same time.

can't wait to hear & see more of your personal evolution my friend.
I really understand deeply what you explained towards the end of your video even if you were looking into a camera & me at a screen. I could feel you presence just by telling myself you are there.

we all need to get out of the matrix one day happy to see you came out of it too

Namasté & Love - Nama & Robin


@thenamadicway, it is amazing to me that it is possible to connect to and perceive the presence of another person when watching a video recorded in a moment from the past. Do you think the video itself makes that possible, or is there some connection formed which is not limited by time?


I Believe time & space is an illusion & that we human's, when we have the knowledge can alter our own reality.
so yes I guess the last answer.
But then in a way because you created this vidéo you send and store energy in the universe & we know everything has memories, trees, water, rocks...
we live in a very connected universe but like I said: only when you know this is possible... or so I believe ;)
Namasté & Love Brother Wizard


I suspect something similar. I think time is real in that separate moments exist, but they exist simultaneously and are intricately connected with all other moments, so it is possible to interact with any moment from the "past" or "future" if you know how. Just a theory at the moment though!

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