Being Here & Packing List

Being Here and Packing List

Our retreat land, located at 7500-8000 feet elevation, presents varied weather conditions. Summer days are sunny and can reach the 90’s with afternoon thunderstorms likely. Nights may be quite cool in the 40’s-50’s, requiring a warm sweater or jacket. Our large community building houses the bookstore, dining hall, kitchen, and full bathrooms with bathtubs and showers. Teachings are held in the Tara Temple, a short walk from the community building, many tent sites, and Prajña residence hall. There may also be activities held outdoors as weather permits.


During retreats, we serve three nutritious, wholesome vegetarian meals a day. Upon special request the Tara Mandala kitchen is able to accommodate allergen restrictions along with the following limited dietary restrictions: gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free; these special needs must be noted on your registration form. The kitchen can not accommodate additional food preferences. We have limited refrigerator space for those retreatants who, for medical reasons only, need to bring supplementary items. These arrangements must be made prior to arrival with the Kitchen Manager. Please note that generally we do not have space for storing personal snacks.

No food is allowed in or near your tent.  For the safety of everyone, NOTHING with an odor is allowed in or near your tent.

Photo credit: Josh Brownlee

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga (work service) represents time offered to support the needs of the retreat and is an intrinsic part of spiritual practice at Tara Mandala. All retreatants participate in one hour of karma yoga daily. We greatly appreciate your willingness to help in this way during your stay at Tara Mandala.

Cell Phone and Internet Access

While on retreat, in order to fall deeply into the experience, you will be out of contact with friends and family except in the case of emergencies. We request that all cell phones are left off for the duration of every retreat. Please take care of all necessary business and issues prior to arriving on the land. We have a phone for emergency use in the office and a computer for essential communications e.g. checking travel details and letting friends or family know you have arrived safely. We do offer guest network access for Wi-Fi in the evenings for a couple of hours so that people can take care of essential communications on their own devices.

Temple Etiquette

  • Please remove your shoes before entering the Temple. Bring Temple-only slippers if you wish.
  • Clothing should be neat, clean, and not too revealing. In the hot summer months light clothing is allowable (such as shorts and tank tops), but please remember that this is a sacred space and dress modestly.
  • Perfume is not permitted. Please use only unscented or fragrance-free soaps, lotions, laundry detergents or hygiene items.
  • Handle practice texts and images with respect. Do not put them on the floor or step over them. This includes outdoor practice. We do not step over puja tables since they contain texts and other sacred ritual items.
  • Refrain from pointing your feet at statues, a shrine, or a lama. This is considered bad manners.
  • It is a traditional sign of respect to stand when the lama enters the room, and to prostrate three times once the lama takes his/her seat. You can prostrate if you wish, but it is not required.
  • Read signs! There are private work and living spaces throughout the Temple.

Photo credit: Josh Brownlee
Photo credit: Clinton Spence


Tara Mandala is at a high altitude (7,600 – 8,100 feet above sea level) and the climate is very dry, especially in the summertime. Please be sure to prepare for this by drinking more water than usual for 2 – 3 days before your arrival — three to four quarts of water a day is a good guideline. Doing this is a very important step to avoid headaches, irritability, insomnia and other signs of high altitude distress.

Medical Care

Tara Mandala does not provide a medical staff person on the premises. The town of Pagosa Springs has a new, full service hospital approximately 25 minutes from the retreat land.

Packing List 

  • Layered clothing for hot days and cold nights. Summer temperatures range from 35-95 degrees Fahrenheit, frost is possible even in May and September.
    (Laundry facilities are not available on the land, so please plan accordingly).
  • Waterproof outerwear
  • Hats (for sun and cold)
  • Sturdy shoes or hiking boots
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Thermos for hot drinks (you will need this for hot drinks in the Temple)
  • Non-toxic insect repellent
  • Personal items: TOWEL, ALARM CLOCK (do not rely on your cell phone alarm), mug, soap, fragrance-free soap and shampoo, chapstick, notebook, ear plugs (if sharing a room and you are a light sleeper) and other toiletries.
  • All hygiene items should be fragrance-free. An increasing amount of retreatants have sensitivities to chemicals and perfumes in scented products like lotions, laundry detergents or softeners, perfume, cologne, deodorant, shampoos and soaps. Please use the fragrance-free version of these items while on-site. We hope to make the retreat accessible and comfortable to all participants.
  • Please bring your own EpiPen if you have serious allergies and know you may have need of one.
  • Lantern, FLASHLIGHT or headlamp (and batteries)
  • Small backpack or bag to carry your texts, notebook, rain gear, water bottle, flashlight, etc.
  • Outdoor meditation seating you may want:  Cushion, back-jack, blanket, etc. We have limited outdoor seating items.
  • CAMPING:  Camping gear, tent with rain fly and/or tarp, waterproof ground cloth, comfortable padding, warm sleeping bag, etc.
    For the safety of everyone, all personal items except your clothes, bedding, flashlight, water bottle, paper & pen, and bear spray & horn are kept in the Community Building.  All campers must have Bear Spray and a Horn in the tent. They are available for checkout at arrival (with a charge if not returned at the end of the retreat). Please bring your own if it is possible.
  • DORM YURTS: Sleeping bag and/or warm blankets.  For the safety of everyone, all personal items except your clothes, bedding, flashlight, water bottle, paper & pen, and bear spray & horn are kept in the Community Building.
  • TEMPLE CAMPING : Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, pillow.

What Not to Bring

The land has poor or no cell phone reception and limited access to electricity. As you are going into retreat, please be prepared to be without outside communication. Our office phone is available for emergencies. In order to go deeply into your retreat experience, we ask you to leave your outside work at home and turn off cell phones and electronics.

  • Electronics (or turn them off while you are on the land).
  • Please do not bring your own food as there are no individual cooking facilities or storage areas.
  • Please do not bring drugs, alcohol, or weapons onto the land.  Tara Mandala is now a NO-SMOKING ZONE (including no vaping).
  • Please no pets.
  • Hairspray and scented soaps, shampoos, deodorants, perfumes or cologne.
Photo credit: Josh Brownlee