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Jun 17
Community Articles, Northeastern States, Scene and Heard
Sky Lake’s Snapping Turtles, Owls, Hawks & Deer Welcome a New Director

Katy Bray at her new home

Katy Bray at her new home

By Steve Derrickson

The appointment of Ms. Katy Bray as director-in-residence marks the beginning of a new phase at Sky Lake Lodge, a rural Shambhala retreat and contemplative center. Just nine years after it was founded, Sky Lake’s recent evolution has embraced diversification and change. With a growing membership that currently includes118 people and an incredibly unified local community, this former hunting lodge offers incredible richness in the drala-rich Shawangunk mountains.

Sky Lake Lodge is unique in the Shambhala mandala. Set on seventeen acres of forest: famed for biodiversity, dramatic cliffs and world class climbing – all within ninety miles of Manhattan and easily accessible by bus, car, on foot, or even up the Hudson river via canoe. Maybe that’s a slight stretch, but more than one beguiled practitioner has wandered away during aimless practices amidst the oak and hemlock, but have always found their way home, thanks to local hikers.

The new director of this northeastern paradise has been meditating for thirty years, and is a long-time member and practitioner at Sky Lake. She has served the center in many roles since its inception, most notably as Director of Shambhala Training. A former dancer, her livelihood for the last 20 years has been a practice in Integral Homeopathics We asked Katy to describe Sky Lake.

“It is unique, being a hybrid of a small land center and local sangha. We have a rich community life here, where we have the great good fortune of having the facility, the location, and atmosphere for the dharma to be taught and practiced. I’ve witnessed its genesis from the original members of the Hudson Valley Meditation Group, who worked so hard to bring Sky Lake into existence. I take to heart the Sakyong’s directive of our intention, view and practice being the keys to having the Shambhala vision manifest here.”

It was during the sangha retreat at Karme Choling in October, 2009 that Bray experienced the deepening heart connection with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche that led to attending Vajrayana Seminary this summer.

“This is the point on the path I have long been preparing for. At the retreat I was touched by the extent to which the Sakyong was involved in social and environmental causes, urging us all to extend out and do more.”

This laid the ground for her to apply for the director position when it arose.

Original Vision
Sky Lake Lodge hosts many different kinds of events, whether to promote social, environmental, or spiritual causes. It has 18 beds, a full commercial kitchen, large dining room, long deck and two shrine rooms, one of which overlooks a well-fed pond inhabited by koi and one shy snapping turtle. This dharma center was opened and consecrated by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche in 2001, just two days before 9/11. Founded by a group from the New York City Shambhala center and originally conceived as its country retreat, since then local practitioners have become the heart-mind of Sky Lake, leaping into practice and study offerings with great enthusiasm. The Sakyong returned here in the summer of 2006 to give a public talk on enlightened society.

Basic Offerings
Sky Lake’s many weekend offerings range from public sitting meditation, the full offering of Shambhala training, Dharma Art, and Buddhist Studies classes, and the new Way of Shambhala curriculum. Longer programs include Shambhala Guide Training, weekthuns and advanced programs such as the Chakrasamvara Drupchen, a retreat practice for which the sequestered Sky Lake environment is a perfect match. This past winter’s weekthun was particularly popular, led by Acharyas Gaylon Ferguson and Arawana Hayashi. In fact, Sky Lake is Acharya Hayashi’s home ground, and she teaches extensively here.

Hosting Tibetan Masters
Sky Lake has also hosted many Tibetan masters such as the Venerable Khandro Rinpoche, Ponlop Rinpoche, Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, Bardor Tulku Rinpoche from the nearby Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery, and Changling Rinpoche, abbot of the Sechen Monastery shedra. Lady Diana Mukpo graced us with her presence last year as well, and you can read one of the talks she gave here on the Shambhala Times.

The Opportunity to Rent
Rentals of Sky Lake to contemplative and business groups are common and encouraged. NalandaBodhi of NYC and Eileen Fisher — the enlightened creative clothing design company — are just two of the many groups that have held retreats here. Sky Lake has also been the setting for numerous weddings as well — Shambhala nuptials-to-be, take note!

Staff & Volunteers
Working along side the new director, Deirdre Leber will continue as programs manager and Patrice Heber will continue as rentals manager. Aside from this trio, and the kitchen and cleaning staff, Sky Lake’s facilities and ambitious programming are both sustained by dedicated volunteers. Director Bray spoke about how important service is to Sky Lake.

“Volunteer efforts have contributed so much here through the years and one of the goals I have for Sky Lake is to increase the work/study opportunities available to practitioners. Volunteer service is so essential to the running of Sky Lake.”

I asked Katy about her vision for Sky Lake’s future.

“My vision for us is to strengthen and continue the excellent offerings here; …dharma studies, contemplative arts, sacred ecology, the new curriculum, as well as expanding regional participation in our signature programming….. and to further encourage the use of this beautiful mountain land, creating contemplative areas with meandering paths, benches and sculpture gardens along the way. And later, as we are able, to build accommodations for tents and retreat cabins so we can offer larger programs.”

One imagines that the snapping turtle, owls, hawk, deer, and occasional black bear wouldn’t object. Tke a moment to appreciate the magic of Sky Lake by viewing this short video.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/YpfR2IHABdk" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Steve Derrickson is practice coordinator at Sky Lake. He lives nearby in New Paltz, NY and is also attending Vajrayana Seminary this summer.

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1 response to “ Sky Lake’s Snapping Turtles, Owls, Hawks & Deer Welcome a New Director ”
  1. I love Sky Lake – it’s definitely one of my Shambhala homes. I’m so happy that Katy Bray is the new director! Great article, and I loved the little video about Sky Lake.

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