Blog: The Sacred Land of Menla: A Season of Ceremony
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
The fall season is upon us and I am reminded how, for many people, now and in times past, this is a time for gathering together to mark the change of light and to give thanks. The act of ceremony brings us into deeper communion with ourselves, with others, and the natural world around us. To mark this season of the fall equinox, I gathered with a group of students for a drum circle in the sanctuary of the Sacred Stream Center. When the drumming began, the late afternoon light filled the wooden rafters that arched over us. It streamed in through the century-old stained glass, dimming bit by bit in much the same way the days will shorten and the light will continue to dim until we meet again at the winter solstice drum circle, when the cycle will reverse and the days will grow longer once more.
Soon I will be teaching at Menla where I will again enter into ceremony and give thanks to the power of nature held on this sacred land. Menla is located in a meteor crater in the heart of the Catskill Mountains of New York. It is a magical place all year round and filled with oaks, maples, beeches, birches and conifers growing along the sides of the valley. At this time of year, all the deciduous trees turn crimson, gold, and green, and when the wind blows, it lifts the leaves from their branches like prayer flags gently falling to bless the ground.
Menla is a sacred place, distinct in the power that it holds, which is clearly recognizable to the people who have come before and who reside here now. Often land that contains this kind of power becomes a place where people establish temples, ceremonial circles, and other spaces to worship again and again throughout time. These places are usually seen to have special attributes or healing qualities. Menla is no different. It has always been a meeting place, a place of ceremony for the people who populated these ancient mountains. The Esopus, Mahicans, and Algonquins were among the tribes that gathered for ceremony in this area.
Over time, Menla has been a place of teaching, healing, ceremony, and sacred transmission. In 1974, the well-known channel, Eva Pierrakos, moved to Menla and established it as a center for the psycho-spiritual process of self-transformation she established known as the Pathwork. In 2002, Tibet House acquired the property, naming it Menla, after the Medicine Buddha. Now Menla is home to Dewa Spa and is the site of many cultural and spiritual teachings and events.
It is no coincidence that this land has been the home of profound transmissions, healings, and teachings for so long. The lineage of the land is strong, and one that will continue long after we have left the earth. This land calls us to it as it has called others for thousands of years, and I am grateful to return, to teach, and be in ceremony with it. And I am excited to see who will join me in heeding its call.