Canyon de Chelly Retreat FAQ

1. What kind of practice experience do I need in order to attend this retreat?

It is preferable for applicants to have have established a consistent daily meditation practice in their everyday life and to have had some meditation retreat experience either in a group or alone.

Recommended readings and teachings:

Audio teachings:

Teaching by Pema Chodron on the five slogans of Machig Labdron. –


Machik’s Complete Explanation – Clarifying the Meaning of Chöd.  Expanded edition;

Translated and Introduced by Sarah Harding, Snow Lion 2013

Light Comes ThroughDzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Shambhala Publications 2008

(chapter 14. The Haunted Dominion of the Mind: Shaken from Within)


2.  Are there physical requirements in order to attend this retreat?

The retreat entails sleeping outdoors on the ground for 7 days,  some fasting and considerable time spent hiking, some of it on rough terrain. Applicants should feel confident in their ability to maintain this level of  physical activity.


3. Is there a list of outdoor equipment to prepare for the retreat?

For comprehensive checklist of equipment, click here.

___ Tent (Make sure that it is LEAK/WATER PROOF- sleeping drenched is no fun, as some people know from last year’s 15 minute deluge!

___ Sleeping bag

___ Sleeping pad

___ WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM (for extra security with potable water)

___ Large Backpack or Duffle bag (max of 120liters which is 1’X 1’X4’)

___ Daypack

___ Flash light- preferably headlight

___ Batteries for headlight

___ Bandana (serves for sun protection, washcloth, etc.)

___ Insect repellant

___ Sun Screen of at least 30 SPF

___ Sun Glasses preferably on tether

___ 2 one liter water bottles for hikes

___ Camp Stove – i.e, Jet Boil Primus, etc.

___ Camp stove fuel

___ Matches or lighter: Keep in waterproof bag

___ Hot beverage cup

___ Light weight bowl, spoon, fork or Spork.

___ Pocket Knife

___ First Aid Kit: Moleskin, medications, bandages, antiseptic cream

(Trip Leaders will have comprehensive First-Aid kits.)

___ Essential Toiletries

___ Medications (if applicable. Bring 2 days extra supply.)

___ Toilet paper and box of Bio Bags.

___ Hiking poles suggested

___ Camp chair, either Crazy Creek type or low, (lower than teacher’s camp chairs) compact folding chair.

___ Moisturizer (coconut oil, lotion, etc.)

Suggested Clothes for Sun and Cold nights:

___ Long underwear or sweats- top and bottom

___ Wool socks (2 pair)

___ Socks that are comfortable with your hiking shoes

___ Winter hat

___ Light down jacket

___ Sun hat

___ Light gloves

___ T-shirt- one for every three days (3).

___ Long sleeved non-cotton shirt (3)

___ Raincoat and pants (Make sure that these are WATER PROOF!-not just resistant!)

___ Non-cotton pants

___ Non-cotton shorts

___ Light weight camp shoes (Crocs) /moccasins/natural rubber soled shoes.

___ Underwear

___ Good, worn-in hiking shoes, with ankle support.

Note: If rain is a possibility make sure to have non-cotton clothing.

Additional Retreat Items:

____ Writing material

____ Checkbook (for any additional Dana, tips for guides, etc.)

____ Credit Card or cash for meals at the canyon entrance.

____ Proof of Health Insurance

4. Are all meals supplied?

One meal per day will be provided, during the group supper. Any extra personal food willl need to be carried in one’s backpack. Fasting is suggested for portions of the day. More instructions on this will be given at the retreat orientation.

5. Will there be medical help if needed?

Our wilderness guide Susan Pierce is a NOLS Wilderness First Responder and all our guides are CPR trained. There are medical facilities Chinle.

6. What is the best way to prepare for this retreat?

The schedule and terrain are challenging and will require a certain level of physical and mental endurance.  The intention of the retreat and of the practice is to challenge our habitual limitations and, in the process, evoke our inner obstacles and fears in order for us to move through them. It is a solitary journey. In addition to being well prepared with your outdoor equipment, please consult the suggested reading list at question 1. of this page.

7. What is the recommended dana (teacher offering)?

This year the dana offering is included in the retreat fee, as are the guide tips. However, if you wish to make an additional offering, there will be an opportunity to do that at the end of the retreat. Cash and checks are accepted but not credit cards in this case.

8. Is there a list of practice materials to bring to this retreat?

Meditation cushion and mat (you may choose to use your sleeping mat in order to make things simpler) No other practice materials are needed for this retreat, although there will be an opportunity to learn how to use the chöd practice implements. The sadhana text has been translated and commentary created by Anam Thubten and Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, with guidance from Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. The texts will be available at the retreat and you might like to bring a suitable container for them.

9.What is the purpose of traveling together from the Albuquerque airport?

Traveling together from the ABQ airport, in the company of Anam Thubten will serve as a form of pilgrimage to the sacred site of our retreat, providing us with the proper entry into wilderness. If you would like to park your car at the ABQ airport please check on remote airport parking here.

9. What if I cannot join the airport pilgrimage and/or am driving directly to Canyon de Chelly?

If you are driving in, please, join us at the National Parks Cottonwood Campground at Canyon de Chelly or at  Thunderbird Lodge (formerly the Scared Canyon Lodge) and arrange for parking at the National Parks parking. Please, make sure that you arrive in plenty of time for the orientation meeting (tentatively scheduled for 6:00 p.m) on the evening of September 19th.

1o. Will there be an orientation meeting?

We will gather  Tuesday evening, September 19th for orientation.  It is suggested that people camp or lodge at the national parks campground or lodge (see above). This is the time when we will organize backpacks and vehicles, and have a detailed orientation so that we are fully prepared for the next morning’s early departure.  Start time is 7:30 a.m. at which point we will be shuttled to the place where we begin the hike into the base of the canyon and to Spider Rock Campground. This is a 4-6 hr hike on a rough mountain trail.

11. Are there work scholarships available for this retreat?
At this date all scholarships for this retreat have been asigned.
12. Will we need to carry our supplies in our backpacks?
All of our tents and camping supplies including large backpacks will be brought in by our Navajo guides.  You may like to have a small day pack to carry your personal items, like water and snacks, during long hikes.
13. For any additional information about Canyon de Chelly, including average temperatures, rainfall, history and biology click here.
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