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Crestone’s Role for the Wider Culture
Cassie Hoffman

            It is widely acknowledged by many people inside and outside of Crestone that the area is unique. The Crestone community has become an archetype for how diverse spiritual understandings can exist in harmony. The energy of the Crestone area has not only attracted a broad array of religious and spiritual communities, but it has bound them together in a way that is unlike almost anything else in the world as well. Debra Floyd claims “That’s what we’re doing – we’re creating a new paradigm around the planet by linking our thoughts in new ways.” While creating this new model together, a distinct, international diversity still exists in Crestone. Different spiritual communities and beings are able to maintain their practices, their beliefs and their individuality while still contributing to the overarching culture of the town. “There’s a diversity where people tend to honor other people even if they don’t understand what their life is like,” (Lonnie Roth).
The remarkable spiritual community that Crestone fosters through its extraordinary environment is perhaps the most important societal example Crestone has to offer to the wider culture. Darlene Yarborough believes that this place is “About going beyond the old definitions of religion and looking at new ways to live. I like the term that the new religion is the religion of love. We don’t have exact names for it, but we have a religion of love here”. The vast collection of spiritual communities involved in this new, wider-ranging communal religious understanding have created an unprecedented religious connectedness that is beneficial to all those who live and visit the area. “I became more and more connected to the fact that the spiritual groups are here. It feels good that they are here, even though my own spiritual group is not here,” (Julie Quinn).
Crestone is very aware that their community has the potential to noticeably affect the broader world, and not just serve as an example. John Winter of Dharma Ocean acknowledges that “There’s a lot of people doing a lot of cool stuff here and there’s a lot of creativity coming from this valley and what is creativity good for but to offer it to the world? And the spiritual dialogue that’s going on around here is amazing”.  The spiritual understanding and learnings that come out of Crestone have the possibility to be felt universally. Christian Dillo, director of the Crestone Mountain Zen Center and chair of the Crestone Spiritual Alliance, strongly advocates for Crestone’s importance as a place where people can learn to change the world. He claims that “(Places like Crestone) need to exist so that practitioners can come from that place of retreat and return into the world so to speak—into the daily life of how our culture functions. So that that culture can be transformed, ideally. So (places like Crestone, and the rest of the world) belong together in a way”. Because Crestone is home to such a large number of retreat centers and monasteries, Dillo sees the area as a center for evolution of the human consciousness. “The monastery is a challenge for the established ways of the culture but the established ways of the culture give the monastery its purpose to do something differently and see how we can evolve as humans – how our minds can evolve, how we can cultivate body and mind and you know, there are still a lot of things that humans have to learn – how to co-exist peacefully, be happy, things like that.” Matthew Crowley of Shumei International Institute also believes that the spiritual advances of Crestone are important to everyone, even if they are not necessarily understood as spiritual. He says of his own tradition, “The forms of what we do...Jyorei, and particularly natural agriculture and art and beauty, are things that anybody can engage in, and whether we talk about it in spiritual terms or not, I think it's a benefit to society, a benefit to the world”.
               As a member of the Crestone community, Debra Floyd says that “We’ve tried to be an example, a seed community for the planet, through sustainability, alternative building, all these different kinds of things. We’re just trying to go, here’s a (different) option to what’s been going on in the outer world”. Crestone clearly recognizes its important place in our world as a refuge and sanctuary for many world religions, as a center of cultivation for universally important spiritual wisdom and as a unique example of harmonious community. The area is also quickly undertaking a completely new influential role for the wider culture – that of protectors of the land. In the face of natural gas drilling in Crestone’s backyard, many in and around the area have rallied together to protect the land and energy that binds the Crestone community together in such an exceptional way. In the words of Robert Demko, “We have a responsibility to be stewards of the land and the spirit, so we have to stand up for that”. Crestone offers many, many resources to the rest of us, and even in the area’s fight to protect its invaluable assets Crestone has created one more example of how things can function differently – how it is possible for our world to work in harmony.

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