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Tibetan Buddhist nun and employee at the White Eagle Village

Interview Conducted by: Whitney Conti, 407.924.9527 w_conti@coloradocollege.edu


Wednesday Midday 27, 2008


After having a cancellation with an interview set up at the White Eagle, Selltong, who was working generously volunteered to talk with me.

Seltong Biography

Seltong is an ordained Tibetan Buddhist nun who lives in Crestone. She recently purchased a small retreat house at Baca and works at the White Eagle and local dentist throughout the week. When not working she spends her time and lives in her retreat house, active with several of the local Buddhist groups in Crestone. Although she has been a Buddhist since her teens, she only recently became ordained three years ago. She is of modest means, owning only her retreat home in Crestone.

Geographical Path

Seltong spent a lot of her life living in Seattle. She moved to Colorado 15 years ago to staff a retreat center in the North end of the State. After doing a retreat in Crestone a year after she was ordained, she just asked The White Eagle if they had a job opening and bought property in Crestone after working there a year.

“I have been moving in this direction fundamentally all my life… to place like this that is conducive to retreat, to quiet, to contemplative pursuits, and where there were a lot of other people of the same mind.” (Seltong)

She feels like she has been moving towards this place, this direction her whole life: to a place like Crestone.

“Moving to his place and this situation all my life”

“I can quit looking now”

“My Career is my Path”

Seltong has also traveled all over the U.S. (except for Deep South), all over the Coastal ranges, and Rocky Mountain west as well as visits to Asia.

Views onCrestone

One of the first time she came to visit the Baca she “felt like she was back in Katmandu” because of all of the prayer flags. She immediately identified with Cresone. Especially upon discovering that Crestone is 85% Buddhist (mayor estimates).

“It’s like the whole town is focused on that part of their life and that’s why I came here.”

Since she has traveled all over the U.S. she feels she can differentiate between the spectacular aspects of the Rockies and the “Magical, good vibes” of Crestone (Full Quote below in Sacred Landscape section). Saying that the energy that manifests itself here is nothing like anything anywhere else except some seriously heavy charged place in Tibet (Full Quote below in Sacred Landscape section)

“It’s like living in the sky here”

-Crestone is quiet, unspoiled pristine. Space of darkness is just beautiful.

Sacred landscape of Crestone

-Although she does describe the uniqueness of some of the geographic qualities she says that you can’t quantify the special quality

-When you see it you know its just Holy, she alludes to a particularly well known Mountain in Western Tibet, which is one in the world o major sacred mountains, as an analogy to Crestone. Everyone reveres this mountain as holy although one can’t necessarily quantify it. “When you see it you know its holy, it just is.”

“There are places on the earth not because anything has happened there or anyone has done anything there, they are sacred just because they are. And this is most certainly one of those places.”

“There are plenty of places in the Rockies that are spectacular, but I’ve never come across a place that is quite so magical as this, as I feel that it is here, there is a certain kind of…we would have said years and years ago that it’s got a good vibe…and there’s a certain kind of energy that manifests itself here in a way that’s not like anywhere else I’ve ever been with the exception of some seriously heavy duty charged place in Tibet. I was in Tibet last summer in Eastern Tibet and I really got why it is so advantageous to settle here, because all of the teachers who have centers here came from Eastern Tibet and there is a very similar kind of feeling to it”

“You can’t say there are certain kinds of trees that grow here that don’t grow anywhere else in the world. You can’t say that cause that’s not so there’s pinon juniper ponderos everywhere. There’s a remarkable combination here of openness, this huge valley thats bordered on three sides, and then it just opens out into space down into the South, so you have this wonderful combination of mountains surrounding you but then there’s all this space in the middle of it, it’s fairly unusual because usually when you find mountains and valleys they are much narrower than this, other places the sun is on the valley floor for only three hours a day. That’ s one of things I find really unusual about this because I’ve always loved the mountains but it’s like living in the sky here. Whatever quality it is that makes this place so magical, it’s not the kind of thing you can quantify you can’t go out with a thermometer or barometer or any other kind of measurement because its something that who knows how to say”

Masters and the Enlightened in Crestone

-So many great teachers available in one place

“You can go to Katmandu and that’s the next closest place”

“Huge percentage of people who have come here for the teachers and who spend a lot of money relatively speaking at the grocery story and in town, and there’s a lot of people who depend on those people coming here.”

“No other place with such a concentration of these teachers…”


-She doesn’t see how anything but destruction of what makes this place special would happen. Although Seltong does say the drilling will inevitably cause destruction to the refuge of the species that is just the underpinning. The spiritual qualities of Crestone supersede the strictly ecological in her mind.

“I don’t see how if that (drilling) progresses in the way that the corporation has intended that anything but destruction of what makes this place so special can happen and I’m not even referring to the whole natural habitat with the endangered species and wildlife reserve, I’m not even speaking to that. For me there is something that proceeds that because there are other places that you can hear coyotes, this is special, and its not the kind of specialness that can be quantified.”

“Other places you can hear coyotes, but this place is special.”

-Seltong points out that all levels of the environment will be degraded with the drilling; the actual physical environment is just the first layer.

“What people are talking about is the damage to the aquifer, but then there is the town and the people who make their living living in the town and the people who come here as I did because this is a place that spoke to what they wanted.”

“Human ecology would be affected just as much as the natural ecology”

Her Spiritual Role in Crestone

-Once she started to live in Crestone she began to understand the Buddhist belief that life and spirituality are seamless “no sessions, no breaks.” She has made her life career her spiritual practice and feels she can more fully do this now that she is in Creston.While she was living in Seattle she found more divide between her practice and life. She says she is thankful everyday for being in Crestone.

“I don’t know who I’m saying thank you to, thank you for bringing me here”

People of Crestone

She attributes the specialness of Crestone

“Partly it’s the place and partly it’s the people who have been to this place.”

Can Crestone handle the drilling?

Crestone is “strong enough…but I hope we don’t have to put it to the test.

“If the thing proceeds it seems impossible that all levels of the environment won’t be degraded. And you know the town, the funny funky little semi depressed town, depends almost entirely on people coming here to do spiritual pursuit and I think there are a lot of people who probably would not come here if they had a gas field in the front yard. If I had the money I would go somewhere else if there was a gas field in the front yard.”

“I go out there and imagine a drill field out there and I just choke and go in and say another prayer.”