A patient and timeless prayer that sustains… Part 2

Sometime in mid 2015 I felt strongly drawn back to the stupa again. The years had passed, starts and stops… something at the Academy was still incomplete and I felt – and knew – it was time.

During the fall of 2015, we were preparing at the Academy for the winter reunion of the Coming Full Circle program – the program created and led by Roshi Sanchi Reta Lawler offering a profound exploration of death and dying. The program is rooted deeply in Buddhist thought and practice. Participants were going to be coming together from Santa Fe as well as other parts of the country. I felt this event could be the time to revivify the stupa. And so it was, that I spoke with clear intent at the gathering in early January of 2016 about the stupa, explaining that I felt its time had come, and asked people there if they would be interested in helping with its creation. Many people stepped forward, providing an important energetic boost. It was a turning point.

I spoke again with Rinpoche about the intent and rightness of time – checked back in with him on the site and we made one last site change – and, yes, consecrated a new and final site, a few yards away: final blessings. And this time it felt clear – this was going to be it!!  There was a big clunk! Almost instantly, I found, through a Tibetan Lama friend of mine in Montana, Tsomo, our long sought after stupa builder – Dorje by name (also called Sean) – who was living then in Sedona and had been involved with building several stupas for Rinpoche over recent years. I checked in with Rinpoche and he concurred — Dorje would be ideal. Dorje was available and enthusiastic with the opportunity. And then, came beloved Randle Charles. Randle came to work on staff at Academy around that time, to manage our emerging City That Learns project. Shortly after he started, I asked Randle if he would be willing and interested in taking on the Stupa Project Manager role as one of his tasks. Randle accepted the invitation wholeheartedly and has done the work brilliantly in every way. Randle was already interested deeply in Tibetan art and architecture and had already been studying Tibetan Thanka painting with a local Tibetan lama-artist – a relationship that proved to be key in our ability to complete the stupa.

Aaron Stern and Randle Charles

Dorje, the stupa builder, made the initial set of drawings – a wild story unto itself. Through the process we discovered the stupa had to be a bit bigger than we were planning in order to fit in the original materials we ordered from Nepal, so the drawings had to be redone and our permits amended. We had called together the team who had built our campus – Jennifer Jenkins who guided us through the permit process, and John Jones from Wolf Corp who planned and managed the construction – John was especially moved by being part of the stupa project. John brought aboard Steve Petersen and his son Stevie – and their amazing concrete team. David Gordon helped Randle with developing the site all along the way and took charge of the landscaping, and path creating, and found the landscape team. Many community volunteers and many Academy staff participated at various times and in various ways. So many people are part of creating the stupa now, and have been touched deeply by it and naturally blessed by it.

And so – the stars were now fully aligned and our stupa was finally underway and got built. Its time had come. Some 10 years later – and approaching our 20th anniversary as an organization – the Academy stupa is finally complete.

Aaron Stern and Rinpoche


When consecrating the initial site for the stupa – Rinpoche said that the nature of this particular stupa would be the combined sprits of Saraswati and Manjushri – beings associated with Learning, Wisdom and Music. And, I added, that its overall intent was dedicated to ‘learning our ways to peaceful means’ in all of our endeavors. This is, indeed, a fitting description of the work and deep intent of the Academy for the Love of Learning.

Amazingly, just days before Rinpoche’s pronouncement, and unknown to Rinpoche, the Academy had just received word from a dear friend of mine, Josh Mailman, of his generous, inspired gift to the Academy of two stunningly beautiful statues that reside in our main building – one of which, is a statue of Saraswati.

Rinpoche blesses the Stupa

As I left my office the other day, I had a most amazing experience: I looked over at the counter top across from my desk, where I keep my meditation singing bowl, and where I have, for these years had the original vessel of sacred substances that were someday to become part of the stupa – serving as a reminder. I noticed the vessel was gone. I immediate felt its absence and its new place simultaneously – inside the completed stupa! Replacing the vessel was the completed stupa, itself, now fully manifested on the land, on a hill at the south end of our property, where I first imagined it.  As if it has always been there… The Academy’s sacred ‘ground’ now feels complete and fully held.

Stupa consecration ceremony at the Academy for the Love of Learning

A special thank you to Academy faculty member Acushla Bastible who named this blog – upon reading my first version of it. Thank you, Cushl!

Part 1 of A patient and timeless prayer that sustains

If you are interested in visiting the Stupa, please call us during our regular business hours at (505)995-1860, or email us at learn@aloveoflearning.org