KCC to Offer Retreat Space For Individuals and Groups Starting in 2024

July 12, 2023

This article was written for the Northwest Dharma Association Summer Newsletter, 2023. To view it on their website with accompanying photos, please click here

Kagyu Changchub Chuling (KCC), based in Portland, is opening our 240-acre retreat center to the greater dharma community beginning in 2024. Individuals and groups are invited to rent one of our 16 cabins for personal retreats or the entire facility for group retreats. 

The retreat center is located on the plateau above the Columbia River Gorge two hours east of Portland. Called Ser Chö Ösel Ling (SCOL), “Land of the Clear Light Golden Dharma,” it is a place of vast skies, wild beauty, and deep quiet. We are opening the facility to a wider array of dharma practitioners now that we’ve completed our initial goals of building this retreat facility and successfully hosting a one-year and three-year retreat, as well as numerous shorter retreats.

Each cabin contains a bed, nightstand, lamp, chair and folding table. The well-insulated cabins include three windows with screens, and are electrically heated but do not have cooling units. The cabins are fairly close together, with dimensions of 9 feet by 11 feet, or 8 feet by 14 feet. 

Twelve of the cabins are free-standing, and four are attached to the main building and are ADA accessible. There are walking paths inside each cloister group of eight cabins,  as well as outside the fence. Each cabin can be single or double occupancy, thus housing a maximum of 32 retreatants. There is also a teacher cabin and staff quarters, near the main building. 

Individual retreatants will have access to the simple kitchen in the dining room of their cloister, with each kitchen including a refrigerator, microwave, toaster, hot plate, water boiler, dishes and utensils. There is no onsite cook, and individual retreatants are expected to provide and prepare their own food. For longer stays, weekly grocery shopping can be arranged with the staff.

Groups are encouraged to arrange cooks for their retreats, and staff will provide on-site training in using the commercial kitchen. Alternatively, KCC may be able to provide retreat cooks. Meals are vegetarian. 

The SCOL building facilities, totaling about 11,500 square feet, were designed to be both comfortable and intimate in order to nourish deep practice. The main retreat building has a central commercial kitchen, with two wings that serve as the north and south cloisters. 

Each cloister consists of eight individual cabins, a meditation hall, dining room with simple kitchen, large shared bathrooms with two showers and two toilets, and a yoga hall that doubles as a large meeting room, all surrounded by a wooden fence. This layout was originally designed to support long retreats, with men in one cloister and women in the other. 

The facilities are now gender-neutral with the exception of showers — women shower in the south cloister, men in the north. Nonbinary or transgender retreatants may shower with the gender with whom they identify, or in a private shower in the staff quarters. 

Retreatants must be under the guidance of a dharma teacher and the teacher must agree to be available for the retreatant in case of practice questions or difficulties. We encourage retreatants to not use technology while at SCOL, though there is limited cellular service and internet available for communications with one’s teacher or for emergencies. Family members may contact our staff in case of emergency, in order to reach the retreatant. 

The retreat center is surrounded by a diverse landscape of pine and oak forest, interspersed with rocky cliffs and open meadows. The land supports abundant wildlife and is accessible by several miles of trails. 

In the spring a profusion of wildflowers appears, and in winter the snow glistens in the sunlight. Summer is hot and dry, and autumn brings a refreshing crispness and clarity to the atmosphere. Throughout the year, clear skies give a brilliant view of the sparkling stars, bright planets, and deep vastness of space. 

The attention to detail and welcoming atmosphere inside the retreat center, paired with the expansive views of the rolling hills and open sky, make SCOL an ideal place for meditation and inquiry. 

We are a Tibetan Buddhist center founded by Kalu Rinpoche in 1976 in the Shangpa and Karma Kagyu lineages. In the late 1990s Bokar Rinpoche, who was Kalu Rinpoche’s spiritual heir, encouraged our community to build a retreat center for long retreat. 

Twelve retreatants completed the one-year retreat in 2014, and seven completed the three-year retreat in 2018. Shortly after completion of the three-year retreat, longtime Resident Lama Michael Conklin retired, although he maintains a close connection with our new Resident Lama Eric Triebelhorn. 

Lama Eric is a student of Bokar Rinpoche. Lama Eric completed the traditional three-year retreat at Mirik Monastery in India, under the guidance of Khenpo Lodrö Dönyo Rinpoche. 

If you would like to get a sense of KCC’s offerings, please join us for a 9 a.m. Sunday morning practice session in Portland or via Zoom, or a 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening session via Zoom. We begin with 45 minutes of shamatha (calm abiding) meditation practice, followed by a question and discussion period, interspersed with short teachings. On the first Sunday of the month, we offer a half-day retreat that alternates between shamatha practice on the odd months, and Chenrezi practice on the even months. For more information and to view our current program calendar, please visit our website

As we open the retreat land to the greater dharma community, Lama Eric and guest teachers will continue to lead retreats and teachings on the Mahamudra path at SCOL and at our Portland Center. During quiet times when KCC is not leading retreats at SCOL, we will integrate group retreats from other sanghas into our annual calendar. 

Individual retreatants are welcome to come when groups are not in session. Individuals can practice in one of our 16 cabins, and share one of the simple kitchenettes in each cloister’s dining hall, as well as the shared bath house and meditation hall. 

To learn more about the amenities available at SCOL, please visit the SCOL page on our website. To inquire about hosting a group retreat at SCOL in 2024, or to ask about an individual retreat, please contact our retreat team at scol.retreats@kcc.org

As we step into this new opening of SCOL with joyful hearts, we hope that you will find your time spent here as peaceful, powerful and precious as we do. We aspire that this opening will assist those interested in dharma to connect more deeply, and to bring benefit to all beings everywhere.