A Space for Meditation - CODAworx

A Space for Meditation

Submitted by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo

Client: Upaya Zen Center

Location: Santa Fe, NM, United States

Completion date: 2014

Project Team


Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo

Threads of Awakening


Roshi Joan Halifax

Upaya Zen Center


Shinzan Palma


Tara, goddess of healing and longevity, hung alongside Chenrezig, the buddha of compassion, in the Circle of the Way Temple at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe for the first week of May 2014. Participants attending a weekend retreat were inspired by the textured silk images, and the local community gathered to hear artist Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo speak on the final evening of the installation.


The Circle of the Way Temple at Upaya Zen Center is constructed out of natural and recycled materials. The great columns are standing dead trees that come from Lincoln National Forest, near Alamagordo, NM. When the architect, Mark Little, and Roshi Joan were working on the design, the aspiration was to have the temple be a place that was deeply integrated into the landscape and culture while reflecting the sensibilities of Asia. Its design and earth-sourced materials encourage silence, inner exploration, and awareness of interconnection.

Upaya invited Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo to display her silk appliqué thangkas in the temple as an expression of shared commitment to offering Buddhist art as as vehicle to awakening and healing.

The space is also home to a large painted thangka of Green Tara by Japanese artist Mayumi Oda. This painting provides the only splash of bright color normally visible in the zendo. Other than that, the temple is spare and unadorned. An altar table supports a statue of Manjushri, representing clear-seeing wisdom.

The Buddha taught many approaches to taming the mind because people have diverse dispositions and differing needs. The vibrancy of Tibetan forms and colors lent new energy to the space.


With Roshi Joan Halifax’s support, Maia Duerr, former director of Upaya's Buddhist Chaplaincy Program invited Rinchen-Wongmo to display her artwork in the temple and give a talk to the community. Roshi Joan expressed great appreciation for the fact that this Tibetan-style artwork was created by a Western woman who had mastered the ancient craft.

Zen priests and Upaya residents, Shinzen Palma and Genzan Quennell helped Duerr and Rinchen-Wongmo to place and hang the thangkas from large nails in the structural beams.

While the thangkas hung in the temple, B. Alan Wallace of Santa Barbara led a meditation retreat in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The thangkas served as a perfect backdrop to this retreat. A few hours after it ended, members of the local community gathered to hear Rinchen-Wongmo speak about Threads of Awakening: Finding Beauty and Meaning One Imperfect Stitch at a Time. Many commented that Leslie’s vibrant speaking style complemented the vibrancy of the thangkas adding spice and color to the relatively sober Zen environment.

Additional Information

Upaya Zen Center was founded in 1990 by Roshi Joan Halifax, and moved to Cerro Gordo Road two miles from downtown Santa Fe, NM in 1992. The Circle of the Way Temple was built in 2000-2001 and dedicated on Winter's Solstice 2001. Upaya Zen Center's focus is on the relationship between meditation and engaged Buddhism. Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo's work creates connections -- between spiritual and creative practice, between self and other, between east and west, and between overlapping pieces of silk, hand-stitched together and held by their interconnections.