The Söpa Chöling retreat center is one of the hidden jewels of the Shambhala mandala. This beautifully appointed three-story facility is located in northwestern Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, along the famous Cabot Trail. The building is situated high on the red cliffs that overlook the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is surrounded by walking trails. There is a powerful presence of drala here, and the play of the elements inspires the retreat environment. Dramatic sunsets fill the shrine room with red light on summer evenings. In winter, at the end of the last practice session you might step outside to find that the snow is sparkling like diamonds under a canopy of stars.
Söpa Chöling is a comfortable place to practice, uplifted, well-heated, and bright. The building consists of two residential wings, each with:
- Eight private rooms with bed and shrine
- One full and one half bath
- Kitchenette and eating area
- Exercise/yoga room
In addition, there is a large main kitchen and complete laundry facilities.
One of two kitchenettes
A retreatant's room
Group practice in the main shrine room
Musical instruments used in three-year retreat
Orientation meeting in the main shrine room
Even for those who visit Gampo Abbey, the Söpa Chöling retreat is rarely seen. The grounds are hidden from view by a large wooden fence. While retreat is in session, up to eleven months of the year, the traditional thojangs of the Four Kings are posted by the retreat gate, sealing the boundary. Only a small number of staff who serve the retreat are allowed to enter.