Shar Lee began her Buddhist meditation and studies in 1964 at the Zen Buddhist Temple in Evanston, Illinois. She has studied Buddhism at the White Temple near the Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal with Chogye Trichen Rinpoche (Sakya Tradition), Tenga Rinpoche (Kagyu Tradition), and Choekyie Nyima Rinpoche (Nyingma/KagyuTradition).
In the 1960s Shar Lee studied yoga, Ayurveda, and massage therapy. She became a yoga teacher in 1966 and a massage therapist in 1967. In the late 1970s, Shar began traveling around the world looking for healers. “At first it was just my hobby,” she says. The hobby became her life’s work as she began learning from a wide variety of gifted healers. In between trips, she studied and continued her own healing practice.
She took a trip every two years, absorbing as much knowledge as she could find. In every village she traveled to, Shar would ask to see the healer, priest, or medicine person. The search brought her to the high Himalayas, South India, Nepal, Thailand, and South America. She studied with many of the healers she found. In northern India, above Rishikesh, she studied in a mud hut with a man who was said to be 130 years old. In South America, she worked with a psychic healer. Elsewhere in South America, Shar met a woman who heard the music in plants and coordinated it to the music in her patients. And then there was the medicine woman in Nepal who bit her patients to draw out the “poisons” in them.
On one of these journeys, in 1987, Shar was staying at a yoga center in Kathmandu. Friends who knew of Shar’s interest in learning from local healers, told her that a Tibetan lama known as “Lama Dorje” had arrived in Kathmandu and was doing healing work from a storefront, almost a garage, on a nearby street.
Shar immediately went to find Lama Dorje. She learned that, every day, 20 to 30 people lined up outside his “office” waiting many hours, and even overnight, for his attention. He had one assistant who was not an apprentice, but more of an attendant. There were two hard wooden boards where people would be treated. He worked on one person and then, while that person rested, he worked on a second person. While the second person rested, the first person would leave and a new person came in to fill the first spot. People rotated through the room in this way from sunrise to sunset. He worked on each person for fifteen to thirty minutes, kneeling at the person’s head, saying little or nothing, staying in mantra, just using his hands on the bones of their craniums.
Finally, after watching this while waiting in line, Shar received a session. Shar knew, instantly and absolutely, that she must study with this Tibetan monk. She felt that her own healing gift was similar to his and that she could do the cranial work. Lama Dorje spoke no English, and Shar knew no Tibetan. There were no translators. The assistant spoke only a few words of English, but very little more than the monk. When Shar asked the assistant who else practiced this form of healing, he said, “Master had many, many monks before Chinese.” From this, she ascertained that Lama Dorje had been in a monastery where he and other monks had practiced the cranial work before the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet.
In the Eastern tradition of asking a teacher to accept one as a student, Shar placed herself at Lama Dorje’s feet and waited for him to acknowledge her. She sat on the floor inside the treatment room from sun-up until after dark, without moving even to eat or go to the bathroom. She only sat and watched him work, while silently imploring him to take her as his apprentice. “Traditionally, you’re supposed to sit there around the clock,” Shar says, “and I had done many sits before finding Lama Dorje.”
On the second day, the monk dropped a human skull in her lap. “I was happy,” she says, “because then at least I had something to do.” She sat through the second and the third days, studying the fissures in the skull she was holding and watching Lama Dorje manipulate the skulls of the people on the two boards. Finally, into the third day, he signaled to her to help him with the work.
Shar studied with the Tibetan monk for fifteen days, eighteen hours or more each day. There was only one break, at mid-day, for some broth and a trip to the outhouse. She began working with people under Lama Dorje supervision. When Shar started working on people, Lama Dorje stopped. His teaching was blunt: when she did something right, he said nothing; when she did something wrong, he hit her. His teaching of the Tibetan Cranial work was nonverbal and tactile. She learned by doing what he did and by observing the results with her eyes, hands, and deeper knowing. People came for treatment for either five or seven days in a row, and she observed progress in their healing over that time. She learned that on the gross level the work consisted of three main actions: (1) reading pulses on the cranium; (2) fine-tuning the cranial bones in specific ways; and (3) “sealing” the cranium when the work was finished. Everything else was progressively more subtle and out of the realm of language.
After fifteen days, with her visa about to expire, Shar went back to the United States. She found herself shaking on the plane, from the empowerments transmitted to her by Lama Dorje while he taught her. She planned to return to Kathmandu to study again with Lama Dorje, but six months after she left, she received word that he had died.
Shar traveled back to Kathmandu several times after Lama Dorje’s death, looking for other monks who practiced the Tibetan Cranial work, but couldn’t find any. As time went on, the strong sense that she must find another teacher of the work grew in her. She inquired throughout Nepal and northern India. She continued to search from America and on several trips east, but with no results. Meanwhile, she practiced Tibetan Cranial on her bodywork clients, assimilating the work and continuing to learn from the basics the monk had taught her.
Shar continued to wonder if there were any other Tibetans practicing the work. Every few years, she went back to Nepal and looked for others. Eventually, on one of these trips, Shar spoke to three lamas in Kathmandu who acknowledged that they knew of Lama Dorje and his work. The first one said to keep looking for another teacher of the work. The second said that she had already studied with her teacher, Lama Dorje. The third said she may be the only one alive who knew the work and that she should start taking students.
Shar concluded that it is her dharma to pass the Tibetan Cranial work on to others and build the tradition that was nearly lost. By this time, Shar had been practicing the work for many years, establishing a vast body of knowledge and experience. Shar began taking on Apprentices – gifted people she feels she can teach. She teaches in the traditional style, without many words and with no text or charts. She feels that the work is authentically Eastern and not translatable into Western ways of understanding. She believes that students learn the work better if they surrender to the style of teaching and working that Lama Dorje showed her.
Shar has achieved much success with the work. Hundreds of people have told Shar that they experienced significant improvement with migraines. She also has had positive results with TMJ, tremors, seizures, Parkinson’s-like diseases, Multiple Sclerosis, concussions, car accident injuries, depression, sciatica, dementia, brain tumors and trauma, scoliosis, and many other conditions.
Shar Lee started practicing yoga at age 15. Her studies have encompassed many different forms and modalities of yoga, and she has studied with many senior yoga teachers around the world, including extensive studies in the US, India, and Nepal.
Shar began teaching yoga at age 16 and now has been teaching yoga for fifty years, both in the US and internationally. In addition to teaching asana of all levels in public classes, she has taught in numerous formal training programs, leading classes in Yoga Therapeutics, Anatomy and Yoga, Doubles Yoga, Ayurvedic Massage and Marma Points, Meditation, Yoga Teacher Training and Certification, and Pre- and Post-Natal Yoga, Yoga and Women’s Health, and other topics. In addition to being a Certified Yoga Instructor, Shar is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
Shar is a well-known yoga teacher in her home state of Colorado. She has taught many hundreds of public yoga classes in the Boulder, Longmont, and Niwot areas to a wide variety of students, as well as countless private classes and yoga therapy classes. She served as a teacher at the Rocky Mountain Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda and is the former director of the Boulder Yoga Institute and The Hatha Yoga Center of Boulder and Longmont. Shar also is a founding member and past president of Yoga Teachers of Colorado.
At a national level, Shar was a familiar figure at the US-based Unity in Yoga conferences, beginning at the conference’s inception. Her international experience includes teaching a variety of classes to students of all levels and other yoga teachers at various locations around the world. Some of these locations include Yoga Nigatan Ashram in Rishikesh, India, Lindrick Lodge in Calendar, Scotland, Patanjali’s Yoga Center in Kathmandu, Nepal, and the 1997 International Yoga Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where she taught Doubles Yoga.
In addition to her yoga teaching, Shar is the co-author, with Dawn R. Mahowald, of Doubles Yoga, A Manual for Two or More, published in 1998 by Kriya Yoga Publications. Shar is currently writing a book on yoga therapy.