The experience of motherhood tends to make a person especially reflective. Yet day-to-day, busyness often prevents us from settling our thoughts long enough to appreciate them. Even if you can’t retreat to , you probably can get away for an hour or two by yourself. Here is a very mindful way to spend that precious time — think tranquility, meditation and nature.
Chuang Yen Monastery (located on 125 acres off Route 301 in Kent) reopens for the season April 1, resuming its ‘open to the public’ status daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here you will find the largest Buddhist monastery on the East Coast and one of the largest indoor statues of Buddha in the Western Hemisphere.
The first time I visited was with a co-worker as we were seeking relief from our hectic careers. More recently, I returned after the birth of my son. Each time was casual, enjoying some quiet and a walk around the public areas.
What can you expect from a visit? You will park in a lower lot and proceed toward two statues of Chinese guardian lions. Then you will continue up a long walkway (the “path to awakening”) passing 18 life-size stone statues of disciples of Buddha. As the pathway ends you approach stone steps leading to the Great Buddha Hall, which houses the 37-foot Buddha surrounded by hundreds of smaller statues. During your visit you will likely observe the monastery’s residents, Buddhist monks and nuns, in meditation.
Group meditations are held each Sunday from 9 to 10 a.m., followed by a Dharma talk (Buddhist discussion) from 10 to 11. They are both free and open to the public.
A vegetarian lunch is available in the dining hall on weekends from 12 to 1 p.m. and is served by volunteers at a suggested donation of $6. If you have the time, make a stop in the gift shop and explore the grounds, including Seven Jewels Lake, walking paths, pavilions, foot bridges and flower and rock gardens.
So go ahead, don’t be hesitant to stop in and experience what this local destination has to offer. It is meant for all of us to appreciate and enjoy.
Visit the Monastery's website to find out more and view a map or additional pictures of the grounds. Read about another visitor’s experience here.