Spiritual nourishment in the Monadnock region

Last modified: 7/22/2015 12:57:04 PM
When my husband and I gave up our 20-year stretch of corporate-working-lives in Manhattan In April 2011, and moved to a place of soulful-wilderness-living in a log cabin set among the trees in Temple, I began to read an endless number of books on spirituality.

Looking for other people to discuss the concepts I read about, I became interested in exploring what kind of spiritual communities exist in the area. Through a lovely series of synchronicities, I found an interfaith seminary class taught by The Rev. Stephanie Rutt at the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple in Amherst.

Along with seven other women, I studied world religions for two years; from Hinduism, the world’s oldest religion — and third largest; Christianity being the largest and Islam second — to Shamanism, the world’s oldest indigenous spiritual practice, to Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism and more. We delved into the spiritual truths that exist in all religions.

Rev. Stephanie also advised us that establishing our own daily spiritual practice was the most important element in the program. Through my own spiritual practice, which is similar to mindfulness meditation and includes some Sikh chanting, a breath meditation and Centering Prayer, I’ve learned to cultivate the courage to claim my spirituality in the world, and I’ve learned to cultivate the courage to share my writing in the world.

In following this impulse to share the truth of my own experience through my writing, I took a few writing classes. One of my writing assignments led me to interview one of the owners of Hilltop Café in Wilton, to write a story for submission to a local newspaper, a version of which you are now reading.

When we first moved to the area in 2011, my husband and I were pleased to discover Hilltop Café. Not only did the food delight us, as it seemed to be created in a mindful and aware manner that so often leads to that elusive experience where one feels as though the food is singing, but we also enjoyed the spiritual diversity of Hilltop’s customers. We recognized the local Sikh population by their white turbans, and the Thai Forest Buddhist monks were easily identified by their orange robes — their monastery is taking root in Temple, right across the street from our home (see forestmonastery.org). I also learned from volunteering at Pine Hill school that Hilltop Café also serves the Waldorf community surrounding Pine Hill and High Mowing, which provide a holistic education in body, mind and spirit.

Snatam Kaur often eats at Hilltop Café. For anyone who doesn’t know Sikh chanting music, Snatam is a rock star in that world. I heard an anecdote that one day when Snatam was there, she saw two of the Thai Forest Buddhist monks enter the café, and they all bowed their heads to each other in acknowledgment and respect. When I heard this story, I felt lit up.

I appreciate how these different spiritual traditions recognize there are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view from the top is the same — truly an interfaith concept.

It makes me wonder if the spiritual diversity of the customers at Hilltop Café add to it being such a valued community center. Perhaps the biodynamic farming practices employed at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm, where the café is located, also add to the spiritual feeling of the place. Whatever it is, as journalist Michael Pollan recently said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, “Our most profound engagement with the natural world happens on our plates.... Where does your food come from? You have the opportunity to support local in a very real way. That’s very empowering!”

It’s also very enjoyable when dining at Hilltop Café, which remains for me, one of my favorite places of nourishment in body, mind and spirit.



The Rev. Camilla Sanderson lives in Temple and is presently practicing creative nonfiction writing in a low-residency program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.




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