Never in your wildest dreams

Last modified: 12/21/2015 6:34:21 PM
Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined that in 2014, a Thai Forest Buddhist Monastery would take root on the 250 acres literally across the street from us in Temple.

My husband’s family bought Treetops, a log cabin in the woods of Temple, in the 1980s as a retreat they could escape to for family holidays — most often Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I first visited in 1990, when Jamie and I had moved to Manhattan from Sydney, Australia, where I grew up and where we met. We ended up buying Treetops from Jamie’s parents in 2004, and for several years we enjoyed driving up from the city on Thursday evenings, telecommuting on Fridays, then for weekends; we hiked, cross-country skied and loved our time in nature.

By 2011, after Jamie had survived a major health crisis, we decided to give up our lives in New York City and move all our worldly possessions to Treetops. I’m in the process of writing a book about this story. But the point I want to make about our experience, is that you can’t even imagine some blessings that the future may hold for you — a monastery across the street?

I’d read plenty of books about Buddhism, and not long after having moved to Temple full-time, I enrolled in Rev. Stephanie Rutt’s interfaith seminary program at the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple (then in Amherst, now in Milford), where we studied world religions for two years.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been intrigued by the unseen, mystical, metaphysical and sacred side of life, and especially how it all intertwines with the healing process — even more so after my husband’s health crisis. So to have an opportunity to get to know the monks in residence at the Temple Forest Monastery has been a blessing that neither Jamie nor I could ever have imagined. Through getting to know these men who have dedicated their lives to a spiritual path, we’ve been exposed to a way of life that we knew little about.

Through my interfaith seminary class, I’d established my own daily spiritual practice, but my husband has especially benefited from participating in the monks’ Sunday afternoon meditation workshops. We’ve also been privileged to get to know the monks as friends and neighbors.

To sit in our living room, drinking tea and chatting about philosophical and spiritual ideas with someone who has grown up in the West, but who has been a monk for more than 20 years, is an experience we never would have dreamed possible. One monk’s presence, on a recent visit, impressed me deeply.

I felt as though he emanated an intensely gentle and calm center — it made me think of the eye of a tornado. That no matter what kind of chaos may going on around him, I imagine he would be able to maintain a calm, centered and peaceful presence. It’s an intangible quality.

How can we quantify this calm energy these monks are able to manifest? And yet how can we deny it exists, when the effect is so profound? My husband and I noticed that we felt more harmonious even after they had left.

We are incredibly fortunate to live in an area that is welcoming to all faith traditions, unlike some of the recent rhetoric we’ve been hearing in the news.

Rev. Camilla Sanderson lives in Temple and is presently practicing creative nonfiction writing in a low-residency program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of “The Mini Book of Mindfulness,” which will be published by Running Press in March. You can follow her on Facebook at

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