Buddhist monks bring message of mindfulness to New Canaan
NEW CANAAN — Hoping to spread their message of compassion and mindfulness, seven Buddhist monks visited town this week.
Silver Hill Hospital hosted the group from the Labrang Tashikyil Monastery in Dehra Dun, India. The hospital opened its doors to the public Sunday afternoon so visitors could admire some of their work.
Four of the group members had spent several days creating a mandala from colored sand, painstakingly building the ancient symbol of harmony on a two-foot square board. Other members created items with clay, sold various handmade crafts, performed a symbolic dance of welcome, while the whole time devoting the bulk of their time at the hospital to working with patients and hospital staff.
“Certainly for our patients we have the opportunity to see masters of mindfulness,” said Heather Porter, the recovery facility’s director of marketing. She said practicing mindfulness is an important part of treatment.
“We came here to introduce Buddhism,” said Lobsang, explaining that the eight-month, 12-state tour was also a fundraising exercise to help support their mission and students.
Several dozen visitors enjoyed the opportunity for some hands-on artwork, using the delicate tools of sand sculpting to create their own mini mandalas.
“The artistry involved,” Timothy Gemelli of Stamford noted, watching one of the monks work his craft. “It’s pretty fantastic. It’s incredible that it all gets destroyed after they’re finished. It speaks to the impermanence of everything in this world.”
In fact, later this week, after the two-foot square mandala is completed, the monks will lead a ceremony at a nearby stream, wherein they’ll pour away the sand to let its positive energy spread around the world.
“Everything they do, it really has the impact of putting your mind at peace,” noted Meghan Deardoff, a Silver Hill marketing assistant.
The monks worked with patients and staff members, leading them in yoga and meditation exercises, blessing and prayer workshops, and mode divination readings, which are aimed at curing personal problems.
“It was really nice,” said Alyssa Walters of Stamford. “It was nice to see another culture and it was something nice to do.”
As the locals enjoyed meeting the visitors, so too did they enjoy Connecticut.
“The experience I have had in this country is one of the very richest experiences,” said Tenpa Phuntsok, who has been in the U.S. on two other tours, in 2011 and 2013.
He described people as being “full of compassion and love, and their generosity and hospitality.” That, he said, is significant.
“It was a blessing to come and be able to support them in any way I could,” Jenna Rai Miller of Norwalk said. “I think it’s lovely.”
“It was very relaxing,” said Lisa Clifford of Stamford. “It was a very quiet, very nice way to spend an hour.”