Monastics reveal two projects; anticipate teacher’s visit in fall 7/16/2013

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Monastics reveal two projects anticipate teacher’s visit in fall

By John Howell

Community visitors to the annual open house at the Magnolia Grove Monastery on Saturday got a preview of the large new meditation center where Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh will lead a retreat during an historic visit to the U.S. in September.

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About 70 guests attended Saturday’s event billed as a community open house with community from as distant as Florida and as near as “down the street” attending. Jeffrey Bean brought his family from “down the street,” he said. With him were his wife, Linda Gail; his sister-in-law Sturleen Morris, and her son, Emmanuel. Wanda Whitsell was their with friends as well as Bob and Elaine Holloway, who became friends with the monastics from the time Magnolia Grove was first accepted as a mindfulness practice center in 2005.

About 30 monastics live there, welcoming friends most Sundays and hosting five to seven retreats annually for adults and youth.

The youth retreats help teach young people “how to transfer their strong emotions,” Sr. Boi Nghiem said. No electronics are permitted.

“The first day, they can’t wait to go home,” the sister said. “By the last day they don’t want to leave.”
Visitors viewed a slide presentation with photos of the construction of the meditation center begun last September, heard songs by the monastics and then asked questions.
Afterward, guests walked to the meditation center for a tour. Inside the immense open span stone and steel structure, visitors viewed the cedar-line interior. Dinner on the grounds followed, a vegan repast that included soup, noodles, spring rolls, vegetable rolls, fruit — even barbecue and shish kabob.

The dinner was served under the shade of oaks that grow between the smaller meditation center now in use and a large bell tower and lotus pond. Construction in the bell tower started in October and nearing completion. Magnolia Grove is the first center in the U.S. to have a bell tower, said Sister Boi Nghiem.

The large Vietnamese-style bell was rung at 7 p.m. Its low, soothing tones alternated with a prayer chanted by one of the monastics.

On one side of the lotus pond a pedestal is under construction where a statue of Buddha will be placed.

Coordinating the construction of the bell tower and meditation hall is stone mason and carpenter Ngan, who said he was a fourth generation stone mason when he was brought to France from Vietnam by Master Hanh. He built three bell towers in France and one in Germany before coming to the U. S. about two years ago.

About 600 people are already registered for the September “Healing Yourself is Healing the World” retreat in September, said Rosaria, a lay practicer of Buddhism visiting from Florida. The monastery expects to be able to accommodate about 900 to 1,000, she said. Overnight lodging at the monastery has been filled and late registrants must find lodging at area motels and hotels, according to the web site