by Chuan Zai Federoff
I have been coming to Middle Land Chan Monastery for a little over a year now. It is a very calming environment. It is a place to go and rejuvenate – quiet, calm and safe. Like a mini-vacation from the world where I can practice and reset my trajectory. I tend to leave the monastery with a gentle smile on my face and a sense of lightness.
I look forward to my meditation class every week. There is always so much insight and richness in the lessons. Many Zen texts say how difficult it is to practice and it can be intimidating. And when I read general Buddhist texts, it discusses selflessness and ethics of monks and nuns and I think, “How can I really be that good? Is it possible? Could I ever be so consistent with my practice and unselfish in my life?” Honestly, no probably not. At least not immediately. But as I continue taking the classes I see myself heading that direction and I know that I am a kinder, more balanced person than before. I have been able to set down old habits and start to grow positive ones. This is one of the ways that the Shifus have been so supportive – they are very reassuring and frequently remind us students that when we practice we will make progress.
When I was young, I always thought that Buddhist churches or monasteries were off limits to me as a Westerner. There was a temple in my hometown that seemed exotic and mysterious. There was a language and cultural barrier I could never dream to reach past, much less even step through the doors for fear that I would be harshly turned away. But I have happily come to know that they are very accessible to anybody who wants to learn and practice the teachings.
Anybody who does not know the customs inside a monastery should not worry. The Shifu’s are always very kind and the other members welcoming and friendly. They are all happy to introduce the etiquette when visiting a monastery and tend to do so slowly, rather than downloading a list of rules.
It is amazing to me that such a gem is tucked away in our local area. So many people who are interested in Buddhism do not know about this wonderful place. I hope that all who wish to find a resource to learn Buddhism and grow their meditation practice with the guidance of dedicated monastics will eventually find a spot like this one.