Zen getaways for relaxation and reflection in the Hudson Valley
Everyone needs a break from overly booked, hectic schedules once in a while. And for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle completely, there are plenty of places in the Hudson Valley dedicated to relaxing and refocusing your energy.
From ashrams to monasteries to resorts, these eight locations should help you recharge your mind and spirit. Did somebody say om?
For yoga enthusiasts: Ananda Ashram in Monroe
Ananda Ashram, a yoga retreat and spiritual-educational center set on 85 acres in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, offers simple accommodations and vegan meals to visitors. The property, which serves as the headquarters of the Yoga Society of New York, features a lake, a swimming pool and meadows perfect for long hikes.
The ashram offers several kinds of yoga classes, including hatha, anusara and vinyasa. Each class lasts 90 minutes and costs $10. Workshops, like the popular upcoming Silent Retreat Weekend (May 17-19), are also available for an extra charge throughout the season.
Overnight weekend stays during the peak season, which starts in May and runs through Oct. 31, cost $100 per person per night for a semiprivate room, which has two twin beds ($85 on weekdays). The fee covers yoga and Sanskrit classes, meals and meditation. Dorm rooms and camping are also available for a lesser fee, and discounts are available for students, seniors and children.
Day rates are offered for meals ($5 for breakfast, $10 for lunch and dinner), yoga classes ($15), Sanskrit and meditation programs (by donation), or a day pass is available, which includes the above, plus admission to morning and evening programs and cultural events for $45 in the peak season.
Info: 13 Sapphire Rd., Monroe; 845-782-5575; www.anandaashram.org
For varied options: Omega Institute in Rhinebeck
It's hard to beat the breadth of options available at Omega Institute, which hosts about 350 workshops from April through October each year. Programs on the more than 200-acre campus span six categories: mind, body and spirit; health and healing; creative expression; relationships and family; leadership and work; and sustainable living.
The weekend of April 26-28, for instance, will feature workshops in relationships and family and mind, body and spirit. "Mothers & Daughters: Keeping Your Bond Strong Through the Pre-Teen Years" is geared toward moms and their 10- to 12-year-old children ($325 for workshops, lodging and meals). "Goddess to the Core: An Inspired Workout to Maximize Your Fitness, Beauty & Power" is geared toward women visiting solo ($325 plus $30 materials fee).
Outside of the themed workshops, guests can take it easy during rest and rejuvenation retreats, which allow visitors to do as little or as much as they like. Rates are reasonable, at just $25 per day on weekdays and $38 per day on weekends, which includes access to some of Omega's daily open classes, including tai chi and yoga, and the opportunity to explore the grounds. There is a two-day minimum for these stays, and a wide range of accommodations that cater to a variety of budgets and needs. There are campsites ($186 per person for a two-night stay); private rooms with private bathrooms ($622 per person for a two-night stay); private rooms with shared baths ($538 per person for a two-night stay), and deluxe green rooms (up to $524 per person for a two-night stay). The lodging fee pays for three vegetarian meals a day, with plenty of options for gluten-free and vegan eaters.
Info: 150 Lake Dr., Rhinebeck; 845-266-4444; www.eomega.org/visit-us/rhinebeck-ny
For day-trippers: Chuang Yen Buddhist Monastery in Carmel
Set on 225 acres, Chuang Yen Buddhist Monastery, which is the home of the Buddhist Association of the United States, houses a 37-foot tall Buddha, the largest in the country.
In addition to checking out the massive statue, visitors can stroll the grounds solo, learn more about East Asian religious studies in the complex's library and research center or join a tour, staged at 1 p.m. on Saturdays in English and Chinese through May 12 (they resume Aug. 4 and go through Dec. 29).
Meditation classes are offered every Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m., or visitors can simply drop in to meditate too, as the Temple of Enlightenment is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other activities offered at the monastery include kung fu classes, which are offered every Monday from 7 to 8 p.m.; a class running through June 29 called "Studying the Buddha's Words," which meets from 9:30 a.m. through lunch on Saturdays; and periodic retreats and lectures. There is no fee for any of the activities, but visitors are invited to make a donation.
On Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 1 p.m., a vegetarian lunch is offered in the dining hall for a $6 suggested donation.
Info: 2020 Route 301, Carmel; 845-225-1445; www.baus.org; free
Hours: The monastery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April 1 to Jan. 1. The Woo Ju Memorial Library is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
For a more pampered getaway: Honor's Haven Resort and Spa in Ellenville
For those looking to find their calm in a more hotel-like setting, Honor's Haven Resort and Spa, set on 250 acres between the Catskill and Shawangunk Mountains, features 235 guest rooms, a cocktail lounge and night club, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a nine-hole golf course. Guests can hike through the vast wooded areas, wander through the tranquil flower garden and take in the crisp mountain air and awe-inspiring views.
The resort's EarthMind Wellness Center offers a Relax & Rejuvenate Getaway, which includes meditation sessions, breathing and other simple exercises to help guests become more aware of the mind-body connection. Rates run from $165 to $235 per night and pay for lodging, three buffet meals, a guided spring hike, use of the pool, wet and dry sauna, jacuzzi and fitness center, a yoga or tai chi class, an aura photo with consultation, instruction in the Yin & Yang Eating Method and a hot-and-cold shower for better circulation.
Another option is to take part in the holistic healing program, a six-day immersion that starts with an orientation about holistic life and goes on to focus on purification and detoxification of the organs, alignment of the body and mind and a private healing session ($1,950 all-inclusive for double occupancy; $2,200 single occupancy).
A customized Holistic Healing for Self-Renewal package is also available (for fewer days), and features lodging, three buffet-style meals and a private healing session ($400 per night for a double room; $550 per night for a single room).
Info: 1195 Arrowhead Rd., Ellenville; 877-969-4283; www.honorshaven.com
For traditional Zen training: Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper
Zen Mountain Monastery, which is located on 230 acres of forest preserve in the Catskill Mountains and bordered by the Beaverkill and Esopus Rivers, has a 150-person meditation hall, dining hall and guest quarters. The monastery allows first-time visitors only if they're partaking in introductory Zen instruction, which is offered Wednesday evenings, as Sunday sessions or as weekend retreats.
Wednesday's free sessions run from 7:30 to 9 p.m., and guests must call ahead. Sunday morning's activities start with a Buddhist liturgy service at 9 a.m., followed by meditation, a talk on the teachings of the Buddha and a community lunch, which is mostly vegan and gluten-free. Registration is not required; just show up and pay a $5 suggested donation.
In terms of weekend retreats, the most popular is the Introduction to Zen Training Retreat, which next takes place May 3-5. During the weekend, guests stay in gender-segregated, dorm-style accommodations and keep a monastic schedule, beginning and ending the day with zazen, or seated meditation ($250 per person).
All retreat participants train within The Eight Gates of Zen -- zazen, study with a teacher, academic study, liturgy, right action, art practice, body practice and work practice.
After partaking in an introductory session, guests can return for morning and evening meditation sessions.
Info: 871 Plank Rd., Mt. Tremper; 845-688-2228; zmm.mro.org
For families: Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush
Located on 80 acres in the Catskills, Blue Cliff Monastery is home to 26 monks and nuns practicing the art of mindful living under Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
The monastery is particularly child-friendly, with its July summer family retreat aimed at families with children ages 6 to 12. The monastery will also offer a Mother's Day retreat May 10-12 and a Father's Day retreat June 14-16.
Twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays, Blue Cliff conducts its "Days of Mindfulness," which starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends around 4 p.m. It includes either a live teaching by the Dharma teachers or a recorded teaching from its sister monastery, Plum Village, in France. Other activities include walking meditation, a formal lunch of vegan Vietnamese food and an afternoon discussion of the practice.
There is no cost for day participation, but donations are appreciated and advance registration is required.
Short-term guests, who stay in accommodations that range from tents to dorms, follow a schedule similar to the monastics. The goal is to teach visitors to take their meditation and carry it through talking, walking, working and discussion. Rates for a one-night stay in a dorm are $40 to $70 for adults, $30 for students and seniors and less for children.
Info: 3 Mindfulness Rd., Pine Bush; 845-733-4959; www.bluecliffmonastery.org
For more unstructured time: Vivekananda Retreat Ridgely in Stone Ridge
This retreat is housed on an 82-acre estate created by Francis Leggett, an entrepreneur who befriended Swami Vivekananda, a man largely considered to be the first of the Indian swamis to open doors for all the subsequent Indian teachers and yoga in America. Swami Vivekananda's special teaching was that each person is already divine, and the goal is to realize that every person has his or her own spiritual path. The retreat is open to followers of all traditions and religions.
Guests of Vivekananda can stay for a few hours, a few days or months.
Every day there are two formal meditation sessions -- from 6 to 7 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. -- that are open to the public, who must call at least one day in advance to reserve. The Manor House Shrine is also open for meditation from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
On Saturdays, classes are offered on meditation, another aspect of spiritual life or Indian scripture and philosophy from 10:30 a.m. to noon,
Day guests can attend meditation sessions for free, although donations are accepted. Overnight stays are $65 per night, $300 per week or $450 for two weeks, and include one vegetarian meal per day, plus access to a kitchen stocked with food for guests to make their own lunches and dinners. Most guests stay in single bedrooms with shared baths and kitchens within old Victorian-style houses, although guests can also stay in a shared room for a lesser fee.
Guests can structure their stays as they like, but there are also more structured retreats about once a month, including an upcoming session with swami Sarvadevananda, who will focus on practical spirituality May 10-12.
Info: 101 Leggett Rd., Stone Ridge; 845-687-4574; www.ridgely.org
For learning about Tibetan Buddhism: Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Buddhist Monastery in Woodstock
Built on Native American holy land, this Tibetan Buddhist Monastery is the North American seat of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyu lineage. The monastery was built with the goal of bringing Buddhism to the West (though members of all religions are welcome).
Located on a mountain, it feels a world away from center of Woodstock, although it's only about two miles from the town. Tours of the grounds are given at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and teachings -- the main draw for guests -- take place at various times on weekends, too, and focus on using Buddha's teachings in everyday life.
There are three meditation and prayer sessions open to the public each day -- at 5 a.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. -- and an introduction to meditation on Saturdays. All are free.
Guests can also stay for an overnight or multinight retreat, but need to call in advance to make an appointment. Three vegetarian meals are included per day with the overnight fee ($40 for dorm accommodations, $77 for a shared room and $96 for a private room).