Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid stress, even while staying in the Hamptons. There is, however, a place where Hamptonites can easily de-stress: the Vajravarahi Buddhist Meditation Center on Hampton Street (Route 114) in Sag Harbor. Buddhists, non-Buddhists, children and even dogs are welcome to meditate at the center, which offers an array of classes and events to help anyone cultivate a healthy mind and a pure heart.
Three years ago, the meditation center moved from Hampton Bays to the current Sag Harbor site. “We’re just in a great location,” says Nina Ross, a meditation guide and active member of the center, noting that moving to Sag Harbor allowed the meditation center to reach out to people further east, and they now have people coming from across the Island.
The Sag Harbor location is also within walking distance of the beach. Meditation classes are scheduled around ideal beach times, and beach snacks are available for purchase in the new tea house. Now there’s no excuse not to meditate this summer. Ross says if you think you’re too busy to meditate, “you need to meditate more.”
Followers of other faiths can incorporate elements of Buddhism into their own traditions. Alfred Tuff, the administrator of the meditation center, says that Buddhist meditation is not about preaching Buddhism. It is a path toward happiness and “seeing things as they are.”
Rossexplains, “In general spiritual teachings, someone will say ‘Go get happy. Go get happy and then things will fall into place.’ But what Buddha is saying is, ‘Ok get happy, yes. But here is how you do it.” Meditation guides at the center will show visitors what to do, helping them manage anger and develop patience.
The benefits of meditation can be physical, too. Ross says she sees elderly and ill visitors, even some undergoing chemotherapy, continuously return to the center to relieve themselves of some of the pain they feel. For everyone else, there’s a common problem they can fix: stress. Visitors say they feel more relaxed and energized after even a short meditation session. Asked if she has seen a change in her visitors’ stress levels since coming to the center, Ross confidently replies, “absolutely!”
One of the easiest ways to manage stress through meditation is with the lunch time guided meditation class. Weekdays from 12:15–12:45 p.m., visitors can take a lunch break to stop by the center for 30 minutes of concentrated breathing with closed eyes. Afterward, “You notice that the rest of your day is a lot better,” comments Alice, a regular visitor at the center.
While the guided meditation class focuses on breath and neutrality, other classes go more in-depth with Buddhist teachings. The center also offers prayer services for lost loved ones and pets, anger management workshops and potluck dinners. And residents of the North Fork should look out for their outreach sessions in Riverhead and Greenport.
The newest event at the Vajravarahi Buddhist Meditation Center is the Friday evening Sunset Parties. From 6:30–9:30 p.m., anyone can come to the center to talk to other members of the community and even play a game of croquet. Snacks and soft beverages, including coffee from Java Nation, are offered in the tea house, and meals from Vegan Monkey are served. The event is free and runs until Labor Day.
Perhaps the most incredible feature of the meditation center is the accessibility. Not only are they open seven days week and all year long, but they’re also open 24 hours. Anyone can come at any time, even outside of scheduled classes, to enjoy the quiet or use the center’s computer, guided meditation CDs and bookstore to aid their individual meditation.
The Vajravarahi Buddhist Meditation Center is located at 112 Hampton Street in Sag Harbor. For more info call 631-728-5700 or visit hamptonsmeditation.org.