Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Himalayan viewing

The Himalayan mountains are unquestionably one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Do an image search and you'll find snow-capped peaks, the sun rising over Mount Everest, stone temples built right into hillsides, and gigantic hairy Tibetan mastiffs and yaks that have evolved to survive in this region, the highest on Earth.

The 2011 film Embrace, part of last year's Museum of Modern Art Contemporary Asian Film series, was shown last week at the Tibetan Center in Kingston. It features heavenly landscapes, swiftly moving clouds, and the lives and traditions of the Himalayan region.

The Center's website describes the film: "Embrace documents the ritualized relationship with the environment of a community engaged in tantric, rarely-seen practices. Engaging the deities of local mountains and the spirits of water and weather, a father and son share their yogic understanding of their environment as a reflection of consciousness-in-place." 

Last year I saw another film at the Tibetan Center, The Shadow Circus, about the CIA's presence in Tibet during the code-named ST CIRCUS in the mid-1950s until 1969. It was one of the CIA's longest running operations in which they financed, armed, and trained Tibetan guerillas to fight against invading Communist China. It was a cool surprise to find the director present to answer questions after the film.

You can find a list of the Center's upcoming films on their website. They ask for an $8 donation to share in the experience and free iced tea and popcorn, which I think is more than fair.

Embrace trailer:
The Tibetan Center:

Monday, April 13, 2015

Short trip

Tibet is about 7,400 miles from the Hudson Valley but fear not, you can have a Tibetan experience right here in Kingston. A trip to this country which borders the snow-capped Himalayas is a once in a lifetime experience for most, but the culture is alive at the Tibetan Center with its film screenings, musical performances, an ongoing photography display, and classes on meditation and Buddhism.

The center focuses on raising awareness of Tibet's rich culture and ongoing political issues. Tibet is an autonomous region within China and there is much publicity about China's human rights violations, citing the destruction of temples and forced settling of nomads. The Center is supported in part by proceeds from the gift shop and a thrift shop on the bottom floor.

The photography exhibit is open daily. It features images of monasteries that have been destroyed, protestors in action, and refugees fleeing the homeland. Other walls display children laughing and elders carrying out ancient rituals. In the center is a glass-covered sand mandala featuring Chenrezig, the Buddhist deity of compassion.

The Tibetan Plateau is the highest region on Earth and the area borders Mount Everest. Many Tibetan crafts and cards feature the colorful prayer flags that wave from the region's mountain tops. The gift shop sells lengths of flags in a bunch of sizes, so after exploring the exhibit you can take a bit of Tibet home as you leave.

The Tibetan Center:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015



I have a cell phone with no GPS, so when I get lost I must ask real people for directions. Today I was on Route 208 in Walden and couldn't find my street so I turned into Shanti Mandir and went in the reception building. I definitely got more than just directions.


Shanti Mandir has roots in Hinduism. There are three ashrams- in Magod and Kankhal in India, and this one in Walden. The property covers almost 300 acres and offers yoga classes, workshops, teacher training, concerts, and more.

Followers have a charitable focus including a women-empowerment program, a mobile medical clinic with free services for those near the temple in Magod, and eye camps to restore sight to those blinded by cataracts.

I got a tour from a resident, also named Shanti, who took me through the ashram and to the garden set on a portion of the property. The garden lies alongside the Walden-Wallkill rail trail, a popular attraction for walkers and bicyclists. Just in time for spring, an old barn on the property is currently being renovated into living space for guests.

You don't have to be Hindu to visit or participate at Shanti Mandir. All are welcome and there's plenty to see and learn. "With great respect and love, a heartfelt welcome to everyone." -Baba Muktananda

Shanti Mandir Temple of Peace:
Walden-Wallkill Rail Trail:


Friday, April 3, 2015

Molten colors

The things made from the material we know as glass can be functional, decorative, both, or neither. Whether you like it in the shape of an autumn pumpkin, or twisting into a spiral and holding live plants, or simply sitting by the sink seating a bar of soap, you'll find that and more at Hudson Beach Glass.

The company's gallery and glass blowing demonstration studio are open to the pubic in a restored firehouse on Main Street in Beacon. Visitors can enter through the two-room gallery or around the side into the studio. The furnace, with a working temperature of 2050 degrees, keeps the studio toasty but comfortable, and you can view every step in the creative process in the studio's open area.

A display in the studio gives visitors some interesting facts about glass-making. Most of us know that glass is made from sand. Can you believe finished pieces take at least 12 hours to cool? Or that all tools are made from stainless steel or wood which are poor conductors of heat? The gallery offers jewelry, plates, soap dishes, candle holders, and you can find a schedule on classes on the website.

Though the studio is open every day, a good time to visit might be during the City's regular Second Saturday event. This city-wide celebration of the arts happens on the second Saturday of every month and visitors can enjoy events and music as galleries, shops, and restaurants stay open until 9pm.

Hudson Beach Glass:
Second Saturday: