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Buddhists nuns and volunteers forging new frontier of monastery’s acreage

Buddhist nuns and volunteers at the Buddha Mind Monastery are creating a walking meditation trail along the religious center’s expansive east Oklahoma City site

With the pioneering spirit of their adopted state, a group of Buddhist nuns is forging a path through a new frontier.

That untamed land is right outside their doors at the Buddha Mind Monastery, 5916 S Anderson Road.

The nuns and a determined group of volunteers are creating a walking meditation trail throughout and along the perimeter of the monastery’s sprawling 40 acres in far east Oklahoma City.

Jian Jian Shih, a nun at the monastery, said the new trail is the first of many changes at the site. Dirtwork also has begun on a new monastery building.

Buddha Mind Monastery is a Zen Buddhist community. It is an affiliate of the Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Taiwan, and there are nine American branches, Shih said.

She said several people who attend the monastery’s classes and…

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other events brought up the idea of a walking trail last fall when she arrived from a sister monastery in California. Shih, a native of Taiwan, said she liked the idea and began the project with some volunteers one Saturday in September.The group, which includes Marilyn Wetmore, Mei Siu and Ken Cates, continues to meet Saturday mornings to clear brush and debris to craft the winding trail. The volunteers work on the pathway project even on some chilly, blustery days, as long as the sun is out.
“Every Saturday, people come here to do a little bit and a little bit,” she said.

Shih, 36, said walkers will eventually be able to explore the nature-filled trail and rest on several benches that will be provided and maybe even sit for meditation at a planned gazebo. Shih said volunteers have become very ambitious now that they can see the fruits of their labor becoming a recognizable trail. She laughed as she said they were working tirelessly one weekend with a borrowed tractor when one gung-ho volunteer came up with the idea of adding a pond.

“I believe where there is a will, there is way,” she said, smiling. “We still have much work to do.”

She said some students from Oklahoma City University’s religious studies program came out to help at one point.

Meanwhile, Shih said the monastery’s classes continue to draw people from all walks of life.

The monastery’s abbess, Jian Mao, is in Taiwan for a visit.

A different meditation

Siu, a Hong Kong native who lives in Norman, said she anticipates the trail’s completion.
She said just working on the project has allowed her to enjoy nature, and she is inspired by walking meditation.
“I can come here three times a week, and even though it is rough now, I feel inspired,” Siu said of the trail. “I’m excited that it will be done soon.”
Shih said meditation classes in which the participants sit are offered at the monastery. She said the leaders of these classes often encourage attendees to do walking meditation to get their blood circulating and as another form of relaxation.
She said walking meditation helps bring one’s focus within.
“You just focus on the step you are stepping,” she said.
“There is a Buddhist verse that says, ‘When in action, perfect action.’ When at rest, rest all thoughts so our minds can meditate when we are walking. We have to focus on the present.”
Wetmore, of Choctaw, said much of Buddhism is about quieting one’s mind “and letting go of the busy mind.”
“This might be a good place to quiet the mind and study,” she said of the trail.
Wetmore said the trail project has done much to bring the small community of Buddhists together. She and Shih said between 75 and 100 people from the metro area attend classes and events at the monastery, and the project has helped them unify.
“It’s as much about community and fellowship,” Wetmore said.

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