10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Has the snow and cold got you down? Cheer up: Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. From snowshoeing and swing dancing to bargain shopping, we’ve got ideas on how to defend yourself against the winter doldrums


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8. [Find Inner Peace]


meditationPhotograph by Mark Stout; courtesy of Shutterstock

If you ride the train between New Hamburg and Poughkeepsie and see a sudden flash of gold from the east, believe your eyes. You’ve just glimpsed the gold-leafed stupa of the Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery in Wappingers Falls, a meditation and retreat center just north of Bowdoin Park. This monumental structure — both a symbol of the mind of the Buddha and the states of meditation that lead to enlightenment — is the centerpiece of the seven-acre site, home to a resident community of ordained Buddhist monks and nuns.

But it’s also very much a public place, where international travelers find a haven and locals are welcome. On one rainy, chill Saturday morning, a group of students from a theology class at SUNY Purchase were visiting after staying the night and helping set up 1,000 ghee butter lamps for a ceremony that takes place every Saturday morning — quite a sight glittering in the gloom of a winter morning.

You could stay for an hour sitting in the Shrine Room, or a few days, sleeping overnight in the dormitory-style halls, or in a semiprivate or private room (reservations required). Serious aspirants complete retreats of three years, three months and three days to become lamas and perhaps go on to become ordained nuns and monks. But maybe you just want to start slow. Every Monday night there is a free public Introduction to Buddhist Meditation. It’s especially helpful, says Yeshe Palmo, an ordained Buddhist nun, for those whose feel “too busy” in their lives. “People get a foundation of calm. With consistent practice, you start to see the difference in yourself.”

Perhaps better known, the Zen Mountain Monastery across the river in Mt. Tremper also hosts retreats. They begin on Friday evening and end after lunch on Sunday, giving you a brief but activity-filled experience, complete with meditation instruction, chanting, and learning to work in silence — which is a lot harder than it sounds. (In fact, when we called, the soft-spoken woman on the phone had only a few minutes to talk before she had to return to silence again.) Expect mostly vegetarian meals and dormitory-style housing. Themed weekends focus on different aspects of Zen, whether through yoga or animal tracking in the winter landscape.

Farther south in Monroe, Ananda Ashram, run by the Yoga Society of New York, enables you to put together a sampler. Come for the daily hatha yoga or open Sanskrit language classes. Or spend the weekend doing yoga and sound meditations, attending readings and lectures, experiencing the meditation and fire ceremony — it’s all part of a menu of spiritual education designed to help you achieve a state of natural harmony and self-awareness. Vegetarian and vegan meals are available in dormitory-style housing.

If you want to chart your own course, ask your yoga teacher to put together a retreat at Sky Lake Lodge in Rosendale. Eighteen beds are available for groups, who can treat it as a bed and breakfast for their own purposes and simply do their own thing. For instance, hike on the site’s 18 acres (or head over to the nearby Mohonk Preserve). Alternatively, stay on a themed weekend in the contemplative arts: Ikebana (flower arranging), or learn kyudo, an ancient form of Japanese archery.

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