I spent two short days at Chithurst Forest Monastery last week, in southern England. Chithurst is named for the town it’s in, but its Pali name is Cittaviveka, which means seclusion of the mind. In other words, not being distracted by various things, even in the midst of them.
The monastery is also secluded physically, and is a quiet place in the midst of forests and fields. The buildings are mostly old cottages that originally were in terrible shape. When the monastery started, there were open areas in the roof, and the walls were in equal disrepair. Now you’d never guess, and the hard work of many monastics and lay supporters is very obvious. The grounds are beautiful. Chithurst has a cloister as well, with a garden in the middle and stone walls all around. The meditation hall has a palpable peaceful energy, with post and beam construction, tile floor, and a centered altar that focuses visual attention there. The adjacent forest; Hammer Wood, is peaceful and quiet. A great place to walk through or just stop and sit.
I found myself wishing I had planned more time there, but with monasteries, traveling by the seat of one’s pants doesn’t work very well. Gricel and I just barely got in to stay for the time we did, as the guest spaces fill up fast. I’m glad we were able to visit though. Perhaps the time will come when another visit transpires.
After we left Chithurst, the next day I headed north stopping briefly at Newcastle on Tyne. I spent the evening walking around the castle and the quay (riverside), which was lovely. The next day I headed to Harnham Monastery, but that’s another entry. I’m behind in posting, so I’ll add some pics of Newcastle here as well.