BATESVILLE, Miss. — Did you know there is a monastery right here in the Mid-South, attracting people from all over the world?
Tucked away in Panola County, Mississippi, about an hour and 15 minutes outside of Memphis, is a place of peace, a compassionate community where they start the day spending the morning in silence with their feet kissing the earth as the birds wake up.
"Just bringing our focus back to the feet, the Earth, the body and our surroundings," explained Sister Tri Nghiem.
This is Magnolia Grove Monastery.
"If you're looking for money this is not a place for you," said Binh Ho, one of the monastery's co-founders. "But if you're looking for peace, if you're looking to relieve a stress, this is the place for you."
Twenty-eight monastics, brothers and sisters, live at the monastery. It's is also a meditation practice center.
WREG was there for an Order of Interbeing retreat with those practicing the teachings of world-renowned spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and Zen Master known to those at the retreat as Thay, which is Vietnamese for teacher.
Thay's Nobel Peace Prize nomination came from none other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The two established a relationship during their protest of the Vietnam war.
"They had the same vision of a beloved community. In a world of people who can live in harmony," said Sister Peace, who lives at the monastery.
Magnolia Grove monastery became a mindfulness practice center in 2005.
The more than 100 acres are home to monastics who farm most of their own food, but it can also host more than 100 people in guesthouses built by hand.
"We have seen mindfulness and meditation in New York and California, and to see it in Mississippi, that is something special," Sister True Pearl said.
Sister True Pearl, 35, lives here.
"My family left Vietnam when I was 11 and we moved to Memphis, Tennessee and I went to Kingsbury High School," she said.
She went to college, and in 2004 visited a monastery in California.
"I saw the simplicity of the way of living and I found out that simplicity can lead to happiness, which is something that is not commonly shared in America," she said. "(In America) You must have a lot in order for you to be happy and well I didn't see that in the monastics. The monastics didn't have a lot but they were so happy. I could see it in their eyes, I could see it in their smiles and so I wanted to have that."
Dr. Leslie Gordon calls Magnolia Grove "his second home." The retired dentist lives in Memphis, but visits the monastery twice a month.
"There's a lot of xenophobia going around right now and people are afraid to reach out to people that aren't in their comfort zone," Gordon said. "When you come here for retreat it doesn't make any difference if you're Buddhist or Catholic or if you study Islam."
Monastics we spoke with say people visit the monastery from all over the world.
"When our minds worry, our bodies kind of tire too. So you need to balance it out," Binh Ho explained.
Sister Tri Nghiem also lives at the monastery. Here, she says, they have "a lot of unlearning to do."
"So recognizing those sort of habit energies within us, letting it go, and to do that, we practice stopping," she said — stopping the running, stopping the thinking mind that is racing.
That reminder of balance comes in a simple form like a bell. The bell sounds during activities and every 15 minutes in the dining hall.
"We just stop what we're doing, and we come back and breathe and relax, so it's like a little mini-holiday and we just check in," Sister Tri Nghiem explained.
They practice being mindful.
"Mindfulness is very simply the capacity to be aware and to be conscious. Very succinctly. Easier said than done, but doable," said Sister Peace.
But a day at the monastery is not all silent. Peace and positivity are also spread through song and Dharma talks.
"Inspirational talks like this, plant positive seeds inside of us. Seeds of love and forgiveness, seeds of understanding. There's no violence," explained Sister True Pearl.
Those here have a bigger purpose to channel positive energy to others, not living a life of selfishness, and recognizing the good in the simpler things in our lives.
"Don't seek for happiness. Happiness is here. We just have to open our eyes and see it," said Sister True Pearl.
It's a message they encourage everyone to embrace, and the monastery welcomes and encourages people from all backgrounds to visit.
To learn more click here https://magnoliagrovemonastery.org/