Stu's Inn and pavillion at Old Stone Farm

The stunning grounds at Old Stone Farm, Rhinebeck’s new, luxurious yoga and equestrian retreat

Earlier this summer an idea came to me and I announced it on our porch to our family. “Dad and I are having a vow renewal this summer, can everyone be there?” All agreed, and plans were underway. Since the ceremony was going to be in Rhinebeck at Old Stone Farm, I thought, there had to be a monastery with monks in the area who could officiate.

I ran the plans by Waddy Francis, the General Manager at Old Stone Farm, and he said he’d be happy to have it there, and so Jeff was assigned to give us a hand. (I had known Waddy a few years back and done some travel PR for the property he managed before coming to Rhinebeck, Glasbern Inn, located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

Jeff took on the task of finding a monk to officiate, and he was able to locate a Tibetan Lama at the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, in Woodstock, Lama Thendrup. He arranged for us to go visit with the Lama and his Abbott, in order to review the ceremony and discuss how they’d like to organize it.

Meeting the Lama and Abbott

So we drove up on a Thursday before the Saturday of the celebration, and were ushered into a conference room. The ashram looked like it had been transplanted from Tibet on a hilltop in New York State, and Linda, the administrator there, introduced us to a monk on a ladder painting. He was the original monk to design and construct the property in the 1970s.

Clearly a visionary, he was one of two monks sent by his master to New York City, penniless. They wandered the streets, slept on park benches, and ate out of garbage cans, until some kind soul took them in. Slowly, people began gathering around them to hear about Buddhism, and donations were made.

This hilltop was deemed an auspicious site, as it was for us recently when we stopped in to visit with the Lama. He was warm and gracious, and there was some intense bowing going on, back and forth, as to whom would enter the conference room first. The Lama and Abbott shook our hands, unlike the monks in Thailand and other places in Asia where they are not permitted to touch women. These monks had quickly adapted to Western customs, and interestingly, the Lama had only come to the States two months ago, after living in India.

I had copied our vows from our wedding ceremony 32 years ago, and David and I had revised them a bit, giving the Lama some places to read and say what he wished. The Abbott carefully indicated to the Lama where he was supposed to speak, and Linda acted as an interpreter, less for language and more for content. I asked a question when we were finished reviewing the ceremony, regarding the bardos, as I had read the Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying, and the Lama launched into a lengthy but extremely clear and fascinating explanation.

If you go up to Rhinebeck, I can’t urge you enough to head over to this sacred place. I’ve been to India many times, visited many Tibetan temples, and the shrines in this one were among the most sacred places I have ever set foot. I am going back in September for a retreat. Linda, who had been a Professor of Asian Studies, was extremely informative, and expounded on the various meanings behind the objects – she knew her lineages, that’s for sure.

Where to have the Vow Renewal

Lama and Abbott were very specific about exactly what they needed in terms of a table and where the chairs should be placed. So, when the evening came, Jeff set it all up exactly as agreed. However, when we were all assembled, and the car drove up the dirt drive around the expanse of the meadows and grazing horses at Old Stone Farm — a spectacular setting not unlike the one I had our wedding at many years ago — we all felt an intense energy and our hearts opening. And when they came down the trellised walkway to the pavilion, we all broke out into huge grins. It was darshan we were feeling – the presence of being with the holy.

Immediately, they decided to re-orient the chairs and table, and carefully placed their instruments and holy objects on the table. (The Lama is very clear and forceful about everything, including objects on the physical plane.) Chris, who lives at the monastery, had driven them down, sat behind them, and lent a certain distinguished air to the entourage – plus he had his iphone. Like all Asians, the monks insisted on a family picture after the ceremony, with them, of course, since they were going to be a part of our clan soon, and Chris snapped a few masterful shots in the late afternoon light. More on that later…

The Ceremony

Earlier that afternoon, I asked Jeff it was OK if I picked some flowers for bouquets, and as usual, he said that would be fine. (Everyone is pretty laid back at Old Stone Farm, although somehow everything runs very smoothly, a testament to Waddy’s management, no doubt.) So as we were staying in the guesthouse, there was a stream in front with beautiful sweet peas and wild white roses growing. Outside the picket fence were white buddleia, something I’ve never seen before.

I had brought purple ribbon with pink dots and made small arrangements for my two daughters and the two monks, which now awaited on the kitchen table. Once we were all dressed, we strolled over to the pavilion, and took our places. After we all settled in with the monks, they began playing their pujas, which set a mood of solemnity to the occasion.

Lama Thendrup said a few words, about the importance and meaning of the day, and we began the vows. Halfway through, they did another blessing, and then David asked Sam to play “Wedding Song,” which he had written for our daughter and now son-in-law, and sang on their wedding day almost a year ago. We all sat still and transfixed with emotion. (Luckily, Lizzie, our eldest, had some tissues on hand for me!)

We said our vows, exchanged rings, and then came the final blessing. We had purchased white silk scarves at the gift shop for the monks to put over us. And they gave us little seeds of some kind, which we took to ward off illness, and obstacles. They had been blessed by none other than the Dalai Lama himself! Then they poured a bit of saffron water in our cupped hands, which we took a sip of, then sprinkled on our heads.

Afterwards we had a toast – with water, the Champagne came later – and we all stood in a circle while we said a few words. It was magical.

They gathered their belongings, the Lama with his maroon backpack to match his robes, and off they went – it was all like a dream, but at the same time all too real.

Right before they left, we gathered for a “family picture,” and we all look blissful. What a day. The setting was sublime. Afterwards we had a toast with our family, and Jeff and Becky brought out a board of cheese and crackers, and we all celebrated the moment. Then we adjourned for a delicious dinner prepared by Chef Matt.

We will never forget that evening at Old Stone Farm, commemorated by the photos, which we are sharing in this blog.

My advice to you, dear reader? Plan a stay at Old Stone Farm – you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you won’t want to leave. We didn’t!