The Southern Highlands in New South Wales has some lovely towns and beautiful gardens. Although it’s not commonly known as a spiritual destination, there’s plenty in the Southern Highlands to feed the soul. Here are two spiritual escapes.
Sunnataram Forest Monastery
Sunnataram Forest Monastery is a Theravada Buddhist monastery in a beautiful forest setting on the outskirts of Bundanoon (Bundanoon is best known for its Scottish Highland Gathering held in April each year).
The monastery sits on 40ha of bushland next to Morton National Park.
The grounds are decorated with statues of Buddha and Kwan Yin. The central piece is the Gratitude Pagoda, which is a Thai-style pagoda decked out with Buddha statues from around the world.
It’s a great way to see the different poses of statues from Laos, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
At the monastery, you can join a Buddhist workshop, take a short course or go on a meditation retreat. Day visitors can soak up the peaceful ambiance or pop in to hear an introductory talk.
The reflection of the pagoda in the pond is soothing for the soul.
Shanti Mission Harmony Centre
The Canyonleigh countryside is home to a Shanti Mission Harmony Centre, which is one of a collection of schools for the soul.
Positive vibes swirl around the hall on Sunday morning at a satsang (satsang means gathering of truth).
Shanti Mission Harmony Centres offer training and educational programs along with events and seminars. The system is based on a form of energetic healing called Ignite Your Spirit.
I attended a small session with 30 attendees, who sat with their eyes closed, hands held open with palms facing the ceiling.
Most were listening raptly to the spiritual healer, Savitur Dhanvantre, who led the group through positive affirmations and cleansing of negative thoughts. There was plenty of chanting and meditation.
Dhanvantre was dressed in a white flowing cotton tunic, a peacock-blue shawl draped across his shoulders and a chunky lapis lazuli necklace around his neck.
He looked a bit like an Indian spiritual healer.
The system is a blend of psychology and meditation peppered with various spiritual practices. Think Pranic Healing. Teachings draw from traditional religions and participants can pray to any god.
However, the podium is decorated with statues and wall hangings of deities from the world’s major religions.
A Buddha sits next to Kwan Yin and a statue of Christ. There are various Hindu idols.
Shanti Mission Harmony Centre was established by a woman called Kim Fraser (now known as Shakti Durga). Fraser swapped a stressful life as a barrister for a spiritual calling after studying various spiritual traditions.
Teachings focus on practical ways of dealing with day to day issues.
The satsang ends with individual energetic blessings and we take turns to kneel before Savitur Dhanvantre and friend Nityananda.