Located off of River Road in Poolesville, Md, the 65-acre Peace Park offers a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The heavily wooded garden property is composed of a series of rambling walking paths leading to quiet, meditative spaces and magnificent stupas, symbols of Buddhist enlightenment. A recent fall visit to the park provided an afternoon of restful reflection midst brilliant autumn foliage and the rustling sounds of woodland wildlife.
Visitors enter the Peace Park by climbing up a short wooden staircase from River Road. At the top of the rise is a small clearing with a park map and information on the varied wildlife. Three distinct walking paths, thickly carpeted with fallen leaves and tiny patches of green, stretch tantalizingly out of sight in opposite directions. Overhead, multi-colored translucent prayer flags, strung between old black oaks, flap softly in the wind. To the right, the trail descends quickly downwards, crisscrossing a small streambed over a series of arched wooden bridges. To the left, the trail ascends upwards, flanking a large open field and providing access to a sheltered meditation garden.
The central of the three walking paths leads to the focal point of the park, the golden Migyur Dorje Stupa. Rising 35 feet out of a grassy clearing, the large yellow stupa contains relics of the 17th century teacher Migyur Dorje and is believed to be a site for miraculous healing. The open hilltop space is warm and inviting, surrounded by tall black oaks and dusty green cedars. Rough-hewn granite benches, placed at discreet distances from the stupa, offer quiet places for contemplation. It is customary to walk clockwise around the stupa while offering prayers and well wishes for all those who are suffering, as well as to leave small offerings of food on the altar base.
In the thickly wooded area surrounding the Migyur Dorje Stupa are five other smaller stupas. Sheltered in tiny meditation gardens located at the four points of the compass and at the center of the park, each is decorated with aged-bronze prayer wheels, stone obelisques with crystals and colorful prayer flags. Considered the metaphysical center of the property, the White Garden is accessed by crossing a tiny creek over a graceful arching bridge. In the western direction, the Red Garden symbolizes wisdom, while at the southern point, the Yellow Garden is dedicated to generosity and the purification of pride. In the rear of the Peace Park are the Green and Blue Gardens, symbolizing purification of envy and jealousy and mirror wisdom, or the quality of the imperturbable mind. The Blue Garden, reached by a steep woodland trail, is the highest point in the park.
After a short climb back up the northern side of the property, the visitor is rewarded with an unobstructed view across an expansive green meadow, the sudden appearance of sunlight reflecting like diamond shards off the dried-up leaves. A short left turn brings you to the Stupa Garden, a serene and meditative space comprised of a large yellow stupa surrounded by four smaller monuments on a flagstone terrace. As in every other area of the garden, silence predominates, occasionally interrupted by the whistling of wind through the dry leaves or the high-pitched chirp of late summer crickets.
Complete your walk by heading out up the meadow path and left to complete the loop back to the original small entrance clearing. If you’re still looking for more, the Kunzang Palyul Choling (KPC) Temple is located right across the street and offers a 24-hour spiritual refuge for quiet contemplation.
The Peace Park is located at 18400 River Rd., Poolesville, MD 20837. The park is open from dawn to dusk.