Reflection for everyone
Meditation garden to offer Secaucus serenity
by Adriana Rambay Fernández
Reporter staff writer
Aug 21, 2011 | 5128 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
VIEW FROM THE GARDEN – The planned meditation garden behind the Secaucus Recreation Center offers view of Mill Creek and New York City in the distance.
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People seeking an escape from their busy lives will soon find refuge in a grassy stretch of land hidden behind the Secaucus Recreation Center that the town plans to transform into a meditation garden.

“We were always looking for a quiet space for people to go,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “There really was no dedicated place.”

The beauty of the space, with a flowing creek nearby, native maple trees, views of the city and location next to the Rec Center made it ideal for an outdoor classroom. The natural, quiet setting where Gonnelli once spotted a bald eagle inspired the mayor, who came up with the idea.


“It is a hidden gem.” – Ashok Lalwani


“When we are in a busy metropolitan area, we are always on the go, so our adrenaline is always continuously being exerted,” said April Daly, who has led a series of outdoor Tai Chi classes in Schmidt’s Woods over the last two summers. She said the garden offers residents a chance to connect with others and build a more healthy community.

Becoming centered

The designs for the garden include a labyrinth-like 40-foot circular structure surrounded by a flower bed planted with summer blooming perennials, eight new flowering trees, and additional planting beds filled with mophead hydrangeas. Weeds and brush will be cleared from the water’s edge to create an undisturbed view of the creek while shade trees will be planted along the borders of the circle. The town will also install wooden benches and a water feature, possibly a fountain.

At the center of the circle, brick pavers provide a smooth, flat-level surface for outdoor classes such as yoga, meditation and Tai Chi. Interest in outdoor movement classes has been growing in Secaucus, with 25 to 30 residents regularly attending Daly’s Tai Chi classes. Daly plans to open her own non-profit holistic healing and wellness center, and envisions leading early-morning meditations and breath work in the garden.

“When we feel each other’s energy, it opens up creativity,” she said. “Tai Chi is built on that everything is energy. When we take in the trees, [the] bird sounds, we take in those vibrations and they help to heal us and create new health.”

Convening community with nature

The outdoor classroom space will complement the Recreation Center’s activities. The town envisions members going for a swim inside and then perhaps taking a yoga class outside. While the garden will provide space for outdoor movement, it will also serve as a place of tranquility, peace, and reflection. Gonnelli stressed that any individual regardless of denomination is welcome to visit the garden to seek solitude, meditate, pray or reflect.

“It will be a bridge for the diverse community that lives in Secaucus – a bridge for everyone to begin to come together and embrace each other,” said Daly.

Building awareness

So far, $13,000 has been raised privately for the project, estimated to cost between $40,000 to $75,000. The project will take place in phases as the town finds more donors. Contributors like Ashok Lalwani, resident of Secaucus for more than 30 years, gave $5,000 with a purpose.

“It is a hidden gem…something the Secaucus residents will have for a lifetime. In our case, we say we did something that my dad and the Sadhu Vaswani Center stand for. My dad was a very reflective, meditative person,” said Lalwani, who gave on behalf of the Sadhu Vaswani Center in Closter to honor his father, Situ A. Lalwani, who passed away five years ago Aug. 16.

Situ established roots in Secaucus in 1989. Last Thursday, relatives and family that had just flown in from India gathered to bless the site on the anniversary of his passing.

“He always stressed the importance of reflection and thoughtfulness and doing everything with intention,” said grandson Manav.

The town plans to use in-house labor to keep costs down on natural landscaping and has received donations of wooden benches and large rocks. A shady-tree planting program grant covers the cost of Black Locust trees recently planted along the perimeter.

A pocket of peace

At sunset, shadows form on the city buildings in the distance while snowy egrets perch on sandy, dirt hills in Mill creek during low tide. While trees and insects abound in the natural setting, the view of the New York City skyline serves as a reminder that the urban hustle and bustle is not too far away but that is what Manav Lalwani finds unique about the garden space.

“What I love is that you have nature surrounded by New York City,” said Manav. “[My grandfather] lived in the real world. He was a businessman, had a family. He had an all pervading inner sense of peace in the middle of a real world.”

Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at

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