Wednesday, August 03, 2005

falling into a routine

19 June 2005

(happy father's day, dad!)

So much to write--the past couple of days have been a blur, looking back on them, but when I realize that I've only been here 4 days, I'm shocked. It has taken a while to get used to the rhythm of the day; I'm not 100% sure what's expected of me, but I really want to help out as much as needed and become an active part of this community. The language barrier has made figuring this out a little tricky, but things are working out alright--I try to hang out in the kitchen, where it's pretty obvious what needs to be done and what I can help with. (let's just say I've been doing a lot of dishes lately...which is quite nice--I'm reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh's Peace is Every Step.)

This morning we went for alms--such a neat experience. Venerable lead the procession, barefoot, followed by the 3 other ordained women and then the two lay ones (Sai and me). We walked silently, in a row, along the street, pausing at homes where people were waiting. Alms is important here for two reasons--as part of the Vinaya, bhikkunis seek alms because they are to rely on the lay; at the same time, however, alms is crucial for the lay because it gives them an opportunity to gain merit. Collected merit brings good fortune and positive karma, and thus, a positive rebirth.

It was such a beautiful thing to witness, the faith and devotion that the people shared. And we collected so much food too!!!! A really unique experience, and imagine--I was able to participate fully in it...

Today definitely feels like Sunday--the spread at breakfast and lunch was incredible!!!! So so so so good. At 10:30 we had the offering and chanting for the medicine buddha, followed by a dharma talk by Venerable. Today's activities are open to the public, so there were quite a few extra people in attendance for both the ceremony and the meal. This is a tradition started by the Ven. Grandmother, and it looks like there is a pretty strong group of regulars--makes me anxious to find a sangha of my one...this community is so precious and, again, I am reminded of how much I miss having it in my life.

It's funny--what this sangha is doing is pretty radical and poignant (even the name of the temple; it means, "place where women practice the dharma"), and it is clear in numerous examples--the bhikkunis themselves, the praises to the theris, the Home of Peace and Love. And yet, a lot of what goes on here is also fairly simple--chanting, cleaning, general community upkeep. It's nice; this is so genuine and at the same time, very powerful.

So anyway, I am happy here. My days are slow and full and wonderful, giving me time to read and write and talk with my new friends here. The rest of today should be pretty basic--garden work at 5, chants at 7, and then bedtime!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Wat Songdhammakalyani

16 June 2005

I cannot begin to describe how amazing an opportunity I have--this place is really something else, and it is a little unbelievable to think that I will be living here for almost 2 weeks. I am staying in a little room in one of the guesthouses, and it is very simple, but nice. My bed is little and wooden, with just a thin little comforter on top. The heat inside the room is almost oppressive, but with the fan going strong, the breeze is quite nice. This is such a warm and friendly environment, and I am eager to be surrounded by the women staying here.

Evening chants at 7:00, followed by meditation and group chat--feet are asleep, knees sore. The collective voices of the women are beautiful and I am honored to let my own sound blend in with theirs. Each woman takes turns leading each chant for the evening and morning sessions--this simple act of giving them voice is so powerful. This is empowerment, this is authority. And it is incredible that I am here to learn from it. Something really special is being made here, something that is changing the concept of "sangha" and traditional Buddhism.

Bedtime comes at 8:30, and I am happy to be falling asleep--tomorrow will be another full day.

First day in Thailand!

15 June 2005

very happy--today was a good day and tomorrow looks to be wonderful too. I think that's one of the best things about traveling; each day--hell, each moment in each day--has the potential to bring new experiences. I am happy to be here and to be blessed enough to be able to meet new challenges and opportunities.

After my language lesson (which was so helpful! at least i feel like i'm somewhat more competant!), I set off to explore Bangkok. I rode the skytrain for a while, stopping at various places and walking around. I've found that I'm enjoying this city much more than I thought I was going to--Delhi left me in such a state of shock that any big, foreign city now seems overwhelming and scary! But I am glad to be learning new things about myself and my own abilities--perhaps the greatest gift that comes with international travel. After my exploring, I went out for dinner with John and Tarn--sooooo good. I ate food I had never eaten before--such unique tastes and flavors. I am eager to try even more....

Tomorrow is more language tutoring and then I leave for the temple! I am so excited to be in the presence of such a great teacher, Dhammananda. And nuns!!! What could be better?!

I'm reminded how nice it is to be living simply again. To have only what I need, and to find great value in those possessions precisely because they each have a specific purpose. Each night I do my "laundry"--washing the shirt and underwear I wore that day. And it's such a simple act, but always feels so good. I mean, I know it sounds silly, but there is deep meaning in those little daily tasks, and when we become mindful in the "doing" of those actions, it feels so beautifully whole. I must learn to bring that into my life more fully--

I think that's about it for now. Very content, but also excited for more adventures.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

first entry!

Not too much to share for right now--I leave on Monday and I'm quite anxious to get myself back over on the other side of the world. The past month has been a luxury thanks to the fact that I have not been working; this has allowed for spending lots of time with family and friends, preparing for this trip...and a whole lot of relaxing. It has been quite nice.

My brother graduates from high school tomorrow morning! I'm so proud for him!

More to come--