After lunch I rally stray efforts. I steady myself to pull on a months-old pair of blown out running shoes – not bothering to undo and retie the double knots. My feet and legs escort me in a jarring cantor down the hill, and after ten minutes, my confusion subsides. As usual, I can start to feel my lungs again and so make my way in the direction of the lake..
The beach is a special place for me. Looking at the birds and on the water’s surface I forget that the morning existed – watching the sky expressed upon the undulations of the lake surface, witnessing that multitude of direction.
I’ve been trying for awhile now to figure out a a way to express to friends and family my rational for staying here. Choosing to live this lifestyle – well, I’ve made a bunch of sacrifices – big ones. Theres little room in the day, for instance, even to share the rationale for that decision with with the people who helped me become an adult.
A stupid starting point – I once remember talking to my life about some of the relative oddities and phenomena that happen to your perception when you live a life where you’re mind learns to find satisfaction outside of changing conditions. Walking around in this structured life, you literally learn how to forget the step that led you to taking this one; meditating all day, you simply can’t remember. This may sound strange but you can’t remember a lot of things: like who you are and you start to understand knowing information as a memory. When you take your mind off of that memory and into the present moment, you find that there is enough there to sustain and live by – there’s an awe from this direct experience.
I remember sticking my hand out the window, of a moving highway car ride last autumn toward the end of three months in silence – watching it sail through the 60 mph wind and thinking to myself, what a beautiful hand, that hand must belong to a beautiful person; and what a beautiful person, to have such a beautiful hand.There’s an assumption about practice of meditation in the West – that meditation is something that happens independently of our lives. People in the west tend to think of meditation as some special thing. When one goes to a monastery, even if you’re attempting to, you inevitably aren’t escaping your life – you’re actually constraining yourself to face what we all struggle with in life. Coming into a structure like this, there’s no space left unaccounted for, it’s set up to train you 24/7, and residents are expected to live in such a way where every thought, action and word accords with your goal of clarifying your mind.
People come to monasteries to die – that’s it, we die – we die outside of monasteries and in monasteries – and when we die, when our body dies, what’s actually happening is that the pattern, the illusion that there was something about this body that was fixed, finally falls away – this can happen as the body dies, or it can happen before the body dies – it’s actually happening all the time, but to live a life based on that, to maintain a living understanding of that miracle that it is to be alive – that is the reason for the space a monastery affords.
There’s an old saying that “In monasteries the days pass like months, and the months pass like days.” Earlier today, one of my friends asked, “well how do the years pass.” Time looks differently when it isn’t structured around gain and loss – there’s a shift that happens when you’re excited to and motivated enough, willing enough to just let the day happen – the day becomes long. The time it takes to walk from your dormitory to the meditation hall becomes like a day outing – the act of moving your body becomes a tool – you start to wonder – what is this tool’s application?
Because people in monasteries are cultivating a clearer and clearer experience, they often start to think about death and the value of their lives – before I started training, I never thought about death and so I thought I had a long time to live- after starting training I saw how clearly life is passing now.At the age of twenty-four, there is still the grain and drive within me of a young man that likes to get his hands dirty, his knees scraped and finish an afternoon in th[/su_dropcap]e outdoors with numb appendages – for all intents and purposes, this is why I can say I love the outdoors and the intensity of living a life of training. We have a couple hours of unstructured time set aside each day and I almost never pass up the opportunity to go running – it’s so visceral, so apparent that your body is so delicate, so ephemeral, so precious in the wind, in the cold and misting air.
Living in monastery, time slows down – I haven’t the slightest idea about the ontology of this but a meal that lasts twenty minutes is hours long, and at the end of the day – reflecting back, it literally feels as if I’ve wandered through a mountain range of distances at a scale that allows time within a day to meet the aspirations of a year. Running, each footstep concludes like a good book – that same satisfaction – that same relief as on the last day of school or the completion of some long term goal is there: the same self confidence – the feeling “Oh, I can trust myself.”
If this experience sounds appealing – know that it is my own experience – please discover for yourself what can’t be described in words – check out our residential program, and consider filling out an application to see if this is where that adventure awaits you.