Things got a little hectic at the end of last week and have just been really looking up in terms of finding a proper schedule/work ethic and lack of work ethic that is keeping me sane at Vassar.
Everything stems from my recent trip to the Tibetan Monastery in Walden.
I ran around like a mad woman after jumping on the chance to visit the monastery for a weekend through the office of field work here at Vassar. Craziest thing, I'm getting a half credit for spending time learning about Buddhism in it's natural setting (I mean, as natural as it gets in the US).
It's an unassuming little place tucked in a semi-rural neighborhood of Walden, NY-- 45 minutes on the other side of the Hudson from Vassar. Tsechen Kunchab Ling used to be an old hotel which, I imagine, was much like a bed & breakfast. Three monks live there, Ani, Llama Kalsang and another llama who I only saw when he was coming to or from prayer that he performed in the early morning and evening times alone in the shrine room with the screens shut between him and the gathering room we occupied. Thupa, the brother of llama kalsang, was a master stone carver who has been making prayer stones for most of his life.
Ani was an American white woman who became a Buddhist nun in her middle age after studying psychology. Her grandfather was a cooper for Vassar brewery before moving to Chicago. Funny how things are interconnected.
side note- Ani is her given buddhist name. I don't know what her original name was.
Only Ani and Llama Kalsang spoke English. The elderly llama and Thupa only spoke Tibetan but knew things like "Thank You" and "hello". Thupa helped a lot around the house and with cooking so he could understand little things from interacting with so many English speakers. Ani could also speak Tibetan and was eager to teach us small phrases.
For the first time, I felt like I reached meditation. Most of the time, my mind is so scattered that I can't focus enough to truly meditate. Being in a place of tranquility allowed me to find a sort of clarity that Vassar does not allow. I was able to take the time to notice the subtler aspects of life- sound especially. Vassar is such a fast paced community that it doesn't allow you time to experience your environment completely. I guess this goes back to how I've been feeling lately about not being given time to fully contemplate the information we are supposed to be learning and forming opinions about.
Harrison helped me hang the prayer flags I made in the trees that are outside my bedroom window. I watch them ripple in the wind, carrying my prayers over the land.
I'm trying to maintain the composure I've attained while being away. One of the guys that went on the trip, Abby, and I were talking about how friends have said we seem different. Harrison said detached but it definitely isn't that.