People I meet almost invariably remark, sometimes with a hint of wistfulness, how quiet and peaceful it must be to live at a Buddhist monastery. Not at all, I assure them—on the contrary!
As explained in the introduction, I got permission at the beginning of my three-year Tibetan Buddhist retreat to keep in touch with the New Hampshire sangha by means of a monthly letter that would be posted on their website. When I was in retreat, I didn’t think of it as a “blog.” I just wrote a new “post” every once in a while (once a month for most of Year 1, much more sporadically as retreat progressed), mailed it to Arlo/Orlan, and never saw the result. I added my retreat graduation speech last spring and occasionally thought about continuing….but I wanted to reorganize the whole thing and it just seemed too complicated and amorphous, like a lot of things immediately following three years of one-thing-at-a-time. Plus life is very busy at the monastery!
A few years ago, during one of Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s visits to New Hampshire, he gave a public talk at the Unitarian Church in Portsmouth on the topic of how to be happy. The gist of his advice was this: in all our relationships, especially with those closest to us, always focus on the person’s good qualities and their kindness, and never think about their flaws and misdeeds.
As usual, the Buddha’s solution to our problem is very simple. The difficulty is in overcoming our habitual patterns, or internal resistance, in order to apply it or even remember it in the heat of the moment.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been entertained almost every day by a family of raccoons: a mother and five cubs.
The cubs are SO cute! They climb the chicken wire enclosure where the guinea hens used to live, engage in wrestling matches, and wreak general, adorable havoc on the property, as mom looks on to make sure they stay safe. Early one morning one of the cubs picked a green tomato (our only food crop, aside from a few herbs), and one of the retreatants, who happened to be outdoors just before the 6:00 a.m. chanting, hissed at it to discourage further destruction. It hissed back nonchalantly, and carried on.