From start to finish, every moment during my first stay at the Monastery in April felt like I was held in the embrace of the Buddha. The unconditional love and kindness I received opened my heart so much, the tears would just break through the conditioned reality of ego and a sense of such deep gratitude would arise from deep within. The unbelievable kindness of being collected from the BART station, driven the whole way to the Monastery, greeted by a welcoming party of a flurry of monks and a chorus of croaking frogs in a downpour of rain, all felt like Life was taking care of me in every moment.
During our first working meditation, I was assigned the task of cutting up A4 paper into the small note-sized pieces used to communicate with the Guestmaster on the notice board. I was given clear guidance on how to complete this task by one of the monks. Left to continue with the task myself, conditioning soon reared its nasty head. The ‘voices’ were loud and clear. “You need to do this perfectly! Wow! You can’t even do this easy task in the correct way! What a boring job you have been given; the monks can see already you can’t be trusted!”
As I stood there and followed the guidance of “just pay attention,” Life dropped in, “You can do this, just breath, look at the paper cutter and see how you can work together to do this very important task.” The direct experience of non-separation began to infuse my body. I remembered that this is how everyone communicates at the Monastery, through these amazing little pieces of paper. I could see how these little notes play such an important role in ensuring that the “Privileged Environment” is adhered to. Then I remembered a teaching I had read by the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hahn on “Inter-being.” As I looked at the little pieces of paper I began to see the clouds, the rain, the sunshine, the trees, the forest, the logger, the wheat, the bread, the logger’s father and mother. I was truly transformed. These little pieces of paper hold everything: each piece is indeed the Buddha. From that moment on I embraced every piece of paper as I gently placed it on the paper cutter. After all, I held the Buddha in my hand!
Life showed me through the teaching of non-separation that every moment at the Monastery was an opportunity to encounter the Buddha, to be held in the Buddha’s embrace and to feel the love and kindness that non-separation offers us all. The Monastery exemplified for me the pure joy of being part of such a caring, kind and compassionate community, where everyone is given the opportunity to participate and to learn that they are adequate to every experience life has to offer them. As the Daily Recollection reminds us “Here in my hand is the opportunity, and the way is clear beyond the gate of thought and desire. There is no self and other as the awareness of pure undisturbed consciousness slips into all consciousness.”