September 5, 2011
“The person who is a master in the art of living makes little distinction between their work and their play, their labour and their leisure, their mind and their body, their education and their recreation, their love and their religion.
They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence and grace in whatever they do, leaving others to decide whether they are working or playing. To them, they are always doing both.” - Zen Buddhism Text
November 18, 2010
No to noise. No to traffic. No to electricity. No to cell phones. No to advertising. No to billboards. No to buildings. No to coffee. No to alcohol. No to money. No to beds. No to three meals. No to going out. No to music. No to fumes. No to distraction. No to temptation.
Yes. Yes to wind rustling through avocado trees and making twigs and leaves come down like rain. Yes to crickets. Yes to sweeping. Yes to hoeing weeds. Yes to the crunch of avocados falling into deep leaves. Yes to the smack of heavy ripe avocados hitting pavement. Yes to buzzing flies. Yes to avocado-fattened squirrels. Yes to silence. Yes to varied birdcall. Yes to a tiny praying mantis. Yes to spiderwebs strung with morning dew diamonds.
Yes to spots of warm sun on my face through the trees. Yes to impossibly tiny baby avocados who never had a chance. Yes to hour-long meditations. Yes to sand-filled cushions. Yes to not moving. Yes to sweating from carrying “twigs.” Yes to misty mornings. Yes to California poppies. Yes to fresh rosemary and basil. Yes to views of rolling Tuscan hills.
Yes to ladeling out scoops of white rice. Yes to a Thai feast. Yes to the most amazing carrot cake I’ve ever had. Yes to sweeping leaf-strewn wooden sleeping platforms. Yes to walking on slightly moist packed dirt paths and feeling them give in certain spots, ever so slightly. Yes to the strange species of insects I’ve never seen before. Yes to red finches. Yes to the many golden Buddha statues. Yes to barefoot monks in safflower robes.
Yes to Asaaf Geoff’s voice that is less like normal speaking and more like a resonance coming directly from his chest. Yes to flamboyant Thai women. Yes to little big-eyed 4-year-old boys named Lucca from England. Yes to some animal nesting in Gloria’s hair in the night. Yes to a heavy animal that joined us on the platform. Yes to crazy spikey orange flowers. Yes to long-spined handmade brooms. Yes to the embarrassing mother of a monk. Yes to washing dishes. Yes to reading. Yes to journaling. Yes to contemplating.
Yes to the breeze on my skin. Yes to a red mite scrambling across the page. Yes to seven hummingbirds landed at once outside the monk’s quarters. Yes to taking off one’s shoes before entering a building. Yes to explaining Vibrams. Yes to coyote squealings. Yes to riding in the back of the truck with the shovels. Yes to the platform in the tree.
Yes to the walk up the steep hill. Yes to the quick long-tailed lizards. Yes to swallowtails and cabbage butterflies. Yes to the vibrant stars. Yes to the quarter moon shining through the branches. Yes to stretching. Yes to deep breaths. Yes to quick breaths. Yes to simplicity. Yes to stillness. Yes to long stretches of time.
Metta Forest Monastery is a Thai Buddhist meditation monastery in the hills of northern San Diego. I like to go once or twice a year for a weekend retreat – it’s free! You can sleep in the “dorm” or bring a tent and sleep on platforms under the avocado trees.
A day at the monastery looks like this:
5:30am – Morning chanting, Dhamma talk, group meditation
10:30am – Potluck meal provided by donations from the Thai community (Sunday is a big, delicious event)
4pm – Q&A with the head monk, Ajaan Geoff
5pm- Work time (sweeping, cleaning, weeding – whatever they need help with)
7pm – Evening chanting, Dhamma talk, group meditation
You don’t have to be Buddhist, or even know anything about Buddhism – everyone there is very welcoming and tolerant (no one said anything when I straightened my aching legs after my first one-hour meditation and inadvertently pointed the bottom of my feet at a monk…a big no-no, apparently). It’s extremely peaceful and beautiful, and it’s so nice to get away from life & technology for a weekend (or longer).
If you have any questions, feel free to comment!