The clarity hit me like a ton of bricks.
My friend asked me yesterday if I found my stay at the monastery “productive”, and “productive” didn’t feel quite right—there’s this implicit notion that you get something out of it, and I told myself coming in that I would not have any expectations and just observe, be present, and be mindful. No, that’s not the word I’m looking for…
And then it dawned on me.
What I realized was peace and equanimity.
Living here at Wat Rombodhidarma for the past week has given me much insight and perspective on what it means to live a happy and fulfilling life. The community that the head monk Luangpor has built is beautiful. The people here—the monks, nuns, and laypeople, don’t have much by any means, and yet they are warm, giving, and incredibly kind. It’s obvious to me that they are happy and lead rich, fulfilling lives. And I attribute that to their ability to be present, aware, and live their true selves. They do what they can to help one another out, and that is good enough.
When I was observing the first few days, I felt like they cheated life a bit, and found this shortcut to happiness—almost like they were running away from the “real world”.
Their way of life is simple and slow by Western standards, but as I live their way of life, time does not fly by but feels full and long. By being present and aware, I am able to drink in the smaller details—the symphony of nature’s musicians—crickets chirping, birds singing, the leaves rustling as the wind whistles through. I particularly enjoy the earthy, dewy smell that settles in after the morning rain while I sip and savor my cup of coffee. And the night sky. Man, I can see the Milky Way every night. Yes, it’s that clear. It’s delightful, and brings a smile to my face every time.
I realize then that it’s just my ego talking and my attachment to what I think happiness should look like. Up until yesterday, I felt like the only deserving/worthy way to be happy is by joining the rat race and succeeding professionally, romantically, etc., when in fact there’s no shortcut to happiness. There’s only happiness, and it comes in all different shapes and sizes. And differences are meant to be celebrated not judged or scorned.
I’m learning to not put attachment to attaining something, even if that something is good or well-intentioned. Or even happiness, for that matter. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this desire to do good because I feel like I’ve been given this intellect and circumstance to do so. Ironically, this attachment of doing good, of being happy has been the undoing of me. I’ve felt paralyzed, embittered and deeply unsatisfied because of it.
I’m learning here to instead just ไม่ (mai) through โพล่ง (plong), or let go of attachment by giving and radiating out. There’s a firm belief at the monastery that all people are good, and we are all naturally aware and mindful. When we cross the street, are we not aware? Don’t we look both ways before crossing the street? I can’t help but agree.
And most importantly, I’m learning to embrace that I will die. We will all die. Life is inherently impermanent. But the way many societies work, at least the one I live in, there’s vehement attachment to material things, to youth, to thoughts and ideas that will inevitably come and go. If I will die then, there’s no point in fearing failure—if I fail, I fail. If I succeed, I succeed. I’m here to enjoy the roller coaster that is life, and there will be ups and downs. All I can do is see things as they come, acknowledge them, then “mai.”
There was one particular conversation that really resonated with me. I was talking to a nun, Mae Sasi, and she asked me how I was doing, and I told her that I was really enjoying my stay, and being present, just taking everything in as it comes. I told her I’d like to take away some of the beautifully simple yet mindful practices at the temple and bring them back with me when I return to the States.
She interrupted me then and said, “No, Ada, don’t take, just do. Give and radiate, and share the blessings.”
Mae Sasi, I will and I am doing just that.
Sou, saatu, blessings to everyone.