Sunday, June 5, 2011

No Need to Go to the Monastery

I used to fantasize about leading the life of a nun, in a monastery in Burma. A radical act, rehearsed many times in the privacy of my mind. 

No longer.

What has changed, is the realization that the path of service, right where I live, can be just as good as the monastery. When relating to someone with extreme forgetfulness, there is no other option but to be completely engaged in the present moment. The consequences for not showing up or for operating from some theoretical idea, can be quite severe, including getting punched, pinched, or yelled at. Yesterday, one of the resident called me "you, stupid cow", after I had checked out for a second, and failed to be right there, with her. Not quite as elegant as being hit by a zen master's stick, but just as powerful.  

If the Buddha was alive today, I am pretty sure he would advise his monks to spend time in assisted living communities or nursing homes. Being with the forgetful ones is one of the most intense practices I have come across. And one of the most freeing also! 

If you are ever so inclined, try it some time. Volunteer in one of those places and let the residents be your teachers. 

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