Greetings from Thailand. It’s 3 am in the morning and I’m awake, so why not write. Outside a bird that sounds like a whip-poor-whil calls out in the night, echoing my thoughts exactly. Wake up, wake up, the night is beautiful. Rejoice.
Dhammananda, or Venerable Mother as I call her, says life is beautiful and most of the time I nod my head. I want to believe her but I haven’t yet witnessed what she sees with my own eyes. Tonight, it is if I am seeing for the first time. I feel an electric surge of excitement in my body.
Let me be frank. It is not easy living in a monastery day after day. 90 degree heat and 90% humidity with no air-conditioning, sleeping on a two inch mattress, eating 2 modest meals a day for breakfast and lunch, dousing myself in cold water once a day to remove the surface dirt. Waking each morning at 4:30 to arrive at chanting, stumbling into the prayer room with the bleary eyes of a pilgrim.
Yet there is something about the simplicity of life here that calls forth a life affirming mantra within me. I’m alive. I’m alive, healthy and awake. The world beckons, opening its arms with an invitation to delight in the path I am on.
Here at the monastery the challenge is to be in present time. I am the first to admit I am lousy at it. My mind constantly wanders back to the hotel in Bangkok where I stayed the first night I arrived. Crisp white sheets, air-conditioning, and a comfortable mattress, all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet with omelettes on order.
In the Dhamma talk last night Dhammananda talked about the difference between want and need. I have what I need, but I cling to what I want, some future expectation of something better, something I can’t live without—the next shiny, new thing. The truth is I have everything that I need right here and now.
I know there are fears out there, and rightfully so, coronavirus, human atrocities occurring every day. But just for this one moment, just for now, I am rejoicing in the gift of life that is simply mine to enjoy, for this one day, this one divine moment. Feeling gratitude, feeling the love for my friends and family. Hope you’ll join with me if just for a brief instant.