Be Kind.

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I love this photo. They are so serious, so dignified, so well dressed, everything you think of when you think of monasticism. Look, Lhamo even has a notebook for constant study and note taking. I love this picture even more due to the great effort it took to get it because the previous 8 photos or so looked more like this.IMG_3335 Goofs. This was the bulk of the kitchen staff for a long time, Tsultrim, Lhamo, and Zangmo, and they made awesome, abundant, delicious food. I have heard that this wasn’t always the case, that in the past, the food was barely palatable at times and of suspect nutrition. But it’s little things that make life really worth it. We spend so much time thinking about and working at our careers, our houses, our clothes etc. etc. but a couple months of bad food will unhinge anyone. Or even simpler things, like a lack of close friendship, physical touch, or kindness really make a life unsatisfactory quick.

Ani Migme, the eldest nun here, (and my meditation instructor) gives really simple and direct advice, no monkey-ing around with vague or esoteric concepts and the best advice I feel she has given is that when you find yourself in a challenging situation and you are deciding what to let come out your mouth, err on the side of kindness. You will never go wrong with kindness. It may not get you your sandwich faster at the deli this time but in the long run, it will always get you better service and always make you feel betterIMG_3386. This is very important advice when living in community, where you see the same people everyday. And every day you have the opportunity of really enjoying being in the same house with them or really not. Either way, there is no escape, so definitely, err on the side of kindness.

This is even more important advice if you don’t live in a tight community or family structure. I used to live in a big city and see hundreds of different people each day, if not thousands sometimes. Even then, I would consistently see some of the same people on a regular basis. The bus driver who does the 5:27am run, the guy on the red line who sells oils and frooties, my neighbors, my co-workers, the election judges, the person at the coffee shopIMG_3291 and on and on. We have a community whether we want it or not, even when we don’t try. These are all the people who you should want to be really nice to you so don’t forget to be kind to them. I say ‘don’t forget’ because it’s especially easy to neglect people you see every day, like family and partners and co-workers. You think, ‘I was kind to them last week, how often do I have to do that?’. Only as often as you want people to be nice to you.

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Yanchen giving her Yarne talk

Yanchen, the Earth Mother of all time and my buddy, answers ‘love’ to every question. There is nothing more to life, every living being wants to give it and receive it. Monastics are no different, they just make the decision to extend their love to everyone instead of focusing on one person or specific family. That is the ideal anyway, monastics also benefit from the ‘be kind’ reminder, especially since I also hear that the environment at the abbey has not always been so kind. I can’t believe my good fortune at arriving this year, with so many great people.

Chodzin and I

Chodzin and I

So, Happy Monday everyone and for those in Chicago, while you are wading through drunken, green clad, St. Patrick’s Day masses on public transportation today, don’t forget. Be Kind.

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