A few months back, I dropped an intentionally vague comment about getting called out by Ani Pema Chodron about a supposed transgression. It was really nothing, but not being able to talk directly about what it was proved to be very hard and very big. Truth is, I fell in love at the Abbey. Well, everyone falls in love at the Abbey, with something or someone or themselves, whatever. For me though, it is exactly what you think by that statement. I fell in love with another person, another resident who took robes temporarily and was a nun for 8 or so months. So, what is it like to form a non-relationship with another person that you see everyday but aren’t ‘with’? Much like I imagine courtship in Jane Austin’s time without the schoolgirl style fretting about looks and intentions. She wrote me a note before leaving for two weeks to train for her new job at Dorje Denma Ling in March. ‘…Nine months with only one night spent apart, but none spent together. Will our lives always read like a riddle?…’
We weren’t subtle, and couldn’t hide our growing attraction so we made the decision to be very upfront about it and tell the director and our meditation instructors. This perhaps caused us more trouble than it was worth. It is absolutely not allowed to form an exclusive relationship at the abbey, whether you are breaking the ‘No Sex’ precept or not. The community is small and imagine 2 people breaking off and hanging out together, making it uncomfortable for others to sit at the table or be in the library. And although people fall in love
ALL THE TIME at the abbey, there was a big flap over our behaviour before Ani Pema showed up for the winter retreat; silence and bodily distance and a chaperone necessary at all times. To be fair, there is always a big flap before Ani Pema comes, it wasn’t just about the two of us.
It didn’t matter. Both of her attendants were lesbians, one of whom figured it out straight away (I told the other during a meditation meeting). It’s hard not being able to talk to the person who is also your closest friend at an intense place so we flat out snuck off for a walk through the snow one day to chat only to run right into Pema Chodron herself. Then the next day, Megan went to my cabin to drop off a note and was spotted again, by the big famous. D’oh! An uncomfortable meeting with the director later, and everything was smoothed over but it was a perfect opportunity for me to relate to a rather well known figure in an ordinary way. Pema Chodron became my nosy neighbor or the aunt who is in your business.
It feels like vaguely shameful business to be the person who falls in love with a nun. Add to that the fact that I was staff and not in robes and there is a twinge of feeling like a predator, or worse, typical. It is a joke about it being a lesbians dream to go and work in a convent. So crass, so obvious. Yet here I am, ridiculously happy to finally spend time with an amazing person without restriction. A person who is open and understanding about the difficulties that arise when you commit to really looking at yourself. A person who is lovely in every way and also willing to jump into a shaky and unknown life as an experiment with me. A person who knows the impermanent nature of life and love and the risk of a broken heart and chooses to walk along this path with me anyway. There is no other reasonable decision to make but to join her. Besides, we are part of a long list of people who met at Gampo Abbey and fell in love.