Thursday, January 19


"Good is restraint in body, good is restraint in speech, good is restraint in mind, good is restraint everywhere. The one restrained in everything is freed from all sorrow." 
--Dharmapada 361

In the first pale light of morning, the bell rings. I rise from the mat and resettle my robes. First the samkacchika, the vest that binds, then uttarasanga, our regular robe. I wrap uttarasanga around my left shoulder, its dull ochre weight anchoring me to the cool ground. Antarasavaka, the outer robe, is wrapped around my waist in precise pleats and secured with a plain belt.

It is not too cold this morning, but I fold the sanghati, an extra robe, over my right shoulder anyway. It is useful for long seating, even if the weather continues pleasant. I rub my hand over the fuzzy remnants of my hair. I am pleased to find it still short enough. I am not yet perfectly comfortable with the traditional straight-razor. I pick up my mala prayer beads and step out of the room, into the peace of the morning.

We eat what is offered. I was a vegetarian in daily practice. Now I take hot rice in my bowl and accept anything else that is given. There is strong green tea, bitter and lovely. The trick is to keep from eating too much, as the body then interferes with meditation.

After the morning hours, we fast. More bells ring, softly, and we head into the temple. We enter and execute a series of bows, to the altar, to the teacher, to each other. Some days we hold discussions. Most days, I will sit and just listen. I am practicing silence.

 "Do not speak, unless it improves on silence," runs the accepted thought. Not quite a joke, but not quite serious, either. In retreat, there are long periods of unified quiet, the deep hush punctuated only by the tidal sounds of our breath. The heavy scent of sandalwood rises from the 108 beads of my mala garland and the mantras recite themselves, echoing in my head as I breathe and turn the beads in order.

The sanghati, folded, makes an excellent pad for a long meditation. It does not shift under my hips when I move forward to listen to the murmured discussion of dharma and text. I try to let each phrase fall on an empty mind, dew on an untouched field.

For some, this story is a tale of repression or boredom. For me, this is the bliss of each day in retreat. I have decided I will pass the last three days in mindful silence, listening to the pulse of the universe.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, MaryBethC challenged me with "Write about the events leading up to your vow to stop talking for the rest of the week." My prompt, sadly, went unanswered this week.

Bhikkhuni Ordination from Ed Ritger on Vimeo.