Packing in Pennsylvania

I’ve been hanging out with my folks in the tiny (don’t blink) town of Fort Hill, Pennsylvania. It’s about two hours from anywhere, southeast of Pittsburgh. While very rural, it is a beautiful area, and a great place to walk and relax.

Since returning here, I’ve been reducing, reorganizing, and repacking my stuff in preparation for future travels. I’ve traded in the giant suitcase for something more portable, plus a packable bag for gifts and extras. I’ve unloaded my car, and am now free to roam about the planet. At least as long as my savings will allow.

On Friday I’ll catch an early morning flight to London, landing there in the evening, and staying the night with friends until I head once again to a monastery for the following week.

So for now I’ll share a few pictures of the local area. Hope you enjoy them, and I’ll post again in a few weeks from England.

Live Free or Die

I’ve spent the last week at Temple Forest Monastery, nestled in the hills and forests of southern New Hampshire. I rode and drove down with one of the monastics and another lay supporter from Ontario, enjoying coffee and conversation on the way here.

The monastery has only been in existence for a few years, but I’ve been a regular over the last year or so from being in Connecticut. It’s a cluster of farmhouse type buildings on over 240 acres of forests and fields. The sala, or main meditation area, has been converted from the living room of the former owners, and is a beautiful space with 200 year-old beams in the ceiling. The land was set up to hold a communal, intentional living arrangement, but none of the arrangements really took off. Now it’s made a great place for the roughly half dozen monastics who live there. It was wonderful to visit with old friends, and also to see both a visiting monk from Thailand and my teacher who came out to visit from Abhayagiri.

For the next two weeks I’ll be in Pennsylvania with the folks, trying to wrap things up before going overseas for the big journey. I’ll try to post again once I arrive in England.

Creating the sima (ordination platform) boundaries
A visit to Insight Meditation Society

It’s like this, and it all belongs

I’ve spent the last 3 weeks at Tisarana Buddhist Monastery, outside of Perth, Ontario. The monastery is located in a forested, flat area with many bogs and lakes nearby. With all the water sources come friendly mosquitos, black flies, various other flying insects, and ticks, necessitating liberal applications of DEET.

Despite the bugs, it’s been an enjoyable time. The monastery schedule is similar to most: morning service, followed by breakfast, a work period, lunch, and then meditation/practice on one’s own until the evening service. The abbot of the monastery, Ajahn Viradhammo, is very similar to my main teacher, Ajahn Pasanno at Abhayagiri. He also has spent over forty years as a monk in this tradition, and is warm-hearted and easy going.  Coming recently from Abhayagiri, it’s been like staying at “uncle Ajahn Viradhammo’s place”. Although he number of monastics is about half the size of Abhayagiri’s, the warmth of community is no less.

I was picked up at the Ottawa train station by local supporters whom I’ve met at previous gatherings, and given a place to stay for the night (not to mention some delicious Sri Lankan food as well) before being taken out to the monastery the next day. There were several visits by local supporters who offered meals to the monastery throughout my stay here, and it’s great to see the place so well supported.

There’s been abundant wildlife around here, with deer, groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks raccoons, turtles, birds and frogs. Each morning, we have whippoorwill alarm clocks that go off outside our windows. Although the idea of reaching out one’s window and patting the birds gently on the head seems amusing to think about, there’s no snooze button on the whippoorwill alarm clock. Just as well, since morning meditation starts at 5AM.

I’ve explored the local area on foot (and canoe) and found some beautiful places, but once again it’s been the people who have really made the stay enjoyable. While some who know me may find this hard to believe, I used to be pretty shy, to the point where some mistakenly thought me as snobbish since I didn’t talk much. I think working in medicine, and probably Buddhism as well, has certainly brought me out of that shell to a large degree. Although I’m still quite content to be on my own, more and more I find the joy in making new friends and sharing with others, and this trip is weaving a beautiful tapestry of connections as I go along.

Groundhog and her babies
Inside the sala
Mom and baby
The big old barn
Inside my kuti (cabin)
Loft bed
My kuti (cabin)