Harnham Buddhist Monastery (Or, “What I did for my summer vacation”

For the last few months I’ve been back at Harnham Monastery, nestled in the gently rolling hills of Northumberland, England. Sheep and cows graze upon green fields, and the sun plays hide and seek between the clouds (mostly hiding). The monastery is smaller in space than other monasteries, and the area around it is quiet (except for the cows and sheep).

I came here to support a friend, but I’ve been supported here in learning much about myself and Buddhist practice. While there were no great bolts of insight, I did see into a few things in a slightly clearer manner.

First was dealing with loneliness. A lot of time to myself initially left me seeking distraction to fill the time alone. Theres not much distraction available at a monastery: No music, no tv, no eating after noon. I started doing a lot of walking. While this helped some (and also helped me lose ten pounds in the process), being with the loneliness, feeling it in the body and offering compassion seemed to help the most. I’m still learning.

It wasn’t all loneliness, and interactions with others became another practice. It’s funny how even platonic relationships can throw a mirror in your face and show you where your rough edges are. Previously unnoticed aspects of yourself and habits are revealed. “Really? Have I been doing that all along?” It’s a process that never ends, I think. 

Also was the realization that there is no ideal time in the future when I’m going to “really get on with my practice”. The time is now, and the practice is happening right now, whether I “really get down to it” or not. At least that’s the feeling I have these days. To paraphrase John Lennon, practice is happening while you’re busy planning your practice.

Yes, there were other lessons as well. Some I’m still processing, some personal, and some that just don’t lend themselves to being blog topics. For as much time as I spent here, I suppose this blog entry is pretty short. Much of what goes on at monasteries doesn’t seem exciting in the standards of the world outside, but I assure you it was time well spent.

So enjoy some of the pictures below, and may your own lessons continue in a beneficial way.

Swan on Bolam Lake



Yup. It’s a hedgehog. Apparently their population is dwindling, so I’m glad I got to meet one up close.


Barley close up
Barley harvesting

Author: mettatsunami

In 2009 I was working full time in medicine, and living a life that was alienated from what I truly valued. While volunteering with a local hospice, I began to wonder: "What would I do differently if I had six months to live?". This began the impetus to change direction. While it has been a case of two steps forward, one step back in many ways, there has still been slow movement in the direction of a more authentic life. Since the pivotal decision to change direction, I have been a Buddhist nun, returned to lay life, changed Buddhist schools, returned to medicine part time, and then full time, quit again, traveled extensively, trained in yoga, spent time in several Buddhist monasteries, and am in the process of how to live according with Buddhist and yogic practice and values, and how to streamline this life into something worthwhile. In the Theravadan Buddhist practice, one of the daily reflections is "Has my practice born fruit with freedom or insight, so that at the end of my life, I need not feel ashamed when questioned by my spiritual companions?". That is my practice. My goal in this blog is to share the journey along the way.

16 thoughts on “Harnham Buddhist Monastery (Or, “What I did for my summer vacation””

  1. So nice to hear from you. Your photos are beautiful–some of them otherworldly, misty, and calm and some others that bring a smile. Cute toes!
    It does sound like time well spent.
    Much metta
    Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Karen seems like staying in beautiful places just needs to be done in bare feet.😄 Hope to see you both in December. I’ll be in the area for the month before I head to Abhayagiri for winter retreat.

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  2. Wonderful to hear from you! And with such stunning photos! It’s good to know that Harnham has provided a nourishing experience. I hope we’ll see you at Temple Forest Monastery some time soon. Maybe at kathina time?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dorothea. This fall I’ll be at Tisarana until November when I’ll visit Mom before heading to the west coast. I don’t think I’ll make it down to TFM this time. Maybe there’s a group coming to Canada for T’s Kathina?

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  3. Small things matter. Thanks for sharing. Your photos are so artful and evocative. Beauty and moodiness and life. For me, practice all around, for me to open to with as much stillpoint energy as i can be present for. Lots of car camping and hiking and backpacking in to wilderness, solo and with partner/friends. Much time with Pacific Hermitage. May ease and clear insight come to you. Peace.

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your words resonated. Loneliness is a big one for me too. The pain of it sometimes feels unbearable. 😕 … A work in progress… 😏

    Beautiful pics!

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