Not Sure

When I arrived at Abhayagiri five months ago, I had a plan. I was going to stay there indefinitely, and all was going to go perfectly.

As I’ve heard in the past, “If you want to make the universe laugh, just develop a plan”.

As I stayed here, I was reminded that my plan was not necessarily the plan of the community. It would remain to be seen whether it would work out to have me stay. And on my end, as I learned what living in a large community entailed, there was some wavering. Was this what I really wanted? Could I fit in to this large group and lifestyle? But in time I began to feel the strength of the community, and the benefit of living and practicing within it. Once again, I felt a firm resolve to stay put. I had a plan.

Despite the fact that everything around us is constantly changing, the mind clings to the idea of certainty, to safety. The habit is in our DNA, to ensure the continuity of the species. And yet, the very clinging for safety, the constant planning, the gripping to the “sure thing”, causes stress. There’s no end to it. It’s like walking up an icy hill, scrambling for purchase that isn’t there. Or, as in one of my favorite movies, The Christmas Story, like Ralphie scrambling up the slide to try to get what he wants from Santa Claus (Watch here).

Ajahn Chah, the founder of the tradition which Abhayagiri follows, used to frequently say “Mae Naer” or, “Not sure”. No matter how much control we think we have over what happens, it’s not sure. Even the thoughts we have in our mind, and their validity – not sure. The validity of the contents of this blog? Not sure.

Intellectually it makes sense that all is changing, and that what I think to be true may not be. Yet in actuality it’s been a more challenging practice to incorporate. I like to be in control. Who doesn’t? Yet I’m reminded over and over again that I’m not. Despite scrambling for purchase on the slide of life and occasionally reaching the top again, the foot of reality says “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”, and I’m once again going for a ride.

In my life, change has struck again. While I will be returning to Abhayagiri for a few weeks after this coming trip to Canada, I won’t be staying there as originally planned. Instead, I’ll be spending some time with my parents in Pennsylvania. I’m ok with this new plan, and it feels like the right thing to do right now. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not so much a plan, as just accepting what is, right now. 

Be well and peaceful dear readers, and in the words of Ajahn Sona, another teacher in this tradition….

“Don’t worry. Everything is perfectly out of control”.

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.

12 thoughts on “Not Sure”

  1. How does one leave a reply to your blog when one’s health is a probable reason for a change in your original plan? We are looking forward to your spending time with us and seeing for yourself the current situation in Fort Hill. I am a firm believer that your life should depend on your own plan or plans, and not what is going on with your parents. Take us into consideration but follow your own dreams. Love from Mom

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Best of good fortune to you, Denise. I very much enjoy Ajahn Sona’s way of teaching and the space he helps happen at Birken. It’s good you can be present for your mother, even though it feels like a disruption. I think wanting control and predictability is also reflective of our age. As I have become older, and with the death of my parents, and the conclusion of a relationship (18 years ago) that i thought was “forever”, and the attainment of some monetary resources, and the attainment of life goals, I have come to a great relaxation regarding control, of me, of others, of outcomes, of plans, of the opinions and attitudes of others, of every day.

    A favorite poem, by Victor Hugo,

    Be like the bird,
    Pausing for a while
    On boughs too slight
    Feels them give way beneath her
    and sings
    that she hath wings.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nice to know your whereabouts for the time being. Nice blog good words of wisdom. There is a bedroom upstairs when you are in the area. We miss you. Peace, Susan

    Gratitude Inspiration Joy Kindness Appreciation Compassion

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love you Khemiyā. Looking forward to welcoming you here soon! Your time here with Ajahn Ocean will help you to skillfully navigate the waves of life to come – I promise. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Always good to hear from you…… Like the “not sure” philosophy. Being a gemini, I often can see both sides ……… Taught always good to have a plan. Not that you can’t change it!!!!!!!

    Enjoy Pa. and your family!!!!!!

    love, gail


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Denise,

    As a big planner myself, I appreciated your reflection on accepting what is, right now. I hope you’ll treasure your time with your parents.

    Peace, Dennis


    Liked by 1 person

  7. Forty years ago someone started me on my spiritual journey by saying that he liked the Zen point of view, describing it this way: We just do one thing after another – the best we can. Sounds like that’s what you’re doing, with wisdom. “It’s like this.”

    Wishing you well and hoping to see you at Temple Forest Monastery some time . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Late news, Khemiya: My contractor obtained the final building permit from Mendocino County yesterday, and he is planning to break ground sometime next week! Thanks for your part in helping me get through this long, difficult waiting period. Hope your journey is off to a good start. Miss you here. Love and much metta, Sondra

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When I first read your thoughts on mai nay I found myself nodding. Living back here in Oshawa, in worldly life, has reminded me how much the drive toward clinging to assurance is embedded into western culture. Sending metta. Mudita

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

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