On the Nanaimo Trail

I’m heading north to Cortes Island, in British Columbia, Canada, and spent the weekend in Nanaimo. Nanaimo is a harbor town on Vancouver Island, and home to the famous Nanaimo Bar.

What’s a Nanaimo Bar, you ask? An amazing, three layered desert: start with a base of graham cracker crumbs, chocolate, nuts, and sometimes more, add a layer of custard frosting, then a layer of chocolate on top. Not for either the faint of heart, or those who are diabetic.

Having encountered one of these in Canada nearly ten years ago, and because the town was on the way, I decided to spend some time eating Nanaimo bars in Nanaimo. And Nanaimo bar cheesecake, ice cream, latte’s, etc.

It’s not all Nanaimo bars. There’s a walkable downtown area that extends to a beautiful harbor. It’s a bit sleepy: when I arrived around 6 on a Friday evening, only a few restaurants and bars (none of the shops) were open, and the next morning only a few places were open before ten.

The parks, however, were beautiful. When I wasn’t consuming Nanaimo bar related items, I found myself walking through forests, either in Bowen park or Newcastle island. The beauty of Pacific Northwest forests, and the smells of damp, green earth, cedars in the sun, and the salty sea made for some beautiful walks. Good thing, after eating all those Nanaimo bars!

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Sabbehi me piyehi manāpehi, part two

I’ve returned to Tisarana Buddhist Monastery, located in rural Ontario, Canada. It has been somewhat of a refuge here. While I’ve been interacting with the monastics and guests here to some degree, I’ve had a lot of time on my own. I’m staying in a kuti (a small cabin), and it’s been wonderful to have a bit of privacy and seclusion again. I’m finding I’m enjoying my own company more than I have in the past.

The scenery here has been gorgeous. Changing leaves, fall colors, and amazing sunsets on the nearby lake. I’ve had time to do some walking and kayaking as well as formal meditation practice. I’ve also had time to look at the changing nature of things, and to be more at peace with it. The sun sets and the moon rises, filling the sky with silvery light. The falling leaves make way for spring’s new growth. Change isn’t always a bad thing.

All the things that we find ourselves clinging to, both positive and negative, can change. And we can be better off for it. Sometimes losing what we think is ours, beloved or pleasing can make room for new growth.

So I’ll be here for another month, enjoying the changing season.



Changing Weather, Changing Plans

I’ve just left Tisarana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Ontario, after finishing the winter retreat period plus another month.

When I arrived, it was a typical Canadian winter. Slowly I watched the icy and snow capped landscape gradually thaw and transform into spring. By the time I left, the lakes had thawed, the trees were budding, and the grass was an electric green.

Which recycling category do raccoons fit in?


Brrrr!

Inukshuk


The retreat itself went well. Perhaps not in a way of deep concentration, but insights nonetheless. When you spend day after day with a handful of people on a regular basis, the experience becomes a giant mirror on your interpersonal habits. How do you respond in a skillful way (hopefully) when someone pushes your buttons? And you also find how you push other people’s buttons as well. How does each situation feel? Where is the suffering? When all our usual distractions are removed, habits become more obvious. 

For example, while I love alone time, if I’m around other people, there’s a tendency for me to talk. Sometimes a lot. I was able to look at this and see where it came from, and when it causes difficulty. Am I now quiet and reserved? Hardly. But there is at least a new awareness around it. And also an awareness that it’s not always a bad thing in some situations, and not necessarily a problem unless I make it one. So there’s a bit of acceptance as well. I’m willing to call it progress.

Amidst all this personal work was time making new friendships and strengthening old ones. The community of monks and lay people here is quite a warm, welcoming group, and one I feel comfortable returning to.

It’s a long story, but tonight I’m headed back to England to Harnham Monastery, which I visited last year. I’ll still have limited internet, but will try to post again from there.

Be well and happy, dear readers!