Old sun, ancient trees
Old path, inviting shade
Under cool embrace, I pace.
So in 2007 I spent 1 month in Nalanda monastery, a Tibetan monastery in Toulouse, France. They had a volunteer program that provided free lodging and food in return for helping out with whatever that's needed around the monastery. And they really do need help, as they were in the process of building a new monastery wing then. So some days, I'll help with construction. Some days, cooking and cleaning. Other days, I do something more sedentary like preparing prayer items for the new Buddha statues. Even with work, we live by a daily routine scheduled around meditation, prayer and teachings.
It was my very first time in a monastery, and I was hooked. I love the simplicity of the life there. There's a sort of relaxed discipline to things, everyone performing their own individual roles, yet inter-weaved with one another. Above all, every act of work was inter-twined with the deeper practices of compassion and wisdom. The naive perception I had initially was that the monks here were all perfect infallible saints, which got broken when I saw that they too had conflicts like us lay people. But the main difference between us and them is that they are committed to a life of loving kindness and compassion. No conflict was left to fester for too long, no disagreement unattended.
From this, I learned the true meaning of a community - it is not one that's perfectly free of conflict, but one where everyone is committed to the practice of conflict resolution and living harmoniously.
Recollecting Tibet in Toulouse, as a way to work my way through wandergrief from returning home after a transformative 3-week stay in Kyoto.