On Friday afternoon I picked up my friend Angela for a trip to a nearby town. I was going to meet a long time blogging friend in person for the first time, Kathy from Pocket Perspectives, as well as her friend Jampa, who is a Buddhist monk from New Zealand who would be staying with her for a few weeks. I was excited at the prospects of meeting someone in person from blogging, as well as meeting a Buddhist monk for the first time.
I decided to be the one to drive to get some practice driving to a new place. The directions seemed pretty straight forward, which was nice, and I found it no problem. We got there early so we waited in the car for a bit, then went in and greeted Kathy. I went in for a hug right away, and immediately we all felt at ease and comfortable. We all got along really well and Kathy seemed very down to earth and sweet. We sat down and talked a little while in the kitchen, mostly about blogging and how encouraging and supportive we’ve found so many bloggers to be. We both used to get nervous about pressing the “publish” button with all we were revealing about ourselves, but neither of us have really come across any mean people (though she did come across one). After a little while, she set us up with some cushions on her living room floor and left the room to get Jampa.
Soon enough a tall man wearing red robes entered the room behind her, and he greeted us with handshakes, clasping our hands with both of his hands. He took a seat in a cushion across from us, so the four of us all sat in a circle. He first asked me about myself and my blog, and we talked about that for a little while. He asked if I was shy, and I said for me it’s a situational thing. I used to think it was my identity and made it out to be so much more than it was, but in truth it was always a situational thing. The difference between now and a year ago has much to do with that realization, and that many of the fears I had I’ve now faced and no longer fear them like I did. He said he was once very shy and unsure of himself, which surprised Kathy, but he said it was true. It wasn’t until he became a monk that that all changed. He talked to us about college too and asked what we were studying. It was a nice, heartfelt conversation and we all felt included. The word I’d use to describe Jampa is jovial. I’ve never met a person so happy and full of love. He was very friendly and talkative in his New Zealand accent and it was so cool getting to know him. He had a great laugh and laughed often and was always smiling. You might think of a monk as a quiet, wise old man, but he was quite the opposite.
After we talked a while, he asked if we wanted to try some meditation. We said we did, so he had us cross our legs or get comfortable in whatever way worked for us, and clasp our hands in our lap. He told us we would do a short meditation. He instructed us to close our eyes or to keep them only slightly open. We got comfortable, then he began. His voice was very soothing, and he took us through different parts of the body to focus on first and bring up in our mind. We did that a while, and I felt my cheeks flush and I felt warm and relaxed. Then after going through different parts of the body, he had us focus on our breathing. We did that for a while. Then he went back through all the different parts of the body to bring ourselves back to where we started. He closed by saying how we will strive to live in the moment today and not to worry. To bring us back he said we now can become aware of our friends in the room. My mind was really calm and I couldn’t think as well then, but soon enough I was able to get it together so I could ask him more questions about Buddhism.
He told us about his journey of becoming a monk. He had seen a monk one day when he was 19, and just decided that was what he wanted to be. He was an angry teenager then and didn’t like people, and thought it would be a good way to isolate himself from others. His parents made him wait a few years to make sure that was really what he wanted to do, and then a few years later when he still had his mind set on it, they let him train for it. Once he got into training, he learned that if he was going to be a monk it wouldn’t be about isolating himself from people at all, but instead be about caring about people and loving people. At first this threw him off but with the more training he got the more he realized this was the right path for him. He studied for several years in India with many other monks.
We asked him quite a few questions and learned a lot from him. I asked him about how you can stop thinking about something when the worries keep creeping up, and how you can stop thinking ahead and about the future. He talked about how we are never guaranteed a future, and to bring the future and past into the now is to take away from it. He said he’s not saying you shouldn’t have goals, but that you shouldn’t make your entire life about those goals and live for them when you should be living for the present moment. He also said there’s no point in worrying. What he says is very true, and I really want to work on that myself. He said he does not consider himself a teacher and he is still learning how to do these things too, and that we are all learning together. I asked him about staying in shape and if monks run, and he laughed and said they can’t run because there’s a risk of disturbing something in nature. He says they do prostrations though. They can’t throw things either in case they might hit something.
It was all very interesting, and it was a pleasure and very much an honor to meet both Kathy and Jampa. It was an experience I will always treasure. At the end I asked if I could take pictures with them, and they agreed, so I set up the camera timer on one of their tables and dashed back and forth so I could get us all in the picture. We took several to make sure we got some that everyone liked. Kathy invited us back if we would like to come again, and we said we would. It was a great afternoon, and the drive home was very peaceful. We stopped at a supermarket as Angela had to buy some batteries, and I felt really peaceful in the store and made sure to smile at everyone because we had talked about kindness and how simply smiling at people can be an act of kindness. We talked about mean people in the world and why they are the way they are, and how they’re really just hurting and want to be happy like everyone else.
Later that night Angela and I drove up to our favorite swing dance place. Things were going great until we got all the way up there and Angela got a scary call that her dog had gotten out and was lost. Her dog is very neurotic as she put it and easily freaks out. The fact that she got out and was lost in a very bad neighborhood was very frightening and Angela feared the worst. She was extremely upset and had to drive all the way back to try and find her, and seeing her so upset and tearful made me have to fight back tears too as I assured her everything was going to be ok. It would have been horrible if something had happened to her dog and I couldn’t believe this was just now happening. She wanted to drop me off at the swing dance with my friends Luke and Stu, so we agreed, and she headed home. I was really worried about her though and it was really hard to enjoy myself in the beginning, despite all that I’d learned that day about living in the moment. Luckily about two hours later I got a call from her saying she found her dog and that her dog was ok though terrified. I was relieved, and was able to enjoy myself more then and tried to really live in the moment with some of the dances, and those dances were great. I was glad everything turned out to be ok and it wasn’t a horrible night like I thought it was going to be. It actually became a good night, and was quite an eventful day.