A week ago, exactly, I went there -- out of need. I confess. NYC housing woes, which can be bitter, necessitated I find a place where I could be anonymous where the atmosphere would be right for getting out of my head.
So I fled to the Blue Cliff Monastery last Sunday, hoping that a roomful of shaved, cool heads, simply meditating, or simply being, or being simply, would help to calm my own overheated brain. They were there, as I'd imagind! Speaking in heavily accented English, this group of robed monastery leaders was calm, devoted, purposeful, un-neurotic, and seemingly un-troubled. There were young monks too, maybe 10 years old, but as seemingly calm as the rest.
I see that deep mauve I described whenever I think of them -- as all the monks were swathed in long layers of mauve. And as I'd hoped they would be, deep beneath the mauve robes and ritual, chimes and schedule, they were caring. The last came through the minute I walked into this very spacious empty hall. The first words I heard were from Thich N Hanh himself (on CD) In halting, accented phrases, that I at first had to strain to make out, they seemed to be mind reading. In other words, they hit their mark.
"If you're angry towards someone
[yes?! I'm listening]
that's not good for you! It's not good for them! It's not healthy! His voice was emphatic. Though I had just raced through the doors, a good half hour late, I was caught up in what he was saying, as though I'd run into an invisible net.
You should start thinking about lighter, more joyful things.
So I did try. I recall it was much easier said than done. But slowly, like lifting a very heavy box, I tried to shift, just a little, my thinking onto more 'joyful things.' I can't begin to remember what these thoughts were, or if I was even the tiniest bit successful.
We were given a snack after this lengthy talk, which I had begun to focus on almost exclusively having run out of the apartment at 7, with little to eat, and raced up the thruway, trying to access googlemap on my smart phone. I don't think snack thoughts counted as "happy thoughts" though. Then, the most charming part of the day -- our calm, organized caring leaders handed out little yellow song books and we stood in a circle in the crisp fall air and all sang. This is what we sang.
I like the flowers I love the daffodils I like the mountains I love the rolling hills I like the fireside When the lights are high bom di ada, bom di ada, bom di ada, bom bom di ada, bom di ada, bom di ada, bom I like the flowers I love the daffodils I like the mountains I love the rolling hills I like the fireside When the lights are low
Picture four or so demure and organized, super-competent Vietnamese monks -- along with us, a divers group of visitors -- getting into "bom diada, bom di ada, bom diada , bom...