By Connor Figgins
I remember back to September 29, 2011, at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi. I clutched the hand of one of Thay’s monks, and we were walking together right behind Thay and the other children. As we walked into a big field, about a football field wide and a football field across, we noticed the long grass crunching beneath our feet as another monk put out Thay’s mat and cushion. Thay turned around, looked at all of us, and sat down. The field was sloped all around with one opening with walls about ten feet high. As Thay sat down he took out his bell, put it in his hand, bowed to it, lightly tapped it, and held it to wake it up. Then he rang it for all of us to hear and enjoy. Not just us, but all the birds around it, all the animals.
Once he was done with the bell, he reached his hand back for his tea, which another monk just poured out for him. The teacup was about three inches tall with an indent in it. As he slowly took a sip of his tea, a little cricket, or frog, it kind of looked like a mixture of both, jumped onto my lap, and then jumped right into his tea. As he noticed it, he picked up his teacup and angled it just enough so it could fall out. As he handed his teacup back, I noticed that another monk got out another teacup and took out a small teapot, enough to fill up just one cup. He opened it up and I noticed all of the crisp leaves in it. The monk noticed that there was no tea left. He took out a thermos from his bag and filled up the teacup and handed it back. Thay slowly drank his tea, but quick enough to make sure no cricket jumped in it again. When he was done with his tea, he leaned over and looked at the cricket, and he looked up at the two children in front of him and asked if it was okay. One of the children said, “Yes,” and he looked up and seemed happy for it.
After that, Thay slowly got up and noticed that one of the trees had a gust of leaves fly out of it. The leaves were purplish green color. As they fluttered down, we all waited and watched until every single leaf hit the ground. We walked slowly away from there, with me clutching one of the monk’s hands, and I felt good. It was nice to feel the soft cold grass beneath my feet. We walked out a different way from where we came. As I looked down, I noticed that there were leaves beneath my feet. The children in front of me were dragging their feet to make a rustling sound in the leaves. I slowly picked up my feet and put my feet down, trying to save as much natural beauty as I could. As I looked around, I noticed everything that was beautiful. The different colored trees, the different colored vines. Once we got to the end of the path, Thay turned left and walked into his hermitage. His hermitage was very nice. It was a log cabin with golden logs.
As I walked back by my mom and grandma, I noticed that everyone was watching him go into his hermitage with the two monks at his sides. I seemed to notice my grandma walking around, so I walked up to her and said, “Hey Grandma,” and she looked at me and said, “Oh, hey,” and I said, “Let’s wait for Mom.” So we both sat in the nice damp leaves and waited. And we finally found Mom and I told her how Thay went into his hermitage, and we started to walk toward the big white tent in the middle of the field for a Dharma talk with Thay. The Dharma talk was a very nice Dharma talk. It was about the mind of love. Thay excused the children early and had us bow to the Sangha, and we walked to our Magnolia Room. I remember that day of September 29, 2011, at Magnolia Grove Monastery.
Connor Figgins, age thirteen, was eleven when he went on retreat with his mom and grandma. He especially enjoyed serving others at the beverage station during the retreat. Connor lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he volunteers in his community and supports his family’s mindfulness practice.