By Ellie Hayes A perfect early-summer day greeted Order of Interbeing members gathered for a Day of Mindfulness with Thay, May 30 at Green Mountain Dharma Center. As we stood in a circle, Brother Phap Niem led us in singing old "camp favorites." After Thay joined us, we practiced walking meditation together down the tree-lined driveway, past fields and orchards, around and through the colossal barn, and back to the main house.
Under a modest tent, Thay invited our questions. He wrote them all down and then responded extemporaneously. During the questions, Eva Mondon, True Welcome from Putney, Vermont, presented Thay with a proclamation from Vermont Governor Howard Dean, welcoming Thay and the monks and nuns establishing Maple Forest Monastery. Eva also shared an old Vermont saying: "Sometimes it's nice to sit and think, and sometimes it's nice to just sit."
In due time, the nuns organized a silent, informal lunch. Thay generously stayed and ate with us. He announced that one of the delicious dishes was prepared by a Vietnamese woman living in Burlington, Vermont. As a baby in Vietnam, she had been rescued from a trash heap by a nun, and raised by this nun and her Buddhist sisters. Hearing that Thay would be here, she wanted to offer food prepared with her love and gratitude.
The afternoon Tea Ceremony consisted of fruit juice, cookies, and "Peace Pops"-ice cream popsicles donated by Ben & Jerry's of Vermont. During the tea, Rowan Conrad, True Dharma Strength, presented Thay with a T-shirt created by The Gateless Sangha at Airway Heights prison in Spokane, Washington. The design shows a prisoner behind bars and is captioned, "Escape ... Why?" Proceeds from sale of the T-shirts will help prisoners transition to life outside.
Also attending tea were four arborvitae -"trees of life," members of the cedar family. The four trees were meant to represent the fourfold Sangha taking root here in Vermont: monks, nuns, laywomen, and laymen. Dharma buddies David Dimmack, Frank Boccio, Judith Toy, and I planted them at the Dharma center the next day.
Penetrating sun, warm smiles, mindful hugs, words of thanks and encouragement completed a very nourishing day.
Ellie Hayes, True Equanimity, practices with the Fire on the Mountain Sangha in East Calais, Vermont.