Monday, August 20, 2007

Plum Monday

We handled this morning's dharma talk better. Sitting outside in the fresh air helped (the hall is packed out), but we've caught up on sleep, and we're getting used to sitting, observing 'noble silence' at certain times, pausing when the bell rings. In fact, we pause whenever we hear a clangy sound - sometimes it's just someone dropping a big ladle. Then we giggle.

Thay's talk is brilliant: he moves effortlessly from buddhist tales to Jean Paul Sartre to neuroscience. "Can you believe he's 81?", someone murmurs.

Afterwards, they have Q&A in Vietnamese. There are a bunch of difficulties for our English translator (equipment acting up, remembering to speak in English and not French or Vietnamese). When it's over, I watch him stand up with relief - I am the only one in the English section - everyone else has left during the session. "That was the worst job ever", says the Vietnamese monk. We laugh.

The day is really enjoyable. Walking meditation feels easier. The fear of hunger has lifted. In the afternoon, we walk around the vineyards and orchards, and even fit in a nap (or two). In the meditation hall we do an exercise called 'total relaxation'. Pretty much everyone falls asleep.

Stalls of Vietnamese treaty things appear at random intervals: spring rolls and dumplings and pastries shaped like lotus flowers. The Potwashers are getting on brilliantly. After dinner we wash our own plates, then take care of the giant pots. I'm stacking the last of the plates in the dining hall. "The plates will be taken to be sanitized", someone tells me."In the dishwasher."

There's a dishwasher???

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