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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 71 to waking us up. I didn’t want to disappoint him but right then I wanted to go to sleep. That afternoon after a work period when we beat mattresses and rolled blankets and towels, we had tea—and doughnuts, wrapped in cellophane, bought at a local store. I could tell this was a real treat and I abstained so the monks could have more. Each day was long. I had no illusions that something big or deep would happen. I just wanted to make it through each day running, walking, sitting, eating in that single pair of black pants and shirt. Young monks pounded big bells that hung from eaves and ran in the halls. Even the army knows to take boys early. Only me, only I don’t know I’m not young. That is what these days taught me: I was no longer young. How easy it was for me at twenty-six, at thirty-one—but even then I complained. Now I had only a few days left in a Japanese monastery and I was thankful I would get to leave. That day did come and there was no formality. No one said, “Oh, Natalie, we loved having you.” I rolled up my mattress, de- posited my scant towel and bedding in the laundry room and slung my pack on my back. I was thinking how I couldn’t wait to return to Kyoto and take a shower when I passed the altar room. I noticed a big Buddha statue and a small inconspicuous donation box, but it wasn’t necessary to pay anything for your stay. I turned to head out. “C’mon, Nat, you can give a little some- thing, even though these days were no fun.” I counted out yen. I was not good at figuring out the equivalent in dollars, a hundred and ten to one, too many zeros. I left what I thought was twenty-five dollars. I followed the path through weeds back to the railroad station. I was a bit early for the next train. I wandered over to the concession stand and eyed the bags of M & M’s. A great compulsion overcame me. I bought two. I ripped one open; they were already melted. I shoved the colored chocolates into my mouth and they smeared over my right hand and around my lips. I had nothing to wipe them with but my dirty black sleeve. Suddenly I looked up: one of the monks from the monastery had just entered the station, recognized me, and was walking over. He was dressed immaculately in formal traveling attire. I tried to hide my chocolate-covered hand, having already wiped my mouth. He stood in front of me in his platform sandals. He noticed my hand and flashed a warm smile. I felt the color come to my face. He reached into the front of his robe. He pulled out some kind of bar and held it up. My eyes focused. Almond Joy. We both burst out laughing. My train pulled up. I threw myself into a seat near the window and waved. The scenery zoomed by. All at once, yens popped into my head. I hadn’t left 2,750—I left 27,500. Two hundred and fifty American dollars. I gasped, my stomach tightened. Then completely let go. It was fine, just fine. I was glad I’d contributed that much. And right there was everything I knew and I could not say what that was. ♦ finally an answer to pain in meditation The Monastery Store · Dharma Communications P.O. Box 156SS · Mt. Tremper, NY 12457 · (845) 688-7993 www.mountainseat.com *U.S. Patent Pending Developed by monastics at Zen Mountain Monastery in conjunction with physical therapists, physicians and kinesiologists, the Mountain Seat cushion and mat incorporate an ingenious blending of traditional designs with the best available orthopedic technology. The secret to their unmatched comfort is viscoelastic foam, the same miracle product used by NASA for cushioning against powerful G-forces. Resting on buckwheat hulls, the cushion’s viscoelastic foam responds to heat and pressure and “flows” to accommodate the contours of the body, encouraging proper alignment while easing the pain in the spine, back, hip joints, knees and ankles. The cushion comes in three sizes suitable for different body types and is made from sturdy handcrafted materials. For more information on these truly innovative products, or for assistance in selecting the best cushion for you, please contact: