On March 1st, 2022, I arrived in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts an hour or so before I was asked to arrive at Dhamma Dharā, the first Vipassana Meditation Center to be constructed in the U.S. in the tradition of S.N. Goenka and Sayagyi U Ba Khin of Burma; Vipassana being a Pāli word for “observing reality as it is” or “to see things as they really are,” Dhamma being “the way to liberation” or “the law of nature,” Dharā meaning “the Earth.”
Before driving to the center, I decided to stop by downtown Shelburne Falls to revisit two of my favorite places from when I had worked in the area at Rowe Camp and Conference Center in the summers of 2018 and 2019. After parking in front of a diner I once ate at with fellow Rowe Junior High Camp Staff, I walked across the driving bridge overlooking the Bridge of Flowers, pockets of ice slowly floating down the river below. As I approached the Bridge of Flowers, I saw that it was closed for winter, packed with snow and lined with barren vines along the fence, viscerally remembering the lush outpouring of flowers from three summers ago. I then made my way to the Shelburne Falls potholes below the town’s small dam, immediately stuck by its roar of rushing water, dancing around ice and stone. The Deerfield River ran from the houses that lined the shore before the dam towards a stretch of the Berkshire Mountains.
I walked back to my car and called LabCorp as I tried to retrieve my PCR test results, which they informed me they lost and had no record of. A teenager who I worked with at Rowe Junior High Camp walked in front of my car with a group of his friends. Still I drove to Dhamma Dharā knowing I had a negative COVID rapid test result from the night prior, and would be taking another rapid test shortly after I arrived at the center.
When I arrived at Dhamma Dharā, I texted a handful of people to let them know I had arrived at the center. With a fleeting twinge of anxiety, I hurriedly turned my phone on do-not-disturb mode, surrendering quickly and gratefully to the determination to be without a phone for the next 13 days.
A woman named Elizabeth, who would be sitting the 10-day meditation course, arrived at the same time as me. We both arrived a day early, on the last day of the 3-day “in-between course” service period. The registration table was unattended, and on it lay a small sheet that outlined the schedule for the day. The servers (volunteers) were just getting ready to have dinner and walking in and out of the kitchen. Hannah, one of the long-term servers, came out to greet me and said she’d grab another server to orient me on where I’d be staying. When the server came through the door, I immediately recognized them, though I couldn't remember their name. We smiled at each other and they reminded me of their name, Fey. Besides visiting family, Fey hadn’t left the center since we had sat a 10-day course and served a 3-day in-between course together in July 2019. They said they had thought of me, and wanted to let me know about the first trans and nonbinary meditation course they helped organize coming up in August 2022, though they couldn't remember my name either, and neither of us had each other’s contact info.
My energy settled down as I entered my room, full of quiet. There was a faint smell of vinegar in the room from being freshly cleaned with a solution of half-water and half-vinegar. I unpacked my clothes and toiletries, opening the window to a cool breeze, the view of snow, a section of the building between the dining rooms, and the gold-plated Burmese pagoda.
Once I settled in my room, I grabbed dinner, grateful to be given food in this familiar kitchen again. Some of the servers and I chatted lightly in the women’s server’s dining room, then making our way to attend the group sitting (meditation) in the Dhamma Hall. The Dhamma Hall at Dhamma Dharā is a large, dimly-lit room with 35 zabutons (meditation cushions) neatly checkered on each side, with two slightly raised seats for the assistant teachers in the front of the hall to face the students. Two always-empty cushions were raised behind them where, presumably, the late Goenkaji (ji being a respectful term of endearment common in India) and his wife Mataji (also departed) would sit during their visits. About ten or so servers and I were scattered around the room, meditating for an hour, the recording of Goenkaji’s Vipassana meditation instruction dispersed throughout the silence.
After the group meditation, I briefly stopped by the women’s dining room to have a cup of chamomile tea and watch a few minutes of the movie screening on the history of Vipassana. Only about three other servers and I were in attendance; having seen a number of these documentaries during my last stay here, I left shortly after finishing my tea. I then walked to the mini-library up the narrow stairwell above the kitchen, nestled cozily between the food pantry and kitchen supply room. Three low bookshelves lined the walls, filled with well-worn Buddhist texts and small, delicate pamphlets. One wooden meditation stool rested in the center of the room. I looked through a number of the books and brought two back to my bedroom — The Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and Great Disciples of the Buddha by Nyanaponika Thera. The seemingly concrete descriptions of the principles of the eightfold path drew me to Bodhi’s book — the tenets being right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration, each of them building upon and supporting the other.
The next day, the additional servers for the meditation course gradually arrived as the meditation students trickled in around the registration desk. Throughout the day, I helped Sabrina, kitchen coordinator and long-term server, with various tasks around the kitchen — mainly doing the dishes and cleaning the sinks. Just days prior, Sabrina had finished sitting a 45-day meditation course. I remembered her from my time at the center in 2019 — specifically, that she had been agitated by Fey and I’s conversation as we peeled and chopped carrots together. Now, there was a noticeable relaxation to her demeanor that dramatically differed from the last time we interacted.
We held our server’s orientation in the women’s servers dining room in the early afternoon. There was David, a white American man with some distant Hawaiian ancestry in his mid-60’s; Meeyoung, an older South Korean woman currently based in Connecticut; Meeyoung’s 33-year-old daughter, Airem, based in New York and preparing to serve and sit at Dhamma Dharā for the next several months; Moohong, a middle-aged South Korean woman now living in Michigan, visiting her children and grandchildren regularly in Connecticut; Joyce, a middle-aged Black American woman based in Connecticut; Deepti, a Indian woman in her late 50's from Jaipur, Rajasthan, now based in New Jersey, who had just sat 30 days of the recent 45-day meditation course; Bhavitha (Bhavi), a 28-year-old from Hyderabad, Telangana, India, whose fiancé lives in Boston; Ran, from Israel (Palestine), living in Brooklyn for the past 10 years; Yiftah, from Israel (Palestine), serving at various Vipassana centers the past several years, who I also recognized from Dhamma Dharā in 2019; Sunny, a middle-aged Indian man from Punjab, based between both New York and San Jose; Leslie, a 49-year-old Latin American woman from Long Island, now based in New Hampshire; and me, a 29-year-old, Eurasian / Hawaiian person from the Bay Area, now based in Philadelphia.
Sabrina, the kitchen coordinator, sat us all around the large wooden table, giving us our service roles for the 10-day course. She looked directly at me: “Terra! You will be the kitchen manager.”
I was stunned. “Like… with you, right?”
“I will guide you for the first couple of days, then you will take the lead.”
I let out a sigh. “Okay. I will try.”
I was nervous for my mental capacity, memory, and stamina to be in a coordinating position during a brand new experience. I initially wanted to just be told what to do, having been drained and overwhelmed by various leadership positions in the past. I was also hesitant about how the role would interact with my recovery, as managerial roles tend to bring out a stressed, anxious, and micro-managing side of me. I wanted more of a mental break, I thought to myself, whereas the kitchen manager position would require more responsibility and place more demands on my mental effort than I had wanted or expected. Hesitantly, with the desire to surrender to the experience and Sabrina’s judgment, I accepted Sabrina’s appointment.
Deepti was assigned Breakfast Manager; Airem and Yiftah the Course Managers, acting as the only spoken liaisons between the servers, students, and teachers; Leslie and Ran the Dining Hall Managers; Moohong, Salad Manager; Sunny and David, managing the dishwasher and ringing the bell throughout the men’s hallways for meals; Bhavi, ringing the bell through the women’s hallways for meals and doing the laundry for the kitchen; and Meeyoung put in charge of bringing meals to the assistant teachers of the course, Leanette and Alejandro. Joyce arrived towards the end of the orientation, after roles had already been filled, thus helping where needed without a specific assignment.
After the servers orientation, I spent 30 minutes or so reading the Code of Conduct for Dhamma Servers pamphlet, which went into some detail about selfless service, the five precepts, accepting guidance from center management, relations with meditators, dealing with students, meditation practice for servers, meeting the assistant teachers, physical contact and separation, the maintenance of Noble Speech, personal appearance, smoking, food, reading, outside contacts, cleanliness, use of center property, extended stays, dāna (generosity), and a conclusion. After filling out the registration form, I gathered my phone, notebook, wallet, and copy of Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score, placed them in a small, red, drawstring bag with the number “15” written in beige masking tape, and turned them into the registration desk for the center to hold onto for the next two weeks.
The servers and I ate dinner and attended the group sitting at 8pm. The Dhamma Hall was full, marking Day 0 of the 10-day course and beginning the period of Noble Silence for the 70 students attending the course. The schedule for the servers went as follows:
Each server was given a half-day off during the course. During breaks, I alternated between reading The Noble Eightfold Path (returning Great Disciples of the Buddha to the library once I realized I wouldn’t have time to make it to a second book), taking naps, and walking through the woods. Many days I found a place outside to sit or lay down — on a bench beneath the bright sun and looking up at the sky; on a dry, mossy rock; under the arch of a fallen tree which sheltered me from falling snow; or on a wooden platform which acted as a bridge over tiny streams. I’d walk, pay attention to my body and breath, and look out at the span of trees filled with love and joy; gently touching them, at times being supported by them to prevent myself from slipping on ice, a number of times closely embracing them. I loved each tree as I loved people; an expression of the whole and the whole in itself, understanding just a little more fully the essence of non-separation.
I’d make laps along the flat walking areas and through the hilly, wooded area; sometimes in the snow, sometimes in the swampy, muddy run-off on slightly warmer days, sometimes under bright blue, thin clouds, and very sparse planes passing by, once under the quiet night sky, the tip of the pagoda pointing directly up towards the crescent moon. On one particularly icy day, I crouched very low and sauntered sideways down a steep pathway, slipping multiples times on the ice, haphazardly catching myself, my wrists bearing the brunt of my falls. Mostly I’d have the whole outdoor area to myself as the students were meditating in their rooms, in the Dhamma Hall, or in the pagoda.
Many of the other servers spent their breaks resting, reading, or meditating. On occasion, I’d see one or two people walking through the woods; I saw one student who I later learned was named Stella skipping through the woods and humming to herself, and a couple of occasions I saw Bhavi reading to herself on a log or on a bench, and walking down the hill with an umbrella through the snow.
I meditated in the pagoda a handful of times during the breaks. The pagoda is filled with over a hundred tiny, individual meditation rooms, about 4x4 feet small, if at all, dark and largely sound-proof, an environment conducive for the sharp awareness of the senses — fully absorbed and without distraction. The breath is nearly all that can be heard, the room having just enough space for the zabuton, the cushion, and you.
In my room, reading The Noble Eightfold Path illuminated by a small plastic flashlight, I reflected on the compatibility of Buddhism and Marxism, and what I believe to be any Buddhist practitioner's moral responsibility to take a firm stance against the U.S. capitalist government. Both Buddhism and Marxism are committed to understanding reality from a dialectical materialist standpoint, or in other words, taking all phenomena and history into account while seeing its constantly changing nature. Using the meditation techniques of the Buddha, training our minds to understand ourselves better supports us in looking at the world more clearly also. While meditating, we are taught to no longer react to the sensations that come up, and Goenkaji makes a clear point that we ought to take conscious and sometimes firm action as we interact with society.
Some of the principle tenets of the eightfold path are right speech and right view, cultivating those qualities within ourselves, and eradicating personal habits of “destroying life,” “taking what is not given,” “false speech,” “slanderous speech,” and “harsh speech.” When the so-called "functioning" of capitalism depends on the U.S. government destroying life, taking what is not given, and spreading misinformation, slander, and deception, as exemplified throughout U.S. history (COINTELPRO being one of the most prominent examples), then it is the Buddhist onus to oppose such a government. Taking this position a step further, I believe it is our moral obligation to struggle for a system which can embody the principles of peace and truth, and to reject limiting our practice to the individual. I also believe in the necessity of self-defense against oppressors, and taking back and redistributing that which has been taken (land, the state, the means of production, wages, etc.), which are necessary steps in the struggle for liberation.
I also spent time reflecting on the benefit of being without internet access for an extended period of time, which I have been using unmanageably and compulsively especially since the beginning of the pandemic, far beyond the point of my mental detriment. I felt long moments of mental spaciousness and ease for the first time in several years, with room to think and read and be. I thought of the following prayer in relationship with screens, which I wrote down after the course:
May I use these tools for the benefit of myself and for the benefit of others. May I refrain from using these devices in a way that harms myself and others mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. May I utilize technology to bring me laughter and joy, and to strengthen connection and understanding.
Back in the kitchen, breakfast always consisted of oatmeal, surprisingly delicious stewed prunes, cereal, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, orange juice, tea or coffee, bananas, and oranges. On the first day, I had a bowl of oatmeal, prunes, half a banana, coffee, and orange juice, though for the remainder of my time I’d have coffee, an orange, and a small amount of either cottage cheese or yogurt as I grew more in tune with the nutrition my body was asking me for. Deepti brought treats for the students and servers on a handful of days, reflective of her cravings from her 30-day course: khakhra, a thin, crispy Indian wheat snack about the size of a circular plate, Lindt chocolate truffles, sweet sesame crackers, Ferrero Rocher chocolate balls, and at one point gaining permission from Sabrina to order everyone croissants. She had also asked for bagels and a couple of other treats, which Sabrina respectfully declined so that we could stick to the menu and be mindful of the intention of renunciation.
Each day, a majority of the oatmeal was thrown into the compost, which a local farmer picked up each time we filled up the large, red compost wagon. Taking the two compost buckets became one of my favorite daily tasks — I loved being able to step outside of the kitchen, lifting heavy lids sometimes piled with snow, watching the steam lift off the warm oatmeal and into the cold breeze. I’d look out at the hills for a moment of slowness, lowering my mask to breathe and smell the crisp winter air.
Deepti and I worked out making less and less oatmeal each day, and still much of the oatmeal was composted, especially on days that we served an additional entrée. On Day 2, we gave the students a leftover quinoa stir fry with breakfast that Deepti, Ran, and I made for the servers’ dinner the night before, and a couple of times Meeyoung made “Gamga Guk” (Korean potato soup) and fried rice for all of the students.
Meeyoung consistently stashed away leftovers and food scraps in the small fridge outside the walk-in. She’d make pickled kale stems, sugary sweet potato fries, and various treats for the assistant teachers’ (Alejandro and Leanette’s) meals. Meeyoung took her role to bring the assistant teachers (AT’s) food very seriously. Alejandro and Leanette explicitly voiced that they were happy to eat whatever was on the menu, though with Meeyoung’s astute observations of what the AT’s would eat less or more of, and Leanette’s casual suggestions that we try to make Korean food, Meeyoung spent much of her time and energy frantically running around the kitchen to make special food projects, sometimes at the expense of no longer putting her and others’ energy towards our planned tasks and menu. Walking throughout the kitchen and during meditation, I laughed often to myself at the growing proportion of elaborate food projects and her commitment to no-waste, realizing that while I could do my best to redirect our focus, I was completely out of control of others’ behaviors, responses, and attachments, which I am learning to find a lot of joy in.
Lunch was a varied, wholesome, homemade vegetarian menu. Each day included fruit and a salad, with sides of shredded carrots, shredded beets, chickpeas, and homemade dressing, the most popular being a sunflower tamari dressing. Day 1, we cooked penne pasta with tomato sauce, quinoa, rice, steamed broccoli, and herb bread; Day 2, baked nutritional tofu, rice, steamed kale, and carrot cake; Day 3, red lentil dal, curried vegetables, and rice; Day 4, tofu-broccoli-carrot stir fry and rice; Day 5, chana masala, rice, and baked potato spears; Day 6, baked marinated tempeh, rice, steamed zucchini and yellow squash; Day 7, black bean chili, guacamole, rice, and steamed greens; Day 8, macaroni and cheese, rice, and steamed broccoli; Day 9, coconut curry, rice, steamed greens, apple crisp, and whipped cream; Day 10, veggie burgers, avocado halves with lemon, leftover chili, chocolate chip cookies, and strawberries with whipped cream. For students, 5pm tea time included fruit for those who were taking the course for the first time, allowed to take milk with their tea, and returning students were asked to only have tea after 12pm unless a special diet required otherwise. Servers reheated leftovers for dinner. No student was permitted to fast. Day 10 was the only tea time exception, where the period of noble silence had ended and we served everyone split pea soup and leftover tempeh with dinner.
For two breakfasts, I took my breakfast upstairs to watch the sunrise alone. During most meals, the servers and I sat around the wooden table, sharing stories about our families and lives and insights about Buddhist practices, teachings, and spirituality generally. We were animated, lively, and full of laughter, a couple of times receiving complaints from the students about our increasing noise levels as they stood outside the dining room waiting for the meal bell. I had trouble with a lack of clarity about the boundaries of Noble Speech in a Dhamma center. With the desire to respect the center's guidelines to keep controversial topics to a minimum, I struggled when someone said something I disagreed with or I became sharply agitated by and uncertainty about whether or not to respond. When I brought up this difficulty I was having to Leanette, she suggested I notice where and how I'm feeling, and share my feelings when I'm of a more balanced mind and if it'd be beneficial to myself and the other person.
I came to more fully understand the benefit in sitting with agitation before speaking. When I felt particularly activated by troubling political statements, especially statements around sanctions or anti-Chinese sentiments, I observed the anger during meditation, which led me from blame on working-class individuals to love and compassion for the individual, susceptible as we all are to being manipulated by the war-mongering ideological campaigns of the U.S. government. This transference of anger helped deepen my commitment to the needed revolutionary process in the United States.
Supported by the meditation practice and gaining familiarity with the kitchen, I enthusiastically grew into my kitchen manager role, with all of my previous worries gradually falling away. The consistent training in concentration and absence of distraction aided my sense of presence in a way that I had forgotten was even possible for me, having known the impact of trauma on memory and focus. At the beginning of every meal prep shift, I'd look over the checklist of tasks that we needed for each meal. I coordinated assignments for cooking, chopping, and cleaning, and we were often a day ahead of schedule. Besides assisting with cooking tasks, I spent a lot of time consolidating leftovers into storage containers, meticulously placing countless dishes in plastic dish racks, putting clean dishes away, spraying and wiping down surfaces, and organizing the walk-in fridge, happy and mindful as I went through each physical movement.
In the spirit of experimentation, I laughed at myself as I often stubbornly attempted to do more than I was capable of. I'd try to stack and carry tall piles of leftovers out of the walk-in fridge in a single trip, snickering to myself arrogantly, and then having everything collapse into my arms. Another time, I attempted to lift a heavy pot of mac n' cheese I had been working on for 2 days after Deepti warned me against lifting it, trying and failing and nearly dropping the pot. Deepti then said to me, "Terra! You can either learn from your elders or learn from your mistakes."
The servers and I had many wholesome interactions throughout the day, getting to know bits and pieces about each other or laughing about something that happened during the day. Sabrina closely guided me and answered all of my questions patiently and thoroughly. I had very little to worry about; many of the servers grew into their roles equally well and self-managed, and things that went "wrong" were salvageable or low-consequence. Each time I was nervous or mulling plans over in my head during meditation, things would ultimately turn out okay — an insight I am learning to carry over into other areas of my life. I cherished the moments during meditation that the following insight entered my head during meditation, which I understand takes time and practice to embody: that regardless of whether or not the things I want to happen happen, or if the things I don't want to happen do happen, things are okay, and I will emerge affected but alright.
The students’ meditation schedule ran from 4:30am through 9:00pm, with intermittent breaks. Their schedule included around 10 hours of meditation each day, an evening discourse, and questions and interviews with the assistant teachers — the only period in which their silence was broken. Every Vipassana center in this tradition is entirely volunteer-run by former students, and funded only by the donations of former students. The vow of silence for students became a part of the course only after years of experience at the centers, as meditators realized how the extended period of silence aided in the capacity for deep meditation near-unattainable as we interact with others and engage with the world.
The primary foundation of Vipassana is to grow in sīla, samādhi, and pañña — Palī words for morality, concentration, and insight, each serving as building blocks for the other. Without a foundation of morality, our capacity for concentration weakens, and without concentration, our capacity for insight weakens — lessons from the culmination of direct experience of people observing themselves seriously over millennia. With morality, concentration, and insight, we grow in our capacity to know, accept, and love reality as it is, in its constant state of impermanence and change. Through meditation, we wring out the towel of our mental environment in all of its muck that we accumulate throughout the years and days, and we learn to redirect the tendency to look at reality as we hope or fear it to be into the realm of actuality, gently returning our attention over and over again. As far as we may venture from The Path or from God, we don’t need to backtrack — The Path is there for us instantaneously when we call for it.
Everyone at the center, while at the center, maintains Five Precepts (or vows) — refraining from killing any living beings, refraining from intoxicants, refraining from sexual activity, refraining from telling lies, and refraining from taking that which is not given. The first 3 days of the course are spent teaching the students ānāpāna meditation, a technique which brings awareness to natural breathing, beginning at the opening of the nostrils, observing the breath through each inhale and exhale. Over the course of those three days, the area of concentration expands to the area between the nostril and above the upper lip, and to the triangular shape from the top of the nose to the upper lip. Like the sharpening of a dull knife, this technique lays the foundation for increasing our concentration capacity and sensitivity to our senses.
Days 4-9 of the course are spent teaching and practicing Vipassana meditation, a technique which moves our attention along the sensations of the body from the top of the head to the tips of the toes, piece by piece and part by part, or at times in a sweeping flow of awareness. The technique creates an environment for old “saṅkhāras” (mental formations, patterns, or conditioning) to arise and pass away in their own time. Unpleasant sensations are taught as opportunities to release aversion, and pleasant sensations are taught as opportunities to release clinging and craving — both are taught as opportunities to become more deeply in touch with the law of impermanence in nature.
Finally, on Day 10, “Mettā Day,” students break silence after the instruction on mettā bhavana, a meditation which intentionally generates a feeling of love for oneself and others, to be practiced for a few minutes at the end of each meditation. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s The Noble Eightfold Path gives a useful description of the “methodical radiation” of mettā, “in an order of progressive remoteness from oneself.” The servers practice mettā every day during the 9pm workers’ mettā after all of the students leave the Dhamma hall for bed, directing an energy of love to ourselves, the students, the teachers, and all beings “visible and invisible” within and outside the bounds of the meditation center. Goenkaji’s voice guides the meditation: “May I be pardoned for anyone I have harmed in today’s Dhamma service. May I pardon anyone who has harmed me. May I be free from anger, hatred, ill will, animosity, and jealousy. May all beings be happy, be peaceful, be liberated.”
After each workers' mettā, the servers would sit in a circle at the front of the Dhamma Hall around the assistant teachers. Leanette was in the position of servers' coordinator during the first 3-day in-between course service period I attended in July 2019, and I was thrilled to see her progress now serving as assistant teacher. I felt a special kinship with her that I hadn't felt with other assistant teachers on past courses. During the servers' meeting with the AT's, Leanette would start each meeting joyfully asking, "So, did the students eat today?" We'd laugh and talk briefly about how we were doing, Leanette sharing stories or an inspirational Dhamma talk. When the other servers were dismissed, I stayed behind with Airem to give a reportback on the day.
Each time a group meditation would end, I left the Dhamma Hall through the servers' entrance. Every time, I'd be so overcome by a feeling of love for this beloved community, walking silently down the halls behind the students and servers towards our rooms, who I thought of as saint-like people in the depths of the struggle to know ourselves. On Mettā Day, as the students began talking amongst themselves again, love was moving through me so completely I was in tears, overwhelmed by the gratitude for this experience at the Dhamma Center. Walking back towards the kitchen, I could see David in tears, face reddened with the emotion that was beaming throughout the center. "What?" I asked. "I just love you so much," he said behind tears, clearly in the spirit of brotherhood. Sunny witnessed this interaction, smiling and laughing and walking backwards through the kitchen door.
Earlier in the day, Sabrina approached me closely near the walk-in. "Terra, I want to tell you something."
"If I had a daughter, I would want her to be like you."
Touched, I quickly responded: "That is the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."
During the mettā instruction, I realized I hadn't yet said goodbye to Sabrina. Afterwards, I walked hastily towards her office, afraid she had left already. When I saw her sitting in her office chair, I thanked her for her mentorship and quickly started crying, moved that she unexpectedly stayed late and that I had the opportunity to speak with her. I asked Sabrina what it was like for her to jump directly from a 45-day meditation course to speaking in detail about kitchen instructions for long stretches throughout the day. "Oh, I'm still in the course," she said. "Extremely painful," she said. She shared more stories about her life, leaving a life of travel and work in rainforest conservation to serve at the center full-time for the past four years. "This is it," she said.
For the last breakfast before departure, I walked through each of the halls as the students helped with cleaning and packed their bags, ringing the bronze bell to announce that breakfast was ready. The sound vibrated throughout my body down each of the corridors, the students and I making quick glances at each other and sometimes gently bowing our heads. Looking out at the pagoda, as I had done each time I passed a window in the hall, I felt completely at home. The recently departed Thich Nhat Hanh’s gatha on the ringing of the bell made its way back to my memory: “Listen, listen. This wonderful sound brings me back to my true self."
Destroy the delusion in me.