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Ukiah, CA - Spring Break 2012
After almost 24-hours of travel, we finally arrived at the City of Ten-Thousand Buddhas in Ukiah, Ca. We arrived just in time for our evening talk, which introduced us to the service we would be doing and to the monastic life we would be living. Boys and girls were separated, and each went their different ways to get a good night's sleep. We would be waking up at 3:30 in the morning for a 4:00 recitation in the Buddha Hall.
The next day, we awoke with the stars still shining in the sky, and took a short but very, very cold walk to the Buddha Hall for morning recitation. Once morning recitation was over, at 5:00 in the morning, three nuns lead us Eckerd students in meditation. After a quick breakfast, we went to do a few hours of service. This first day, we helped clear out a warehouse of books. The monastery was making preparations to open a new building for their university. After lifting boxes full of heavy books for a few hours, we went to the meal offering ceremony and ate a delicious lunch with the community. We continued our service for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening, we got some time to unwind and meditate if we wanted to. We ate dinner, went to evening recitation in the Buddha Hall, and had a Dharma talk with the nuns who lead us in mediation that morning. It was an amazingly intense, mindful, and fulfilling first day.
The rest of our days paralleled this first day, with a few exceptions. The girls were able to spend a few days working on the monastery's organic and sustainable farm. The boys stayed in the warehouse... and the books just got heavier! Luckily, our service was extremely helpful since the community rarely has a team of able bodies ready for long-hours of work. Some of the students even learned how to use a forklift from a nun! Near the end of the trip, we all took some time off to hike to the peak of Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain (where a dragon resides) and look over the monastery into the Ukiah Valley.
The trip was an amazing experience. We were able to see the obvious fruits of our service in the monastery: cleared rooms, new stacks of books, rows of cauliflower, etc. But at the same time, the connections, feeling of community, and mindfulness we all cultivated deepened our understanding of the importance of our service both in general and in that particular, sometimes peculiar, and always loving community. It was a very special trip.