on the way to the monastery

Our Slayer, The Goof

DM: “You come to a large and imposing gate blocking your way from a monastery courtyard. What do you wish to do?”

Slayer: “I climbed the gate!”

*rolls a 2*

DM: “You get less than 2 feet off the ground, before falling flat on your back.”

Everybody: *laughter*

Slayer: “Ok, I take a few steps back to prepare… AND I CLIMB THE GATE!”

*rolls a 2*

DM: “You’ve discovered it is a climb proof gate.”

*everybody dies laughing*

…the gate was unlocked the whole time…

3

“Father we come to Thy with this child. Sister Annabelle found her in the woods.” A nun proclaimed about the mysterious baby. She was found in a neatly packed basket with blankets folded around her to keep her warm.

“It seems that god wants this child to become part of our Monastery. That he has sent her our way to look after.” The Bishop stated and held the dear girl as she were one of his. Surely God gave her to them for a reason, a higher meaning he thought.

But who was the mysterious child? Where did she come from?

4

Medivh was the Guardian of Dalaran. His cape of raven feathers catch the light in a beautiful, beautiful way. To make the feather cape, we needed five weeks to manufacture, because they were sewn together one by one. You have to organize your feathers, to place them so they catch the light in the same way. That luscious, oily hue is almost like an oil spill. It has to give you some kind of meditation into the costumes since they come from a monastery of Dalaran.

You’re Sure It’s Not Spelt Hucks?

So for the @verymerrykylux shindig that I’m totally late for, I got to write for @gingerbitch-hux. I’m so sorry it’s late. I have no excuses. I’m a lame dude. Anyways! I hope you like it. Thanks to @sithofren and @kyloren-sithlord for reading through this and giving it the polishing it needed!


There is something to this newfangled Facebook thing that Han is simply unable to wrap his mind around. Leia insists – in that endlessly annoying Leia way of hers – that he needs to get it in order to stay current with ‘this generation.’ Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Han’s never met a computer he couldn’t work his way around, but this god damned, imbecilic blue-and-white website of death is testing him in new and inspired ways.

He hates it.

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In with the Bad Air, Out with the Good

by Gelek Rimpoche

“Give and Take” mounted on the breath is the magic device
Bringing love, compassion, and the special mind.
To save all beings from this world’s great ocean,
Please bless me to awaken true bodhimind.

From “An Offering Ceremony to the Spiritual Masters ” by The First Panchen Lama

As the First Panchen Lama suggests, the practice of tonglen—give and take—is a major way of subduing our self-cherishing, ego-pleasing thoughts. Ego is our biggest obstacle to developing bodhimind. When we try to destroy ego, we are training our mind—the mind that ignores all other people, the one that thinks we are the most important person of all. Once we have been able to destroy our selfish, egoistic thoughts, we begin to act as our true selves and we have a real ability to benefit ourselves and others.

Right now, the ego blocks our capacity to help not only others but also ourselves. We have to understand that we cannot really help anyone until we have learned how to help ourselves. But the ego prevents us from helping ourselves by presenting a false notion of what it really means to help ourselves. What does our ego want? Ego wants us to be superior to everybody else; ego wants me to be the best of all. If you are a meditator, your ego would like you to be the best meditator, and if you are an artist, your ego would like you to be recognized as a creative genius. If you’re a businessman, you want to be the most prosperous, wealthy and efficient, and to that end you will do whatever it takes to destroy your competition. Your ego always demands supreme superiority. In Tibetan, we call this attitude dag zin , holding tight to the self.

The more successful you become, the more the demands of your ego will increase. In the beginning, you simply want to succeed, but your ego will not be satisfied. When you become a little more successful, your ego wants to kill your competition. And when you become even more successful, it wants to make you the universal king. There is no telling what ego wants because our desire doesn’t have any limit; therefore, its demands continually increase.

Our ego is so interesting. Just watch your mind when you say, “What do I want? What do I want to take? All the best! Whatever anyone has, I want it!” And what do you want to give? “All the problems and the misery.” That’s ego talking. But it’s not the real you. You are a good and wonderful person. You are kind. You have a compassionate nature.

To free ourselves, we need to turn the tables on ego’s demands. So whatever ego wants, you should turn around and do the opposite. If ego tells you, “Go up,” make sure you go down. If ego tells you, “Go down,” go up. That’s how you have to treat your ego. If ego tells you, “Get all the best!” it means it is time for you to take all the worst. And if ego tells you, “Give all the miserable things,” then take all the miserable things. That is the premise of the practice called tonglen, or “give and take.”

Tonglen practice is united with the flow of the breath. The breathing system we have is to inhale and exhale air. That is basic human nature. We breathe in and out, and if we stop doing either of them, we’re gone. Tonglen uses this basic human function to develop compassion and love. As we breathe in and out, we try to develop love and compassion: compassion-oriented breathing in and love-oriented breathing out.

One important difficulty you might encounter is thinking, “It doesn’t make any difference to me that all these people are suffering. Why should I care?” That is worse than thinking, “I need to help but I can’t.”

Ego’s trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help their parents, too, whether they want to or not. You may say, “My mother and my father were supposed to nurture me. It’s okay to help them because they were supposed to help me.” Or you may say, “I don’t really like this difficulty, but it involves my mother, so I can’t look away.” It is very similar to the feelings some people have when they are divorced. A woman might say about her ex-husband, “He’s my daughter’s father”—she dislikes him, she’s angry, upset, yet he is still “my daughter’s father.” She can’t cut that part out. Even when she’s dying to cut it out and tear it into pieces, he’s still her daughter’s father.

This is reality. The connections between people are so serious, so strong and so long-lasting, that we cannot remove them. Our changing lives have made it so that we don’t recognize each other, but we do have a tremendous amount of connection. We have dealt with each other so many times in our previous lives. We put trust in each other, we consult each other, we try to gain some wisdom from each other and we try to solve personal problems for each other. We also try to help the future generations. All these things we do together, and as a result we have a tremendous amount of connection. We are karmically connected. Even though we may feel we cannot connect to “all sentient beings” right at this moment, we are still very much connected to them.

Interdependence is reality, but we human beings have taken an “I couldn’t care less” attitude. Environmentalists have been telling us about the idea of interdependence, so we have begun to understand it on that level. The environment isn’t the only connection, though. The major connection is among the people. If there are no people, the environment doesn’t mean much. What makes the difference is the interpersonal connections. Buddha has presented the idea of interpersonal connection and how important it is, how relevant it is to our lives and how much our lives depend on it. Great compassion, responsibility and caring are based on the interpersonal relationship. The most important interpersonal relationship is bodhimind—caring and committing to others. That’s not a perfect definition of bodhimind, but that’s what it boils down to.

We are connected in a way that is similar to the connections between the parts of your body. If you get a thorn in your foot, your hand will go and take it out. If your foot is suffering from the thorn and your hands say, “I don’t care. I don’t have suffering. It’s the foot that has suffering,” or if the left hand gets a thorn and the right hand says, “I don’t care. It’s you who is suffering, not me,” in the end, the foot will suffer and the hands will suffer. That is how we function. Likewise, whether it is a personal problem, group problem or international problem, we should address it, talk about it and try to solve it together. If you don’t care about other people, it is a spiritual problem. If you don’t care about them, they won’t care about you, and we’ll all suffer and the problems will continue.

Tonglen practice is based on this connectedness, but when we practice tonglen—giving and taking on the breath—are we really helping others? In the long run, the answer is “yes,” we are helping others. No, it is not an immediate help for them, but it is helping us. At this moment we are not even taking their suffering; we are taking our own future suffering. So, we are also giving our positive karma to ourselves first. We try to materialize it, so that we don’t have to suffer. Then we do the same with the people that we care about. Then with the people they care about. Then with their family, children, spouses and so forth. That’s how we extend our practice when we involve ourselves with it seriously.

THE PRACTICE OF TONGLEN: GENERAL INSTRUCTION

If you are a reasonable person, you want to make those nearest and dearest to you happy. What makes them unhappy? Their mental, physical and emotional suffering. Normally that’s what our lives are all about. When we have physical pain, we say, “Ouch!” When we have mental or emotional pain, we have a long face. When we hear and see pain in those we love, we try to make them happy by removing their suffering. To make use of that urge, we do a mental exercise. The tool we use is our breath. The power of inhalation lifts their suffering. The power of exhalation gives them our joy, and the cause of that joy, our virtue.

You breathe in from the left nostril. While breathing in, you take their suffering. You take it completely, without any fear, without any hesitation, and you don’t leave anything out.
Breathing out from the right nostril, you give all your happiness and the causes of your happiness, your compassion, everything. Without any attachment, without any hesitation, without any miserliness. It reaches them in the form of light, and all become happy and joyful.

The visualization that accompanies the breathing is very important. It makes a big impact on our consciousness. When practicing tonglen, it is recommended to imagine people with faces and names—actual living human beings. You may think, “That way we will only care about human beings. What about the others—my cat, my dog?” This is your cat or dog, but in this tradition you visualize them with a human face and body, simply because it is easier to deal with human beings. And it may also contribute to linking up with a certain good karma, so that the cat or dog may become a human being in its next life.

In your visualization, your friend, your companion, and all the people you care for can be the most important ones, right in front of you—face to face if you want to. They are the object of meditation. When I say, “each and every person with a face and name,” this doesn’t mean that you have to keep on thinking, “Oh yeah, he’s here and she’s there and he’s there.” Your major focus can be on one or two people, but at the same time, you think that all the space is filled up with people. I very strongly object to visualizing nameless, faceless dots, but somehow it easily becomes that. If you have to keep on remembering everybody and go through all of their names and think of all their faces, that would be quite difficult. If we do it the simple way, we imagine that everyone is there, and when we are specifically thinking of somebody, they appear with a name and face.

At first, you may not have that much difficulty, but when you begin to think about it seriously, you may become afraid. You may have fear of taking or you may have hesitation in giving. That’s the ego-controlled part of our human nature. When you begin to take the suffering of people on yourself, your mind is going to have a tremendous amount of resistance. If you don’t think much about it, your attitude may be, “Whatever it may be, so be it.” That’s occurring on a very superficial level, where there are no problems. When you begin to think seriously about this, then you start to encounter resistance. You’ll say, “Why? Why me?”

THE PRACTICE OF TONGLEN ON SELF

If you are afraid of taking somebody else’s pain, start with taking your own suffering. If it’s in the morning, you take the suffering you are going to experience in the evening; or you take the suffering you are going to experience tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or next life. If we take in suffering that will come to us in the evening a little earlier, it might not become quite so big. It is much easier to take on your own suffering and problems in advance than taking on someone else’s. It is good to keep training your mind in that way.

While breathing in, take your own suffering from yourself. For example, say to yourself, “I’ll take my own suffering of this evening into me now, and tomorrow’s suffering, and next week’s, next month’s, next year’s, next life’s, and the sufferings of my lives thereafter.” Take your own pain into yourself, make it come a little quicker, so you settle for a smaller problem rather than the heaviest difficulties.

SPECIAL GIVE AND TAKE

Before we take any suffering, either our own future suffering or the suffering of the other person, the question arises, “What do I do with this now? Where am I going to put it within me?” We have to be prepared for that. We need a garbage can, some place to throw it. It so happens that we have an enemy inside: Mister Ego. That becomes our target. This method of making ego our target is called “special give and take.”

Collect your own negativities, which are the deeds of your ego. Collect your negative emotions, which are the thoughts of your ego. Then visualize your ego in the form of whatever you dislike—a big spider or a heap of darkness. Collect all of it. Don’t leave any part of your body or consciousness out. Just collect it all, somewhere at the center of your body, at the heart level.

What we are taking from the others is not only their suffering but also causes of their suffering, such as attachment, hatred and ignorance. All of these things come in through the breath. When these gather, it has an effect like lightning striking a rocky area; or—as we see on television these days—bombs exploding; or a cyclone picking up everything in its path. In that way it hits our ego, shreds it completely and destroys it. Not even a trace is left. Nothing! We don’t have to keep what we took inside us—feeling it and saving it there and suffering. Not only do we not have to do that, we shouldn’t do it.

THE PRACTICE OF TONGLEN ON A ONE-TO-ONE BASIS

Step 1. Visualize and connect. Visualize the person right in front of you, and think of their suffering; the disease they have; or the mental, physical and emotional pain they are going through. When you really see your friend suffering with unbearable pain, tears will come to you. That is true caring. It may not be great compassion, but it is a true feeling of compassion.

If you don’t feel anything when seeing the person you really love the most—your current companion or whomever—then you need to change the focus and try to recollect the suffering you have gone through yourself. Think about when you experienced similar difficulties, or if that’s not possible, any other difficulties: “How unhappy I was, how much pain I went through, how much anxiety I had, and how many times I woke up in the middle of the night with a heavy heart.”

Think of that, and then try to understand that this other person is going through the same kind of pain. Anyone can say, “Poor little thing!” but if we have no feelings, it isn’t very good—it is being out of touch. Being out of touch with compassion doesn’t work. We have to have the feeling. We can only understand and develop that feeling if we think about when we went through that, or something like that. If we think that way, we get a better understanding of what the other person is going through.

This particular feeling is not necessarily just for tonglen . It is important to use it within your family and apply it to all relationships: between husband and wife, between children and parents, among all members of the family. If you don’t understand the other person’s problems, you have to sit down, calm your mind, and think about when you had that pain and how you felt. If you can remember that, then your attitude toward your family members will be different. You will no longer be that short-tempered, snappy person. It will give you a better understanding of what other people’s pain is all about. Otherwise there is a danger for us of falling into saying, “Oh, the poor little things, how they are all suffering!”

Once you have that feeling, once you can really appreciate and understand what the other person is going through, you are giving rise to real caring. You would like to offer some kind of immediate solution. Right now you would like to destroy that pain. “If I can do something about it, let me do it right away, to make that pain go away.” That desire, anxiety and eagerness are what you need. Normally, when you see your child suffering tremendously, you will anxiously ask yourself, “What can I do?” You need that type of anxiety. You have to train your mind up to that level. When you have that anxiety, you will say, “Let me take the pain. Is there any way I can take it?”

Step 2. Take. When you come to that level, you can visualize it. Take it and lift it up by your own sincerity, by your own compassion, by the power of the truth, by the blessings of the enlightened beings: “I’m here now to take all the pains of that person.” Take it in the form of an undesirable color and breathe it in. Breathe it in—whatever that pain might be, including cancer. Take in the pain itself and the cause of the pain. In your visualization literally pick it up and bring it in. Like a powerful lightning bolt, it will hit that mountain of ego, that heap of darkness you have at your heart level, and destroy it. That is the taking in.

Step 3. Give. Then you give. You give love, affection, virtue—everything—without any hesitation. You give your own positive karma, your own body. Whatever the desire or need of the person may be, you give it to them. You are giving three things: your body, your wealth and your virtue. That’s the best we have to offer, so we give that. And whatever the need of the person might be, the giving comes in that form. The person becomes free of pain and happy, just as you wanted them to be.

The moment you have any hesitation, the moment you attach a condition, it is not good. People appreciate generosity, but when it is attached to a condition, it becomes difficult to accept it. I remember living in India, which is such a poor country. In the seventies and eighties, America gave a lot of aid but it came with strings attached. India didn’t appreciate it. India kept on saying, “We’d rather have trade than aid.” They even forced the U.S. aid office to close. If aid comes with strings attached, you become a puppet that has to dance on a string. Even India can say no to that. They are very proud of it, actually. And that is a good thing.

The quality of generosity involves not looking for return. There is no attachment, no hope of gaining something back, no looking for gratitude, and certainly no looking for control, influence or power. When you give, give without any hesitation, without any reservation. Just give.

To do tonglen on a one-to-one basis is very helpful. It is a tremendous opportunity, believe me. You can do this between partners. You can do this between healer and patient. You can do this between teacher and student. You can do this between caregiver and patient. For the caregiver it is a great opportunity for practice. For the patient it is an opportunity to thank the caring people. For the therapist it is a good opportunity to make the therapy work better. For the patient it is a good way of expressing gratitude to the therapist.

THE PRACTICE OF TONGLEN EXPANDED TO ALL BEINGS

From the traditional Buddhist point of view, we are expected to expand our object of focus. First, we can focus on the human level and whatever suffering we encounter there. We begin with one individual and expand our focus to two, three, four or five and multiply that. Eventually, in our Mahayana practice, the focal point becomes all beings, without leaving anyone out—all beings with the physical appearance of the people we know, with all their difficulties, with their normal egoistic characteristics.

The traditional teachings will tell you that when you are focusing on the hell realms, you take the suffering of the hell realm beings completely. You either do the eighteen hell realms one by one, working with their eighteen different characteristics, or you work with them more simply by dividing them in two, taking the hot hells and the cold hells separately. You could also take them all at once, taking the hot and cold hells all together. You do it according to whatever time you have and whatever is convenient for you. Then you move to the hungry ghost realm, then to the animal realm, the demi-god realm and the god realm. You cover all six realms, or even eighteen realms, whatever you want to do. But you always begin with the people you know and recognize.

Visualize those who are suffering in the hot-hell realm. Visualize that light rays of your body manifest there as a cold shower or a rainfall that has a tremendous cooling power. You take their suffering: the heat, the fear, the pain. You take the causes of their suffering: the karmic cause as well as the delusional cause—in particular the anger and hatred—together with the imprints. When you give your light, it goes out and reaches to the hell realms, and just by the touch of the light, it purifies the environment. This is extremely important, because most hell realm people suffer because of the environment. So purify the environment, and take their hot and cold sufferings. Bring it in and use it to destroy your ego. And then give. Empty the hell realms completely; close the hell realms altogether. All those people become free of suffering.

Similarly, you meditate on the cold realms. There, your body’s light rays will manifest as powerful sunshine, something to make them warm. Not only do you separate them from the pain of being cold, but also you give your body to them and they become human beings. You can also transform your body into houses—not shabby old houses but good solid ones. Transform your body into food to satisfy them; give it as clothes for them to put on, as medicine, whatever they need. You can also visualize manifesting your body as a teacher giving them teachings. They are ready to become a buddha.

Similarly you give food to the hungry ghosts, wisdom to the animals, weapons to the jealous demi-gods and lovely flowers to the gods. Whatever their needs are, you fulfill them. For human beings, however, you take a different approach. Human desires are limitless. You cannot make a blanket statement about what they want. So you give them whatever they want, whatever they desire. Manifest your body in that form and give it to the human beings.

Give your wealth and your virtues. You give body, wealth and virtues to your teachers and the buddhas, in the form of offerings, so they may have long life and prosperity. You give all your virtues of the past, present and future. You give your body and wealth of the present and future—you can’t give those of the past, the past is gone.

COMPASSION IN ACTION

Training in compassion is a mental activity. But our mind should also be brought to the level where every action we take is influenced by compassion. That means engaging ourselves in compassion in action. The Judeo-Christian tradition has tremendous examples of compassion in action. In the West, people have built hospitals and schools in peacetime and have also relieved the suffering of people in war. There are groups who look after refugees and address human rights issues. There is a tremendous amount of work being done on social and environmental issues. If this is done with kindness, it is an example of compassion in action. If we get personally involved in such activities, it is compassion in action. If we don’t, it is only compassion at the meditative level. That may not be sufficient.

If we only practice on the mind level, we run a great risk of our compassion being just talk. As we know, talk is cheap. To develop true compassion, we have to put our money where our mouth is. That is why we need to combine the mind training practice of tonglen with compassionate action. We are fortunate to live in a society that provides us with many opportunities to put our compassion into practice. That is what will really make a difference in freeing ourselves from the tyranny of our ego-cherishing thoughts. That is what will help us to gain true control over our lives so that we can be of real benefit to ourselves and others. That is how we awaken true bodhimind.

Being mindful does not mean that we just sit for hours on our meditation cushion in a retreat or monastery. There are many ways to practice mindfulness that can be fully integrated into our daily living. Besides conscious breathing, we can do walking meditation, sitting meditation, smiling, mindful listening, mindful speaking, and mindful working. We can practice concentration and looking deeply in all the activities of our daily life. Even while walking, we can practice stopping. We can walk in such a way that we arrive with each step – not walking just to get somewhere else. We can walk to enjoy each step.  If we practice stopping while attending to e-mails, surfing the web, attending meetings or appointments, folding the laundry, washing the dishes, or taking a shower, we are living deeply. If we do not practice this way, the days and months will fly by without our awareness, and we will lose many precious moments of our life. Stopping helps us live fully in the present.
—  Thich Nhat Hanh, Savor

Thank you again, @c-qcat for beta reading this. 

Part 1, Part 2 (here), 

Reader/Reaper

“Do the Dead Frighten You?” 2/??

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The second day Reaper acted as if nothing had happened, you had been called up for your shift keeping watch (unsure it was even necessary, since at the time, you weren’t even sure Reaper could physically sleep) at a reasonable time, not that it mattered, since you refused to let yourself sleep, too terrified of him, of the way he looked at you and his questions and any implications either might hold.

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Some Millennials Are Seeking a Nun’s Life

By Penelope Green, NY Times, Sept. 5, 2015

SUMMIT, N.J.–It’s been a rough year for the mechanicals at the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary. The lawn mower died, along with the chaplain’s car, the compressor for the kitchen refrigerator and one of the “new” washers (that is, a machine bought sometime in the mid ‘80s).

But the 19 sisters who live here are sanguine about these and other expenses, which include more than $94,000 a year for health insurance. “Oy,” is how Sister Mary Catharine, the gregarious 46-year-old novice mistress, shrugged off the recent breakdowns.

On a recent summer morning, the sisters stood in their chapel and sang the daytime prayer in high, clear voices. Dominican monasteries are essentially engines of prayer; singing, which the nuns do seven times a day, is a deeper, fuller way of praying, Sister Mary Catharine said, “because we are using our whole person.”

Outside the choir door, a bulletin board was layered with a collage of cards, printed emails and letters, flags of hope and despair, asking the sisters for an intercession.

“We get them from all over the world every week,” said Sister Mary Catharine. “We have regulars. If you don’t hear from someone, you notice and worry.”

A woman fighting depression phoned most mornings and evenings. “We tell her, ‘It’s O.K. We’re praying for you,’” Sister Mary Catharine said (now she calls less often). “Sometimes I don’t know what to say. Some sisters are better at this than others.”

On a table, a handful of LG Tracfones were charging, as backup in case a sister on an errand has a breakdown (the monastery owns two 10-year-old Subaru Foresters) or an item needs to be added to her shopping list. Of course, said Sister Mary Catharine, nuns are notorious for not turning the ringer on.

While the number of women entering religious life has been in a steep decline since the mid-1960s, it is notable and even startling that a contemplative order like the Dominican Nuns of Summit–where the sisters live in cloister and practice a life of prayer–would be able to attract young, college-educated millennials.

In the last decade, 15 aspirants have entered this tiny order, nine of whom stayed and are on track to take their final vows or have already done so. Two more will join the community before the end of the year.

Built in the 1920s and ‘30s on a busy street in this bedroom community of Manhattan, the monastery was imagined as four-winged cloister until the Depression curtailed its scope.

What surrounds the brick and stone chapel is a kind of architectural afterthought, a ring of rooms housing the sisters’ bright, spare cells and their kitchen, dining room, offices and choir.

Underneath, a warren of spaces includes the woodworking and soap making shops–sales of their products help defray the sisters’ growing expenses. In a windowless storeroom, a few donated exercise machines huddle together (one sister’s mother works at a Y.M.C.A).

The Dominican sisters of Summit have finally outgrown their home.

Some context comes from a study published last fall by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (or CARA), charting the decrease in the population of women’s religious orders, to less than 50,000 today, from their peak of 181,421 sisters in 1966.

In postwar America, “a vocation to a religious life was one of the few ways for Catholics without resources to get an education and to exercise leadership,” said Mary Gautier, a senior research associate at CARA.

Yet even at the peak, a vocation to a contemplative order was pretty rare. (Active or apostolic nuns, by contrast, follow a service ministry out in the world, in teaching or health care, for example.) “Their purpose is very special,” Dr. Gautier said.

Paradoxically, it’s the Internet and, increasingly, social media that have helped replenish the Summit sisters and other orders, with blogs like A Nun’s Life and elegant websites like the one Sister Mary Catharine built for her order using Squarespace.

You can search the phrase, “How to be a nun” and find substantive answers. An Ohio order invites you to text your queries.

One sister looked at the Summit blog for two years before she got in touch. (Sister Mary Catharine put the blog up in 2004 without permission from the prioress. “I knew I couldn’t explain what a blog was without actually making a blog,” she said. Permission was quickly granted, she added.) Communities have Twitter feeds that you can follow, and Facebook pages.

In 1991, when Sister Mary Catharine entered the Summit monastery, she was 22 and the next youngest sister was 39. Back home in Massachusetts, where she was still known as Sharon Perry and working as a pharmacy technician, there was no one she knew who was even contemplating a contemplative life.

Raised Catholic, Sister Mary Catharine had spent two years as a teacher in an active order in her home state; she was stunned to be called to a cloistered community in Summit, N.J. “Of all places,” she said. “It was the ‘80s, this non-time. Lots of big sleeves and hair.” But after a visit to the Summit monastery, Sister Mary Catharine couldn’t shake the pull of the place.

Now, she is mentoring six women under the age of 30; this summer, she welcomed four aspirants, three of them in their 20s. “You now have a whole generation that’s been given so much,” Sister Mary Catharine said, pondering the recent flurry of inquiries to the monastery.

“With all the technology, I think they’re just saturated,” she said of the curious. “And they see this life as really radical and they have a desire for it. Maybe their families are fractured and they see our life as really stable. Of course, people come to it from all different places. One of the friars told me his novice master decided to become a friar because friars had their own bedrooms and he hated sharing a room with his brothers at home. That is why he came, but it’s not why he stayed. If God is calling, you can’t be happy doing anything else.”

It was YouTube that figured into the discernment process of another novice.

Sister Maria Teresa, who took her final vows here last year, was a junior at Drew University majoring in religious studies and biology when she felt the call to some sort of service. Cloistered life was not on her list of life choices, though she was considering a religious vocation in an active order.

After praying for guidance one day in her dorm room, she put on her head phones to listen her favorite song, “Only Hope,” by Mandy Moore on YouTube (the theme to the Nicholas Sparks romantic comedy, “A Walk to Remember”). Instead of the familiar lyrics, she heard the phrase, “Will you marry me?” and understood, she said, that she had to give herself more radically to God.

She had been at the Summit monastery for just three weeks when the photographer Toni Greaves visited in the winter of 2008, joining a writer who was working on a story about how nuns were using the Internet to market their communities.

Ms. Greaves was so moved by what she saw there that she asked the sisters if she could stay and document their daily life. “There was an exuberance and vibrancy to all the young women,” Ms. Greaves said. “It’s the energy that we embody when we’re in love, and it was amazing to me.”

She spent the next seven years visiting the monastery, sleeping in the tiny guest quarters in the basement. Her luminous images marry the quotidian with the divine in all sorts of ways: a young novice dribbles a basketball in full habit; a jar of Vick’s VapoRub nestles a bottle of holy water; a group portrait of all 19 sisters, whose ages range from 25 to 90, includes Sabina, the golden retriever, splayed flat on the floor (Sabina had trained to be a guide dog, said Sister Mary Catharine, but she was perhaps too friendly for that work).

“We got used to stepping over Toni on the floor as we left chapel,” said Sister Mary Catharine, who now calls Ms. Greaves a close friend.

Her book, “Radical Love,” out this month from Chronicle Books, is a collection of images that document Sister Maria Teresa’s journey from her first weeks in the monastery to her solemn profession seven years later. “To focus life on the thing you care about the most,” Ms. Greaves said, “I equate their happiness, in part, to that.”

In the skinny passage that serves as the monastery’s front hall, Sister Mary Cecilia stopped to share her vocation story. She is an extern sister, which means she works outside the monastery and is the face of the community to the outside world.

Sister Mary Cecilia drives sisters to the doctor, and picks visitors up from the airport and grocery shops, among other things. (For a long time, Sister Mary Catharine was the only sister here with a driver’s license. “I thought I’d write a book,” she said. “‘I Go to the Airport: My Life as a Cloistered Nun.’ “)

In 2007, Sister Mary Cecilia had graduated from business school, taken her securities exam and begun a plum job. “A religious life was not on my radar, but I was completely miserable,” she said. “I remember asking God what to do.”

She was touring active orders when a scheduling mishap brought her for a night to Summit. Meeting with Sister Mary Catharine in the small parlor that is the public room here, she said, “I think I have a contemplative vocation,” and burst into tears.

Cloistered life requires stamina. Sisters are up at 5:20, and work hard during the day: studying, praying and performing all manner of jobs according to temperament and talent. There are printers, publication directors, database managers and cooks; there are four organists, a liturgy directress, a bursar and more than a few seamstresses.

Laundry must be done, and many sisters have a garden. Mending (and making) the habits is a constant challenge, said Sister Mary Catharine, because their fabric sources keep drying up, and “we demand a lot from our clothes.” (The holy grail of fabric is a poly/wool blend that doesn’t pill, wears well and breathes.)

The sisters used to make their own shoes, too, but these days they buy them at Zappos. “Free shipping,” said Sister Mary Catharine.

Novices go through physical changes, she said, as their internal clocks adjust to the routine: “They are used to being up late at night. There’s no, ‘I’m going to sleep in this weekend.’ When I entered, I thought I would never get over the exhaustion.”

The first six weeks are pivotal, Sister Mary Catharine said: “It’s when they get over the romance of it all. If they make it six weeks, they’ll usually make it a year. And if they make it through a year, they’re probably going to make solemn profession.”

The soap, candles, room sprays and cosmetics they make by hand are part of a serious operation, though its retail presence is just a small closet inside the front door of the church.

There are hits and misses. Chocolate soap was not a best seller. “None of us have any professional experience in marketing so we just go for it,” Sister Mary Catharine said. In a recent meeting to plan next spring’s scents, the sisters nixed a patchouli flavor because it reminded them of an old couch.

A capital campaign is underway to build the sisters a 5,500-square-foot addition with handicapped access, something the church is sorely lacking.

Stretching off to one side of the church, the space will more than ease their growing pains, and will finish, in effect, the job that was started here back in the 1920s. Inside, there will be larger guest quarters, a proper gift shop and more workrooms for the handmade products, which in turn will free up more space in the original structure for the new sisters.

Sister Mary Cecilia, the extern, is now 31 and still in her first vows, the formative period that follows the two-year novitiate program.

After six years here, Sister Mary Cecilia, a native of Canada, remains mystified by certain United State rituals.

“I still don’t get the Electoral College,” she said.

“Nobody does,” said Sister Mary Catharine. (Cloistered nuns do vote, by mail-in ballot.)

The contemplative life, Sister Mary Cecilia said, “has been more than I could ever have imagined. God surprises you.”

“This image is from a short series I took in Plum Village, a Buddhist monastery situated near Bordeaux in southwest France,” photographer Eva Clifford writes, “It was founded by Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh (Thay) and Sister Chân Không in the early eighties, after being exiled from their native Vietnam. Thay’s key teaching is that through the practice of mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment - the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.” Of this picture, she explains, “Br. Pháp Lai practices walking meditation in the surrounding forest at Upper Hamlet.”

My Reaction to Iron Fist S1E6
  • James Earl Jones?
  • Oh I like that pillow
  • *sing songs* Ta-ran-tu-laaaa
  • *singing* TAAAAAAKKKE  OOOOOONNN MEEEEEEEEE
  • HE’S LITERALLY PULLING “A CLOCKWORK ORANGE” BY SINGING WHILE HE’S KILLING PEOPLE HOLY CRAP
  • Actually, you know what, I won’t skip the intro this time
  • RZA?  Like the martial arts dude?
  • This show is actually starting to pick up.  Yay.
  • *heavy sarcasm*  More corporate policy things!
  • Look at Danny at his desk, all proper and everythin’.  :)
  • OH MY GOD WARD SHUT UP
  • We need to get Danny in grey more.  Or get Melvin from “Daredevil” to make him a suit
  • “Monastery Boy in an Aston Martin” is gonna be my new tag for Danny
  • OK, this definitely does not look like Hell’s Kitchen
  • Oh my God…
  • Why yes, take something out of a dead man’s mouth, Danny.  That’s the way to go.
  • Yes, Claire has more experience fighting the Hand than Danny.  Because she rocks.
  • Discount Tyler Perry
  • “… that incredible green guy.” 
  • I can totally imagine Danny singing “Wait for It” from Hamilton
  • Who be that….
  • Is that Clancy Brown?
  • “I’ve mastered everything.”  Oh really?
  • Oooohhhhh…..
  • *in Dungeons and Dragons narrator voice*  You walk into a dark room and you find a well in the middle of the room.  You go DOWN THE WELL…
  • MADAME GAO!
  • When are we gonna see the flashback of Danny getting his Iron Fist powers by PUNCHING A DRAGON?
  • Heck yeah Daredevil lighting!
  • Oh, it’s always a fight to the death in this world.
  • WE ARE LEGION FOR WE ARE MANY!
  • Oh that looks awesome
  • Ken Watanabe?
  • Well somebody clap because that was good
  • How did he tear off the sleeve of his sweatshirt like that?
  • #ClaireNeedsRespect2k17
  • Ooohh the fog effect!  Me like!
  • Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttt….
  • NOOOOOOOOOO NOOOOOOO NOOOO NO NO!!!
  • Whooaaaaaa….
  • Holy snot
  • [Bride of Nine Spiders starts crawling on top of Danny] GOD NO DON”T DO THAT
  • Did he just knock her out with a kick to the jaw?
  • Ward looks terrible…
  • WHAAATTTT…
  • Why is he driving?
  • AAAGGGHHHH
  • One of the themes of the Marvel Netflix shows seems to be John Does in the Metro General Hospital.  Kilgrave, the chemist dude in this show, the other victim in Daredevil Season 2…
  • YEEAAAHHHH
  • “Sweet Christmas!”  SHE SAID IT!
  • Whaddya bet Madame Gao is gonna be like “The last challenger is me!”
  • Danny is so done with everyone’s shit about him not being who he says he is
  • Wait is that Lewis Tan?
  • Wait is that a scythe??!?
  • Oh this looks awesome!
  • “You belong to me” does not sound like something your respected and beloved master would say to you
  • Brown sugar is an excellent smell
  • What?
  • WHAAATT?!?!?
  • I like the red lighting
5

Young monks from Tsurphu Monastery and Nenang Monastery play badminton at a big picnic on a lovely summery day in Tibet. 

The monastery organised this day out for the monks a couple of weeks after their large annual festival, as a way to relax and treat them all after all the hard work of rehearsing and putting on the three-day show. 

There was a huge tent of food, various sports activities and various board and card games for the monks to enjoy. They looked like they were having a great time! 

2

my au where instead of the bizarro ninja being killed at the end of double trouble, they stickaround and become garmadon’s henchmen for the rest of the season. then when garmadon is redeemed at the end of the season, they are too. they live with garmadon and misako at the monastery. theyve probably accidentally called misako “mom” a few times.

'Iron Fist' recap: 'The Mistress of All Agonies' - EW.com

‘Iron Fist’ recap: ‘The Mistress of All Agonies’ – EW.com

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EW.comIf there’s one thing I haven’t talked about nearly enough in these recaps so far, it’s how much I love Wai Ching Ho as Madame Gao. She was one of my favorite characters on Daredevil (see EW’s Superhero TV Villains ranking for proof) and she’s one of …Iron Fist Season 1 Soundtrack Now On SaleComicbook.comIron Fist: K’un-Lun’s Monastery & Danny’s Powers ExplainedScreen Rant‘Iron Fist’ packs a…

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Lilith nervously stood behind her father’s legs when they reached the Monastery Of Spinjitzu. She was a little scared. She’d only seen pictures of it, and was being left with her Uncle for a short while. She didn’t know why but she was excited to see Wu again.

Garmadon pushed open the doors to the monastery gate and surveyed the courtyard for Wu or any of his students. Lilith peaked out from behind him to check out the courtyard like her father.

Bagan - Myanmar 

This ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar was once the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, a region that would later form modern Myanmar. At the height of its significance, Over 10,000 temples and monasteries occupied the lands, over 2000 of which still remain today. 

Bagans low breezes create the perfect conditions for hot air ballooning, which has become a popular way to see this ancient city.

Clarity does not require
Retiring to forests or monasteries, or
Giving up all of one’s material possessions.
All that is needed is to
Relinquish one’s erroneous beliefs.
What Wu Hsin speaks about is a process of unlearning.
It is the abandonment of the ideas and beliefs,
Of all rigid forms of thought and feeling
Whereby the mind tries to
Organize its own activities into orderly compartments.
These dogmas and philosophical systems are
Only ideas about reality,
In the same way words are not facts
But only ideas about facts.
What is pointed to is
The coming into direct contact with reality itself
Without allowing the belief systems to intervene.
Those who wish to keep their illusions can do so and
Will remain frozen in place.
Those who fear them recede into safer illusions,
While those who see through them
Move ever forward.
—  Wu Hsin - Being Conscious Presence

Day 273 of the 365 art challenge.

Y'know, I always felt annoyed that Morinth didn’t get an appearance in Mass Effect 3 aside from that one enemy at the end of London. So I decided to fix that and design her a new outfit. I based the little capelet off someone’s design for ardat yakshi monastery uniforms, adding Samara’s loyalty jumpsuit, her leg bracers from her normal outfit, and a jacket that was lifted off some early asari commando concepts.

I don’t get why she didn’t get her own version of the monastery mission, it could’ve been easily done! They already had her writing to her sisters in the shadow broker files for crying out loud! That way, we could’ve seen a sister dynamic between Morinth and Falere/Rila, especially if she had heard about other ardat yakshi being turned into Banshees and had turned up to rescue them, because I do believe that she cares for them as much as Samara does. And we also could’ve heard more about the monastery and maybe why she didn’t go for it (aside from liking mind melding with people), so we could’ve had a different perspective! And at the end of the mission, she could’ve gone on to rescue other ardat yakshi, so we could’ve had her, and the other ardat yakshi as war assets!

Ah well, guess I’ll have to keep imagining this scenario then :)

The Dark and Middle Ages! The Nineteenth Century had an impudent way with its labels. For there, under the window in Arthur’s Gramarye, the sun’s rays flamed from a hundred jewels of stained glass in monasteries and convents or danced from the pinnacles of cathedrals and castles, which their builders had actually loved. […] Did you know that in these dark ages which were visible from Guenever’s window, there was so much decency in the world that the Catholic Church could impose a peace to all their fighting - which it called The Truce of God - and which lasted from Wednesday to Monday, as well as during the whole of Advent and Lent? Do you think that they, with their Battles, Famine, Black Death and Serfdom, were less enlightened than we are, with our Wars, Blockade, Influenza and Conscription? Even if they were foolish enough to believe that the earth was the centre of the universe, do we not ourselves believe that man is the fine flower of creation? If it takes a million years for a fish to become a reptile, has man, in our few hundred, altered out of recognition?
—  The Once and Future King, T.H. White.