reflections on a question posed by a friend, shortly after ordination, August 2010.
Well, just normal and natural, no big deal – it’s easier to write about what it is like not being able to ordain, what it is like being held in other forms of ordination when one is ready to unfold, how it is when a natural progression is interrupted, what that energetic blocking is like and all the justifications and complications and repressions and denials and convolutions needed to keep this in place.
But then, when a flower unfolds, opens out under the sun with moisture from the earth just as it should, it’s very beautiful, normal and natural, and a joy and pleasure arise from the beauty of just the ordinary and yet the extra-ordinary too.
When things are working well they are almost not noticed. Just as after a long period of illness one really notices the pleasure of lack of illness – when something has been giving pain for a long time one really notices and appreciates the lack of pain, the ease in this. But the lack of pain is in some ways nothing special also – except the miracle of so many things having to be working well for there to be this ease – and if there is an ease in suffering after a long time of illness, and when there have been many things wrong, then it is very miraculous, very lovely.
Spaces where normal and natural unfolding is possible are very precious – like good friends, jewels radiate through a lifetime, and make a whole life beautiful, something to be treasured deeply. Yet, at the time, one just enjoys that space, that easy companionship – and afterwards looking back see how this companionship made so much possible, but at the time it just is.
Things can shift in an instant, change in a second, the world can transform, new patterns can manifest – what seemed strange and impossible, can become normal and natural. What seems normal and natural, if we don’t take good care to keep the causes and conditions strong, can become distant and unattainable.
For me, what has it been like becoming a bhikkhuni – well there’s the struggle of the last 5 years of my own life, and the struggle of so many hundreds, thousands of women.
But now, once the space has opened just normal and natural, like a good friendship, like a cozy fire, nothing strange, nothing almost to write about – except a joy and an ease and a comfort and a rightness – and a gratitude that there should be this place, maybe like a warm fire after a storm, gratitude for the fire, because of the storm outside – wanting to share the fire place with others, allow them to become warm and to deeply relax
A very lovely thing about the Sangha, is that it just takes a few good hearted people to come together and it’s possible for these spaces to be created – and then they are a living thing, to be experienced deeply and created again, keeping alive something precious in the world.
So here at Aranya Bodhi, at least for me, despite the fact that I ‘knew’ better, then like graduating from university, a matter of factness about it all – coming across to stay with my teacher Ayya Tathaaloka, after a period of training as a novice, then the possibility of ordination came up, and it felt the right and natural thing to do.
So, then preparations, and then the ordination day, and then life really just goes on as always – except that now in my mind in my heart I’m a bhikkhuni – and somehow that does make a difference.
Just there is a clear and a coherent sense of not so much being in training anymore (though, as a new bhikkhuni I still am) of being someone who is not on the edges of an organisation, and a bit detached from it in some ways, but that I am now a full participant in it, now I’m fully ordained that have a greater sense of alignment I feel more connected with all the great bhikkhunis who have gone before me, I feel that the stream of the river, is flowing through more directly, not that I’m on the edges, looking in at someone else’s drama, but that now, to some extent even now the stream is flowing more directly through me – so there’s a greater sense of flow, of connection, of belonging, like having the vote – nothing changes and everything changes, and having a sense of being able to shape things, that the limits now are my own abilities and development, my own capacity not so much externally imposed ones.
So, there is a shift in identity – and this feels significant and good somehow, even if some may view this as just form and ego. I remember the Dalai Lama once saying that his fundamental identity was just that he is a simple monk, and realising how valuable it is to have this identity as a default position and a resting place, and longing for such a coherence. As a bhikkhuni, this is the kind of default position and resting place I feel I have now. Something that has a great deal of integrity and strength.