This past Tuesday was the official Not Back to School Day for many homeschooling and unschooling families in our area. We participated with our annual Not Back to School ice cream, but this year was also different because we were able to spend our morning with seven Buddhist monks. Our encounter is briefly described here on CNN.
I have to say that this was one of the most amazing experiences of not just this year, but perhaps my life. We started out in the church sanctuary, listening to a chanting demonstration. I was expecting something soft and a capella, so you can imagine my surprise when loud, joyous sounds—both vocal and instrumental—greeted us. Several incredible, ancient-looking instruments were used, and the voice of one monk in particular was so low in pitch it made me feel like it was emanating in my own bones. His voice alternated so widely between pitches, however, that it was like two different people singing there.
The music was joyous but also jarring, different from anything we’d heard—something between choir music and marching band and Pure Moods. But it was more than that, too. It was almost heady while still being light, striking right at my heart. I honestly don’t know how else to describe it because it was so different from anything I’d ever experienced.My six-year-old also had the opportunity to make rock paintings, sculptures, and sand art (see photo) with the monks, and they were so quietly joyous as they took time to show the children how to do their arts and encourage them. If only all teachers were like this!
The sand art was incredible, as you can see, but it was the simple, repeated act of rolling out clay (in this case, Play Dough) into careful flowers that affected me the most. I could probably do that all day long, adding soft, slow petals over and over again as I quietly reflect on the moment, being still, being now. Although my daughter and husband had a good time, I felt like I stepped away from the experience a little changed.
I’m still as hotheaded as I was before, especially with some messiness going on in my life at the moment, but I also find myself wanting to explore Buddhism a little more. Sure, I have a dozen Buddha sculptures in and outside my home, but I think I may be ready for this stillness, this peaceful quiet joy, in my life.