When the weather turns wet and grey like this, the world is a bit less inviting outside, and it’s easy to follow the natural instinct to seek shelter and find a cozy spot. You might find yourself hanging around in the kitchen, the library, or the monk’s office. It starts off with waiting for the rain to ease off; then, an hour goes by, and then two hours go by. You can end up spending hours doing a bit of unnecessary emails or thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll make that phone call, or maybe I’ll take a look at this or that website.” The whole afternoon goes by chatting away with each other. You’re waiting for the rain or the mood to change. This is a good way to waste time.
For the monastic community who have dwellings off in the forest, as well as for people who are staying here as guests, it’s good to recall the basic principle that we have not to gravitate towards the sort of communal cozy spot or a place where there are chatting opportunities. Once the meal is finished and the washing up is done, unless you’ve got some urgent or significant business that requires your attention in the afternoon, pack up your things and go back to your dwellings.
It takes a certain resolution to walk out into a wet, grey afternoon. But, once we find ourselves in our places, we find that solitude is really the most delightful of companions and most helpful, too. It takes an effort to turn and to walk towards that. As the season is setting in and its going to be this kind of grey, misty, wet, cool, weather, I strongly encourage people not to huddle in that cozy spot looking for human company and cups of tea, but to just step out into it.
Go back to your dwelling.
Spend time alone.
This is what we’re here for: the development of the path and the realization of Nibbana. You know, there’s always an alternative choice: the particular conversation you’re interested in or this nice cozy spot to settle in, the sort of comfortable alternative. If we just default to what’s most comfortable or most interesting or to the flow of a casual contact or just to something we feel we need, such as hearing the news, or being in contact or engaged only because of looking for something to do, then we’re really wasting our time.
It’s not helpful. It doesn’t conduce to insight, concentration, or liberation which is the purpose of this place and why this community exists. We’re not here just to exchange information, contact others, or to plan menus. Of course, these things are all helpful. They’re all part of the everyday process of helping with the construction and maintenance of the buildings and with the cooking of food; but, that’s not the purpose of our life here. All the extraneous little bits and pieces that demand our attention are not the purpose for which we’re here. Those are the means by which we’re fed and sheltered, supplying the requisites.
The purpose of our life is the development of the path and the realization of Dhamma. Keeping that in mind, particularly as the season changes and we have more and more cool, damp, subdued weather, try not to be blind to that but to take the opportunity to seek solitude, non-engagement, seclusion. These are things that conduce to realization. These are some of the qualities that are really going to benefit and support why we shaved our heads, put on robes and live in this place, keeping the Eight Precepts and following the routines and the disciplines. If we want to fulfill the purpose for which we have come here, then it’s up to us to take the initiative to back that up and to let our actions match that aspiration.