With all the Ajahns away there’s a certain sense of it being a little quieter here right now. A third of the community is gone; so, it does free up a little bit of space and room. Without so many interactions with people, it can create a sense of spaciousness. And the weather has been conducive to being indoors and getting back to the cabin to practice. It’s been quite nice in those ways. Otherwise, a lot of the knowledge of the community has left, particularly with people who are normally in the kitchen. This is evident even with little things like running out of sugar. Most guests don’t know where the sugar containers to refill the sugar are stored. Someone has to know where that is to do it. Now, people have to be asked to do things that were automatically done by others already trained to do them. Where does this bowl go Where are the filters to make the coffee? Where do we put these spoons? It’s endless if you don’t really know. In a room as small as the kitchen so much happens there. This is true everywhere around the monastery. Duties left by several people with expertise were handed down to other people. So, in some ways it’s quieter; in other ways we have more duties and responsibilities. We just have to make sure that things don’t fall through the cracks.
The Metta Sutta relates to this quite well, especially the part on loving kindness. The first part of the Sutta offers the foundations for developing concentration practices, in general, this is based on loving kindness. A lot of loving kindness is about our human connections and how we interact both with other people and with ourselves. It’s about having an attitude of openness and receptivity. Yet, it’s also about being responsive. There’s an outward element of it as well, as with all of the Brahmaviharas. Loving kindness considers the friendliness and openness of being empathic with the ability to pay attention to other people and where they are in general. It’s the compassion of noticing that somebody is stressed out because they have many more duties right now than they did before, and maybe somebody in the community is at odds with another person or creating suffering for that person. Sometimes the tendency leans toward shying away from or not wanting to be around somebody who’s suffering. Nevertheless, the compassionate part of us opens up to the suffering of somebody else by moving forward and towards exploring how we can help relieve that situation. We know what it feels like to be under stress and not to have things go the way we’d like them to go. Think back to when you might have had a similar situation when you thought you were all alone and had to do it all on your own, then, someone came and offered you a hand. Just think about how that made you feel.
Realize that when you live in a community this large, there’s a good chance that every single day there’s going to be somebody in that situation. Also, you might need a hand at some point. Turn your attention to that. It’s great that we’re harmonious and that the community is going well and that we have strength. And it’s also helpful to the community and yourself to develop a practice of harmonious behavior by using loving kindness and being attentive.