Today, when Marni’s Aunt Emerald spoke to us about our time in the nunnery, we learned a few things that were not quite what we expected. One, we are in the nunnery, during the Water Festival Retreat, for the duration until Sunday, April 17, after the closing ceremonies. We thought we might be able to leave periodically, to go to an Internet Café to post our blogs, check email, touch base with loved ones, but that may not be the case. Our leader, is affectionately, with a bit of humor, referred to as the Warden of the Monastery. With that said, I’m headed in tomorrow, not sure when I will be able to “report from the field.”
One key thing we learned is there are rules about seated poses. I reflected earlier in the week on the differences between the different seated poses: Sukhasana, Virasana and Vajrasana. As I watched the people sit in Shwedagon this evening, adults and children, I noticed the girls posture. Their feet were out to one side, tucked underneath them. As I watched parents seat their children to pray to the Buddha, I noticed them fix their feet to the side, especially the girls. It was ok for the boys to sit with their feet underneath them, but as most of you know, without a block, the floor can become quite hard.
One’s feet are always supposed to be below the rest of the body. It’s an alignment principle of respect where the head must be the highest and the feet the very lowest. Easy seated pose, cross legged doesn’t adhere to that. It’s much better for your feet to be at the bottom underneath you.
In addition, a younger person is never to be higher than an older person. Marni explained that it would be very distressing to see me, the eldest, sitting on the floor, talking to Carly, the youngest, who was seated above me while I demonstrated the seated postures on the floor. The younger needs to stoop down to be below the elder. Carly thought that was very funny, given I’m the eldest at a smidge under 5’2”.
I took photos later in the evening, as we watched the sun set on the Pagoda, of the children, wondering not only how they would sit in the monastery, but what their training and understanding is of prayer and meditation.
I will send photos from the field, as soon as I am able!