Going Forth and Coming Home
by Natalie Wendt
When I was twentyfour, I moved into one of the world's only Buddhist monasteries for Westerners. Part of the Buddhist monastic ordination ceremony translates literarily to "going forth into homelessness."
Buddhist monks and nuns are trained to interact with their environment without thinking of anything as a possession. Any "my" or "mine" are reduced to their robes and alms bowls. While I lived there, "my" room was anonymous in decor like any other in the monastery, none of it reflecting me. If a guest or visitor needed the small cabin where I slept, I got a roommate or spent the night on the wooden floor of the meditation hall. Everything I could call "mine" fit in two boxes. The year before I moved into the monastery, I spent seven months traveling around the world, living out of a battered blue suitcase and an old backpack. It was a turtle existence, my world on my back. I trekked across India studying Buddhism, visited a cousin who worked for UNICEF in the Maldives, schlepped through Europe thanks to hostels and the couches of friends and extended family. Almost every week, I went to a new city, province, or country. Sometimes I accidentally started speaking the wrong language, my confused brain unable to keep up with my changing geography. Nomadic life had been my dream for years. I grew up itching to escape my small north Idaho hometown. At eighteen, I fled to a hippie college in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and at nineteen, I traded it for College of Santa Fe's painted deserts, artists, and eclectic melting pot of cultures. Santa Fe, New Mexico was a wonderful home for my student days, but as I set out into unsteady adulthood, I wanted to see who I was without anything familiar. I didn't go traveling or move to the monastery to find myself. I went to lose my old ideas about who I was or was supposed to be. Stripping home away, I could uncover my unquestioned assumptions. For the most part, it worked. I'd grown up thinking I was shy, HOME continued on page 20
www.qviewnorthwest.com | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition | April 2009 |