Communal living with thirty monks isn’t easy. We may dress in a uniform way and don the same haircut, but you probably couldn’t find a more diverse group of people living in such close quarters. We have monks from five different continents, all with distinct personality traits, varied psychophysical natures and a unique approach to their spiritual development. As you can imagine, there are sometimes differences of opinion! But I guess relationships in any context come with their own complexities. Husband and wife, manager and employee, teacher and student, brothers and sisters, university house mates – where there are people there is bound to be friction. Forming genuine and deep relationships is thorny, complex and testing. But those relationships stand as the most valuable asset in our lives.
Recently, I have increased my meditation on developing tolerance, humility and appreciation, knowing that such traits are the key to connecting with people on a higher level. I am trying to develop broader mindsets and approaches in my day-to-day dealings. When someone’s actions anger me, I am trying to understand what is causing them to act in that way and what the hidden history is. Usually my anger subsides, and I gain greater insight into human emotions and responses. When someone falls short of my expectations, I am trying to reassess the legitimacy of my demands, and simultaneously appreciate whatever efforts and endeavours they have made. It helps put things in perspective, and offers hope for improvement and progression. When there is conflict, instead of running away in frustration and creating emotional distance, I am forcing myself to communicate and actively try to resolve differences. It can be awkward and humbling, but it’s good to talk.
I am coming to realize that the people around me, namely parents, friends, critics, mentors, and others, are not simply there by chance. Whatever the tensions, these are the people that providence has arranged for me to relate with, and these are the relationships that will help me develop into the person I want to become. I am trying to appreciate how everyone around me is having a contribution in my life. They all have the potential to create spiritual transformation within me, knowingly or unknowingly. I hope I will work through the difficulties, and not frustratingly opt out and gravitate towards impersonalism.