Scenes from life at the
Monastic Academy during my time there, from August 2020 through November 2021. Roughly in chronological order, and the captions make a sort of story. Photos mostly taken by me, some by others.
Not me, but I and many folks at MAPLE did this often — simply sitting and meditating on our front lawn up on the mountain, gazing into Canada.
I arrived as an Apprentice at MAPLE in August of 2020. The ensuing Fall color did not disappoint.
A common scene at MAPLE, gathering in groups on the lawn. Vermont is gorgeous, and the sunsets were often this epic.
Fall in Vermont, y’all.
Mushrooms! I have no idea what kind these are, but they were as big as plates, or larger, and EVERYWHERE.
I would very often swim in this pond for Exercise Period. Or run laps around it.
Single Rainbow. Part of the way.
One day I got to help set up the tech for a ceremony where meditation teacher Shinzen Young came in via Zoom
When I became a Resident, there was a whole Resident Welcoming Ceremony where we all shared why we were at MAPLE, and Jordan Hall just happened to be visiting that day. It was an honor and joy to meet him and his wonderful family.
Love Skylar’s expression in this shot! At the end of my Resident welcoming ceremony, everybody shared some loving touch. It was both awkward and magical. 😂
We got to hang out on this porch a LOT. Circling, conversation, whatever. A very common scene from my time there.
My fellow Apprentices! Love these folks 🥰
Another common scene from MAPLE — hanging out eating and talking.
Really blessed to have been able to spend Thanksgiving 2020 with so many people as a pod during the height of COVID.
My “office” during my first role as a MAPLE Resident — “Buildings & Grounds” Lead. I was in Notion and Slack a lot, but would also spot people passing through the Main Hall down below and have brief exchanges. Felt kinda like being on the Bridge of the Enterprise.
Definitely got outside plenty though. During my first real Vermont winter, I learned how to drive our tractor to rescue vehicles that slid off the road, and pushed a lot of snow around every morning.
Another aspect of my MAPLE leadership was leading a couple of “Intro to Sutra Study” evenings. Thanks to my monk-ing time, I accumulated a decent knowledge of the Pali Canon, so I could speak to some of the resources available and the basics of Buddhism. This photo is from a co-created workshop where Apprentices read Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s book “The Buddha’s Teachings” and then were invited speak extemporaneously on a randomly-chosen topic from it. They all did great!
A significant chapter in my time at MAPLE was getting to spend 2 months in one of these Cabins on Solo Retreat.
From mid-Jan to mid-March 2021, I lived here. Shoveling this path every day as the blizzards piled on more and more. Going to the Main Building nearby for my one meal every night at midnight, or for interviews with the teacher. I practiced such that I didn’t really see anybody, so it felt very far away.
Interior of my Cabin. I spent 60 days here, listening to Dharma talks and guided meditations from Reggie Ray, chanting Pali with Thanissaro Bhikkhu, or just sitting or walking in silence. I figured out that if I put my water container on top of the heater, it would stay warm without melting. Most of the time the interior was between 50-60ºF, while the outside was between -10 and 20ºF and snowing. 🥶
Cards from relatives and leaves from the Fall reminded me I was loved in some crucial moments during my Solo Retreat.
I got to walk this stretch a LOT during my Solo Retreat. By the end of March the snow was actually about 3′ deep, but compacted enough by the repeated walking that it made a more solid ridge. If I stepped off that ridge one way or the other though, my leg would go all the way in. 😂
Snow plowing and shoveling, plus the snow falling off the roof, would build up these huge drifts higher than a person.
I just love the composition of this shot. Not taken by me.
After my Solo Retreat and the snow melt-off, it was back to work. I relished our “Grounds Days” — opportunities to be outside rather than on the computer. For instance, here we were re-making the path from the Main Building to the Zendo.
Seeding ground that was plowed up to lay the fire hydrant.
Let’s be real. Sometimes life at MAPLE was really stressful, and I just needed to talk it out. I feel super grateful to all the friends who held space for me, and who trusted me to hold space for them.
Singing or chanting together outside was always a great way to harmonize as a community and lift our spirits, especially when it coincided with the sunsets.
…and golly were there SUNSETS!
Over my time at MAPLE, we constructed a second Zendo. It’s based on a kit by Smiling Woods Yurts, and assembled by a local construction company. In the foreground here is the slightly smaller, newer one, with the original in the background.
Inside the original Zendo! The darker “roads” are aligned to North-South-East-West. Upon entering and exiting, we bowed to the Seven Directions, partially in acknowledgment of the Abenaki people whose ancestral homelands MAPLE now resides on. MAPLE has a relationship with living descendants of the Abenaki, and uses some traditional Abenaki songs with permission from them. This lent a sense of deep time and reverence to the place, and is a unique fusion of Native American tradition and Buddhism that I’ve not encountered anywhere else.
A pretty typical scene for me, meditating in the Zendo. Sometimes sitting, sometimes, standing, sometimes lying down with my knees up. Spent a LOT of time in here with my friends, plumbing the depths of the Mind with my spiritual teammates.
Another common configuration of us in the Zendo. This would be the arrangement for listening to talks or “exhortations” from the teacher.
And finally another common configuration of us in the Zendo, sitting in a tighter circle to share or Circle. You can see the “altar” with a Buddha head and calligraphy by the Zen roshi who trained our teacher Soryu.
I was the Drummer for about five months of my time at MAPLE. That meant I would keep the beat during our morning and evening chanting. It was initially hard, and then fun, and then just a meditative joy every time. True honor to get to do that.
During the warmer times, I got to drum outside, as we stood in a circle for evening chanting.
And one time I even got to chant lead, and ring the bells, as my Chant Leader partner Anna (who had lost her voice temporarily) drummed. We were a great team.
Part of expanding the Monastic Academy included clearing trees from the land, many of which would not have been useful as firewood. So we made large burn piles and carefully set them aflame. I helped manage the blaze, scooping branches and coals together as they burned.
We considered this burning of the trees a solemn duty, and honored the trees and the land in kind. We recognized that we were taking from some of the Earth in order to benefit the whole of the Earth. Drumming around these huge fires connected me to my ancient roots, somewhere in Scotland.
In the Fall every year, MAPLE hosts one or two Vision Quests, led by the indomitable Darren Silver. Here’s me checking that we have all the necessary gear to embark on that.
I got to participate in one of these Vision Quests. It’s a week-long immersion in the nearby woods — 3 days together preparing, and then 4 days solo in the woods fasting with only water. After I came out, I noticed how much easier it was to be Tall amongst the trees, and I felt clear and happy in a way that’s hard to describe.
One day near the end of my Residency, we had an “Off-Grid Resilience Training” weekend where we pretended we didn’t have power, running water, or propane. To help cook for the whole 30+ of us, I built a “rocket stove” from memory of a YouTube video I saw once during my Permaculture Design Course. It WORKED!
Rocket Stove #hardstyle 😆
Occasionally, we just DANCED. This is a scene from a “5-minute Dance Party” I hosted once to test our PA speakers. We played Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”, at the suggestion of my mom.
The “Loft”, a space where I spent significant time. Circling, cuddling, watching Dharma-related films, reading or writing or having tea late at night. We could rearrange the couch segments many ways to make it open or cozy. Many mornings I also worked out up here because it was more private.
The Main Hall staircase. Part of my workout routine was often running up and down these, and using them like a jungle gym. So much fun!
Another shot of the staircase, with the main entrance in the background.
Another shot of the Main Hall, with the door to the Kitchen on the left, me at the Tea Station, one of the Bathrooms, and the main bulletin board on the right, with our personal storage “cubbies” down below. The serving table is still up in the foreground.
We had quite good collection of Dharma-related books in the Main Hall Library. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations of the Nikayas can be seen on the top right, for instance. Do you recognize anything else?
The Pantry! Gosh… SO many memories here. The heart (and also the stomach) of MAPLE, in many ways. We would hang out in here a lot on free days, engaging in every kind of conversation, debate, or social drama you can imagine. We had all the ingredients for Community right here, and we made it.
A peak inside the personal food fridge. We would label our personal food with our initials. A LOT of people liked Oat Milk. At peak, I think we counted 16 individual cartons in here once. 😂
Next to the Pantry, this is the Kitchen. Another place where SO many memories were formed. Everything from frantically cooking for the whole community during my Apprenticeship, to calmly crafting some vegan concoction together over conversation on a free day, to just hanging out alone snacking, to methodically cleaning the whole thing with two dozen other people in Silence after breakfast on Retreat. What a place…
Reverse view from the previous photo. The dish-washing station was another hub of activity for me over the entire time at MAPLE. Cleaning together in tight quarters, sanitizing racks of dishes, drying them and putting them away. It all happened here, and it was often a lot of fun.
Here at the adjoining corridor between the Main Hall and the Dorm/Office Side of the building, with the Side Entrance on the left, there is a bench where we would come in from the Zendo and wait “on deck” for one-on-one teaching in the Interview Room. It was often an exciting wait, as the teacher’s bell could ring you in at any moment. Note the shoe racks on the left, plants in the window, and cushions under the bench.
Another scene from my work time at MAPLE. I was Head of IT for a couple of months, so I got to work in this office alongside the Recordist. The desk was adjustable, so I could stand or sit. And I always appreciated the view outside toward the pond and mountains beyond.
The “Yin Lounge,” another common hanging-out or working spot on the corner of the building. Lots of natural light and comfy couches, plus another set of book shelves, made it feel like a Study of sorts. The WiFi router was also nearby here, so it was one of the best places for Internet.
The day I departed MAPLE, I was given a “Goodbye Breakfast” where everyone shared memories and blessings for me, and I got to speak a bit about my time and take-aways. You can also see here the standard setup for our formal shared meals, with the “wrapped” and “unwrapped” white bowls and blue napkins, food on the serving table, and folding chairs.
Last photo! My Apprentice cohort affectionately dubbed this the Front Porch at the End of the World (a reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide, for those who know it). Rocking chairs and couches, the best view ever, for any season, and the Zendo in the background always reminding us that as much as it might often feel like Summer Camp, we were all there to do the deepest Work. Waking up, cleaning up, growing up, and showing up for the benefit of all life. ❤️
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