June 22, 2007

6/22/07 St Lys France

Most of the week I was trying to get used to the idea of not doing anything, just relaxing. While Cynthia was at work and Jean-Yves was at school, I did just that. I've been reading "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" by Chogyam Trungpa. I try to help out where I can around the apartment while they are gone so they have less to do when they come home like washing the dishes. But I still haven't figured out the washing machine yet. Now that I have internet access, I've been able to update the blog a bit, catch up with friends through email and explore more internet radio (check out GotRadio - Women's Alternative. And finally was successful in configuring a home computer network for Cynthia. I've gone for a run and took one afternoon to walk around St Lys.

Wednesday, Cynthia usually arranges her schedule to have the day off. So we took the day to go visit Nalanda (Buddhist) Monastery and Vajra Yogini Institute. Cynthia says these are her home-away-from-home. She met Jean-Yves there.

I was a little nervous at first when we drove up to Nalanda Monastery, which is an old mansion with huge grounds and the garden terrace looks over the river. There are about 15 monks in residence. This is one of the few 'western' Buddhist monasteries in the world. The language of the monastery is English, even though it's in France, because monks come from all parts of the 'west' and English is the most universal language. The most amazing thing about the monastery is that for the last ten years they have been building a new monastery next door. It is a beautiful building. There is a lot of natural light. Materials have been used to make it more environmental friendly both in construction and it's needs in the future. A few monks are already living in it even though it's not quite finished. They are hoping to have it finished in the next six months or so. Everyone I met was so nice, warm and friendly.

The new monastery building

After that, we took a short car ride to it's sister center, the Institut Vajra Yogini, which is for the lay Buddhist community where seminars are taught. Because this is more a place where lay people can learn more about Buddhism, the usual language is French. When we arrived, there was a big conference going on with both lay Buddhists and monks from all over Europe in attendance so there was a lot of English spoken too. I met so many people that I can't even begin to list their names. But just like the monastery, no matter how busy they were with this conference, they all took time to welcome me with wonderful smiles.

Institut Vajra Yogini

The next day, Jean-Yves had the day off from school (he's studying to get his Masters in Social Work) so we took a drive though the country. We wanted to find a lake where we could just sit and relax but clouds were doing their best to change our minds. Jean-Yves loves music lyrics so as we drove, he was always translating French lyrics from the CD's he played of his favorite songwriters.

That night we met Cynthia downtown in Toulouse for the Fete de la Musique, a free music festival where groups of all types are spread out in the city center playing to the crowds along the sidewalks. The groups are both amateurs and professionals, all playing for free, just for the enjoyment of it. The festival is always on the first day of summer. Even though it was Thursday it was as if the whole city had turned out to wander the streets listening to the enthusiasm of the musicians. We heard rock bands, choral groups, reggae, blues and electronic house music. Although most of the crowd was young, there really was a huge cross section of ages, with many families out enjoying the festivities.