Our month-long trial period doesn’t end for another week, but it looks like the end is nigh here at Ratna Ling. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. I did all I was asked of, and more. I worked. I cleaned. I took classes. I even stood quietly and humbly while the rest of the community chanted three times a day.
What I didn’t do, and what I seem to be unable to do pretty much ever, is keep my big mouth shut. When people ask me how I’m doing, I have a nasty habit of telling the truth. When they ask me how I like working in an unheated factory when it’s windy and rainy out, I tell them. And when they ask me how I like the food, they get an honest answer. So it came as no great shock to me when they said I wasn’t a good fit here. I pretty much agreed with them.
I’m not a good fit here for many reasons. The top reason is my age. I turned forty a couple of days before arriving to Ratna Ling. I know age ain’t nothin’ but a number, but sometimes that number is staggering evidence of your wisdom and experience. If I have done my job well as a human being I have already learned a lot of the “lessons” the work here is supposed to teach me. For example, patience is not a lesson I need to learn. I taught preschool and kindergarten in three countries. I have applied for a Visa in the Czech Republic. I took a bus into Mexico in the middle of the night. I have patience. Most of the people here are in their early to mid twenties, so they still have a great many things to learn about the world. I get that, and I wish them luck in doing so, but man is it exhausting listening to people talk about weather and dorm rooms. Maybe the reason old people seem so grumpy all the time is because they are tired of hearing the same mundane stories again and again, year in, year out.
Next, as I have noted previously, the food here is awful. There is absolutely no seasoning in anything. If you are going to serve vegetarian food unseasoned, then I am going to want to punch you in the face. Period. I’ve worked in restaurants before, and I know a lot of professional chefs and cooks. I know good food, and this isn’t it. I now know for a fact that there is nothing worse than unseasoned, partially cooked black beans and tofu.
And lastly, I never fit in here. From the moment we arrived, both my boyfriend and I felt judged. Bringing two new people into a community takes sensitivity and nurturing. We got neither. Instead we were thrown into the deep end with little to no guidance. Instead of explaining the chanting (what they are saying, why they do it, who exactly are they chanting to) they just judged us for not doing it. Tell me why you light incense and candles and tell me why you leave flower offerings. And don’t wait three weeks to do it! Tell me right away so that I can begin understanding. Don’t let me fumble my way through my day. Instead, give me the tools I need to feel successful and confident.
Before coming here I understood that skepticism is an important aspect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is supposed to encourage and promote your skillz concerning analytic meditation. “One should test the Buddha’s words as one would the quality of gold.” A Buddhist may study with a lama for decades before finally accepting him as his own guru. Me, I only got about three weeks to make a decision. Doesn’t really seem like a fair shake if you ask me.
So I take only partial blame in our being shunned from Buddhist Camp. I have a big personality. Some people have a hard time with my honesty. I don’t pretend to be happy when I’m not, and I’m not laughing if your joke wasn’t funny. Maybe I lived in Prague too long or maybe I’m just Czech at heart, but I just don’t do small talk. And I think it’s worth mentioning that they asked my boyfriend to stick around, just not me. So I guess I shouldn’t feel bad. That is pretty low class. But I’m not apologizing. I don’t need to. I tried and it just didn’t work out.
And hell, who else can say they got kicked out of Buddhist Camp?