My aspiration for practice is to look into the deepest being of people and things. What is this incredible vastness and connectivity that we are all born with, that we all walk with, work with, cry with, laugh with? I always look to the ways I can experience this seamlessness of life. Being in the company of my fellow senior students further deepens my resolve to look into the mysterious nature of our daily activity and being. It helps me commit to a more demanding and energetic schedule of practice and training. As my resolve strengthens, I am very grateful for the opportunity to be able to practice and train with such a committed group of people. My aspiration deepens when I realize that not only is this opportunity rare, but it is also rare to have the will and good circumstances to be able to practice the dharma even after it has been encountered; this I certainly don’t want to waste.

What is this clear simple moment in a busy complicated world? My aspiration is to realize this, again and again.

—Horace Kaishu Moody, MRO

When I think of aspiration as meaning something I work towards, I get stuck. It’s too big a word. But I can go back to its root meaning: to breathe life into. Then I can connect. For me practice is exactly that, breathing life into my life, being eyes-wide-open fully alive. Every time I find myself going to sleep, blind to what is actually going on, I bring myself back to wakefulness. In this way, I can respond to everything and everyone around me.

When I started practicing, I wanted this practice to relieve my suffering, to give me the answers to every ‘why’ question, especially ‘why am I here?’ I wanted practice to make me more compassionate, to help me be less self-centered.

Now, I am the cook at the Monastery. And my aspiration is to bring out the best of the carrots and potatoes, the onions and tomatoes.

—Mn. Joris Sankai Lemmens, MRO

My mind wanders. It wanders a lot. To quicken it I chant, Kanzeon, Kanzeon, or sometimes Kuan Shi Yin, and visualize myself as the pure, joyful, compassionate being who knows no boundaries and sees her own reflection in all beings. Doing this used to evoke howls of derision. Now this has faded, but memories of past events still often surface and activate angry voices shouting, “Stupid, ugly, worthless”—reconstructing poor, self-pitying, self-loathing Kaijun yet again. Then I chant Kuan Yin’s healing, liberating mantra, Om Mane Padme Hum until they soften into silence.

This is all pretense, a fabrication. I do this, trusting that this practice will dissolve all boundaries, all delusions that keep me from seeing the great reality.

This is my aspiration.

—Mn. Mary Kaijun Mold, MRO