Iím back from my week in precept training with the Buddhist people of the cloth. It was extraordinary. So much, that since Iíve been home, Iíve been wishing I was back there.

Maybe I just enjoyed the change in perspective. It was physically challenging and emotionally exhausting. I felt like I was there for months, rather than a week. I didnít realize that it was possible to pack so much living into just a few days.

The other lay people there were all kinds of awesome. The person that I received the precepts from is based in NYC, so most of the other students were, as well. The house was brimming over with musicians and artists of every kind.

The way the program is laid out is so ingenious that a group canít help but to start operating like a family. It wasnít long before we were handling each other with total love and compassion. Personally, Iíve never had a family, and Iíve certainly never been in a place where I felt completely safe.

Now that Iíve experienced that, I am a completely transformed person.

One afternoon, during a break, I slouched into a big comfy chair on the front porch with a cup of mint tea. I stared at the sky, and I could hear the murmuring of a new friend, Mary, chatting with a couple of monks on the other side of the long, stone porch.

I would have probably napped if it wasnít for the talking, but I was comfortable. I was beyond comfortable. Iíve never allowed myself to be completely vulnerable in the presence of other people.

I usually feel on guard knowing that there is another presence in the building; even more so when there is more than one presence. Iím always aware of their locations and have a general idea of what they are up to.

It was so interesting seeing other people undergo similar transformations. I watched people let go of their own fears and hang-ups and break down walls. This is what happens when religion does what itís supposed to do.

Itís an amazing thing when you learn to fully accept yourself, and in turn, allow other people to accept you, too.

At one point, I was talking to Mary about being fully open, and she said something like, ďItís all well and good for you to do that, with your sweet thoughts, but they wouldnít want to hear what I have to say.Ē

I challenged her to say her thoughts. I told her that I was absolutely positive that as long as she told the truth, it would be acceptable. I donít know whether or not she accepted the challenge.

Itís true that I am a bit naÔve in a lot of ways, but I cultivate my own naivete. Iíve grown the habit of continually starting fresh, in order to keep my past from weighing me down too much.

So, towards the end of the week, the abbot said that our faces have all changed. We probably didnít notice, but she did. Oh, I noticed the difference in my face. It was drastic.

I donít think Iíve ever seen myself with so much clarity of expression and with such sparkling eyes. It was like I was transported back to childhood.

My expression went from that of an over-worked, stressed-out woman in her 30ís, with gazillions of responsibilities, to a person who could have been 10 (or 32) with no worries, except how long she could wander around the woods chatting with the deer and bugs.

Iím back at work this week and things arenít going all that well with the normal humans. Iím doing what I can to keep my perspective.

This evening, I went to the park after work and put the new trail-running shoes that Adam gave me for my birthday to the test. I like them.

Everyone was out today. I didnít run too much on the regular path because it was full of people and I donít much like to run with other people around. I stayed on the less traveled trails where I only had to dodge the occasional mountain biker.

It was nice to see so many people out on the path, though. Every age, size, shape and color was out there enjoying the perfect, cool, summer day.

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Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008 at 9:40 PM