It’s still dark as I make my way to the Shrine Room for our morning meditation; we begin with chanting the precepts. These are words that we intend for ourselves, and how we wish to conduct our lives – being mindful, having truthful communication and speech, living with loving kindness and so on. These are values I love and appreciate. It’s good to be part of a community who honour the same.

I fall deep into my meditation, my mind is calm, I sense the sun rising, filling the room with light. I capture a moment of complete stillness, of being present, being at peace. It’s a place I struggle to leave but it passes and slowly I bring my awareness back and make my way to breakfast.

It feels loud in the breakfast room after the silence of the morning meditation but tomorrow we will begin our silence through the day.

After breakfast we meet in the Shrine room again. A gentleness emanates from Mandarava, often seen in ordained Buddhist women, yet down to earth and approachable. Mandarava is a creative, a puppeteer, and the stage is set for the story to begin.

Inanna is a queen, a goddess, she is fearless, not frightened to go to the places others won’t go. Her life is filled with abundance, with everything one could dream of, she wants to experience all that life offers in heaven, on earth, and the in the underworld. But the underworld is different it brings with it other gifts, gifts of adversity, pain and loss which she is yet to meet.

One night a wild storm ripped up a huluppu-tree and tossed it into the water. Inanna rescues the tree from the waters and plants it in her garden. She tends to the tree daily. Five years pass then ten. The tree grows thick and strong and becomes inhabited by a bird, a serpent and a tree spirit. She wants them gone. “I tended the tree waiting for my shining new throne and bed” she demanded.

She asks her brother Utu for help, but he would not help his sister Inanna. She then goes to her brother Gilamesh, a valiant warrior, to ask for his help. He stands by her and helps her. The tree is taken down and he carves a throne and a bed for his sister Inanna.

The puppets moved across the small stage along with the tree, bringing life to the story. Like a child I watch and listen feeling excited. I notice feelings arising with the story, the highs and lows. After the story we meditate with noticing the feelings that have arisen, giving them space and awareness.

The Village Square

In the past stories like this would be told in village squares and people would talk about them after. In the afternoon our group sat together and took time to discuss what the story meant to them and the feelings that arose. It was so interesting to hear the diverse reflections and the impact the story was having on others in the group.

Everyone relating to the story differently depending on one’s own experience, one’s own perspective. One person in the group did not like the tree being cut down but then another enjoys design and furniture and defends the argument. Brothers who help and brothers who do not touched a few in the room. But more importantly it raised questions in our own lives:

What needs attention?
What needs nurturing?
What is the heart’s wish?

Much to think about and the story is just beginning.

A candlelight puja and a delightful harmony of voices chanting together the mantra bringing the day to a close.

Om muni muni maha muni sakyamuni svaha