When I returned home today I was greeted by a chorus of chanting escaping the meditation room window as I passed through the back gate. This signals the first in a series of study groups which take place at the Buddhist Centre where I live, every Saturday, joining a host of noises beginning to full my home after a long and quiet Summer break. Over the past month and a half, I’ve been one of only three residents; the other five travelled to the Lake District in the middle of July for the annual Summer Festival, leaving the cafe closed, the hallways deserted, and a wash of silence to replace the usual hubbub of term-time. Here we follow the academic year, resuming classes and offerings in September after children return to school. Hearing the beautiful sounds of blessing this afternoon, I realised just how happy I am to be returning to assisting duty for the Sunday Meditation classes tomorrow; this will be the first official class since June, and is being run by a new teacher. It’ll be nice to meditate with people once again, among the calm presence of fellow Sangha, and being bought back from mis-focus by an instructor.
However, I think I’m going to miss the quiet in the building during the daytime. My room is situated underneath the cafe kitchen, next to one of the resident’s kitchens, facing the cafe garden, down the hall from the main office, and opposite the cellar, which will soon be a laundry-room and D.I.Y station. The noise levels become so intrusive at times, that the head-nun and Centre-Director, Dema, allows me to break the ‘no-loud-music’ rule out of compassion for my need to get writing projects in on time. Generally, I’m not too fussed by it, but the return to the usual volume of life will take some getting used to again, after the days of contemplative quiet. I was awoken this morning by the food-preparation happening in the kitchen, and the happy chatter of Dhama students reaching from upstairs, and the regular chime of the door-bell announcing another guest had arrived. Autumn proclaimed it’s arrival by the sudden introduction of sound about a week ago, even before the leaves start to turn, or the weather to darken.
Anyway, I was greeted by the chanting as I returned from a comfortable Saturday outing, reading and having a drink at my favourite coffee-house, where crowds of people had taken most of the window seating, and I instead took a place close to the TV. The news was on. They always have SkyNews on the television at The Americano, probably to counter-balance the frivolity that often takes place inside, or perhaps to help stir up topical conversations on serious subject matters, or even, just for people like me, whose lives are otherwise void of television. A woman has been accused on something regarding the death of hospital patients, but I didn’t catch what, and Yemen is in a state of uprise. They don’t play the sound, just have captions pop up on screen, just a touch too slow, so the news-reporters and interviewees close their mouths as the last of the sentences flicker up to be read. Stories of possible violence are backed by the latest pop-hits, and sometimes vintage hits. I find this surreal; I read about a suspect of a murder, to the tune of Desiree’s Kissing You. That’s why I’ll find myself a window-seat most of the time, so I can watch the world pass beyond a glass screen, rather than have it portrayed extravagantly on an artificial one.
In the streets, Summer is slowly surrendering to the coming Autumn. People are bundled up in jackets, and most now carry the emergency measure of an umbrella. Late back-to-school shoppers hurried from department stores loaded with uniforms. In the trees, specks of gold are eroding the lush green of the leaves.