The advantage of being unemployed is the availability to visit various monasteries and hermitages...at least while I have the funds remaining to do so. I returned a short while ago from Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in California, which was a wonderful and insightful visit.
Before I went, I had been looking into other communities for future residence, or even just for spending more time in the future. In my search, I kept returning to the unequaled inspiration I've had in Luang Por ("Venerable Father," in Thai) Pasanno at Abhayagiri. At the beginning of this recent visit, I mentioned to two friends that If I were a soldier in a war, and Luang Por was the commanding officer, I would go into any battlefield he asked me to.
Now as a Buddhist, I've long since given up my military leanings, and have no desire to harm any being (not even cockroaches). But I realized that there is a war of sorts against ignorance and defilements. Given that, I couldn't think of anyone I would rather have giving me guidance through that effort.
So towards the beginning of my visit, I asked for advice in being a "stealth nun" out in the world: maintaining a monastic life and practice as much as possible. Among other things, his advice was "Draw close to that which inspires you". And I realized....I was doing exactly that. Of course there are many other monastics who also inspire me as well, but coming to Abhayagiri felt like coming home.
My visit there was also a boost of community. Having the support of so many other practitioners was like having a warm snuggly blanket of Dhamma wrapped around me. I'm still feeling its warmth.
After this visit, and with the approach of fall, there is a continued sense of viriya. As Luang Por suggested, I look at all the leaves on the ground. Once they were living, now they're gone. Husks of what they were. As we will share the same fate, what is there to do but practice?
Red leaves on the ground,
Skeletons as we will be.
What were their worries?