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Mindfulness in the Hacienda Courtyard with Buddhist Nun

On a warm September afternoon in the Hacienda courtyard, sophomores in the World Societies class meditated under the guidance of Buddhist nun Ayya Dhammadhir. While crickets chirped, the fountain gurgled and a brisk wind blew through the trees, students closed their eyes while Dhammadhir guided them to pay full attention to their bodies as they meditated.

She explained the concept of dhukka, a basic feeling of unsatisfactoriness that Buddhism strives to let go by understanding that everything is impermanent, and nothing should be craved or desired. Dhammadhir told the students that this can be achieved by focusing on the body in meditation and letting go of desires consuming you.

Some students appeared to be deep in meditation while a few fidgeted, needing more practice settling into serenity.

“A wandering mind is very common in beginners to meditation,” Dhammadhir told students. “With practice, you will build capacity.”

Students reflected on the experience:

“I had the chance to experience one of the most essential core beliefs of Buddhism, that by eliminating desire, we are rid of suffering. This meditation session taught me that by letting go of what was on my mind, my preoccupations, and my desires—and by becoming more aware of myself and becoming more present in the moment—my dissatisfactions can disappear.”

—Joumana Abdelhy ’22

“In the future, when I experience dukkha or suffering, I’d like to place the emphasis on accepting the unsatisfactory reality along with practicing gratification, instead of immediately trying to make my suffering go away, or escape my suffering. Even though I do not practice Buddhism, the core beliefs that Ayya discussed were very meaningful to me and I will do my best to practice them when I encounter suffering in my life.”

—Sofia Ghamdi ’22

“I began to really understand that discomforts in life are what drives desire. That pain in my back made me want to move and adjust my circumstances instead of my mindset. But during the meditation, I eventually found it easier to just acknowledge the pain and let it pass on, than to rearrange myself.”

—Wylie Wagnon ’22

The World Societies class focuses on how peoples, cultures, religions and political systems came to be. Along with meditation, Dhammadhira also engaged students in discussion about the origins, history and practices of Buddhism.

Path to Buddhism paved with a longing to find peace within

“My sister died suddenly when I was 13. She was 14. I was searching eternally, I was Christian, I couldn’t find the answers.”

Ayya Dhammadhira grew up in California. After receiving her BA in social sciences and an MA in education, she worked as a schoolteacher for 10 years. She was also married for 10 years. Upon learning more about Buddhism and experiencing significant life changes, she decided to enter monastic life in England in 2001. For 11 years she trained at Amaravati and Chithurst Monasteries before returning to the U.S. in 2012. She took Bhikkhuni ordination and continued her life as a nun at Mahapajapati Monastery in southern California.

In 2015, she came to Colorado Springs to visit and investigate ways to become more engaged that would benefit the larger community. She founded the nonprofit, Web of Connection, and hosts weekly meditation and inquiry meetings which emphasize the practice of awareness in daily life for physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

Peaceful Protest

The timing of Dhammadhira’s visit to Fountain Valley was excellent. After wrapping up with students on campus, she hopped on a bus with them and headed to downtown Colorado Springs where they joined hundreds of people in the Climate Strike.
FVS is a private, college-preparatory, co-ed, day and boarding school for grades 9-12 in Colorado Springs.
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