Atta Sila

The Perfect Ending

With the splendor of last night’s full moon and this early morning’s momentous total lunar eclipse (“Blood Moon”), I ended my Atta Sila (Eight Precepts) practice.

Observing the gradual disappearance of the moon and its ruddy, earthen cast at the height of the eclipse was truly remarkable.  More remarkable was the fact that I could no longer see the moon at all after it descended behind the grove of trees in the back yard.

I understood in the moments afterwards that my process was over.  This understanding arose just in that moment.  Originally I had planned to end as part of the Kathina Ceremony at the Temple, but the realization came very strongly and clearly this morning. So it was time to end.

What’s different?  Nothing significant.  I wore a white blouse today like most every other day during this period…but with black jacket and orange pants.  I even wore my little Fabergé egg necklace.  It seemed like the perfect day to bring a cosmic egg along.  Also, on the way home from my meeting in Indianapolis, I played Dirty Projectors and ZapMama.  Really loud. And sang really loudly, too, out of practice and out of tune, with the windows open wide.

Morning Candy

“I undertake to keep the precept not to eat after the noonday meal.”

Being moderate in eating will definitely take some fine tuning.

Two Saturdays ago, I took Eight Precepts. I plan to live with this intention for the next three months.

There are many austerities contained in this commitment – not wearing jewelry or fragrances, not having sex, not singing or dancing, etc. But not doing something is sometimes actually easier than than limiting it. Relinquishment has a completeness, a sense of foregoing, giving up and moving on that affords a great sense of freedom. No mental thought needs to be steered towards finding a matching necklace or devising a suitable iTunes playlist.

Moderation is another matter.

Let’s state the obvious: if we don’t eat, we will die in short order. Food cannot be completely relinquished without a sort of death wish. As a person who has always struggled with weight gain and bouts of pathological overeating, I’ve often fantasized a world where food could just be given up. If only the sustenance of our earthly lives could be generated spontaneously….

I am at a Master Teacher Seminar at the state capital. It has been a delightful journey with other faculty at my education institution who are also trying to perfect their craft. Conferences have their patterns and the pattern for this one  involves food.  Junk food.  All day long. Starting at a few minutes of Nine. Tasty junk: Jolly Ranchers, Reese’s, Almond Joy, Twix.

What I would never do in my everyday life I found myself indulging in this situation: eating morning candy.  Why?  It seems that, faced with  the predicament of moderate eating, the sense of an afternoon and evening of deprivation elicits an acute sense of morning greed.

Scarcity?  What scarcity?  I’ve never skipped a meal in my whole….

Oh.  Now I get it.

How easily the body-mind is deceived.


A week and a half has passed.  The training rule of not eating from mid-day to dawn has almost become a groove of habit.

Yesterday, I was blessed to enjoy the Noonday meal with the Monks at my Temple.  As a person following Eight Precepts, I was invited to eat alongside them.  Typically, the Monks eat first, or at least get first dibs on the available dishes.  This privilege felt like a great (and undeserved) honor. The two Sri Lankan families that brought scrumptious and varied dishes for the lunch Dana (offering of generosity) also served them on our plates.  As a woman, mother and usually the cook of any meal I eat, it was so unusual, even uncomfortable to be served.  The meal was a hearty, though not a gut-busting affair.  Dessert was assorted fruits and yogurt with treacle.  It held me over until the smoothie which now serves as my evening meal.

After lunch came one of the most delightful moments of recent memory.  While weeding in the Temple’s orchard and garden, my friend the chief gardener showed me the first miniature watermelon sprouting from the sprawling vine.  How awesome.

The loving-kindness in my heart surged to see this little fruit that will soon, if the conditions are right, grow almost too heavy to comfortably carry.