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Volunteer opportunity at Lawudo retreat in Nepal

Simone Fry was a volunteer at Lawudo for 12 months in 2017. She agreed to share a few words about her experience.

Simone Lawudo Volunteer

Could you kindly tell us about the day Lama Zopa Rinpoche advised you to go to Lawudo for one year, how did it happen, what did Rinpoche say? 

It was first in January 2013. I gave many options to Rinpoche of things I wished to do in the Dharma. I was very new to the Dharma. I volunteered for 2 months at Lawudo the year before and although offering service there again was what I wanted to do the most, I didn't think it was significant. All the carefully planned options I gave to Rinpoche came up with a head shake or as "no". So at the end I blurted out, "Lawudo for 1 year," and Rinpoche said, "So good!! Serving the Guru, so much merit!! Talk to Sangay." A few days later I went to ask Sangay la who is director of Lawudo and Rinpoche's brother. Sangay la was very kind and said I was most welcome anytime to go to Lawudo. I was over the moon. But then I was busy doing other stuff for the following few years, so I didn't go until 4 years later. 

After one year in Lawudo could you kindly share with us how your state of mind is? 

My state of mind changes everyday, all the time! But generally it's quite content. 

What differences do you see between your state of mind when you arrived & now? 

It's only one year and change is very slow, but generally my state of mind is definitely more content than when I arrived, more satisfied. I think the real test though will be when I leave. 

What have you learned the most? 

That the self cherishing mind is extremely painful, that all the delusions are so so so painful and that we cause ourselves so much suffering. But also that change is possible and that it's possible to feel happy and content when life is simple and with few sense pleasures. And that there is great joy and satisfaction when we see even tiny changes in the mind, it's like a little miracle happens! 

What kind of daily help does Anila, the care taker of Lawudo & Rinpoche's sister, need to continue to keep Lawudo Meditation Retreat Centre alive? 

Ani Ngawang Samten needs a new Sherpa/Nepali cook/general worker. They are in the process of looking for this person. That's the main one and very important. If there is Anila, Nyima (who works outside and mainly with the cows), a cook and a volunteer, then Lawudo is kind of okay for now. But all the Lawudo family are already quite old. 76 year old Anila herself still works the longest hours. 

Sangay, director of Lawudo & Rinpoche's brother is looking for more volunteers for Lawudo, could you: 

1. share some words to inspire potential volunteers? 

For me Lawudo is one the most beautiful places on earth, it's Rinpoche's place and some of Rinpoche's family are here. I feel there is so much to learn from living with the Sherpas, especially from Rinpoche's sister Ani Ngawang Samten. And there have been many laughs at the kitchen table and some quite hilarious situations! To be a part of the Lawudo family and to have the opportunity to serve here is a great blessing. 

However, especially for those who have not previously been to Lawudo, I think it's not helpful to idealise about serving at Lawudo. Most of the time it feels quite ordinary and difficult. The living conditions compared to what most of us are used to, are quite rustic and there's the almost 4000 ms altitude to take into consideration. But I do really feel it's the ideal place to work on transforming the mind and would definitely encourage enthusiastic students to come and serve at Lawudo. They would be very very fortunate! 

Rinpoche did say to me (about going to serve at Lawudo), "Mountain village life is very hard, but if you go there you can develop compassion and that can be a path to enlightenment." 

2. give them your best advice for their stay? 

I would say come with an open mind and try to be flexible. Try to let go of any preconceptions of how you think things should be. From my experience it's better to try to adapt to the Sherpa way of doing things. 
In order to make the most of this opportunity to be in Lawudo, far from distractions, leave your smart phones with wifi at home (or only use them in emergencies)! 

Could you describe a typical day of the ideal volunteer? 

It all depends on the season and if Anila is cooking or if they have found a cook or if there are retreatants or not. So that's quite difficult to say and also you cannot really count your hours. Sometimes there's only time for a small break during the day and sometimes there is lots of time. It all depends on the season. 

The work is quite simple; washing up, cleaning the kitchen and helping in the kitchen if necessary, cleaning the rooms, taking tea and water to Uncle and Norbu, making the breakfast rotis (flat breads), serving the guests, taking care of the retreatants, looking after the gompa and cave, offering water bowls, carrying water from the spring (winter and spring), occasionally carrying potatoes from Mende (village below) depending on the season, occassional work in the fields in Mende and taking food down to the workers in the fields depending on the season and any other things that might crop up. If someone has a special skill that could be of use then great! 

What are your aspirations after such an authentic experience? 

After one year in a place like Lawudo the wish to do retreat is very strong. And I would also very much like to offer service to Rinpoche again, perhaps in one of Rinpoche's old persons homes, in a "Pureland for Old People."

How do you wish to "extract the essence" of this Precious life? 

To develop a kind heart, to practice pure Dharma. 

Simone at Lawudo retreat nepal

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Lawudo Retreat Center is affiliated with the FPMT. For more details visit the FPMT web site www.fpmt.org

The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition is an international, non-profit organization, founded in 1975 by Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-84), a Tibetan Buddhist monk. The Foundation is devoted to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation, and community service. We provide integrated education through which people's minds and hearts can be transformed into their highest potential for the benefit of others, inspired by an attitude of universal responsibility. We are committed to creating harmonious environments and helping all beings develop their full potential of infinite wisdom and compassion. Our organization is based on the Buddhist tradition of Lama Tsong Khapa of Tibet as taught to us by our founder Lama Thubten Yeshe and spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition FPMT