(In Thailand with Luangpor Khemadhammo, my preceptor, and Chao Khun Dhammabhojo, my chanting ajahn.)
My life began in the village library. I was eighteen years old at the time, and I had just picked up an unassuming little white book called ‘How to Meditate’. I had certainly never been religious (far from it: I couldn’t stand religion) but I had always had questions: What is this life? What’s the point? Why am I here? Was I anything before I was born? Who am I? I had also been all too aware of a pervasive discontentment within myself from very early on. This twin conundrum is what eventually led me to pick up that book. I didn’t know it at that moment, but I had found what I was looking for.
After quickly leaving the library, I sailed home on my skateboard, kicked off my shoes at the door, sat down, and then opened the book – skipping straight to the instructions on mindfulness of breathing. I then focused my mind and my life was never the same again.
A month or so later my mother was flicking through a local newspaper when she came across an advert: ‘Meditation at The Forest Hermitage’. “Why don’t you give them a call?” she said, having seen a dramatic change come over her once troubled son. So, I went along and was soon attending almost every Monday and Friday open evening. I also tried to meditate at least twice a day at home as well as on the bus, in the library at college, and at every other available opportunity. I was excited. I was onto something
Then, one evening at the Hermitage, several months later, during the tea after the meditation session, Luangpor asked a young man who had been intending to become a novice when he was going to take the plunge. Hardly had that young chap answered when my mouth burst open: “How do you become a novice?”
Once everyone had left I stayed behind to ask Luangpor if I could become one. A few months later I was in robes. It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made! In May 2001 I received full ordination as a bhikkhu under Luangpor Khemadhammo and I’ve been training at the Forest Hermitage ever since, with a spell of sixteen months spent in Thailand from the end of 2011.
I’m often asked, especially at the schools, why I became a monk. For two reasons, I say: because I want to be free from suffering, and I want to know.
And I realise I don’t have much time.
I know my life would be very different if it wasn’t for Buddhism. And I realize that having access to Ajahn Chah’s teachings is a great privilege. When reading his words I feel like a weary man who has been stumbling through the desert and finds an oasis: he drinks and is refreshed; every sip is precious.
I’m deeply indebted to Luangpor at the Hermitage as well. He is a tremendous role model in many ways: his determination, sincerity, integrity, and strength of mind are second to none. I bow to the Buddha, Ajahn Chah and Luangpor.