Chapter Five II

He who has awakened is freed from fear, he has become Buddha;
he knows the vanity of all his cares, his ambitions, and also of his pains.


The gong sounds at 5 a.m. Janah already up and meditating.
I stir, “Good morning, Ange Blanc. God, you did a great job last night. I feel so rested. You look stunning as usual, I like us with no makeup actually.”
Janah, “I agree. I often wonder if we should drop it. We really don’t use much anyway. You certainly don’t need it. I just like putting it on you.”
I do the morning ritual, “See how talented I am. I can brush and pee at the same time.”
“That’s the first test.”
“Then they teach us how to kick butt and chew gum?”

Janah, “You can already do that.”
“Try not to blow them away the first day.”
“I’ll explain I’m only here to pick up after you. Perhaps you shouldn’t beat up anyone right away.”
“Donn-a worry, as long as dey gooda to you, nobody gets a hurt.”
“I never worry. I have you, I’m safer than anyone on the planet.”
“What’s on your plate today?”
“I assume they have questions for me, they can’t just let me hang out watching you, unfortunately. Do what you do best, besides being my sexual playground, and everything will go well.”

We sit in front of each other and hold hands, looking into each other’s eyes. We stand, kiss, dress and go into the hall. One of the monks is waiting.
“Good thing we don’t need to verbalize. These guys standing outside the door might take exception to our being silly.”
“You’re going to be their most diligent student. Be silent, follow instructions, just like with Master Kim.”

It is time for the first meditation of the day. The three other applicants and I, now provisional students, and Janah, follow the monks to a large hall. It has a beautifully worn wooden floor, shelves with two rows of candles, otherwise no images or enhancements. There are no mats on the floor, miscellaneous cushions stacked in a corner, each monk takes one.
All monks, whether students, disciples or masters sit together in meditation. Disciple isn’t a religious term in Shaolin, it’s the level above student. It’s granted for a year at a time, there’s no guarantee that one would remain a Disciple. Lose diligence, fail to mature in the arts, means demotion or dismissal.
Approaching the end of the first half hour, the two youngest boys are barely holding their own, Black is fine. Janah and I are right at home, motionless.
The gong sounds and the students’ active day begins. On the way to the courtyard, one of the priests asks Janah to come with him. Black, the two boys and I are told to follow Disciple Ming. Twenty minutes later we are back in the practice area with shiny shaved heads. I feel ten pounds lighter and rather weird.
Janah is brought to a room to the side of the meditation hall. Five priests are seated in a semicircle, including the one who admitted us. His name is Sung, the Abbot. He invites Janah to sit. She joins them, floats gracefully cross legged to the floor. She faces the old priest and the two monks on either side of him.
Abbot Sung, “We have never had an applicant from Master Kim. Although not Shaolin, he is well known and greatly respected in our community. Generally our students start much younger.”
Janah says nothing, she has not been asked any question. She has no opinion, even if she had been asked to give one.
He continues, “The others came to you for comfort and rest. You welcomed them all, attended to the youngest. Master Kim says that student Sylk was his student, that you are not a martial artist. We have observed you both closely. You are bound together in a way beyond words. You do not speak with her, nor she you. Yet you understand each other completely.”
Janah tilts her head to the side slightly nods her head once slowly, she feels this comment called for a response, even though she still hasn’t been asked anything, “The Shaolin are most observant.”
The old priest smiles. He never takes his eyes off her.
“We would like to ask a few questions…to help in our understanding.”
Janah agrees by another slight nod.
“What do you know about the Shaolin order?”
Janah looks at the other priests, none young, all Chinese. For a quarter hour, she gives them a history of the Order in flawless Mandarin, with no interruption from a stunned audience of Shaolin priests. The one to the right of Abbott Sung asks, in Chinese, about Janah’s family, then about our background. Janah answers concisely and completely.
The conversation continues for 3 hours. The priests ask questions about Shaolin practice, about Buddhism in general, and then began discussing more subtle matters. Janah is able to recite the dharma, in Chinese, with a clear explanation demonstrating her pristine understanding. She is being grilled, even if very politely. They discuss the infamous Zen koans, used to help block the mind from being tied to rational thought. A koan might be meditated on for many months, or years. When the mind is free of illusion, unclouded by self, the meaning becomes clear. There is no correct answer, just many incorrect ones; answers that show the student to be caught in dualistic thinking, attached to a self as separate.
It is certainly not unheard of for priests to become enlightened on their own, the original Buddha did after all. It takes deep understanding of reality and illusion, then discarding that knowledge. Conversations between two enlightened priests often made no sense to an observer. Koans are more Zen Buddhism, not Shaolin, which is called Ch’an. The methods of instruction washed back and forth between sects of Buddhism, one of the most ancient philosophies. The Shaolin are trying to gauge Janah’s grasp of Buddhism more than simply her grasp of Shaolin. She doesn’t disappoint.
The conversation has subtly changed; becomes one of lively discussion between equals. Its subtleties incomprehensible to the uninitiated.
The priests are suddenly silent, as if they have the identical thought at the same moment. They are having fun arguing with her on points that no mere dabbler, or even detached academic could grasp. She, on the other hand, has very politely and subtly instructed them on several matters of consciousness and current neurobiology. It hit them as bluntly as their own awakening. This young woman is a master. She does not know gung fu. To the Shaolin, that’s only an introduction to the unity of mind and body.
Gung Fu as a martial art is not an end in itself. They are unaware that her ten years of yoga had integrated her mind and body as thoroughly as any martial arts training. They are aware of the power of her qi, that she has healed. She is known to them indirectly from her numerous visits to Chinatown and the work she did there. This girl is already one with them, with the universe itself. The Shaolin are not interested in rank, age or physical ability except to the extent it helps the priest find his or her Ch’an. They discover the girl is beyond that. She is Ch’an. Master Kim had seen it and now the Shaolin have as well.
The priests are nothing if not practical. They have no ego to protect. In their minds, this is a blessing for the order. A bodhisattva has appeared as a gift from the universe.
The monks stand in unison while Janah remains seated. They bowed to her as had Master Kim, she stands and bows deeply in return.
Abbot Sung, “We are honored by your presence. Tell us what place we can offer you.”
“I came to serve. The world has much need of the prayer and work of the Order. Every day, life is senselessly destroyed, our earth needlessly abused, people ever more lost. We have lifetimes of challenges before us. I am most grateful to be allowed to work and learn.”
Abbott Sung asks, “Is there some special practice in which you wish to work?”
“Perhaps Tao Qi. May I assist the herbalist as well?”
Abbot Sung, “You are a master here. You may pursue any study you wish. We heard something of your skills from your many friends in Chinatown. You understand the need to see for ourselves.”
“To sit outside the temple in the summer is a privilege.”
The old priest thinks to himself, ‘This girl is more than the sly old Kim let on. She has much to share.’
Abbot Sung, “You may have your own room, although you may prefer to remain with student Sylk.”
Janah folds her hands, “Master Sung understands everything.”

Chapter Six II

Almost every problem we have can be ascribed to the fact that
human beings are utterly beguiled by their feelings of separateness.
It would seem that a spirituality that undermined such dualism,
through the mere contemplation of consciousness,
could not help but improve our situation.
                                                Sam Harris

 Faster than an IM, word spreads through the temple that a new master is in attendance. The monks are even more curious that it is a woman, a teenager at that. Most had never heard of such a thing and none had experienced it, an excitement event in a place where excitements aren’t so numerous.
Janah is introduced at evening meditation, seated in silk robes in front of the room. Master Sung asked her to address the monks, not to test her, the priests did a thorough job of that earlier. He did it because it gives her instant credibility. No one but a master, or a disciple taking vows, addresses the entire temple. I don’t attempt to mental, wanting like the others to hear her as a student. She also shaved her head in respect for tradition. The purpose is to shed pretension and ego, hair gets to be such a ‘thing’ with people. She never seemed more beautiful, more at home, in her element.
Janah greets the students in Chinese, then addresses the other masters and priests in Chinese thanking them for their warm welcome. She switches to English and begins.
“Each monk’s meditation contains the entire universe. Your collective meditation eases the suffering of all life, we meditate ceaselessly for an end to that suffering. To seek enlightenment is to carry water in a straw basket. Where is the mind that can know the unknown? Let us seek only to relieve suffering. In that way, enlightenment may find us.”
She recites a portion of the Heart Sutra. “There is no knowing or unknowing. Since nothing can be known, Bodhisattvas rely on Pranja Paramita and so their minds are unhindered. Because there is no hindrance, no fear exists and they are far from inverted and illusory thought and thereby attain nirvana.”
(Pranja is the wisdom of the true mind. Paramita is “perfection” or the virtues of generosity, discipline, patience, energy, meditation, wisdom.)
She is silent for a time. The hall is absolutely still. It is only dimly lit, candles line one wall. The monks are entranced. She is bathed in a soft white light. It radiates from her, there is no other explanation for its presence.
Janah continues, “Perfect bliss lies within you. Your thoughts, your projections, are the confusion preventing that perfect bliss which is your true Buddha nature. When thought is revealed as illusion, where is fear? Thought is useful in daily life, to help us prepare, to observe and recall. Thought as inquiry is a glorious gift. Thought as belief is a chasm separating you from the bliss within. A book or a teacher may only point. Each one must do the work of rigorous inquiry, by challenging every thought. You cannot outsource your liberation.”
She lets it sit for a moment, then, “Thank you for your patient attention.”
Janah receives many bows and welcomes. My heart overflows. I knew much of the level of Janah’s no mind, known it in my own mind. I had never seen it recognized in such company. Even when Master Kim made it plain, it all seemed vague, surreal, until this moment. The moms would have been speechless. 
The evening over, we return to our room. I can’t quit crying. What gives me such joy is that Janah is finally able to come to her true calling. She sought no recognition from any order. Still, it happened, I am delighted. She will be able to continue to study in her random, eclectic way, to teach, and I will be immersed in martial arts.
Janah showers, then me, no room for two in the small space. We lay on their mats together, silent soft kisses. Janah sits up and moves to my feet, pulling one foot into her lap and massaging it. My eyes roll back in my head with pleasure. I’d had as exhausting a day physically as Janah had mentally. 
“While you were getting stroked by the Masters, I was out in the sun killing myself.”
Janah grins, knowing I revel in the exertion. Training is my element. She knows the Shaolin will have a hard time getting her girl worn out.
“First they had us do the horse riding stance thing. You know, just stand in it until you fall down. After I got my mind out of it, I was fine. Black lasted for 5 minutes, the kids were done in two. The monks made them keep at it on and off for half an hour. I thought David would cry, he didn’t though. When they saw I wasn’t going to break, they thought it would be fun to have me hold clay pots filled with water, at arm’s length. After a while I guess they got bored, so we went on to other training. It’s basic, the stances are new to me. We had lunch, rest break, then more gung fu. I felt you going to meet the herbalist and the Qi masters. We were cleaning the meditation hall and the courtyard, you were completely focused on your visits.”
 Janah kisses my foot, “I’m glad you practice in shoes here. In Taekwondo it was hard to keep your feet pretty.”
“I thought you saw only my inner beauty.”
“You thought wrong, legs. Appearance has its place. I like to appreciate the whole person, not just inner or outer.”
“You’re the master.”
“Keep that thought.”

After she has the other foot in shape she works on my legs. Despite my casual attitude, Janah said my thighs never felt my legs so tight. She knows I’m in remarkable physical shape, clearly I’d undergone a monumental effort. It takes her the better part of an hour to get the tension out. Normally it takes fifteen or twenty minutes, even after one of my marathon workouts. She has liniment from the herbalist, Master Hue, applies it liberally while she works. After another hour I am my old sassy self. It’s after ten, five a.m. will come quickly. We lay down to our routine. Me stroking Janah’s head while she winds me down, slipping down to her spot on my tummy.
“I smell like a compost heap.”
“Go to sleep.”


Chapter Seven II

If you say it can’t be done, you’re right.
If you say it can be done, you’re right.
                                       Daphne Sylk


After morning meditation, Janah’s day couldn’t be more different from mine. I’m learning the basics of gung fu via demanding physical training. Janah continues in meditation for a time after the monks leave. Then she is with the masters of the different areas, gung fu, herbalist, qi, and others with a variety of specialties. Janah can focus her qi energy, placing it in different areas of her body, making her hands hot, then cold, her feet the same, slowing her heart rate to virtually undetectable. She takes only four breaths a minute, her body at a standstill.
The qi masters approach, asking her to hold out her hands and point a finger on each.
The old master places his palms under her fingertips, “One hot, one cold.”
In a bit over a minute, he invites the other to touch each of her fingers. The second one smiles, recalling the days he learned this. It had taken him twenty years of continuous training. The girl is not yet sixteen. The two bow deeply.
As they walk away, Janah hears them swapping insults, Zhang says, “I wonder how long she has practiced? I took almost five years to learn to regulate my body temperature.”
Chu laughs, “You couldn’t warm your tea in five years old one. It was I who leaned hot hand cold hand in five years.”
Zhang, “Only cold hand you had for twenty years was brushing snow off your boots. I remember you coming in to our master and telling him you learned cold hand. He told you to sit by the fire for ten minutes then show him your cold hand. He called you Snow Chu after that.”
Janah loses track of the conversation, she could hear bursts of laughter echoing down the walls. Janah is warmed by the ease of the two old men, the joy they radiate. Learning from them will be a delightful privilege.
Janah visits the herbalist, Master Hue. In modern times, the advent of many prescription medicines had diminished interest in herbal concoctions. Now they’re making a comeback. Many have significant efficacy and work as well as prescription meds, with fewer adverse side effects.
Janah has the advantage of a phenomenal memory, so the names and uses are easy for her. The Ch’an is in the preparation. Herbal mixtures from scratch take time. Some herbs have to mature, others used when they’re relatively young. Those requiring drying took weeks, some infused better in oil, others in water or alcohol. Herbal treatment is often a matter of longer treatment. They can take time to get well distributed in the body and do their work. It often isn’t as simple as taking an aspirin for a headache, but the remedies have the advantage of long history.
Janah waters or mists the plants, from others she takes clippings and separates the leaves for drying. Stems she throws in the compost pile. There is a long row of mint in pots that needs to be planted. She finds a spot and digs the holes then transfers the plant from the pot to its new home in the earth, surrounds it with compost and tamps the mixture into place. The dirt is moist, she decides to let the plants settle for a day or two before watering.
Hue, “Fresh mint for sour stomachs will be most welcome. And for tea on a hot day. I even add leaves to my water jug so I will always be minty fresh!”
Janah giggles, “In the close confines of the meditation hall, perhaps we should add mint to everyone’s water.”
Janah runs her hand over her shaved head, leaving a streak of dirt, “I’m giving myself a mudpack. Daphne will laugh at me, mud on my skull, I’m up to my elbows in it.”
Hue, “Come into the shed. I’ll show you the process for our liniment.”
She rinses her hands from the hose and joins him. There’s a long wooden work table, burners line one end, then jars and jars of dried herbs. Also four wok style mixing bowls, with a lip on one side to pour easily into jars.
Hue, “Here is Fenugreek, or K'u-tou, useful for reducing inflammation, and may be taken internally in tea for upset stomach or a sore throat. Over there are the powdered red peppers for heat. If I’m making just an antiseptic, I skip those.”
He moves down a few jars, “Plantago, or Che Qian Zi, needs to be infused, although I keep some dried for gargle, also good for inflammation, and a good coagulant, it will stop bleeding on cuts and scrapes. Next is Calendula which promotes healing and soothes the skin. We dry the flowers, and take fresh juice from the leaves and preserve it in alcohol. Finally there is Eucalyptus, or an shu ye, a good antiseptic and its oil gets more effective as it ages. Good for making a bruise or strain less sensitive too.”
Janah, “There is a formula?”
Hue, “I use a base formula for both liniment and antiseptic. The only difference is the liniment, to which I add peppers for heat. Then I use more or less ingredient in various combinations to observe how it works. There are many other herbs, but these seem as adequate as any combination I’ve tried. You are welcome to mix up any others you wish. You made a liniment at home?”
Janah, “Yes, mostly eucalyptus oil, Vicks Vapo Rub and cayenne in an alcohol water base. I added some herbs from the herb shop, but the main ingredients were those…eucalyptus, menthol, camphor and cayenne. Menthol is the scent found in peppermint, which is helpful for digestion and pain relief.”
Hue, “So you’ve discovered that the main ingredient is attending to the patient. Mostly the body will take care of the rest.”
Janah, “It works for me.”
Hue smiles, “Don’t reveal our secret. They think we have magical potions in here.”
Janah, “Well they do have healing properties. The most important ingredient is the patient’s trust. Who am I to take that away?”
Hue, “It is our strongest medicine.”

Chapter Eight II

It’s like stepping into a time portal, finding yourself in fifteenth century China.
With indoor plumbing.
     Susan, on her first visit to the monastery

When the parents come to the Temple, they are struck first by the silence. It is, after all, still Manhattan. Between the thick walls, dense bamboo, trees and shrubbery, it seems more like a high mountain retreat, away from cities and crowds.
The inside is largely outside, as in open to the sky. The training area and gardens have no roof. The dormitories, kitchen and dining room, meditation hall, classrooms and offices are buildings within the compound. It is mysteriously large. Walking around the exterior of the building, which is on a corner, gives a misleading impression of the space within the walls. Two sides face the street, one side has a long narrow alley that dead ends at the back of the building. The back wall is up against another building, which is a warehouse. The surrounding buildings higher than the temple are at least two blocks distant. Not that there’s any great need for privacy, anyone bothering to peer from a building through a telescope might see monks walking, portions of the training area, some of the garden, nothing of much interest.
Janah is in her master’s robe, noticeably different from my student uniform. The parents know we’d shaved our heads, it still takes a minute to digest.
Susan hugs me, “Something’s different, did you cut your hair?”
“I went in for a quick trim, just a nip and tuck, you know? Next thing I knew my hair was on the floor and the monks were auctioning it off on EBay. They said it would help defray costs of room and board for Janah.”
“Do you miss it?”
“Attachment is not allowed. I do miss…”
“Janah washing and brushing it.”
“And that’s why I’ll grow it back. Maybe there is lingering attachment. Bald isn’t a requirement here, it’s symbolic. Except for my attachment to Janah’s attention, I have to say, it’s a lot less trouble. Janah still thinks I’m perfect, that’s what matters.”
Chris, “I think it’s kind of cool. I’m putting a girl with a shaved head in my book someplace. Maybe even a tattoo on her skull.”
“Hey, maybe I …”
Janah, “No.”
Janah takes Kara’s hand, “Perhaps Daphne can tell you guys what she’s been up to?”
“I’m getting more fluent in Chinese. I can listen to Janah talking in Chinese while I’m doing exercises or working in the kitchen. She translates to English without missing a beat in her conversation. It’s fun. When she gets into those philosophical conversations with the other masters, I tune out. They’re very deep, not my thing. Perhaps I’ll be the first master of superficiality.”
James, “How’s the training? Are you pleased with their methods, they have the skills to help you? You are so far beyond other students I’ve seen. Chris says you are way beyond your taekwondo rank.”
“It is perfect for me. First, it’s relentless. They cut me no slack either for being with Janah, from Master Kim or for being female. Just the way I want it. Fortunately, I have a secret ingredient at night to help me recover. I’m learning gung fu basics. After that, we’re trained in an individual style. My instructor will pick a style for me he thinks suits my abilities. We’re expected, however, to be familiar with all styles, there’s an endless amount to learn. Like Chinese everything, the long history and how the various styles spread means each has a lot in common with the others. They’re all interwoven.”
I continue, “The training from their point of view is to make the body strong and to learn to make the mind and body one. That’s the same with any martial art.  Then of course, there’s the other student stuff, cleaning, washing, preparing food, cleaning again. Hotshots like Ange Blanc don’t have to mess with the grunt work, just us ordinary mortals.”
Kara, “You don’t cook at home either, Daphne does all that for you.”
Janah smiles and shrugs her shoulders, “What can I say?”
“Don’t think she doesn’t do anything. She is in qi meditation for a couple of hours a day, then with the herbalist for another three or four, then helping monks and students recover from any injuries, strains or pains. She has to speak with the monks from time to time, like the Ch’an school teacher. We get up at 5 and get to bed around 10 or 11, no naps, unless you count meditation and actual napping is frowned on. Many nights Janah has put me to sleep and gone back out. I can feel her come in at midnight or later. In there somewhere she gets in an hour of yoga.”
Susan, “Janah teaches the priests?”
“They learn from each other. They are familiar with the Shaolin and other Buddhist teachings, she is an expert on neuroscience. They discuss Buddhism in light of current neuroscience. Mostly the Buddhists are being proven right on matters of the brain, consciousness, even the ultimate nothingness of the physical universe.”
We lead the parents to the long table in the front hall for tea. I introduce them to Black, Chan and David as my fellow students.
Black, “It’s kind of her to say fellow students. She’s so far ahead of us.”
Then to Chris,  “I understand you’re the 5th degree. Then you know her skills got skills. You did a real good job on this one.
He says to Susan, “You must be her other mom, I see why she calls you Sis. She talks about you a lot. She says you’re as good as she is.”
Susan, “My daughter is being generous. I’m not in her class.”
Black, “She said you’d say that. You could be twins. I’ll bet you do okay.”
Chris, “You were a martial artist before you came here. What did you take?”
Black reiterated his story about judo and his sensei leaving.
Chris, “I can relate. The school wouldn’t be the same without Master Kim. That ground fighting stuff has its place, but it’s not the point. I get frustrated that a lot of martial arts has come to that. You were right to come here.”
Black, ‘It’s hard, real hard. When it gets to me, I see Daphne just gliding along like it was a day in the park and I got to hang in. Plus we have the two kids to take care of,” nodding at Chan and David.
The younger boys are quiet, they sit next to Janah, one on either side. Glancing up at her occasionally and getting the Janah smile in return.
“These two guys are Janah’s protectors. If I’m not around, I know she’ll be okay. David is very quick, and Chan is ridiculously strong, he’s got natural ultra-steroids or something.”
David’s face lights up. Chan is expressionless. Chan’s idea of animation is an occasional blink. Janah strokes each boy’s head and kisses their foreheads. She whispers to each and they get up, bow to the parents, then deeply to Janah, and run off together. She whispered that it’s time for meditation and she expects them to be first in the hall and to be more focused than Master Sung. If she said to do it standing on your head, they would have done that as well. She’d been more of a mother in a few months than they’d ever known outside. They’d taken a brave and lonely step to come to the temple. The Shaolin are both kind and very strict. She lets the monks do the discipline, she handles the loving care.
Black took his cue to let us say our goodbyes. He stands and shakes James’ hand, “Don’t know what you taught that girl of yours, but she is unique.”
 He tells Kara, “Thanks for sharing her with us.”
Then to Susan, “I’m going to work to get as good as Daphne. I got a ways to go.”
Susan, “Something tells me you’re going to do very well indeed.”
He hugs Chris, “Man, what muscle,” says, “Ms. Alva knew just what she was talking about.”
Chris blushes. “Amazing what a few weight workouts will do.”
Black, “Yeah, a few.”
“You girls got some special people here. Very special.”
He, too, bows to the family, then to Janah and leaves to join the boys.
“Black is different, isn’t he? He understood us from the first day. He’s street smart and perceptive; a young male Ms. Alva.”
“The boys are quite taken with Janah,” Susan comments.
“It’s not just those two. She has every kid in here vying for her attention. When she comes to training, the intensity level rises immediately, and the intensity is high anyway. She walks in, you’d think some pop star had arrived. They all look over to see if Master J is watching them. That’s what they call her, the monks think it’s cute. She has everyone here wrapped around her finger; frankly, it’s disgusting. Fortunately, I’m here to keep her from floating away with Ch’an head.”
With the boys gone, Janah scoots over next to me, leans her head on my shoulder.
“Oh boy, am I going to jump you later.”
“Excellent plan, student Sylk.”

Kara, “I thought this was going to be some impossibly difficult test, that you guys would be taken to, and maybe beyond, your limits. Now we discover that, in a few months, you’ve taken over the monastery and everyone is dancing to your tunes.”
James, “I don’t think even the Shaolin were prepared for these two. In a year, they may be calling it the Daphne Temple.”
I look thoughtful, “It has a certain….je ne sais quois, n’est-ce pas?”
Janah rolls her eyes, everyone prepares to go.
Chris hugs Janah and then me with the comment, “Looks like you have everything under control, including Master J. Your other moms can quit worrying. Kara and Susan have been with each other non-stop since you guys left. James and I were thinking about taking them on separate vacations so we could get them back.”
I hug C-mom again, then Kara. ‘It’s good to have lots of moms,’ I think. I walk with my arm in Susan’s. She feels my arm through the fabric and stops. “My god girl, you are a brick.”
“The training wipes us out. Between the diet of rice, fruit, soy, vegetables and the sheer activity level, it would be impossible not to get hard. Women could lose lots of fat and gain muscle on the Shaolin Diet Plan.”**
Susan looks at me, up at her now, just a bit. At sixteen I’m five ten, Susan is a breath over five nine.
She examines my face and kisses me on both cheeks. “We miss you both at home. We’re happy you’re doing this, that you guys find this life worthwhile. I’m so grateful for our family. They’ve made it possible for me to realize the joy of letting your child come into herself.”
Kara, “When can you come home for a day or two?”
“Technically, Janah can come and go as she pleases. I think they’ll be inclined to let us off near year end, soon. We’ll see.”
Kara, “If you need things between visits, call us. Susan and I can bring it down and Janah can collect it.”
Janah looks at me, I say, “Why don’t you come on Sundays every other week, say at noon. She'll meet you, have lunch, and give you an update. I can be in her head while she talks to you. She can’t get in too much trouble as long as it’s Chinatown and C-mom and Sis are there. What do you think?”
Susan, “Mrs. E’s asked a million questions. She’s having dinner for the family tonight because she knew we were coming down today. She included Master Kim and Lacy.”
Janah, “I’ll be glad to get to see you more often. Tell Mrs. Epstein we miss her. Also, give Dr. Epstein, Master Kim and Lacy a hug for us.”
Susan, “By the way, we can’t go out without every other person wanting to know where you guys are. Is there anyone in the Village you don’t know?”
“It’s okay to tell them what we’re doing. Be sure to see Mini and Chuck at least once a week, and the Jamaicans, and go to MOMA and tell Chichi in the café we miss her. She’ll tell the others. You know most of the people we do in the Village, keep them posted. Janah will handle Chinatown and Master Kim will deal with the rest.”
Chris, “Maybe Sis should just do a website.”
“I thought about Facebook. The problem is, we want the people we know to know. It’s the people we don’t know….”
Susan, “We’ll handle it. Frankly, I’m enjoying the attention. Every place I go I get to talk about my daughters. I’m a celebrity mom.”

 **There are no dietary restrictions in Shaolin, meat can be eaten in the temple or anyplace else. There are no restrictions against alcohol, but the vows for Priest include refraining from intoxicants. There is a Shaolin Temple in Manhattan on Broadway. The Temple in this book is not based on that one. The temple we have entered subscribes to the old traditions of acceptance, living, study and service. The Masters have long ago instituted vegetarianism. It was originally a financial decision, meat is expensive. It has been retained as traditional. Outside, monks may do as they wish regarding vegetarianism.

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