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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sravasti Abbey nuns hope to bring a little harmony in weekly workshops

Sravasti Abbey nuns will host “Choosing Harmony,” a weekly series at the Create Art Center in Newport, Wash.  (Courtesy )
By Samantha DiMaio For The Spokesman-Review

Most people have at least a little experience with disharmony – whether it’s a quarrel with a significant other, an argument with a co-worker, a conflict with family or anything that may cause a fracture in unity. When people find themselves in that vortex of stubborn disagreement, they have a choice: to remain stagnant or choose harmony.

Monday through June 24, a Buddhist monastic community called Sravasti Abbey will host a series of talks on choosing the latter, in an effort to teach people how to keep their heart open and calm amid life’s difficult situations. The sessions will take place Mondays from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Create Art Center in Newport, Washington.

Each class will begin by setting a motivation or purpose for the evening and practicing breathing exercises. It will then include a guided meditation, a talk led by a group of ordained nuns and a period of reflection, application and discussion followed by a Q&A session.

Venerable Thubten Kunga, who has been with the Abbey for eight years, is one of the nuns leading the series. Kunga has enjoyed meditation and the way it allows people to access different states of mind. Her discontent with ordinary life led her to the process of ordination; she has been ordained for five years.

“Each lifetime is very precious,” Kunga said. “I felt like to make best use of my life I wanted to explore a monastic lifestyle.”

Venerable Thubten Dekyi is another nun leading the series and has been with the Abbey since 2006, just three years after its establishment. Like Kunga, Dekyi tried everything in a typical lifestyle and was not satisfied. She wanted to do more to help the world and society, which led her to be ordained.

“I kind of needed to do a lot more inner work to be able to really help the way that I wanted to,” Dekyi said.

To Kunga and Dekyi, harmony is not just the state of agreement with others. It encompasses much more than that. Harmony is recognizing people’s shared values and goals and wanting to work together to achieve those, they said. It is respecting and appreciating other people and their contribution to society.

Living a harmonious lifestyle is easier said than done, but Kunga and Dekyi provide some overarching advice that may be helpful:

  • Don’t shut down. Instead of hiding from conflict and confrontation, engage with people and work to find a solution.
  • Shift your perspective. Have an open mind and look at issues from a broader point of view. Consider the other person’s thoughts and feelings in solving the problem.
  • Be flexible. Recognize your own feelings of greed, hatred and selfishness and don’t allow them to get in the way of reaching a resolution.
  • Remember the kindness of humanity. People are generally nice beings, and if there is a moment when they deter from that, give them the benefit of the doubt and think about what challenges they may be experiencing in their life. Recall the numerous ways they have served society rather than just focusing on the current negative incident.

Dekyi recalls a story of these tips being applied in one of their guest’s lives. He resided in New York City where sirens wail several times throughout the night. Anger and irritation would rise from losing precious sleeping hours. When someone advised him to shift his perspective and send thoughts of peace and good will to those involved in the emergency, his feelings changed. His heart opened.

No registration or experience is required for Choosing Harmony, and anyone is welcome.

“Everybody wants to be happy, and nobody wants to suffer or be unhappy,” Dekyi said. “We just have sometimes really unstable ways of going about doing that.”

Along with the Choosing Harmony series in Newport, the Abbey is introducing another series in Spokane called Beginning Buddhism, starting Wednesday and going through July 24. These sessions will take place 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Souls Center located at 707 N. Cedar St, Suite No. 2.

For young adults who want to explore Buddhism, Venerable Thubten Chodron will host Young Adults Explore Buddhism for those ages 18-29, a six-day retreat from June 14-20. For more information or to register, visit

For more experiences, the Abbey encourages everyone to visit their community to see what the monastic lifestyle is all about. Guests can stay for a day, a few nights or many months. For more information, call (509) 447-5549.