On September 7 Venerable Thubten Semkye celebrated her first year of ordination with a letter to family and friends sharing her insights and extending her best wishes to them all.

Dear friends and family,

It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since I took my novice vows at Sravasti Abbey. It’s also hard to believe that I have been a resident for over four years.

I made a request to have this day a retreat day – to reflect, practice and deepen my connection to this 2600 year old lineage of monks and nuns that I have joined. It felt very nurturing for my practice and my commitment to bring more balance into my life.

The training I receive comes each and every moment of the day (whether I want it or not!). To cultivate a monastic mind, I do my best to open myself into looking at my habituated ways of thinking and looking at the world that cause me so much pain, discontent, disconnectedness and withdrawal. When these moments arise, as I deepen my relationship to this spiritual path and follow the guidance of my teacher, I have more tools, more choices, at any given moment to transform my mind and heart into clearer, wiser states of being. The community at Sravasti Abbey has been my greatest gift of inspiration and support this past year. Living in community with people who share a commitment to cultivating their good qualities and abandoning their non-virtuous ones gives me the opportunity to deepen trust (a big life issue for me) in others that they will take care of their own minds without me questioning their motivations and ways of expression.

I find myself happier, more balanced, and more relaxed then I have ever been in my life. The Buddha’s teachings on developing compassion and realistic expectations of one’s self and at the same time aspiring for full awakening fit quite well together. Unrealistic expectations of myself and others have brought more misery in my life than I can say. Letting people be, knowing we are all doing our best with the capacities we have, is a wholesome way of looking at others that has brought less knee jerk reactions, and misunderstandings from my side. I am getting a little wiser and more compassionate.

As a novice nun, I feel like a beginner at 53, and am looking forward to the times ahead. The community is harmonious and growing with 5 monastics and 7 lay residents with 4 preparing for training to become monastics. The Abbey is also celebrating its 5th birthday on October 11. Much has been accomplished in such a short time, and much is unfolding.

I am grateful for the encouragement, prayers and support I have received. Depending on the kindness of others for the roof over my head, the food in my stomach and the robes on my back has fed a growing gratitude, awe and humility. May I keep my vows purely as I can and practice well in return for that kindness. May you have a long and healthy life filled with contentment and peace. May courage, humor and patience sustain you in the challenging times and may your deepest aspirations be immediately fulfilled.

With blessings and bows,
Semkye