A Buddhist Nun : A Day In The Life
by Caitriona Horne
Kankyo Tannier is a Buddhist nun of the Zen tradition and is being called ‘the new voice of Buddhism’. She lived in a monastery in Alsace for over fifteen years before settling in the middle of a nearby forest, surrounded by trees and animals. She teaches meditation workshops and writes a blog on everyday spirituality at dailyzen.fr, has given a TEDX talk, has a blog on the Huffingon Post (France) and tweets – she is a truly modern nun, bringing her philosophy and ideas to life in a practical, accessible and light-hearted way.
Kankyo says: I wake up in the early morning – this is very important to me. In summer, I get up with the sunrise. In winter I still wake up around 5am. At this moment, the whole world is very quiet, very still. Even the animals are asleep. The first thing I do, right after opening my eyes is consciously become aware of my thoughts – my first idea of the day, then my second – to start the day in mindfulness. Then I get up, feed the cats in my house and the wild cats outside and drink a warm tea. Afterwards I go outside to practice zazen, the zen meditation.
I’ve never seen my activities as ‘work’. Instead I see them as a spiritual practice which I enjoy deeply. Of course it is necessary to earn some money, but I’ve never been very interested in material goods. I usually log on around 8:30am to write my blog, manage my social networks, create my podcast or videos and answer a LOT of emails! I love writing so much: trying to find the right words and new ways to express things, examples, metaphors. I also love meeting my audience and having the opportunity to give guided meditations or ‘silence exercises’ – teaching and connecting with people all around the world. My least favourite part of my work is when I’m on the road too much, for conferences & workshops, because I miss the forest, animals and being in nature. Every day at home, in the afternoon, I go into the forest to take care of my horses. I help out at the farm surrounding the monastery and care for the old horses. For me there is no separation between work and ‘after work.’ As we say in zen buddhism ‘the everyday mind is the way’ – which means that all activities of the day can be jewels of wisdom ( hopefully! ). Within the day, I try to do many little silence exercises. Even in front of my computer, there are occasions for me to come back to the here-and-now and be more aware of what’s happening. Because of these practices, I don’t need to find a hobby to help me relax after work because I don’t get stressed!
Before becoming a buddhist nun I was a student, very interested in all kinds of amazing experiences. I was quite nocturnal and loved playing jazz and funk in little clubs… My main qualities at this time were curiosity and being a bit pig-headed! When I look back (this was 20 years ago) I see that it is possible for anyone to find a more spiritual and centered life. It is possible at any age, in any condition. You just have to practice the three R’s and four S’s: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat and Sound Stupid but Secure Success! My motivation has always been the idea that all my activities help towards a better world. The most useful advice I’ve recieved is to do things one-by-one: don’t think about the next task or to the entire to-do list or you will become crazy! Step-by-step anything is possible. I often think about the founder of the zen tradition in Europe, Master Taisen Deshimaru. He arrived in Paris with nothing. He was 50 years old, had left his family in Japan and started to teach Zazen, the zen meditation. When he died 15 years later he has created one big Temple in France (La Gendronnière) and more than 120 zen dojos in other cities in Europe. What energy!
It’s thanks to him that I can live such a beautiful life and practice zazen. So as a homage to him I try to do a little more every day.
My daily rituals include eating in silence – it’s the only way for me to really taste food and eat calmly, quietly, with a peaceful mind. I would encourage readers to do this regularly, you’ll see you’ll feel very good after doing this for a while! Before eating, I also sing some buddhist sutras, words to express my gratitude at receiving this food. I’m vegan and I love vegetables with gomasio and a little bit of rapeseed oil – but about cooking… hum… this is a very delicate topic… I’m an awful cook!
As a child brought up in a christian family, I wanted to be a nun! So that’s worked out well! A bit later, as teenager, I thought about becoming journalist and I did write for a while after my studies for a cultural magazine. The common thread was always to find an opportunity to spread new ideas and contribute to a concious world.
My top 3 sources of inspiration are:
Izauk : my zen friends in the UK! On their website you can find a list of zen meditation organisations, instructions to beginners and teachers in buddhism who are elder practitioners with lots of experience. It’s the best way to find a teacher who knows precisely what they’re talking about!
Fairphone : the first ethical smartphone – created by a dutch company – this is referenced in the first chapter of my book The Gift of Silence dedicated to ‘silence in our actions, or ethical spirituality’ which is a very important topic for me.
The teachings and life of the wonderful Ma Ananda Moyi, an indian mystic of the last century.