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Reflections > Learning Service


"Reflections from Students (March 26th & April 9th, 2011)"

Brian Ridge April Nelson Cody Booms Caitlin Wees
Donna Knight Hannah Cooper Kayln Holmes Kate Shiels
Kate Adams Keisha Worley Laura Jones Layne Lewis
Michael Schafer Michael Williams Rachel Drozda Sheridan McMichael
Dann Clinton Theresa Rowley    


"Service learning is important for anyone to take part in. It doesn't have to include just one religion, or race of people; it is important for all of us to help each other at least once if just for the experience. I felt it was important for me to take part in the service learning as I had never experienced any other religion outside of Christianity."
~ Brian Ridge


"We got to work and just enjoyed the each other's company, as well as the company of the beautiful outdoors. I felt very reverent. We were told to focus our attention on the task in order to fully meditate and also to be mindful of every living thing.... The work was fun and I felt good about the job we had done, but the best thing was the food. The Buddhists are vegetarians. And we did not expect the food to be appetizing, but boy was it. We went in for lunch around one o'clock after being out in the smoldering heat and the aroma was intoxicating. There was a large selection of healthy and fabulously delicious food to choose from. I had these curried potatoes with tofu and spinach roles. They were fantastic. We also gave thanks and meditated before we ate. I felt so thankful that they would accept all of us so willingly and be so hospitable.... The whole experience was extremely eye opening. I feel like I learned how to be more mindful of my surroundings and the things that live in my environment. I've learned to be more respectful of the things I share this world with. Every living thing has a soul, no matter how small. And we should learn to utilize all of our resources to their fullest potential so as not to harm these other beings. We have the opportunity to live in this world, so we should try to take care of it as best we can.

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from the Buddhists and not only get a better understanding of their religion, but also realize more about my world, and also eat some great food. I went into the experience with an open mind and left with mindfulness and knowledge. I have no regrets and I enjoyed the experience to the fullest."
~ April Nelson


"This service learning project at the Buddhist Mind Monastery helped me to understand the Buddhist people better by being around some of them. I never understood how they could have all vegetarian meals, but then seen the tofu and understood. Just a few days a week.... This amazing experience had helped me to better understand Buddhism, and being able to talk to some monks helped answer some of my questions about Buddhism. I never plan on being a Buddhist, but it intrigues me to learn about them and know more about their religion. I think it makes it a little easier to learn about the religion while practicing the meditation or whatever it may be because it helps it stay in your mind better. I believe that it was a very good experience and helps out in life by making me more diverse and understanding about other religions, other than my own. It also helped create a group effort and see other peoples reactions and thoughts about the religion side by side."
~ Cody Booms


"Here, I was able to walk around on my own and really focus on what I was doing. Once I found this solitude, I really began to enjoy the working meditation. Half-way through the day, we stopped and had a delicious vegetarian meal provided by the monastery. They really emphasized eating everything on your plate. I even observed one of the patrons struggle to pick up a single grain of rice so it would not be wasted. After lunch, we went back to work for a few more hours. A couple of girls and I were given a quick tour of the property near the end of the day by a lovely man who introduced himself as "Te, like the drink!" We walked on the meditation path, and Te told us about all the wildlife that was living on the property. The monastery is such a beautiful place and I was so happy to be given a tour of the property! At the end of the day, we went back to the meditation room and participated in the nuns saying a thank-you or prayer of some sort to the Buddha.
Because of having taken world religions and learned at least a basic understanding of Buddhism, I felt far more prepared going to the monastery that I would have without the class. Even though I didn't know the specifics of their customs, I understood enough to realize the significance when we were taught their traditions. There were also several phrases the nuns used (such as "monkey mind") that I would have had no clue about with out having taken the class. By doing this service learning project, we were able to learn about the religions by almost being thrown in the midst of it.... Since our service learning project I've started attending different churches with different denominations, experiencing each and again taking note of how my mind and body react. This service learning project has been one of the most valuable things I have done for the understanding of my own faith.
Overall, I found our service learning experience to be enjoyable and informative. Since we had covered Buddhism in class, I understood the basic principles of the religion. But it wasn't until going to the monastery that I really grasped the religion in practice. It is impossible to cover every daily practice of the major religions in a semester long class, so going to the monastery offered an invaluable first-person learning experience. Through our service learning project, I've been able to start on my own path of self discovery while helping another community as well. I've gotten to learn first hand about a culture that I would have otherwise only been able to read about in textbooks. I've learned the value of my own beliefs and the value of other's beliefs. And most importantly I've learned that people, no matter what culture or religion, all want basically the same things."

~ Caitlin Wees


"I think service-learning projects are awesome! There are so many students that have not had the luxury of being introduced to the rest of the world. I am a world traveler and so I have experienced many religions in my lifetime and I am very grateful for that and I want others to have experiences like that as well. I love other cultures and religions because they are so fascinating. It's good for people to realize that we are not the only culture on the planet and people are not always exactly like us.
Overall, I did enjoy my time at the monastery because through my studies of world religions I have really come to like Buddhism. If was ever going to change my religion, I would probably change it to Buddhism. I went into this project with a completely open mind and I think that is why I enjoyed it so much, minus the allergies."

~ Donna Knight


"We had learned about Buddhism in class and it was great to be able to view it up close and to see a lot more of what this religion is like.... Personally, I loved the food, but others were not as fond of it. This was definitely a different culture's food and not everyone was used to it. Trying new things and viewing things openly and acceptingly seemed like a great concept to apply while viewing different religions and cultures of the world, so I was open and benefitted from this new experience while a few others held back.... The trip was actually enlightening, so I hope that the Buddha would be proud to read that. To be in a new place and to experience another culture and religion was refreshing and opening. I had never been around Buddhists, to my knowledge, and it was nice to be around something different. Though it did not change my view on my own religion at all, I felt like I would like to practice the walking meditation! I truly did connect with that method in particular. ... This project lent me an opportunity to be able to go into a new religion's way of life and to see the world from a different perspective-from the inside. Never had I been around any other religion's temples, churches, or monasteries besides Christian and Jewish ones. I felt that it was great being able to meet new people and to come together to unlock our minds and understandings."
~ Hannah Cooper


"The project was very tiring at times, but the experience is one I am extremely appreciative for having had because it not only got me out and active it expanded my mental perspective. Working with my group of peers to help the Buddhist nuns create their walking meditation paths enlightened me to a few different ideas about myself, the religion, and group dynamics. I initially went into the day feeling very nervous about having to work with a group of individuals I did not know very well, but (to my complete amazement) it did not take me as long as usual to warm up to my group which helped boost my confidence in my ability to make friends even in semi-unusual circumstances. I also gained new insight into the Buddhist religion during this experience such as coming to appreciate the difficulty of clearing one's mind and the use of the arts in the religion. As for group dynamics, I discovered that strenuous physical labor seems much more enjoyable and passes more quickly when you are working alongside a cooperative and fun group of people. Furthermore, the trip to the monastery provided me with new principles and practices that I believe furthered my views of my own religion and applications that I feel will help me to grow in my faith. When comparing my experience at the monastery with my own faith traditions, I noticed that many of the Buddhist practices, if put into play with my own faith, would greatly benefit my spiritual life like meditation, taking only what I need from the Earth, and mindfulness. While these are not things my faith tends to focus on in its Sunday lessons, they are practices that I believe would assist us in accomplishing our ultimate goal and refocus us into remembering what that goal is. My personal experience greatly demonstrates the importance of participating in service learning. The value in participating in a service learning project lies in experiencing another religion in an extremely hands on way because participating in some of the practices and spending time with those who practice it gives a student a new and richer insight into the religion as well as helping them understand themselves and their own faith.
Although I learned quite a bit during my World Religions class, the hands-on experience of this project greatly contributed to my understanding of the Buddhist religion because is it excruciatingly difficult to really understand someone or a group of people unless you spend time with them and get to know them rather than depending solely on the read text. What we learned during class gave me a basic understanding of the practices and terms of the religion which kept me from saying or doing anything that may make me seem ignorant or rude when I met the nuns at the Buddhist monastery. The hands-on experience also greatly assists in dispelling some tragic misconceptions and biases that I, and I am sure several of my class mates, believed to be true. Going into this project, I believed that I understood the Buddhist religion very well, but I found that there was quite a bit I did not really know such as the story of the person searching for the bull and how it symbolizes a person's journey on the Buddhist path and discovering themselves. I did not realize how the Buddhist religion and life of a Buddhist is so integrated; in fact, the Buddhist religion seems to be more of a way of life. I also assumed that the nuns would be quite closed off and stand-offish, but they were actually very lovely and open to sharing their religion and lifestyle with any curious students. Not everything about that day was just learning through mulch shoveling and mind blowing perception changes. In general, this project helped me understand the importance of focus and patience in the Buddhist religion. For Instance, it was exceedingly difficult for me to simply sit and clear my mind when I first began the meditation exercise, but with patience and focus I finally managed to get past my restless legs and the homework I needed to do when I got back to school and just allow my mind to be clear. I also gained a deeper understanding of the Buddhist appreciation of even the smallest beings such as wasp who finds himself stuck in a young man's shoe by watching a Buddhist layman reach his hand in to save the wasp from being squished....
My inward perspective of myself, my feelings towards groups, and my feelings towards certain aspects of my own faith were greatly improved and broadened along with my worldview and my general view of the Buddhist religion. This is certainly a result that accompanies almost all service learning adventures, so it would likely be immensely beneficial for all courses to have an aspect of service learning to them so that schools can give back to their surrounding communities and give their students a perception broadening experience similar to the one my fellow Oklahoma City University students and I had."

~ Kayln Holmes


"This class forced me to think about things that I had been too afraid to think of or consider. I wish that I could take every concept that I agreed with from every religion and just use it, but to society that might seem wrong. I may be Christian, but I love the Jewish concept of heaven, The Buddhist approach to life, and Rumi's poetry. I guess I am a jack-of-all-trades....This was an awesome experience, and I even put my name on their email list so I can take meditation classes. I am always so busy and stressed out and I really wish that I took the time to just calm down and find inner peace. My problems seem trivial and small compared to the weight of the world and I believe the first step in changing the world is to be aware of it. I have really enjoyed this class and I hope to continue to take classes like this and be culturally involved for the rest of my life! The most important thing I have learned is that everyone on this planet is equal and we all are ultimately united in our belief of a supreme being and in the end we will all go to the same great place."
~ Kate Shiels


"Overall, the experience was quite enjoyable. We got to learn a lot and observe Buddhism first hand. We made lots of new friends with the workers at the monastery and other students from OCU. It's amazing how work, dirt, and sweat bring people together. Since this was such a great learning opportunity, I think it would've been good to practice a form of service learning or even just a field trip of some sort to various temples, mosques, etc. It would obviously be very difficult to take several of these all-day trips, but if we shortened the time of each service event, and offered more and other places, I believe this might help us and provide a more rounded view of the different religions we study. There is much that can be learned about other cultures from hands-on projects such as service learning projects and they also help contribute to the community."
~ Kate Adams


"Overall my service learning experience is one I won't forget. We ended our session with paying our respects to the Buddha, by reciting the three refuges and the four noble truths. Volunteering my time to the Buddha Mind Monastery was fun and educational. I learned more in depth about the ways of meditation and other stories. My religious sensibilities are open. I love my faith tradition and wouldn't switch. But learning about other religions was interesting and enlightening. I had fun during this semester and during this experience."
~ Keisha Worley


"I will be 100% honest, when I first learned that I would have to work at a Buddhist Temple for 8 hours on a Saturday in the blistering heat, I wasn't exactly enthusiastic. This lack of enthusiasm did not last for long. When I read the requirements for the service learning project in this class one quote in particular caught my eye. "Love thy neighbour and learn from doing it." After reading this quote it really hit home that working at the Temple would be such a great opportunity to help others and learn something new.... This class prepared me very well for the service learning project. I kind of knew what to expect after learning about Buddhism and when things occurred at the Temple I knew the reasoning behind it, for example, the bug. I learned a lot from the service learning. I learned about meditation and getting in the right frame of mind to work. It would have been better if the Temple was closer to campus for students who don't drive. In my opinion, the purpose of service learning is to help others and develop a better understanding of different cultures and religions. To learn about Buddhism I feel we needed to spend more time in the Temple and less time working also. I understand that these places mostly rely on volunteers for help but they can also take advantage of these volunteers. In conclusion, I really enjoyed my experience at the Buddhist Temple and I would do it again. I enjoyed the meditation and try to meditate whenever possible and I really feel like it helped me to calm down a lot. I enjoyed tasting new foods and learning about what a routine day is like for someone who is Buddhist. I think that service learning is a great requirement for a class."
~ Laura Jones


"Experiencing 'Buddha Mind' Buddhist monastery opened my mind to new ways of living and a new culture. I do not believe that everyone enjoyed our service-learning project as much as I did. I could not think of anywhere else I would have wanted to be that Saturday. Everyone we met treated us with respect and kindness. Nick, our fearless labor leader, was especially helpful in demonstrating the connection between a young adult's world and the Buddhist world. Learning the doctrines and ideals of Buddhism from the nuns was very valuable, but learning from a peer puts everything relating to life into perspective.... I enjoyed every part of the experience, even the hard work. I felt that during the "service" component of our trip I got to know classmates and Buddhists on a different level. While still being mindful of our project, we were able to discuss our hopes and dreams for our lives. I feel this is part of every just religion. Discussing my dreams with others, while concentrating on being mindful, has helped me realize that my new vision for my future is much more thoughtful than that of a few years ago. Everyone was so generous, kind, and accepting at Buddha Mind monastery.
I felt as though our World Religions course had a great impact on my enjoyment at the Buddhist monastery. The course itself has been well designed to emphasize how important service is in terms of religion. Because I knew what to expect, I was not in culture shock the whole time. I felt like I had so much to learn from the experience. I always had a question to ask.
We, as students and mostly non-Buddhists, were well informed about Buddhism and the culture associated with it. I felt at home and welcomed at the monastery. Within our class I did not see any obvious biases that anyone had against Buddhists or that the Buddhists had against us. I believe that having time to learn about Buddhism put us in the right mindset to be open to the lifestyle, leaving us without biases.
Visiting the Buddhist monastery opened my eyes to a different way of life. I was able to actually be around Buddhists and see their world. Seeing how the nuns live helped me understand why they decided to take that path in life. It is simpler, more conscious, and subtle. Learning and living the ways that Buddhists strive for enlightenment has influenced me to live my life differently.
The service-learning experience helped me realize that meditation and letting my mind be free is far more spiritually beneficial to me than most Christian worship methods. Christian ideas and teachings are what I have been surrounded by my entire life. I feel like I need to experience every religion that even slightly interests me so that I can make the right decision for who I am currently.
Through the experience at Buddha Mind monastery, I remembered my love for doing service work. In high school, I attended a weeklong mission project in the summer helping people in the Ozarks and Delta make their homes more livable. A one-day experience is a bit less involved and exhausting. Service becomes more of a cleansing practice than feeling rewarded for doing something of worth for someone else. Buddhism is a more internalized religion than most that I have been exposed to. Discovering and battling one's ego is the first step to becoming more mindful. Once the ego is eliminated, one can focus on the task at hand. From what I understand, eliminating one's ego is an ongoing battle. That was especially difficult when working in a group of fellow college students. Learning about their lives became very enjoyable and interesting; but reflecting on my own life was unavoidable. Then again, reflecting on how I am living my life and what my goals are is important to me. Our group seemed to work very well and smoothly together with the exception of a lollygagger or two.
Service-learning is more than doing something of worth for another person. The experience cleanses the soul and spirit, leaving me feeling refreshed, open, and inspired. In our project, we were able to learn more about how people with a very different lifestyle and culture live their lives. In fact, we were able to live like them for a few hours. No better way exists to learn about someone than to live in his or her shoes for a while."

~ Layne Lewis


"I had always been curious about other religions, but my father was a pastor so I never really explored other religions, and therefore I never realized that most of religions share a lot of the same characteristics and principles of Christianity. This class was an excellent addition to my education because what it essentially taught me is not to judge other people for their religion. I could no longer judge them in a negative way because as I learned more and more about each individual religion I discovered that each religion is meant to minister to a different type of person and each of those followers are people too. However, from that realization, I learned to better appreciate volunteer work because I started to see it as more of a gift than a burden.
It was this aspect of service that I now associate with Buddhism. One of the beautiful things about the nuns was how selfless they were. A common symbol of their selflessness was their shaved heads. It was apparent that they were intent on keeping all parts of themselves in a constant state of reflection and meditation.
Meditation was something not entirely new, but it was something wonderful to revisit, especially in a room with such wonderfully free and pure energy. Another thing I noticed about the monastery was how the "clergy" were adamant about not injuring or killing any living thing. There were even wasps living all over the place. I witnessed one of the nuns pick up one of the wasps from a music stand and place it back in its nest. At first I was horrified! But then I really thought about what the nun had demonstrated about Buddhism, and I continued to be impressed by more and more throughout the day.
I would love to see this course become a more concentrated class of study. It would be wonderful to focus on only three religions a semester rather than six or seven. It just makes it really hard to completely get a feel for any religion. There are so many more complexities that we would get to explore if the amount of religions were lowered. Another problem with speeding through the religions is that by the time we reached the monastery, I had forgotten a ton of really interesting information about Buddhism.
The experience at the monastery could have been improved placing the service learning at the very end of the Buddhist unit. It had been several weeks since we had covered Buddhism. We had, in fact, already been tested on all the material. There were several concepts that the nuns mentioned over and over again that I simply couldn't remember. If learning about the religion had been closer to the service learning, I feel like I could have learned more from the Monastery.
Buddhism is such a beautiful religion, but one thing I am not a fan of is their food. I never want to switch to eating all vegetarian food. There is just something about the texture of meat that I love a little too much to give up. However, I did meet a very interesting man who worked at the Monastery, but was not one of the nuns. He was the main person who organized where everyone was going to work after the sitting and walking meditations. He told us that he was a current graduate student in meteorology and storm tracking at the University of Oklahoma.
He was also a wonderful representation of Buddhism because he did fit the visual stereotype of someone who went a Buddhist temple. He told us a lot about healthy dieting which was extremely interesting. He told us that pretty much all he ate on a regular basis was fruit. When asked about eating meat he explained that he used to love and enjoy meat just like me, but he discovered how unhealthy it is to gorge one's self with meat while not supplementing fruits and vegetables to the diet. He told us that he was a recovering addict of over-indulgence which I thought was a little on the funny side because he had three massive plates of the food at the monastery, but apparently at one time he was not only eating too much, he was also weighing too much. Before altering his diet he weighed 236 pounds at 6 feet tall. He is now much leaner and weighs 178 pounds."

~ Michael Schafer


"Going to the Monastery helped me better understand Buddhism. I got an idea of what the religion was from the text we read and through the discussions we had in class, but no class discussion can teach you as much as meeting with people who practice the religion and participating in different religious practices. I found a lot of what we read about in the textbook to be rather accurate about Buddhism, but I found it to mean more when I heard the Buddhist nun talk about the same things I read in the book. When we talked about walking meditation, I thought it was something that some Buddhists do, but only a few. I still saw meditation as only sitting with your legs crossed. After spending a day with the nuns at the Monastery, I learned much more about meditation.... I personally learned a lot about Buddhism from spending a day working at the Monastery. I found that the people were not significantly different from me or most other Americans. I found that although Buddhism seems so foreign to our way of thinking, it really wasn't much different than the religions I do know. I feel that by spending a day with the Buddhist community I have a better understanding of what the religion means, and possibly more importantly what it doesn't mean.... I think that service learning projects are very important to learning. I enjoyed that we were able to discuss Buddhism in class and then take the little knowledge we had of the religion and visit a Buddhist Monastery for a day. I will retain much more knowledge about Buddhism from my time at the Monastery than I would have just from my experience in class. I think that having an opportunity to gain knowledge first hand is much more valuable than anything you can read from a book. Another valuable aspect to service learning is that I had a chance to experience a different culture for a day. Although it was Americanized Buddhism, it still had a much different culture than I was used to. Overall I was very pleased with my experience at the monastery and would recommend to others that they also take a day out of their lives to learn about another culture's outlook on life."
~ Michael Williams


"Though learning about Buddhism in class broke the majority of my misconceptions and presumptions about Buddhism, the service learning project reiterated all of that for me as well. It was a lot more comfortable and a lot less stressful than I thought it would be. I felt welcomed, accepted, and not at all resented. I was even extended several opportunities to return, including for their celebration of Buddha's birthday.
Though I never believed this before the project, I do not feel that my being Catholic interferes or conflicts with the activities I performed on Saturday. I was never asked to worship anything other than what I choose to worship, though I'm very universalist in that sense. And to be honest, I thought their meditation space very much resembled a traditional Catholic Church. The statues of the different Buddhas reminded me a lot of the statues of the Saints. Everywhere there was decorative cloth and ornamented furniture, it just looked a little more Eastern. I even had a thought that even the Nuns' garb looked similar to the Sisters I encountered in Catholic school. And even though their heads weren't covered like a Catholic nun, they were shaved, which I wondered whether was meant to capture a similar idea and sacrifice.
I was pleased to have opened my mind early on in the day. I think with a worse attitude I wouldn't have learned nearly as much. The only wish I did have is to know a little more on what to expect. I did feel a bit like I was walking in there blind. Learning about people in books is one thing, but it's a whole different ball game when one is asked to interact with them. Being a person who likes structure, I wanted to be a little surer on how to more appropriately behave with them.
I appreciated the experience. It's a learning experience from undergrad that I know I will remember for quite sometime. And, in all honesty, it has allowed me to be more open to new experiences, not just in theory, but in practice. And who knows, maybe someday I'll be living off eggrolls."

~ Rachel Drozda


"I do not mind the work. Unlike so much of what I do in my normal activities, the work here grants immediate satisfaction; the result is physical. After a few hours, we see the pile is now half its original size and that we have extended the completed path threefold. Altruistic rewards aside, I am ready for lunch. We are corralled into a smaller room beside the sanctuary where aluminum trays filled with various cooked vegetables crowd the tables. We dip circles of rice paper, a translucent, plastic-like sheet, into water and fill them with noodles and the vegetables. We are asked to take only what we can eat, which causes me a great deal of embarrassment as I refill my plate a second, third, and fourth time, eating nearly twice that of the others around me. A second sort of embarrassment?a shame felt for being young, American, white?soon follows as I see some of my classmates, disgusted by the offered food, ridicule the nuns under their breath. Aside from the meditation, this experience was the most memorable of the day. To see such a sharp juxtaposition of two cultures in this way was much more effective than any side-by-side analysis in class could ever be. For this, and the opportunity to support a worthwhile cause, I am very grateful, and only through the practice of documenting these experiences and writing these final words have I realized that."
~ Sheridan McMichael


"Growing up in the Bible belt of the United States is like living life with a pair of thick sunglasses permanently set upon your face. Outsiders appear dim and hazy, foreign beings moving about in a dark world. It is not until one removes these so called sunglasses that humans can be understood more fully. Visiting the Oklahoma City Buddhist Mind Monastery was a chance for me to remove my sunglasses that had previously shaded my eyes from seeing how a Buddhist might live their life. I came to fully understand the Buddhist's love of nature, peace, and simplicity.... I stopped shoveling for a moment and looked at the huge trees that covered the land. I imagined them in spring, blooming and beautiful. This is when I realized that the Buddhists were not actually worshiping a god. They were just trying to make the most of the life that they had been granted. I don't agree with all of their views on religion and the world, but I do admire their desire to live simply. They strive to hurt people and nature as little as possible. They preserve rather than destroy. They are all-around good people and I admire their devotion. I am thankful that I was given an opportunity to view another way of life, rather than sitting behind my sunglasses, judging without knowing. That was the true reward of the day."
~ Dann Clinton


"From my experience, service-learning enhances learning through action. It provides students with concrete opportunities to use information learned in a classroom setting and acknowledge real-life situations in different cultures and experiences. These experiences instill values of service in the lives of the students. This helps by developing a commitment to making a difference in the community. Many people stand by the importance of service and the responsibilities taken to improve and develop our communities and our future of peace and prosperity. Service learning could definitely show young people new experiences and philosophies to experience. They also serve to promote certain feelings of loyalty, helpfulness, and commitment to all the people of our nation and beyond. These experiences serve to strengthen education in this country. Working in these ways will improve experience and material in schools."
~ Theresa Rowley



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