As a teenager I attended a funky boarding school of about 45 students in rural New Hampshire, situated on a working organic farm and led an open-minded, peaceful and reflective Quaker tradition. While we sat in silence as an entire community for anywhere between a few moments to 15 minutes to a couple of hours, as a junior I began a sitting meditation practice. I also had the fortunate of taking a month long trip throughout China, Mongolia, and Tibet with a few students and a faculty member that year as I began to study the history of these cultures and their traditions.
For reasons I cannot explain yet for which am endlessly grateful, a Naropa University admissions rep drove two and a half hours away from Boston to a boarding school out in the sticks in order to visit perhaps five students for only an hour. Immediately, I was convinced that I would attend Naropa, for the gesture she had shown in visiting us, which no other college rep had done over the three years I was there, and of course from what she told us about the university’s philosophy, pedagogy, and course offerings. In addition to a business card, I was given a sticker of the Earth. As a matter of fact, the Earth is painted on the barn door at my high school, and the parallel resonated with me deeply.
I circled most of the courses in the catalog and told everyone I knew about my plans to attend Naropa. I took a year off to travel Europe and the States, having spent two summers on a farm in western Colorado, which included hitchhiking across the Continental Divide a couple of times to visit Boulder and the Arapahoe campus. In the autumn of ‘03 I walked in with my straw hat and guitar into Sangha House, the freshman dorms at the time, to begin a memorable four years as a member of the Naropa community. I have a profound affection for Naropa and the people I have known from the university. I wouldn’t at all be who I am today without having attended, and for that I am extraordinarily grateful.
Naropa did not find me—-I found it while my wife and I were visiting a number of Buddhist sites in Colorado after having moved there. A flyer on one of the bulletin boards spoke of the Chaplaincy program and I told my wife “This sounds interesting.”
I have now been a chaplain for over 15 years, having been Board Certified in 2006. I was part of Spiritual Care teams sent to Ground Zero after the attack and to Louisiana after Katrina, and I spent 5 years as the Heart Services Anchor Chaplain at one of the top 10 hospitals in the U.S. My Naropa education has enabled me to be of service where the suffering has been greatest. I’m still paying for that education, but in the end I have to admit it was worth it.
Chap. Mikel Ryuho Monnett, BCC, CDCA, SWA
Master of Arts in Buddhist Studies (Concentration in Engaged Buddhism)
Class of 1999