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Reflections on the WISE Program by Parish Bracha

Woodenfish’s WISE program has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I came to it with the expectation of experiencing monastic life, cultivating myself, my discipline, and my practice, as well as getting to experience a new culture, and I got all of that and much more.

Whether you’re interested in the program because of the language classes, the cultural exchange, the Buddhism classes, monastic living, or even just to see China, you won’t leave unfulfilled. Just as in life, you will only get out of the program as much as you put into it.

If you work hard and focus on absorbing as much as you can, you’ll find how quickly and deeply you can change for the better. The WISE program provides the perfect environment for spurring this kind of change, with there always being opportunities to test and push yourself, and with a compassionate and supportive community around you that will quickly become like family. I’ve accomplished so many of my goals here, and gained even more goals I would have never even considered before coming here. It is a lot of hard work, and there can be times of frustration or fatigue, but overcoming those hurdles becomes more rewarding each time.

I couldn’t be more grateful for having the opportunity to come to this program, and feel even more grateful when I look back at myself at the start of the program and realized how far I’ve come in such a short period of time. I thank everyone who made this program possible, and encourage anyone who is interested but unsure of joining WISE to overcome your initial doubts and fears and considering joining.

The experience I've gained in my meditation and mindfulness practice here has been immeasurably beneficial. I came to WISE 2016 with the intention of improving my dedication and discipline to my Buddhist practices in general, and I've found the environment Woodenfish provides to be the perfect tool for improving and refining those aspects of myself.

I can see clearly how much my mindfulness has improved, how focused my mind is on the present moment, and on every task in front of me. There's a sincere and overwhelming beauty and peaceful stillness in every single moment when you're able to experience it fully, without a wandering mind, without craving for another imaginary time in the future or the past, and with a true contentment for the present moment. While I've only been able to briefly glimpse these moments in the most dedicated moments of my practice here, each glimpse brings me further and further along to my goal, and these moments of beautiful mindfulness and awareness are only becoming more frequent as the program goes on.

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