Out in the Open

The freeing power of restricting your freedom

Leslie Peters [aka K-Tso] escaped the "decision fatigue" of living in Toronto and became a resident at a Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia to live more simply.
With her Buddhist practice, Leslie Peters [aka K-Tso] has found freedom in living by strict rules and a rigid schedule. (Courtesy of K-Tso)

Gampo Abbey is perched on the edge of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, overlooking the water. 

It's a place where Shambhala Buddhist monks practice their faith. Leslie Peters is a resident there. She's adopted the monastic name Khyung Tso, or K-Tso for short.

Just a year ago, she lived in Toronto and had all the freedom in the world. But now, she lives by a set of strict rules. 
Leslie Peters [aka Ki-so] at Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. (Courtesy of Ki-so)

"No killing, no lying, we work with celibacy, no intoxicants, no stealing, and then there's other rules we follow within the abbey. Being a monastic, I had to have my head shaved and I wear robes."

Life at Gampo Abbey is rigidly scheduled between meditation, chanting and chores. But K-Tso says that "once you get used to the schedule, it just makes life very simple."

Such rules and rigidity may appear to limit her freedom, but K-Tso sees it differently.

"There is definitely this structure and all of these simplifying pieces in place, but really what we're actually going for is freedom. We can just sort of relax into the schedule and then work with what's happening in your mind ... that in itself is freedom more so than having all these choices."

It took time for K-Tso to adjust to life at the monastery. "You jump in and you're just sort of spun around," she says. "You're stripping away your identity and you don't really realize how strong that identity is."

Now that K-Tso has been there for a while, she sees that the lifestyle she once had was too much for her. "Being here really enabled me to be more in touch with what's happening and what's working for me and what's not working for me."

At Gampo Abbey, she says there is no "decision fatigue".

"There's this sort of allowing yourself to kind of sink in and relax and feel what you feel."