Deer Park Monastery in California, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing, has started an online winter retreat that people can take part in either on their own or with their sangha. They post readings, talks, and practices to do once a week for 12 weeks. So far they have week one posted on their facebook page (www.facebook.com/deerparkmonastery, in their events section). I thought I would follow along with the winter retreat through my blog, in hopes that it will inspire me to be diligent and stick with it.
Week One: Intention Setting and Focus
This weeks reading: The Busy Trap, from the New York Times June 30th.
1.) Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) has described four aspects of our spiritual life that we as practitioners can look into: Study, Practice, Work and Play.
You are invited to spend some time this week looking into these four areas and setting intentions for each one of them in the lead into the winter retreat, as described in the accompanying talk (see their facebook if you’re interested in checking it out). Perhaps consider diagraming them out for reference.
My answer –
Study. Well, I’d have to say this is the area out of the four that I do the less amount of work in. I am not terribly interested in learning about sutras or reading commentaries about sutras – and that’s where my mind goes right away when I think of study. I do, however, enjoy reading them from time to time and can appreciate their value in my practice and in this tradition. And there are other things to study as well. I may have to think more about this one and how I can apply study to this winter course.
Practice. What I like most about this tradition is that everything is practice. Sitting meditation and washing the dishes are not different. Both provide the same opportunity to be present with what we’re doing while we’re doing it. Both are moments to be alive and happy. What comes up for me right away when I think of practice and setting an intention is my personal sitting practice. Most days I do not practice sitting meditation on my own and I would very much like to. So I would like to use this winter retreat to start a more regular sitting practice. I think if I start out with the lofty goal of sitting everyday it will be too daunting. So I’d like to start out smaller. I sit with my sangha Be Here Now every Monday night – I would like to simply start out with once a week on my own I will practice some sitting. So I will have my sangha sitting and at least one sit on my own.
Work. When I think of work I think of the volunteer work I do. I think of the sangha service I do both with Be Here Now and Open Way. Creating community and bringing people together is a joy of mine and I do it often. I don’t feel like I am needing to set an intention on this particular one at the moment. But I will keep it simmering in case something springs to mind.
Play. This is something I do a lot. I have a strong practice in joy and playfulness :) For me it usually manifests in regards to music in some way. If you see me driving around town I’ll be the one playing my music as loud as it will go, singing, smiling and dancing in my driver’s seat. I also play music and write songs. I love to play around and be silly. So this one I also feel pretty confident in. Brining play into my day is not only enjoyable but I have found it important to my mental, emotional and physical well being. So my intention maybe could be to keep on doing what I’m doing!
2.) What are some simple practice commitments you would like to make with yourself? What will you be exploring deeply? How about together with your sangha?
My answer –
Right now I would like to make the commitment to sit on my own at least once a week. I am also greatly limiting what kinds of media I am consuming and would like to continue the commitment to monitor closely what I am watching. I will be exploring deeply my personal sitting practice in order to see what my stumbling blocks are and how I can transform them. I would also like to incorporate this deep looking into my personal sharing with my sangha.
3.) Further to the previous question, in looking at the upcoming winter retreat, and looking at your current situation, what are some of the things that unnecessarily occupy your time and attention – what do you normally get stuck in? Are there areas that you might like to consider letting go of for these next 90 days?
My answer –
The first things that come up for me are watching my dvd’s of the Golden Girls (ya know, that show from the 80’s about 4 older women who live together) and eating sugar. I get stuck in both of them. And oftentimes they go together. The thought of giving up sugar, or more specifically chocolate bars, is appealing and daunting. Right now I’m on day 2 of a 10 day juice fast, so really this is the perfect time to set up an intention of giving up chocolate for 90 days since I’m rebooting my system anyway. It is very clear to me that when we set up goals that are too big we set ourselves up for a fall so I am more inclined to set up a smaller intention. Giving up chocolate for 2 weeks after my 10 day juice fast and then only eating it 2-3 times per week instead of everyday seems more tangible. I will keep you all posted on how it goes. I have a feeling that posting this online and blogging about this process will help to keep me focused and accountable to myself. One moment at a time.
My gratitude to all of you who keep reading my blog. Thanks for sticking around!