Deer Park, Day Three
(written on Monday January 13th)
Last night after returning from dinner I wrote this short verse:
Do you see?
Do you see my sweet joy?
Of course you do!
When I got back to my little cabin, named Golden Deer, I was able to do some sitting meditation before my roommate returned. And while no bell would sound this morning at 5:00am, since it is lazy day, I still went to bed around 9:00pm in order to wake up early this morning, not wanting to get off of our sleep schedule which carries through the rest of the week.
I awoke naturally just before 5:30am. I then wrote this short verse:
Darkness prepares for light
But it is still in the womb, not yet seen –
I can feel the cool air on my face
Though I have not yet stepped outside
But I know it is there
Like the moon nearing full –
I can hear the loose earth and dry leaves crackling underfoot
I can see diffused points of light from windows
Calling through the dark, dark morn –
Sitting meditation does not start our day today,
I find myself greatly missing it
It’s noon now and after our 8:00am breakfast I did some laundry, swept our cabin, and then set out on a walk. Many of our lay friends left yesterday. According to the while board in the dining hall there are 12 laywomen and 21 sisters. In my little cabin it is just myself and one other woman for now.
I wasn’t sure we’d have access to a washing machine so I had planned to hand wash my laundry during my stay here. Since there are so few of us laywomen here we do have access to the machines but I had been looking forward to hand washing so I did that all the same. When my husband and I attended the 21-day retreat in Plum Village in 2012 we had to wash our clothes by hand and while I hadn’t been looking forward to it I wound up really enjoying the process. Earlier when I washed my clothes I was able to really connect with the items and send my appreciation to them by offering my time and presence to all of the conditions that brought them into being.
During the winter retreat we are restricted by where we are able to venture off to when it is not a designated day of mindfulness. The monks and nuns keep much more to their own separate hamlets during this three-month period and we are asked to maintain these boundaries as well. We are only allowed down the road that brings you into Deer Park and also up a close by fire road, which winds around quite a ways. Upon first hearing about this during orientation I felt a bit disappointed that we would not have access to the big dharma hall and the trails around Solidity Hamlet other than at designated times.
After I hung my laundry to dry I took to the fire road and wrote this with pen and paper: It’s mid-morning on lazy day and I sit atop a big marvelous rounded rock overlooking the valley. I intended on a long walk but after finding this spot I can’t seem to tear myself away. The sky is bright blue from hilltop to hilltop for many miles as far as I can see. I can hear the humming of traffic carried on the breeze from time to time, the voices of people around nearby houses, barking dogs, jet planes overhead, birds, and the soft rustling of leaves. I am filled with such lightness and joy that words feel inadequate to explain. It is like the beauty of a sunset. As beautiful as a sunset is we cannot truly hand anyone else that feeling of awe. Not in song, word, or picture. The true beauty of the sunset is ours and ours alone. This doesn’t mean, of course, we shouldn’t try to share our joy, gratitude, or beauty we experience. It is important to pass along moments of happiness and insight to others. In fact, it is one of the most important things we can do. I am barefoot on the rocks, a sprawling town far beneath. It is so very beautiful here. Music plays through my ipod as I soak up this precious moment. I feel free as a bird perched here high above the valley. And a part of me feels like I may be able to fly.
It’s now almost 3:00pm. At 12:30 was lunch and then I did some sitting meditation on my own, took a nap, and gathered my laundry from the close-line. Dinner will be served at 5:30 and there is a Beginning Anew presentation at 7:00 in the big hall offered in Vietnamese, which I have yet to find out whether English translation will be provided for. The dharma talk given by the sister yesterday was in Vietnamese and there was English translation provided through headphones. From what I can tell, all of the sisters living here right now are Vietnamese and only some of them speak English. Of the brothers living in Solidity Hamlet there is more of a mixture of American, Vietnamese, and European descent.
This morning I did some outdoor walking meditation before breakfast. As I was walking there was so much crunching that it made me smile. There are small, very dry leaves scattered all over the ground. It is almost impossible to take a couple of steps without hearing one underfoot. I got to the point where I was looking for ones to step on that I thought would be the noisiest because it brought me so much joy to crunch around. For being so small they sure make a lot of noise! So walking meditation is not so silent around here :)
I have been appreciating and connecting with all of the trees and plants around the monastery. There are wonderful succulents, cacti, flowering plants, and thick hearty vegetation as well as big tangled oak trees, delicate clover patches, fruit and berry trees, and tropical looking species. There is such a myriad of differing plant life. It is very different from my home of Montana where of course many of these things could not grow. I am like a small child reaching out to every little tender shoot that comes my way to say hello.