Deer Park, Day Four
(written on Tuesday January 14th)
It was so nice to wake up for sitting meditation this morning and go to the big hall. I find myself looking forward to it, which definitely hasn’t always been the case for me while on retreat. After the sitting I joined some of my lay brothers for stick exercise. I was told later on by one of the laywomen that we’re not supposed to join them for morning exercise due to the winter retreat restrictions on monks and nuns segregation. It seems I must’ve missed that part of orientation. I’m torn on whether to keep attending until someone tells me not to or to abide by the rule. Part of me understands that having lay friends follow the monastic rules is helping support the sisters, since it is a monastic retreat, and part of me wonders how my attending stick exercise would really affect anyone. It also seems that the lay brothers do not have such strict rules to follow, since I have seen them walking or jogging past our hamlet and we were told we could not venture into theirs. Information differs depending on who you talk to and which hamlet you’re in, which can be confusing at times.
After exercise we ate breakfast in our hamlet and then set to work meditation. I helped to sweep the leaves off of the paved areas around the dining hall with three other lay sisters. We spent 2 hours sweeping in the sun with sort of make shift brooms taped to plastic pipes. The bristles on the broom were wire like and not much good for efficient large-scale sweeping. But we made due just fine and took our time enjoying the constant fluid back and forth motion.
After work meditation we were guided in an outdoor walking meditation through an oak tree forest and then had lunch of rice, vegetables, and tofu. Personal time follows lunch and I almost always go right to my cabin for a nap, which I very much need and enjoy. At 3:00 all of us laywomen gathered for a dharma discussion group and our topic was the Five Mindfulness Trainings. It was the first opportunity for all of us to come together and share with one another. There are 10 of us laywomen staying here now in Clarity Hamlet and I’m sure that number will continue to fluctuate during my stay.
As is custom, in order to stay longer than 2 weeks at the monastery here you have to write a letter requesting permission to stay after you’ve arrived. You are asked to write about your practice experience and your aspiration to continue staying. My letter is due on Friday so I will start working on it tonight.
We had sitting meditation at 4:30 in our hamlet’s meditation hall. And now it is dinnertime, which I have chosen to skip. It has been a full day. We were told in our dharma discussion group that the gentle winds that have been blowing in today were the santa ana winds, which I’ve heard about before but don’t know how it differs from just regular wind. (The next day I found out from a local Californian that the santa ana winds come in from the desert instead of the Pacific Ocean, which is where most of their weather comes from).
I’ve not seen one cloud in the sky since arriving here and earlier today I was wondering just how this sort of place maintains itself. It is so dry here. Irrigation must be very important. The mornings are chilly, the days are lovely and warm, and at night stars parade across the sky. And just before sitting down to type I watched as an almost full moon rose up over a nearby hilltop as a white tailed bunny hopped off into the trees.