Deer Park, Day Five
(written on Wednesday January 15th)
Today was what’s called a monastic day. It’s a chance for the brothers and sisters to get together and enjoy each other and to also have programs together that are designed for only monastics. So the rest of us had what could be considered a layperson day :)
At our usual 5:45am time this morning we gathered for sitting meditation. Although instead of meeting in the big hall all of us lay friends met in the brothers small meditation hall in Solidity Hamlet. Afterwards we ate breakfast together in the main dining hall. It was nice to have a little different schedule today and to have so much time with our lay brothers. Usually we are pretty separate during the day except for morning meditation.
After breakfast we went back to our own hamlets for working meditation and then met up again for outdoor walking meditation. For working meditation I was part of a team of three that cleaned the bathrooms. In my daily life I enjoy cleaning very much so to clean was something I felt good doing. There are usually a few work assignments and we can choose which one suits us for that day.
Our small group of lay friends met for outdoor walking and I was asked if I would lead the way and I accepted, although I felt a little bit hesitant. I was hoping I would set a good pace for everyone. It wound up working out just wonderfully. We walked up past Solidity Hamlet and onto a wide dirt path that winds up the hillside to a big flat area where a large, gleaming white Buddha statue sits. Although this is my second time at Deer Park I had never before made it up to this spot so it was nice to see. We all sat down for a few minutes to enjoy the view then headed back down to eat lunch together in the brothers’ dining hall.
After lunch I decided to head back up the hill in search of the stupa that is just below the Buddha statue. Down some dirt steps and around some rocks this tall stupa rises from the hillside with beauty and grace. The bottom is a small open room that houses some meditation cushions and an alter in dedication to someone I am not familiar with (I later found out it was the first Abbot of Deer Park). The stupa is named after him as well. As I was enjoying the stupa bathed in the January sunshine I sang a song I wrote earlier in the day. It was a lovely time on the hill. Here is the song I wrote:
Love Song to Self
I can find my way back home
Anytime I choose – To see that
My true home isn’t somewhere out there
But lives inside me
My darling, when you’re lost
Only you can find you
Please don’t worry
Please don’t fear
It’ll all be OK
I am right here
I took a short nap when I got back to my cabin and then there was a dvd dharma talk that had been chosen for us laywomen to watch in the tearoom in our hamlet. After some technical difficulties someone pulled out their laptop and we watched it on there instead of on the tv in the tearoom. It was a talk by Thay that he had given in September of 2013. Here are some notes I took during the talk:
We have to learn how to suffer – the art of suffering. If we know how to suffer we will suffer less. We have to recognize the pain as it is and not exaggerate it. We should go home to our pain and suffering and embrace it.
Mind is a river and mental formations are drops of water. Our practice is to sit on the bank and observe. Right diligence is to water good seeds and not bad seeds. The first aspect of practice is to not give unwholesome seeds the chance to manifest. The second aspect of practice is that when a bad seed does manifest we help it go back as soon as possible. We take care of ourselves not just for ourselves. We take care of ourselves for others too.
We then met back with the sisters for sitting meditation and chanting before dinner. And now we have a lazy night. I am finding that after dinnertime it is a good thing we don’t often have an evening program. I have been quite tired by day’s end. We are like farmers, rising and setting with the sun.
Tonight is a full moon and before I head to bed I plan on walking just out of the trees to see if I can spot her. I don’t imagine in will be a hard quest. She has been shining majestically the last few eves and early mornings. This morning she was beaming so beautifully I could hardly believe my eyes. How wonderful it is to see the sky so clear and full of light both day and night. Montana skies are cast in many tones of rich gray and white this time of year. And while I did not come here thinking of the change in weather it is a winter treat that I am very much enjoying.