Deer Park, Day Seven
(written on Friday January 17th)
Fridays are the common arrival and departure day here at the monastery. We had one friend leave here in Clarity Hamlet and about 8 friends arrive. So my two-person cabin has swelled into a 6-person cabin. It is another opportunity to go as a river and to accept the impermanent nature of things. Four of the six of us will be leaving on Sunday.
Today after the sitting and stick exercise one of the lay brothers from Solidity Hamlet individually walked me through each of the Qi Gong movements. Yesterday he very sweetly encouraged me to lead the exercises in the morning since he would be leaving today. He offered me some flower watering and told me how gracefully I move, which I practiced to let penetrate. He was very kind. He passed his notes onto me so that I could remember what order the movements go in. Perhaps I will be brave and start tomorrow.
After breakfast we had work meditation and the job I reluctantly signed up for involved shoveling dirt. The sisters were looking for two lay friends to help and since a second person didn’t raise their hand I volunteered. I thought perhaps with the foot pain I have shoveling might not be the best fit. It wound up being a great project to work on and very rewarding. Llora, my new friend from Vermont, and I, along with two sisters, had to dig to find four lids to the septic tank so that it could be pumped on Tuesday. We had a drawn out map to locate where to dig and after decoding the map we started shoveling away. Eventually we came to the concrete tank about 16” down but after much hard work we still had yet to find the first lid. We went back and forth about whether the map was accurate and whether we were digging in the right spot. Right now is the driest it has been on record in 100 years here in this region of California and so the ground was very hard and dry. Finally another sister came to help us and she found the right spot to dig and we found our first lid. After a long while of digging we were so excited to find the lid and know we were on the right track! We all gave each other high fives and smiled brightly. It felt so nourishing to work side by side with Llora and the sisters. It was like we were digging for treasure :) Over the next hour or so we uncovered all four lids and it felt like quite the accomplishment. Llora had a lot of good ideas for filling in the holes so that the lids would be easy to locate and uncover next time and wouldn’t take so much hard work. The sister in charge of the project then asked Llora and I to help her again on Tuesday after the pump truck comes so that we can figure out a better way to cover the lids.
After work meditation we had outdoor walking meditation followed by lunch. During the personal time after lunch I went to my rock and then as I was heading down to my cabin I ran into a lay brother driving by and he stopped to talk for a little while which was nice. When I got to my cabin I had only a few minutes of rest before our first new roommate arrived so I got up to greet and welcome her. Soon after another new friend arrived and there would be no more rest. Sometimes it happens that way :)
At 3:00 those of us laywomen who are staying for a longer period of time were invited to meet with one of the sisters for a mentor session in the tearoom. It was a time to connect and ask questions if we had them. Then at 4:30 we had sitting meditation and chanting, which for the first time upon my arrival was in English. While I’ve been enjoying hearing songs, chants, and spoken word in Vietnamese it was very nice to hear the chants in English and be able to understand them more clearly.
I was planning on skipping dinner but wound up attending and having a small dish of soup, tofu, and lentils. Before dinner I was walking slowly on the road singing the new practice song I wrote a few days ago when a young sister heard me and asked me what song I was singing. When I told her it was my own song she was very interested to hear it. She lovingly grabbed my arm and walked closely beside me. I felt so warmly embraced by her that I was able to sing her my song without feeling very nervous. When I was done she was so moved and grateful to hear it that she asked for me to sing it again. She was so very very sweet. I saw my friend Llora and asked her to come over to hear it as well. Llora is a lovely singer and I’d told her of my song a day or so ago and that she and I might be able to sing it together. I sang my song again for both of them. Llora said it brought tears to her eyes and I was very moved by her compliment. It felt so refreshing to have been able to share them my song and to feel so supported by their presence. Singing my own songs in front of other people has been a long road of developing courage for me. With diligent practice I have come a long way from my shyest days when I used to have my husband sit in the other room in order to share with him a new song I had written so I wouldn’t be able to see him while I was singing.
There is no evening program again for us laywomen, other than an orientation for those that just arrived. It is now 7:00pm and as I awoke at 3:00am I will be soon to bed, hoping that with so many new roommates and now a top bunkmate I will be able to find rest tonight.
A note before I go: this morning after sitting meditation I was able to stand outside of the dharma hall and watch the round moon, that I had seen only 12 hours earlier rise opposite the ocean, set over a nearby rocky hilltop. It was the first time I had seen the same moon both rise and fall.