Deer Park, Day Nine
(written on Sunday January 19th)
Today we had our open community mindfulness day starting at 9:00am. Many people attended today, even more than last Sunday. Perhaps around 100 or more! We began the mindfulness day with outdoor walking meditation followed by listening to a dharma talk by one of the brothers in the big hall. Here are some notes from his talk:
When we sit (in meditation) we should sit like we’re sitting in a spring breeze. We let go of our preoccupations and relax the body and enjoy sitting without making an effort. Sitting, smiling, and being present, that is the practice. It is not so easy to be with our breath and our steps in the present moment because our minds are caught in the past or the future. Our practice is to come back home to our body and to our five skandhas: form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.
Just like our breath takes no effort, we don’t need to make an effort to sit. We let mother earth sit for us, to breathe for us. The practice of no practice. Allow the sitting and breathing to take place, simply be present. The healing will happen.
After the brother’s talk we had a short break and then a recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. It was so lovely to have a formal ceremony to recite the 14 trainings. The energy in the hall was gathered together so beautifully. Lunch followed by a deep relaxation came next in the day. With so many people attending the day of mindfulness, many of them new to Deer Park and to the practice of mindfulness, our silent meal together was difficult for some. Whispers soon grew louder as we awaited the sound of the bell to start our lunch. And the room broke out quickly in conversation as soon as the bell sounded again 15 minutes later to mark the end of the silence. It is very understandable that especially silent meals would be difficult at first.
Before I got here I was thinking that the community days of mindfulness would be very enjoyable and a chance to connect with other practitioners. I am finding, however, while they are enjoyable they are also a little challenging. The energy created here at Deer Park throughout the week is very soothing, joyful, and serene and when Sunday rolls around and dozens of new people come for the day the energy gets stirred up. It is a good stirring up but a stirring all the same.
All but one of my roommates has left today so there are just two of us now in our little cabin, at least until Friday. Tomorrow is lazy day and I am looking forward to having no scheduled programs. And after having four people arrive on Friday in our tiny cabin for the weekend, community work day yesterday, and a highly attended mindfulness day today I am also very much looking forward to simply having the monastery settle back down for a few days. I imagine others feel the same and that it is no coincidence that Mondays are lazy days here.