Deer Park, Day Twelve
(written on Wednesday January 22nd)
Today was Monastic Day (every Wednesday), which meant that it was also layperson day too, as I like to call it. At 5:45am we met our lay friends for sitting meditation in the brothers small hall. All of us lay friends then ate breakfast together in the main dining hall. We went back to our own hamlets for working meditation where Llora and I were assigned the task of filling in the holes for the septic lids we had dug last week. We used recently chipped mulch to fill in the holes from some of the downed oak trees to allow for the lids to be uncovered much more easily next time when the tank needs emptying. Some of the trees in the oak grove have been infested with an insect called the oak bore. Apparently if left untreated they will damage the other healthy trees so professionals have been coming in to help remove some of the affected wood.
After working we met with our lay friends from Solidity Hamlet for outdoor walking meditation followed by lunch together in the main dining hall. At 3:00 there was a video dharma talk by Thay in the Clarity Hamlet tearoom for the laywomen. Then at 4:30 we had sitting meditation and at 5:30 we had dinner.
We have a program tonight at 7:30 in the big hall with a Venerable monk who, from my understanding, comes from another tradition but teaches here at Deer Park often when Thay is not here. The program is called Venerable Class. On a white dry-ease board in the dining hall our schedule is posted every evening for the following day. To help me remember the times and activities I will often take a picture of the schedule on my camera that I keep with me in my shoulder bag.
The other day a lay friend told me that she had heard how with deepened practice people can find themselves not eating as much food and also sleeping less. She went on to say that mindfulness can help give you the food and rest you need. I found this interesting. I wake up often through the night and after checking the time I am often a little disappointed that it is not time to wake up yet. I awake at 4:00am most mornings and enjoy the dark, quiet of early morning as I walk outside in the brisk air. Often at dinner I’m eating not because I’m hungry but to support my sisters and friends in community, so I keep my portion very small. I would skip the meal altogether had it not been for something Thay said in a talk we watched the other day. He said that we should go to the meals even if we are not hungry so that we may nourish our brotherhood and sisterhood. I am even finding that although I do stick exercise each morning, help with strenuous labor during working meditation, and do a lot of walking during the day (especially up-hill) I am not sore at all the next day. I am seeing a new level of practice for me here. Where the healing potential of mindfulness can restore energy and provide deep nourishment.
I remember hearing Thay give a talk where he spoke about how he is able to rest in each step. How rest does not only mean to lie down, that we can rest wherever we are. In theory this made sense to me but I am now beginning to understand and experience this for myself.