Deer Park, Day Thirteen
(written on Thursday January 23rd)
We had our weekly Thursday community day of mindfulness today. Around 20 or 30 friends attended I would guess. During meditation this morning there was a cricket that began chirping 20 or 30 minutes into our sitting. He was inside of the large hall. When I heard his call I smiled, it was a bell of mindfulness bringing me back to my in breath and out breath. Then I felt badly for the poor trapped cricket. I felt that he might be confused, scared, and lonely. I hoped that he would be able to find his way back outside and be able to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. I hoped that, once outside, his lovely chirping sound would unite him with his friends.
At 9:00am the day of mindfulness starts, both on Thursday and Sunday. On Thursdays we start by listening to a dharma talk. Today we watched a video of Thay giving a talk from January 9th, 2014. Here are some notes I wrote down:
What is the dharma body? There is the physical body and the dharma body. The physical body can be destroyed, the dharma body cannot. The teaching body = the dharma body. There is the living dharma and the dharma that has been recorded or spoken. When we walk with peace and joy that is the living dharma. We practice so our dharma body shines brightly. Everything around is giving a dharma talk – on impermanence, non-self, and interbeing. The dharma body is the beauty of the whole universe.
We must rely on the practice of letting go. Letting go will bring us happiness, peace, and joy. If we do not have joy we have not yet let go. Our idea about what happiness is can be difficult to let go of. When we think that only certain conditions can bring about happiness we are caught in our ideas about happiness. When we let go we become lighter. We can lessen our physical, emotional, and mental pain by letting go.
The joy of meditation is daily food. Mindfulness is the source of happiness. To sit and walk is not to get to joy, it is the joy itself. If you cannot be happy it is because of you. With mindfulness we can have joy immediately. If we have insight we can let go easily. The sufferings we have are not very big. They look big because we do not know how to manage our suffering. We find many ways to run away from our suffering, to cover it up. Our suffering then grows until it becomes ready to explode. Mindfulness, concentration, and insight helps us to recognize and embrace our suffering. Then we can look deeply and transform it. When we know how to suffer we suffer less. In order to know how to suffer we must first practice to not exaggerate our suffering. Our stories, imagination, anxiety, and fear cause our suffering to grow. Secondly we must recognize and embrace our suffering. (Then we can practice looking deeply in order to transform it).
After the talk we gathered for outdoor walking meditation. Before the walking started I found a large beautiful leaf wedged into the trunk of a tree. It was thick and mostly green with a soft fur like texture on the back. When I held it up to the sunlight I could see hundreds of tiny veins running through it. Just as Thay had spoken about I could hear the dharma talk that the leaf was offering in that moment. With its browning edges the leaf taught about impermanence. Looking deeply into its nature I could see the many conditions that came together in order to produce the leaf – the earth that grew the tree from a small seed, the sunshine and water that nourished the tree, the fresh air, and so on. The leaf was teaching about non-self. And I could also see that the same elements that nurtured the leaf also nurture me – a teaching on interbeing.
Dharma sharing and lunch followed the walk and then I climbed the steep hill to the fire road to visit my rock. I enjoyed feeling the sun-drenched rock under my bare feet as I looked out over the city listening to music on my ipod. At least once a day I will listen to music and dance with myself either on the road, a trail, or an overlook. And I practice continuing to dance joyfully even when others suddenly appear nearby :) To shine our light, offering our joy, is of great benefit to the world. I’ve shied away from it in my daily life for much too long already.
I gratefully took a nap after returning from my rock and then at 4:00 we met at Thay’s hut for an Ancestor Dedication. Both hamlets came together to connect with the spiritual and earth ancestors in order to prepare for the deconstruction of the area to build the new nunnery buildings and new dwelling for Thay. The Venerable said some words and offered incense and then the sisters went around to each of the trees that are going to be removed for the new construction to take place next month. They were asking for the trees permission. The brothers and all of us lay friends silently stood together as the sisters went chanting from tree to tree around the perimeter of Thay’s hut. We offered our energy of mindfulness as we slowly turned towards their direction with each tree. After they were finished we chanted in Vietnamese (I am slowly learning) and then the sisters and brothers went around offering water, tea, and small handfuls of food to each of the trees that will be taken down. There were even some cans of Shasta Cola to offer! Apparently even our earth mother enjoys pop every once in a while :)
P.S The Venerable Class that was offered last night was very enjoyable. I liked him very much. I still don’t entirely understand who he is but that matters little really. The class was from 7:30-9:00pm and I had some difficulty staying alert do to the later hour. Usually I am in bed around 8:00! Here are a few notes I took:
From mindfulness we enter into concentration and then into insight. If you have one you have the others. Without concentration you cannot enjoy a glass of water or your ice cream. Without concentration you cannot look deeply. Our minds have pause in them, just like the space in between our in breath and out breath. Even when we are distracted and busy thinking. We need to find this quiet space in our minds. We are only truly alive when our minds are not dispersed or filled with anxiety. If we are not able to stop for a flower or an animal how will we be able to stop for a human being?
The path of forgetfulness is 1,000 times easier to travel on than the path of mindfulness. To look outwards is easy. To look inwards is not easy, it is very difficult. It is better to take small consistent steps in the practice. Let us practice as natural as our breathing. This is a very long journey.