Deer Park, Day Nineteen
(written on Wednesday January 29th)
Today was much like yesterday in that it was an open schedule in order to continue preparing for TET. New Year’s Eve is tomorrow night. After breakfast there was optional working meditation where I volunteered to clean a few bathrooms. When I was done cleaning I put a few finishing touches on the tearoom. My lay friends have been telling me how much they enjoy the new look and I am so happy that everyone is benefiting from the fresh atmosphere.
I saw Llora as I was on my way to clean the bathroom behind the dining hall and she told me that my roommate Lorna had left. She was intending to stay until Sunday so I was very surprised. Right away I figured something must’ve been wrong to cause her to leave so suddenly. I asked Llora if everything was OK, because she happened to run into her as she was leaving, and she said that Lorna was doing well and it was simply time for her to go. Lorna left a note on the board in the dining hall saying good-bye and she left me a note in our room next to some art supplies she left for me as a gift, which included calligraphy brushes, ink, paper, and some watercolors. The note said that she was terrible at good-byes and then thanked me for my presence and my smile. Sometimes, despite our best-laid plans, it is simply time to leave.
Before lunch I did some decorating on the front porch of my little cabin with some pinecones, rocks, sticks, leaves, and an abandoned wreath I found tossed in a pile of dry foliage. We had lunch in the brother’s hamlet and there were a few Vietnamese friends that joined us. Ever since Llora told me there was a guitar in the brothers’ community tearoom I have been called to go there and play it. I even had the fleeting thought of going in ninja style at nighttime and comically stealing it. So after lunch I thought I’d be safe entering the tearoom to play for a little bit while everyone finished lunch in the dining hall. I wasn’t sure if technically it was OK for me to be in there or not but I figured since other Vietnamese women were walking around Solidity Hamlet and staying in the cabins there, visiting for TET, I was somewhat in the clear. The tearoom in the brothers’ hamlet is so lovely and much bigger than our little room in the sisters’ hamlet. A slight feeling of jealousy arose in me upon entering – the brothers’ and laymen friends get to go in there everyday, how wonderful that would be! There was an art table with calligraphy and colorful pictures, big comfortable couches, large bamboo mats on the floor, a snack area with fridge and microwave, a lovely picture of the Buddha on the wall, and a beautiful covered porch with wooden lounge chairs right outside the french doors in the back. And of course there was the guitar, waiting for me patiently :) After a little tuning I played a couple of songs and it felt so wonderful to play and sing! The acoustics sounded quite nice and part of me wished I could stay there all day. One of the aspirants (an American lay friend who is aspiring to become a monk) came into the tearoom and that prompted me to head back down to my hamlet.
After napping for a short while I got out the art supplies Lorna had left me and went out on the front porch in the sun to do some calligraphy and painting. Although I enjoyed having Lorna as a roommate I was also enjoying having the cabin to myself for the first time. A couple hours later, however, unexpected news was delivered to me by one of the sisters. I was going to be getting two new roommates. I knew there would not be a regular arrival day this week due to TET but figured I might still be getting a roommate or two tomorrow, as family members or friends of the sisters and other local Vietnamese friends come to stay over the holiday. But I was very surprised to be getting new roommates today. Since I was looking forward to having the cabin to myself for a whole night I had to readjust. I was looking forward to having a place to write at night without bothering anyone, or anyone bothering me, and being able to wake up early in the morning and stay in my room to read and write, rather than leaving to the dining hall so as not to disturb my sleeping bunk mate(s).
For me it is a practice to continually adjust to stirred up energies here at the monastery. There are often people coming and going. I very much enjoy silence, stillness, and having my own space on a regular basis and part of me would love to have more of that here. The monasteries in our tradition are not places to go if you’re looking for solitude. When Thay teaches about being in community and staying sangha centered he means it! If we want personal space and to be away from others our options are to go for a walk or…go for a walk.
To help myself absorb the idea of suddenly getting new roommates I went to do some sitting meditation before dinner in our small hall. Llora also wanted to do some sitting so we both went in together. The elder sister was in the hall preparing the alter for TET, cleaning, and sorting. Llora asked her if it would be OK for us to meditate while she was in there. Not speaking any English she went to get a sister who could translate. We were welcome to stay and I sat for about 25 minutes. There were a lot of distracting sounds as the sister unpacked bags and boxes and shuffled back and forth across the floor. It was not her fault of course. While I found the sitting helpful it was not the stillness and quiet I was looking for. I went for a slow walking meditation down the road before dinner and found some solidity and ease.
After dinner (having seen my roommates moving in earlier from afar) I returned to my cabin expecting to find my roommates full of energy and conversation and instead found them both asleep, which was somehow worse. It was only 6:00pm so I was faced with the decision of what to do for the rest of the evening until bed. I had to wash some clothes so I did that and then I took my laptop and went to the tearoom to write, which is where I am now. About 45 minutes ago a lay friend came in and handed me a bar of chocolate and then left. She was like the bodhisattva of wonderful treats! Perhaps the chocolate was the reason I had to find someplace other then my room to go – and it was totally worth it!
Tomorrow we have a lazy morning, which means no formal sitting meditation in the big hall. I was disappointed to see that written on the board as the morning sit is one of my most favorite parts of the day. We’ll have breakfast and lunch here in our hamlet, with optional working meditation in between. At 3:30 there will be a special dharma talk video from Thay for TET and then for the rest of the night through midnight we’ll be up at the brothers’ hamlet and the big hall. We’ll have dinner with special foods and treats, performances and dragon dances by the sisters and brothers, a deep relaxation, and then the ceremony for New Year’s Eve. It should be a day, and night, filled with festivities. I’m off to bed to rest up!