Deer Park, Day Twenty-Seven
(written on Thursday February 6th)
Hearing the wake up bell this morning was so wonderful! It seems like so long ago since last we heard it! Climbing the dirt steps up to the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall (the large hall) guided only by a few dim lights and the stars and moon above is one of my most favorite parts of the day.
After breakfast I returned the guitar to the brothers’ tearoom and then did some Qi Gong. At 9:00am we met in the large hall for the start of the mindfulness day with a video dharma talk from Thay, recorded on January 12th, 2014. When we watch these video dharma talks they are mostly in Vietnamese, due to the fact that it’s the winter retreat and designed more for the monastics. The videos have English translation already embedded into them, for those of us with headphones. Usually the female translator is very easy to understand but today there was something amiss with the tonality of her voice. Many of her words were muddled together to the point of not being able to fully understand her. I was sitting more towards of the front of the hall and later in our dharma sharing group found out that many of the lay friends left due to the poor sound quality. At first it was challenging to make out the words spoken but once I relaxed into the translation and paid closer attention I was able to make out the majority of the talk.
Here are some of the notes I took:
We don’t know how to walk, only how to run. This is a waste of our life. We can learn to walk as a free person, free of our anxiety. If there’s no freedom, there’s no happiness. We need to practice so it becomes a habit energy. When we walk as a free person, our parents and ancestors also walk with us as free people.
Our breath is as important as our steps. Our breath brings us back to our body, bringing our mind back to the here and now – this is concentration. This takes only 2-3 seconds. With concentration we can let go of our worries about the past and the future. Our attention is 100% on our in-breath and out-breath. When you are a free person the decisions you make will be better. Without mindfulness, when we walk by an almond tree we will not see it. As a free person we will see it as a wonder of life.
If you want to see, to understand, God or the Dharma body you need only to stand next to a pine tree. The Dharma body contains all the wonders of the universe, like the pine tree. If we cannot hear the tree giving a Dharma talk we do not have mindfulness, concentration, and insight. The voice of the Buddha can be heard in the pine tree swaying in the breeze.
After watching the video we did some outdoor walking meditation and then had dharma sharing. There were only about 12 friends who joined us today for the day of mindfulness and so our sharing groups were set up with monastics in one group and lay friends in the other. When we have lots of people in attendance, usually on Sundays, the monastics and lay friends are mixed into a few different groups. After our sharing circle we had lunch here in Clarity Hamlet. The bookshop is open only on days of mindfulness so I walked up to the bookshop to have one last look around, and to get some change for the toll road tomorrow that heads back into LA.
I walked around a little bit and then went back to my cabin for a nap. After I woke up I went for another walk up to the circle garden in the brothers’ hamlet. I enjoyed seeing all of the many different kinds of plants, flowers, amazing succulents, and colors that splayed around the garden. (Note of interest: the coyotes are howling like the dickens right now as I type :) I think they are glad for the gentle rain that is currently falling). I absorbed the surroundings of the vegetation and the fishpond, the statues and the small colorful signs in the dirt, knowing that in leaving tomorrow my eyes will not cast upon the brothers’ hamlet for some time. And also knowing that, try as I might to remember every little detail, there is no memory I can take with me that can match the experience of the present moment. No matter how many pictures I take, or descriptive words I write down, or songs I sing there is no duplicating the here and now. This precious time spent here at Deer Park has become part of me, part of my heart, and my gratitude is deep and full of joy.