Deer Park, Day Twenty-Eight: Homeward Bound (Part 1)
(written on Friday February 7th)
I’m currently sitting by a large window with the sun streaming in at LAX, the Los Angeles airport. My flight leaves in about an hour. I will arrive back home in Montana around midnight, after a short layover in Seattle. My cousin, who lives in LA, picked me up from Deer Park and dropped me off at the airport early in order to make it to work at 3:00. With my love of airports and flying I was looking forward to the extra time here at LAX.
This morning I woke up around 3:30am. I read for a bit, got dressed, and then packed my bag. It was very dark this morning when I climbed the steps to the meditation hall. The stars and moon were covered over by clouds from the overnight rain. The ground was moist with the much-needed moisture and when our sitting was over and the sun was up I took great pleasure in seeing the raindrops hanging on every leaf and flower petal. Llora and I did some Qi Gong together before breakfast and then at 8:45am we had a work meeting. These meetings start with singing and are a time for announcements to be made. I spoke of my departure and offered my deep gratitude and joy for having had the opportunity to practice with the community at Deer Park. As is custom with those leaving one of the sisters asked if I had a song request and I asked for the song Dear Friends. The lyrics to Dear Friends: Dear friends, dear friends, let me tell you how I feel, you have given me such treasures, I love you so.
Small bell outside of the dharma hall
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.
Hello dear friends,
I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago during a day of mindfulness on the topic of Cultivating Joy. If you would like to listen to it please go to: http://openway.org/audio
View from my rocks up the fire road
Deer Park, Day Twenty-Six
(written on Wednesday February 5th)
Today was the last day in our string of lazy days. I can’t remember when last we had a regular schedule. It has been over a week and a half I think. Perhaps it was on Sunday the 26th of January for the day of mindfulness. We’ve had a program here and there since then but nothing consistent. I think also that this marks day six of not doing morning sitting meditation together as a community.
Tomorrow will be the regular Thursday community day of mindfulness starting at 9:00am. I am looking forward to sitting in the big hall tomorrow morning and hearing the wake up bell at 5:00am. How lovely it will be to have some practice time before I leave on Friday to help send me on my way.
View of the main hall and Solidity Hamlet from the fire road
Deer Park, Day Twenty-Five
(written on Tuesday February 4th)
I’ve not done much today other than rest. It has been wonderful! I decided to practice a day of silence today so I am wearing a pin that I made a couple of years ago, and brought with me, that says: I am practicing a day of silence. I decided, however, to make an exception in my silence in order to write. To me, writing is both like and not like remaining silent.
This morning I slept in and woke up around 6:00am! The latest I’ve slept since I’ve been here. I did some sitting meditation, had some tea, got dressed, and then decided to skip breakfast, on account of not being at all hungry, and return to bed. I fell asleep for almost another 2 hours. How splendid! I had nowhere to go and nothing to do and my body told me of its need to rest, so I did.
After I woke up I went for a short walk to the standing Buddha statue in the Oak Grove. I visited a hammock along the trail and enjoyed rocking back and forth beneath the trees. On the way back to my cabin I collected some peppercorns from one of the pepper trees alongside the parking lot to bring home.
Rest break on our hike
Deer Park, Day Twenty-Four
(written on Monday February 3rd)
Last night when Sister Harmony came to visit us all of the leftovers we had from the day before wound up coming back into the cabin, along with the tea and cushions. So it was like a second night of festive visiting. It was nice to have an informal time to sit down with one of the sisters. Five of the six of us laywomen were there and it was a nice time for all of us to gather together as well. One lay friend left after dinner tonight, who had been here for the last 6-weeks, so we’re now down to five of us who are staying here. There won’t be another arrival day until Friday so our numbers are expected to remain as they are now are for the rest of my time here.
Today Llora and I planned to hike up the fire road to the ridge trail and loop around the monastery. We left after breakfast around 9:30am and packed a lunch to bring with us, knowing we’d be gone for a few hours. Another lay friend, along with her mom who is visiting for the week, asked to join us on our hike so they came along as well. We went up the way that goes past the rocks overlooking the ocean by the abandoned homestead and then continued on down the trail. There were periods all four of us were together walking but mostly we were paired off separately along the trail and came together for resting breaks.
Avalanche in Missoula, MT. February 28th, 2014
On Friday February 28th an avalanche, said to have picked up speeds of 120 mph, sped down Mount Jumbo here in our mountain town of Missoula, Montana in an area known as the Rattlesnake. It slammed into a two-story house and damaged parts of other homes nearby. The owners of the house, an older couple, and a young boy, who had been outside playing in the snow, were all buried in the wake of the torrent of snow. All three were rescued and still remain in the hospital, one in critical condition.
Avalanche in Missoula, MT. February 28th, 2014