Hello friends! I am home! Back from retreat in Deer Park Monastery in southern California. As promised, I wrote everyday while I was away and took many pictures (over 500!) to share with all of you. I will post one day’s worth of writing and some pics everyday for the next two weeks. Thank you for providing me the inspiration to keep writing and sharing :) Here we go!
(NOTES: Here is some lingo info that may be helpful in reading these posts. Deer Park Monastery is in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is often referred to as Thay. The monks who reside at Deer Park are called Brothers and the nuns are called Sisters. The sisters reside in Clarity Hamlet and the brothers reside in Solidity Hamlet, about a 5-10 minute walk apart. The word hamlet comes from the french and means small village. While they are not really villages they are self-containing communities. The visitors who come to stay at the monastery, like myself and Mike, are often called lay friends.)
Deer Park, Arrival Day
Friday January 9th, 2015
I just finished with a delicious dinner of rice, greens, and soup and have returned to my little hut, named Daffodil. There are three other small huts surrounding this one: Baby Elephant, Golden Deer, and Mountain Lion. Last January when I was here I stayed in Golden Deer.
Mike and I arrived today at Deer Park just before 2:00pm. We left Missoula’s snowy winter mountains flying up through the morning fog around 7:00am to be transported, magically it seemed, to a 65 degree San Diego, trading pine trees for palm trees. Those of you who have have been following me know that I love flying and airports – the whole deal. I love the dance of intertwining with fellow travelers as we weave through terminals, the sounds of rolling carry-on-luggage bags as they brush along the floor, filing onto the airplane with shared anticipation, and the wonderfully magical way we suddenly land somewhere very different then where we began. The art of travel is so very amazing.
We took a shuttle from the airport in San Diego to Deer Park and shared it with a woman returning home who was dropped off before us. Along the way Mike and I began to take notice of the plants and flowers by the roadside. We were delighted by the colors and different textures of the plants, most not found in Montana. We pointed out cacti and large patches of agave. The woman sharing our shuttle with us said that she was grateful to have us there to take notice of the surrounding plant life because she tends to take it for granted. She was genuinely thankful for our delight in seeing the flowers and succulents and varying green life teeming around us. She told us of her recent change from green grass to native plants, which we got to see first hand when she was dropped off at home. And before we departed she invited us to come by for a barbecue if ever we were in the area again.
On our way to the monastery our driver opened his window and a most wonderful air drifted in smelling of moisture from the sea. As it settled into my lungs I smiled and awaited another luscious breath. After narrowly avoiding death a few dozen times (I joke – while I don’t think we were in grave danger our shuttle driver was driving with much vigor and great speed to the point of making me a bit nervous) we pulled into the long winding driveway of Deer Park. As Mike and I decided not to lodge together, in order to benefit both from being on retreat together and having our separate space as well, I was dropped off at the sisters hamlet and Mike was dropped off at the brothers hamlet. We did this also when we went on retreat to Plum Village in 2012 and we thought it worked quite well.
I took a break in my writing to attend the orientation for the new arrivals, of which I was one of eight. There are 3-4 other women here as well who have been here for the whole winter retreat so far. After arriving at 2:00 our first scheduled activity was sitting meditation and sutra service at 4:30 followed by dinner.
I am wanting to write more but I am indeed quite tired and am looking forward to laying my head and body to rest. I have 4 roommates but I was sure to pack my ear plugs so I should get a good night’s sleep!