(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.)
Wednesday January 14th, 2015
Something I wrote yesterday:
Just as in the case
of darkness of night
things once visible
simply cannot be seen
Happiness does not disappear
in the midst of suffering and confusion
it is only covered up just enough
to hide it from view
Today was monastic day, which in turn makes it layperson day too! Today the monastics from both hamlets got together for programming that was just for them and the laypeople got together for our own programming. Our morning sit was held in the brother’s hamlet in their small meditation hall and consisted of all of us layfolks from both hamlets. Right now there are about 20 of us all together, around 10 from each hamlet. After our sitting we had breakfast in the main dining hall with the monastics. At 9:00am the laypeople met in the sister’s meditation hall where Jo-ann led us in a lovely movement/mindful dance practice before we watched a video of Thay giving a dharma talk from 2011. After the talk we went on a short walking meditation through the oak grove and then had dharma discussion followed by lunch. It was very enjoyable to spend time with the lay friends here and practice together. The power of community never ceases to amaze and delight me.
After lunch our next scheduled program activity was sitting meditation in our meditation hall at 4:30pm with the sisters followed by chanting in vietnamese. Then we had dinner, which I’ve just returned from. It seems the best and most convenient time to write is after dinner. Tonight we have a program at 7:30. Usually our nights are un-scheduled, at least for us lay people. Oftentimes the monastics have a program in the evening. The program tonight is called Venerable Class on the white board in the dining hall. From being here last January I remember having the opportunity to attend one of these classes before and I very much enjoyed it so I am looking forward to it. There is a senior monk here and he is referred to as the Venerable. From my understanding Thay requests that he come and stay here at Deer Park through the winter retreat to support the monastics but he is based formally in a traditional Zen practice and not our own (my understanding of this is limited so I may be incorrect). The Venerable speaks in vietnamese so during the class we’ll have headphones that one of the sisters or brothers will translate into for us. I remember the Venerable being very light hearted, funny, and kind. This program will keep me up past my bedtime, which has been around 8:00-8:30pm :) Early to bed, early to rise!
I’ve been setting my alarm for 4:00am the past couple of mornings and I’ve been enjoying waking up that early in order to have time for writing and drinking tea before the sitting meditation at 5:45am. I like having time to arrive and settle in places. In my daily everyday life wherever I go I usually enjoy getting there a little early to settle in.
Oh, I almost forgot – this morning before breakfast in the brothers hamlet just outside the back doors to the dining hall I watched a rabbit eating grass and lovely blue birds darting back and forth around the bird feeders. Different people offer snacks to the critters as well and soon the rabbit had a fresh hand full of corn chex cereal, which apparently are his favorite. It was so sweet to watch and hear him crunching away contentedly. The beauty of the hamlets differ greatly even though they are a short walk apart. The elevation change is enough that on the way up to the large meditation hall you can feel the air change, even in the dark of morning before the sun rises. Our hamlet has the luscious oak grove and forested trails. Up above in the brothers hamlet the sun extends wide and sweeping along with the views of the valley and hillsides. Song birds are more visible in the brothers hamlet and ravens, crows and owls more auditory here in the sisters hamlet. It is cool and crisp and tree-sheltered down here and warmer, more open, and spacious up there. Each has their splendid beauty. This is a most wonderful place to spend time.
Something I wrote the other day:
To walk under the stars singing
with no ones company
but my own
and truly enjoy it,
as though that moment
could spread to eternity
in the wake of my pleasure,
is the sign of great fruits
being sown I think