(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.)
Saturday January 17th, 2015
Every morning I’ve been waking up a little bit earlier then the morning before. Today I got up at 3:30am. I could’ve gotten out of bed at 3:00am but I decided that was too early and told myself to stay in bed until 3:30. I remember this happened last time I was here as well. I encountered a stride and needed less and less sleep and also less and less food.
Today was our community work day where folks from the surrounding cities were invited to come and help with the straw bale construction as part of the new nunnery being built. We were told that folks from green communities were also invited, those who were interested in learning to build eco friendly houses. After sitting meditation, stick exercise, and breakfast our schedule had us meeting at the construction site at 9:00am.
This morning during our sitting meditation I could tell that we had many new friends that had arrived yesterday afternoon. The hall was more active then usual with cushion movements, coughing, sniffing, shuffling around, and other small noises. The big meditation hall is quite large in size but there is very little in it so every little adjustment can be heard. I was noticing the ripple effect happen this morning. One person would clear their throat and then another and another. One noise opened the door to other noises. Our collective energy can be felt in full force during our morning sitting practice. We move and breathe as one body.
I went to dinner and just returned. Let’s see…at 9:00am we gathered for community working at the construction site where the new nunnery is being built and there was some confusion right up until the actual dividing up of work groups as to whether us lay friends would be able to join in to help with the straw bales or not. They were giving priority to those that had registered online, since they already had more hands then there was work to do. We were eventually given the option to work if we wanted to and many of us chose to join in. We were told there was 60 of us all together. The company hired to do the straw bale insulation and clay walls were there to direct and train us all. They had their systems set up well and knowledgable, kind workers. It was a bright sunny day, wonderful for playing with bales of straw! I worked at helping to move the bales from one large stack to form a smaller stack close to where the work was being done. I carted a dolly from stack to stack, in a wheeled procession with a few others. I very much enjoy manual labor and I also enjoy organization and community building through action oriented tasks so it was great fun for me to work with others in the orchestrated rhythm of moving bales. I helped with a few other things before eventually taking off a little bit before the bell would sound to call everyone to lunch. Mike had went off to help some of the brothers so he was not there for the straw bale work but he came towards the end and then walked me to my hamlet before we parted ways. He and I don’t see each other much. There used to be a time where it would’ve been hard to be apart but now I think we both enjoy our time together and the time we have on our own too.
I took only a short rest today after working and found that I was not sleepy so I didn’t fall asleep as I usually do. I think it was from all of the working in the sun, it gave me energy! I set out after lying down for a little while to head up the fire road to my rock spot overlooking the valley and on my way ran into the newest brother that just ordained last month. His name translates to Brother Earth. I remembered him from last year when I was here when he was an aspirant (a lay person aspiring to be a novice monk or nun). He and I chatted for a few minutes and it was nice to connect with him. He too mentioned having heard about my dancing in the parking lot – apparently it was the talk of the town. Ever since hearing about how others saw and were talking about my dancing I’ve been a little hesitant to continue doing it but I’m happy to report that I am still doing it! Usually in the mornings after breakfast I can be found in the parking lot dancing, where the morning sun is just starting to alight the ground and guide the cool shadows away. Our hamlet is quite cool when the sun is low since we are shaded more by the trees and are lower set on the mountain then the brothers hamlet. So I find the sun in the morning and dance with it in greeting.
I spent around 45 minutes up on my rock spot soaking in the warm sun. It was such an immense delight to sit up high looking out over the green valley with a warm, western breeze blowing through my hair, a wind I knew was coming freshly off the ocean just over the mountains on the other side of the valley. You can almost see the ocean from my rock spot but it’s not quite high enough. I am in love with that rock spot, it is a good friend and one that I look forward to visiting with.
At 3:00pm there was a dharma talk video shown in the big hall given by Thay from the 21-day retreat last June. I took some notes as usual and will share only a few key sentences I wrote down:
Just because you have the intention to be mindful, to go slow, to relax, to practice stopping does not mean you are able to do it. You need the insight that you’ve been running a lot, that happiness does not exist in the future through money or success. Without insight you cannot truly relax. True mindfulness carries right view. Without insight you cannot stop, you cannot relax. Our aim is not the top of the mountain, it is to enjoy every step, to move in such a way that peace is available in every step.
After we watched the talk Mike and I rearranged the big hall for our evening program tonight. Every Saturday night there is a Blessing Ceremony done for Thay as he remains in the hospital recovering from his brain hemorrhage. I will be heading out shortly to attend.
Tomorrow is a day of mindfulness where many people will join us in practice. The monastery is abuzz with new and vibrant energy coming and going at least three days a week (on days of mindfulness and on Fridays). I both enjoy and am challenged by the flux of people, I see both happening at the same time.
Thoughts before I go that I don’t want to forget to share: Oh how I enjoy seeing Brother Phap Day cruising around on his roller blades circling the meditation hall with his ear buds in listening to music. He is in his late 70’s, I would guess, and skates around with energy and ease. And secondly: oh how I love to see Tofu, the orange cat who lives with the sisters :)