(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.)
Tuesday January 20th, 2015
Oftentimes as I’m going about my day and I encounter an especially wonderful moment I think to myself, “I hope I’ll remember to write about this later.” The thing of it is, there are many small wonderful moments and I am unable to write about them all – what a delightful “problem” to have!
This morning after breakfast I walked up the steep fire road. As I went uphill I found the sun just starting to pop up over the mountain. It was so very beautiful, its rays extending out like arms reaching down to alight the hills below. Where the fire road turns from pavement to dirt there is a leveling of ground before it begins to ascend further upwards. At that level spot you can overlook the monastery to the north and east. And when you turn around you can see the sprawling valley to the west, filled with people going about their daily lives in the surrounding cities. Today when I turned around to face the city valley it was completely covered in fog. Only the distant mountains by the ocean were visible. I could not see one house or car or building. I was up high enough that it was clear where I stood but down below it was misted over, as though the cities had vanished. It was an amazing site that I wasn’t expecting to see. Part of me wished I could’ve stayed longer to watch the valley reappear like a picture developing in a dark room. But I could only stay a little while, as our working meditation meeting started at 8:45am.
For working meditation today another lay friend and I helped one of the sisters in the big meditation hall. We swept and vacuumed while the sister took care of the alters and prepared the cushions for the next program that would take place there. It is a spacious hall and it took the two of us around an hour to do all the sweeping, inside and out, and to vacuum. It was an enjoyable task and felt satisfying.
I wound up skipping the walking meditation today, as well as lunch as usual, in order to shower and get some additional rest. After being on my un-shoed feet on the wooden floor in the meditation hall for an hour cleaning my feet were quite sore from the nerve condition that I have. So I took a much needed restful opportunity to care for my feet.
At 3:00pm us lay friends here in Clarity met in the dining hall for a 5 mindfulness training discussion group, led by one of the sisters. Before the group started I visited the oak grove where the men were once again working on chainsawing and chipping the oak tree that was felled yesterday. As they were packing up for the day and drove off I waved good-bye to them. One man was getting into his truck and stopped to talk with me for a little bit as I walking up. He asked how I was doing and I told him I was very well. I asked how he was and he said that he couldn’t be any better, and mentioned how beautiful it was here. Earlier when I had stopped by to watch them work for a bit one man stopped working to take a short break and sat down next to one of the buddha statues in the grass. The other two men smiled at him and said, “That’s a good picture! You fit right in, we can’t tell you apart!” I enjoyed over-hearing how they interacted together as a crew of fellow workers, they seemed very happy and light-hearted and kind with one another.
After the men had left for the day two lay friends came walking from a path in the woods to where I was standing by where the oak tree had been cut down. One of the lay friends, looking at the freshly chopped up wood, said quietly to her hiking companion, “It is so sad.” Her expression was filled with sorrow. I gently smiled to her and thought of offering some words but opted to remain silent. I thought of saying something like, “The sacrifice of one to help the many.” Her sorrow reminded me of how for most of my life I too had her same reaction when confronted with the loss of a tree or when seeing pictures of a swath of forest cut down. But now I see things a little differently and I am not saddened as I used to be. I see the purpose, the value of the work that has been done. In the case of this one oak tree I see the sweet men who worked hard and joyfully with skill and care, I see the benefit to the other oak trees in an attempt to spare them from the beetle infestation, and I see the beauty of the sunlight freshly streaming down on a patch of earth once covered by the shadows of leaves and branches. There are two main ways in which to see any kind of situation that unfolds: one way is with the eyes of attachment (to the way we think things should be) and the other way is with the eyes of impermanence (being able to embrace and let go of what is).
We had sitting meditation with the sisters in our small hall after our discussion group and then dinner at 5:30pm. Tonight there is no program for us lay friends and I am enjoying the quiet of my hut with my roommates as they read and write in their bunks (hoping that my click clacking of the key board as I type is not a disturbance).
Last night we had a happiness meeting in our small hall with the sisters. It was a chance to share something that had made us happy recently. When it was my turn I shared about my story with the little frozen bee from yesterday morning and how happy I was when he was able to warm up and fly away. Our meeting was a nice chance to see many smiles from the sisters and to hear laughter and stories about what had made others happy. It’s important to share our happiness and it often ripples out and multiplies when we do.
Something I wrote this morning:
There is nothing extraordinary
about anything really
All things are just as they are
without much effort
Life is amazing and delightful
and unendingly beautiful
Full of causes and conditions
through many, many years
unfolding differently for all of us
I come on retreat
not to escape, as I once did,
but to submerge myself fully
in that which I already know
and want to remember