(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 21st, 2015
Today was lay day, where the lay friends practice together and the monastics practice together separately through lunch. Last week it was offered to me that I could do the morning chant for our sitting mediation practice this morning in the brothers small hall for the lay friends and I accepted. So this morning I sat at the big bell and offered the morning chant. Last week I went into their hall to practice just to get a feel of the large bell. I was a bit nervous to sing, as usual, but as I practiced breathing deeply and smiling to my nervousness I felt soothed and more relaxed. My heart was still beating quickly with nervous energy but it wasn’t as forceful or as un-grounding as its been in the past when singing in front of others. Slowly slowly as I continue to practice it gets easier and I get stronger.
Before our morning sit I had spent time in the dining hall writing. I brought one book with me here called Pay Attention for Goodness Sake by Sylvia Boorstein. I read a little bit at night in my bunk before going to sleep. I’ve been enjoying her style of writing and the personal stories she tells. The book goes into detail about the 10 Paramitas, or perfections of the heart. This morning I wrote a little bit about each one, in preparation for perhaps writing a spoken word piece about them. These were my first thoughts:
Generosity: to give of our time and energy where it can be useful out of a care for others
Morality: guided by our desire to be kind and do no harm
Renunciation: not to collect that in which we do not really need, to give up excess
Wisdom: knowing where happiness lies and where it doesn’t
Energy: motivation for forward momentum along the path of becoming more aware and connected
Patience: to go with the flow of life and not against it
Truthfulness: to speak lovingly with words that inspire and support, to listen without judging or reacting
Determination: grounded on the path of awakening, embracing and letting go as needed
Loving Kindness: to cultivate gentleness and understanding for ourselves and others
Equanimity: to see deeply the nature of impermanence
Summary: we take up a life of non-harming with the knowledge that we’re all in this together as we practice to offer our care and attention wherever we go.
After sitting meditation we had breakfast in the brothers dining hall and then at 9:00am the lay friends met in the sisters dining hall to prepare a picnic style lunch that we could take with us as we ventured outside. It was a nice informal opportunity to talk with people as we made sandwiches and packed up fruit and other snacks. My friend Andrea and I both had the shared belief that when someone else makes your sandwich it tastes better so we decided that she would make my sandwich and I would make hers :) After I made hers I offered to make sandwiches for other friends too. I made two more.
We gathered to sing songs outside and then did some walking meditation together after we prepared our lunches. Then we were led in some Qi Gong exercises and did some sitting by the standing buddha statue in the woods. A lay dharma teacher offered us a sort of guided meditation where we were invited to wander around the wooded area until we were called somewhere in particular. We were then invited to ask a question to the spot or tree or plant or creature we had been called to and listen for the answer given (my stopping place can be seen in the pic below). After 20 minutes we gathered back together in a circle and shared our experience. Our sharing lasted quite a while. There were 16 of us and it took over an hour I would say. It was 12:30 when our sharing circle was finished so we walked to where we had set our lunches down and had lunch. Since it was picnic style we were not in silence as we ate. I was among four of us who picked out a spot in the sun to sit. The rest ate in the shade. Having informal time together was nice. There is a different quality to our practice when we are together as lay friends verses with the monastics. I see that there are benefits to both.
I took a nap after our leisurely lunch together and then we had sitting meditation at 4:30 with the sisters and chanting in vietnamese followed by dinner at 5:30. The lay friends have been invited by one of the sisters to the tea room for a dharma sharing at 6:45pm so I will be off soon.
While it has been nice to have a more interactive day with the other lay friends I also find that it pulls me away from going more slowly and experiencing more stillness and quiet within myself. The addition of talking and communicating in a retreat setting I find changes the element of practice. My hut is abuzz with talking at the moment and I have my headphones on listening to instrumental music as I type. The practice of going with the flow is of great importance.