(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.)
Thursday January 22nd, 2015
This morning after sitting, stick exercise, and breakfast I walked up the fire road and stood watching as the morning sun rose over the mountain. I was listening to my music and then turned around to meet an unexpected and wonderful visitor. There was a coyote friend watching me maybe 40 feet away. I was of course a little startled to see a coyote so closely. He was very beautiful. There was another coyote nearby as well I saw as he ducked into the brush. They soon trotted off but reappeared every few minutes in a new spot nearby. I very much enjoyed watching them and I felt honored that they seemed to enjoy my presence as well. Of course I was also a bit afraid having them so close. I jokingly said to them, “So, you guys don’t like attack people do you? I mean, I’ve never heard of a coyote attacking people before.” We co-existed peacefully in the morning sun together and then I went off to begin our community day of mindfulness.
At 9:00am we met in the big hall to watch a dharma talk from Thay. The video was a Q &A session from the last day of the 21-day retreat this past June in Plum Village. Here are some notes I took (they may seem a little random since they were taken during different questions and answers):
We have two needs: we want to understand the world/life and we want to love/be loved.
The three marks of the buddha’s teachings are: impermanence, non-self, and nirvana. We should not think that our view is the best. We should be ready to abandon our view for a better view.
With the practice of mindful breathing and walking others will be nurtured. Where you go, Thay goes too in order to make the practice available all over the world.
There are two kinds of people: ones that want to live forever and be immortal, who have a fear of annihilation underneath, and ones who are tired of living, who get bored, and are seeking non-being (annihilation). Both notions are based on wrong view. The reality we know is only a construction of our mind, it is not reality. Annihilation and immortality are opposites and when you remove this notion you will be free and no longer afraid.
No-self is the main teaching. We cannot be by ourselves alone. If you know when a truth is an ultimate truth and when a truth is a conventional truth you will not be caught by it, you will be free.
We should be free from buddhism and free of the buddha. How wonderful it is to be free from the buddha. We may get buddha or god as only notions so we must be very careful. We must be free of notions. Notions can be useful but if we get caught in the we suffer.
Thay is found not inside or outside. Thay is found in your way of walking and breathing. A living reality. Thay is always walking with you.
The Q & A video was two hours long, so quite a while. After the talk we did some walking meditation down to Clarity Hamlet where we had a short time for dharma discussion followed by lunch. After lunch I walked up to the bookshop in Solidity Hamlet and then Mike and I met for a little bit. He walked me around the circle garden and showed me the turtles in the pond and we even found some lizards too. It was a good animal spotting day!
I took a nap in the afternoon and then had some time before dinner to listen to some music as I walked and danced in the parking lot. It is a great joy to listen to music and dance like no one’s watching, even if they might be!
I just finished with dinner and will be meeting with a friend at 7:00 in the tea room who was interested in talking with me about my practice of joy that I mentioned the other day in a dharma sharing group we were in. I get many responses when I share about my practice of joy. People are very interested in hearing more about what that looks like. It is a great pleasure to be to share my experience with others. I am a believer in what Thay says: The world needs more happy people. And it is inspiring to know so many people are interested and eager to hear more about the cultivation of joy.
Tomorrow Mike and I will be leaving to return back home. Our shuttle to take us to the San Diego airport will arrive at 2:00pm. I’ve been conscious of not departing too soon mentally today. And I see much progress in the ability of being able to stay here in the present moment, enjoying the here and now, not getting caught up in what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow will be here soon enough, I don’t need to rush it along.
Last night we had tea with one of the sisters and it was a lovely gathering by candlelight. She brought a special tea for us to share, a honey citron tea that came in a jar resembling the consistency of marmalade. It was a very sweet tasting and aromatic tea, smelling of honey, lemon, and a delightful freshness.
It is the simple joys and pleasures that enrich life. I have enjoyed being able to slow down in order to see them unfolding all around me. This time has been a precious gift and I look forward to returning home to my winter mountains, my dear home sangha, my community, and my little home. To see our son, our cats, our chickens (and my chiropractor!) :)