(Helpful Info & Terminology: This is part of a series of blog posts written during my recent retreat stay at Deer Park Monastery, located in southern California, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Due to not having had Internet access I will be posting two days worth of my writing each day from while I was there on retreat.
Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen, are all of us who come here to practice but are not monks or nuns.
Monastics: The collective group of both monks and nuns.
Clarity Hamlet: Where the nuns, also called Sisters, reside. Laywomen stay here as well.
Solidity Hamlet: Where the monks, also called Brothers, reside. Laymen and couples/families stay here as well. (Clarity and Solidity are just a short 10-15 minute walk in distance from each other).
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning teacher in Vietnamese)
Thursday February 11th, 2016
It occurred to me only just this morning that the name of the big meditation hall is befitting: Ocean of Peace. Over the last 2-3 weeks during my sitting meditation I’ve been linking my breath with the flowing images of the ocean, something I had never done before. Breathing in, I picture the ocean pulling back its waters as it ebbs back out to sea. Breathing out, I envision its gentle waves washing ashore, absorbing into the sand as it rolls over the beach. My breath rising and falling; the ocean gathering and releasing. My in breath always preparing the stage for my out breath, and vice versa. The waves of the ocean always swelling in order to dissipate. It’s been a lovely comparison to practice with.
Earlier this morning I wrote this in my journal:
In any given moment we could most likely fix our focus negatively, painting a picture of doom and woe. For example, in regards to Deer Park, I could harp about how the mattress on my bunk isn’t properly supported, how the wooden slats underneath keep moving and falling out, causing my bed to to sink in places that create morning back pain; I could prattle on about the infestation of large black ants in our hut and how they like to party when the lights go out in places like our bathroom sink, or about the rats in the dining hall often seen scurrying around the kitchen; I could complain about the lack of good tea, or any tea, made available to the laywomen, how I’ve resorted to stealing it from the Brothers dining hall like a tea bandit; I could spout injustices like a fountain. But I’d rather practice not getting caught in what’s not up to my satisfaction, looking instead to what is.