(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)
Friday February 5th, 2016
This morning I wrote a few things in my journal:
As another crisp evening
inhales its last full, luscious breaths,
in preparation for the sun’s return,
it wonders: At what moment do I cease to be?
to which the glimmering stars rumble
their deepest silence in reply
I come here to let go.
Let go of what? you may wonder, and wisely so.
For, if we are to let go we should know
what it is we’re letting go of and why.
I come here to let go of holding on too tightly –
to a sense of control, to my own preferences,
to my own way of doing things,
to my own understanding even of how things work.
And why is that important? I ask myself, and wisely so.
While I’m careful not to disregard the role my confidence affords me,
and my abilities to be decisive,
being able to loosen my grasp allows me
to create space enough to let new light in,
to ensure I don’t get too stuck in my ways.
I practice letting go so that I am able to build myself up
with both strength and ease,
making sure I’m not constructing in the wrong direction.
I’m savoring this last drop of stillness and silence
Knowing soon movement and sound will penetrate it
and yet…still hoping, ridiculously, for it to last
When I stepped outside my hut this morning I was greeted by a welcomed change, a warm wind was blowing. The Santa Anna winds are visiting today. The Santa Anna winds blow occasionally in the winter time around here and roll in from the deserts of the west, which is why they are so warm. As I neared the top of the dirt steps on my way to sitting meditation, around 5:15am, the waning moon was just peaking above the hills. As I climber higher so too did my moon companion. My injured leg was feeling more sluggish and sore this morning so I was glad to have its company.
Arrival day today. I’m sitting outside typing on our front porch and have seen already two shuttle vans pass by on the road leading up to Solidity and heard one new laywoman being shown to her hut by the guest master, Sister Tung Nghiem. And so it goes.
I attended the working meditation meeting at 9:00am, where we sing songs and have announcements, but skipped the actual working part and opted instead to lay down to rest. I wound up napping for about two hours – and it was glorious! No roommates milling around, our hut was nice and warm, and I had the rich delicacy of time to absorb and enjoy it.
When I awoke, I basked in the glow of having just taken a long rest. Then I cleaned our hut’s bathroom and did some laundry and hung it out on the clothesline. And now, I’m leisurely going back and forth from typing on my laptop and texting my good friend Jennifer, with the intermittent one bar of service I am able to pick up here. So much, and yet so little, happens in the span of one day.
Our hut has swollen to capacity. Six occupied beds. It was certainly an abundant arrival day! When I went to the parking lot earlier, to do some slow walking in the sunshine and listen to my music, there were many new cars parked. One vehicle in particular grabbed my attention – it had Montana plates! It made my heart so happy to see my home state plate beaming in the afternoon sun. I later discovered the owner was my sangha friend Neal from Bigfork! What a pleasant surprise!
I just returned from dinner and am nursing my injured leg. I’ve been continuing to use the topical chinese medicine, that I was given on Monday, three times a day. I’m still walking with a very noticeable limp and cannot bear my full weight properly on my right leg. Today my ankle is quite swollen and some large bruising has developed on my calf. I’m not sure if it’s a sign of things getting better or worse.
Warming up the Chinese medicine
I’m feeling rather tired and slightly out of sorts, partly due to my sore leg and partly due to the new influx of energy with the new arrivals. I’ve been delighting in the fact that I’ve become like a farmer here, rising before the sun and setting with it in the evening as it lays the fields to rest. Off I go to read of travel adventures in India before I drift far away into slumber.