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Deer Park Lessons

13 Oct

dscn0272Overview from Deer Park Monastery (in Escondido, CA), from atop the fire road

My husband Mike and I will be returning to Deer Park Monastery in January for an extended retreat stay, which we’ve been doing now for the past few years. Lately I’ve been thinking about how these January retreat stays at Deer Park have impacted my life and my practice. So, in my love for making lists, I’ve come up with one to help me get in touch with some of the fruits I’ve experienced by venturing off on these longer retreat periods once a year.

What Retreating at Deer Park Has Been Teaching Me:

  1. How to develop more equanimity and solidity in a widening variety of situations.
  2. How to get more in touch with my inner silence and rejoice and revel in its unfolding.
  3. How to become increasingly more comfortable in my own skin.
  4. How to practice letting go.
  5. How to become more self-confident, while remaining well grounded and at ease
  6. How to deepen my understanding about how when I take good care of myself, I’m practicing to take good care of those around me, too.
  7. How to work on not being afraid to shine my talents, experience, skills, and insights.
  8. How to dance like no one’s watching when there IS probably someone watching – one of the things I do routinely at Deer Park is spend time each day listening to my ipod and dancing around the dirt parking lot situated just outside of the Sisters hamlet, it’s one of my favorite things to do there :)
  9. How to deepen the friendship I have with myself and enjoy my own company.
  10. How resting is a necessary (and enjoyable) component of well being.

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Since our last retreat stay this past January, I’ve been contemplating whether or not to continue to stay with the Sisters when we go back this next time. I do have the option of staying with Mike up in the Brothers hamlet, if I so choose. As a point of reference: the monastic Sisters (or nuns) stay in their own Hamlet much of the time during the winter retreat period and the monastic Brothers (monks) stay in theirs, which is just a short walk up the hill from where the Sisters reside. As a married female, attending with my husband, I have the option of staying in either Hamlet. So far, every time we’ve gone, I’ve stayed separate from Mike and lodged with the Sisters.

I even wrote a pros and cons list during my last retreat stay at Deer Park, weighing the benefits of what I determined were the attributes of each hamlet – I told you I love making lists! After giving additional thought to the reasons why I so enjoy going to Deer Park each year, the decision became quite clear and apparent.

Why I Go To Deer Park Each Year:

  1. To connect with silence and stillness.
  2. To concentrate my practice on how to Be Here Now.
  3. To BE on retreat, with nothing to do and nowhere to go (meaning: I get to enjoy not being in charge of anything and I’m able to refuel my energy tank for when I return home and step back into my role as a community organizer and spiritual leader in my home sangha).
  4. To reconnect with myself.
  5. To be reminded of how precious life is.

Given that a large part of why I choose to make it a priority to go on retreat at Deer Park each year, saving up our money months ahead of time, involves reconnecting with myself in quietude and stillness, I feel that staying with the Sisters affords me the best opportunity for that. If I bunk with Mike I’ll have a lot harder of a time connecting deeply with myself in that space of quietness that I so love and look forward to. Sometimes it amazes me how relatively easy it is to gain clarity on something when I take the time to ask myself the right questions.

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