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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Deer Park, Day 4

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition 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.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese)

bighall

Day 4:
Tuesday January 10th, 2017

6:12pm

Early A.M journal jotting:

Weak sauce, I thought,
as I sipped my cup of tea.
So I added another tea bag to the water.

As a lone frog
croaked in the morning darkness,
I sat idly by,
splendidly doing nothing.

____________

I fall head over heels into the sound of the temple bell –
the one situated at the top of the hill by the eucalyptus tree.
Like a lover, it embraces me sweetly in its arms with great affection,
and a wave of euphoria sets my heart to racing.

____________

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Deer Park, Day 3

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition 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.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese)

dscn5606

Day 3:
Monday January 9th, 2017

4:24pm

Today is our weekly scheduled Lazy Day, where nothing is scheduled other than meals. Well, meals and often some sort of evening program after dinner. We don’t usually have anything scheduled after dinner but somehow on Lazy Days we have an evening program – go figure.

I had planned on sleeping in until 5:00am this morning (I’m now imagining that you, the reader, are smirking at my having equated the dark and early hour of 5:00am with “sleeping in”), but I awoke just before 4:00, as usual.

Here are some notes I took early this morning, regarding the talk I’ll be giving next month at my home sangha, on: Back to the Basics, Why Mindfulness Matters: Mindfulness matters because the alternative often involves living in a state of cloudiness, where our perceptions can often become very skewed. Without mindfulness, it is easy to get caught in thinking that our views truly and accurately reflect things as they really are. Mindfulness affords us the necessary space in order to allow us to see things more clearly.

Without mindfulness, it is easy to take the actions of others as a personal affront. It is easy to become stuck in our own tiny box of self, thinking everything is about us. Without mindfulness, we are ruled by our emotions and allow them to dictate our speech and actions. Without mindfulness, we will do and say things that will cause harm – this doesn’t mean it’s not possible to cause harm while being mindful, but we’ll cause far greater harm without the use and practice of mindfulness. With the spaciousness that mindfulness offers, our understanding has the opportunity to ripen and become less obstructed by our misperceptions. And from this less cloudy state, our words and actions have the ability to create ease, compassion, and connection, vs. separation, anger, sorrow, etc.

Mindfulness is our ability and capacity to Be Here Now, awake, alive, and engaged in the present moment. There is no “right” way to practice. There are dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of ways to cultivate mindfulness. When we are breathing in and we are aware that we are breathing in, that is mindfulness. When we’re experiencing sorrow and we’re aware that we’re experiencing sorrow, that is mindfulness. When we are walking and we feel our footsteps touch down on the ground, that is mindfulness. When we are with a good friend and we are actively listening to what they have to say with all of our attention, that is mindfulness. When we can appreciate the sun shining on our face or the moon rising over the mountains or the beauty of a flower, that is mindfulness. Each and every time we are fully present and aware with what we are doing, while we are doing it, we are watering and strengthening our seeds of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a muscle, we use it or lose it. Mindfulness will only benefit us as much as we exercise it in our daily lives. Just as if we don’t exercise our leg muscles they will grow weak, the same is true with mindfulness. This is why we must be steadfast in our practice. Too often, practicing mindfulness, doing sitting meditation, and attending sangha regularly are like taking antibiotics when we’re sick. Even though the doctor tells us to take the whole prescription, and not to stop mid-way when we start feeling better, many of us still choose to stop taking the medicine as directed, as soon as our symptoms show improvement. But if we stop taking the antibiotics, we risk a re-occurrence or worsening of our illness. Mindfulness is not something we do for a little while to become “cured” of our woes and struggles. Mindfulness is a regiment we must keep up indefinitely. If we give up and stop practicing, deciding it’s not working or that it’s not useful anymore or takes too much effort, or whatever the reason is, we may risk becoming infected by the plague of living on autopilot, returning back to our cloudy, discontented state of being. We risk a re-occurrence of our malaise.

We all need something to help us buoy ourselves afloat with on the choppy waters of being human. Mindfulness in one such buoy. It can keep us from drifting out to the sea of difficulties, surrounded by shark infested waters. And when continually developed, mindfulness has the capacity to transform itself from a buoy, into the loveliest island imaginable.

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Deer Park, Day 2

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition 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.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese)

 

dscn5561Red-tailed hawk, local resident

Day 2:
Sunday January 8th, 2017

6:03pm

Waking up, my smile greets a fresh, new day.
As my feet touch the ground, may I rise with intention, like the sun.

Inspired by the class the Sister gave yesterday, where she mentioned the practice of paying attention to how we wake up each morning, and using gathas to help support us, I came up with these two morning verses. I can see them being a useful addition to my morning routine and I look forward to continuing to put them into practice, as I did for the first time today.

Early this morning I wrote down a few notes, in preparation for the talk I’ll be giving next month at my sangha. As a refresher from yesterday’s journal entry, the talk will be entitled: Back to the Basics, Why Mindfulness Matters. Talk notes: Mindfulness matters because life matters. We have only this one life span of 20 or 30 or 50 or 70 or 90 years. If we do not cultivate mindfulness, it is easy for our lives to pass by very quickly – for our lives to be full of suffering, anger, sorrow, and envy. It is easy for us to take our lives for granted, to be unfulfilled and unsatisfied. Without mindfulness, it is easy to spend our whole lives caught in the past and/or consumed by the future. Mindfulness is the friend that shows us that another way of living is possible.

The quality of our being is understood by others right away. We are emitting energy all of the time. Even if we wish to hide something about ourselves, we can only disguise so much. Our energy will often give us away. Mindfulness matters because our energy is always causing an affect, rippling out into our surroundings.

_______

Early A.M journal jotting:
I don’t come here on retreat to retreat from the so-called “real” world, as though it were some other dimension of space and time. This, too, is the real world. I don’t come here to get away from anything: the cold, cloudiness of Montana in winter or my daily and weekly responsibilities, I come here to be a part of everything, to the fullest capacity that I can muster – to greet with open arms this wonderful manifestation of life.

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Deer Park, Day 1

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition 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.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese)

dscn5535Our Schedule for Day #1

Day 1:
Saturday January 7th, 2017

6:03pm

A little something I wrote in my journal at 4:25am:
Just now, I remembered why I come here. I was moving a metal folding chair and I was fully aware that I was moving a folding chair. I felt my fingers curl around its frame. I felt its weight as I picked it up. I felt the coolness of the metal seep into my skin. This is why I come here. To move a metal folding chair and be fully present and alive, truly!

__________

I am overjoyed to be here now, surrounded by bells and hills, tea and meditators, stars and sun, spaciousness and ease. There is great freedom to be had when there is no where to go and nothing to do. To spend time, unobstructed, in quiet communion with one’s self, and become reacquainted.

I awoke this morning just before 4:00am, eager to start my daily Deer Park routine. After dressing, I headed to the dining hall, where I drank tea and wrote in my journal until the 5:00am bell sounded. I climbed the long and lovely dirt steps up towards the bell tower and the big hall and settled onto my cushion with joy, and an ease so comforting it set me to wondering how meditation was ever difficult to do. And it was, indeed, at one point, for a long while, very difficult. It only became less difficult once I started learning how to get out of my own way.

I nabbed a qi gong stick from beside the big hall and enjoyed doing stick exercises before breakfast, down in the big parking lot. I thought of Brother Phap De a lot. He passed away a few months ago and used to lead the qi gong stick exercises every morning. Last year, I received special permission to join him, as those of us staying in Clarity Hamlet are asked to return immediately to our hamlet after morning meditation and not participate in the exercises, due to the boundaries that are in affect during the winter retreat. But I so enjoyed practicing the exercises with Brother Phap De that I got up to the courage to ask one of the Sisters if I could join him.

I miss seeing him here. As I was going through the 16 exercises this morning, though, I felt his presence in my movements and in the sky above very clearly.

dscn5544                                                                                     View from the fire road of the Escondido valley

After breakfast, I took a walk up the steep, paved fire road to the top of the hill, where the road turns back into dirt, just as it is at its inception. Curious of how long it would take, I timed myself on my stopwatch: 2 minutes and 18 seconds. As I was walking up, I thought to myself: This is the steepest incline I’ve ever traversed in such a short amount of time. Hmmm, I wonder, even, if this is the steepest road in America!  It is quite the road. I’m fairly sure it’s the most strenuous 2 minutes and 18 seconds I’ve yet to ever exert myself in that short of a time span.

At 9:00am we circled up outside of our small meditation hall for announcements and work meeting, followed by a reading of Clarity Hamlet’s winter retreat regulations, which had to do with things like: where we were allowed to go and where we weren’t and the protocol for going out hiking. This year, outdoor walking meditation precedes our work assignments, whereas in years past it was the other way around. So after the reading of regulations, which has always left a sour taste in my mouth, we set to following some of the Sisters towards the gatehouse for walking meditation. Around 10:15am, many of the laywomen, including myself, helped to weed and clear out some landscaped beds around the office and alongside the driveway road.

There are about 15 laywomen here currently, with 10 of us having arrived yesterday. Given what I saw this morning, during our meditation and chanting service, I would say there’s about an equal amount of laymen staying in Solidity.

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Deer Park, Arrival Day

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition 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.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese)

dscn5502Me upon first arriving; waiting in the tearoom to meet the guest-master 

Arrival Day:
Friday January 6th, 2017

5:52pm

I edged out of bed this morning keenly aware that it will be 3 weeks before my husband and I will lie side-by-side again. As the waves crashed in eroding swells just outside (we had the treat of staying right on the water in Ocean Beach with my mom and stepdad for two nights before coming here to Deer Park), I understood how the sum of each one changes the shoreline forever. Just as each action we take, or don’t take, changes our path.

I just returned back to my “hut”, as the sisters call them – a one room cabin with 2 bunk beds and 2 single beds, with an attached bathroom, affectionately named Baby Elephant. It’s the first of four huts situated here in Clarity Hamlet. I just finished up a wonderful dinner of rice and tofu, mushroom soup. The crickets are in full chorus. Darkness has steeped the monastery in a cool and quiet calm.

I’ve touched ground here without missing a beat, as though 12 months haven’t passed since last I was here. I’m a stranger in this landscape, and yet, this is home, too.

dscn5493Clarity Hamlet – the top is the small meditation hall

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Home & Happy

16358333_10206152087401458_1902787074_nBe Here Now Sangha at the airport!

Mike and I returned home around midnight on Friday, January 27th, after spending three weeks on retreat at Deer Park Monastery, and were greeted at the airport by some of our sangha friends sitting on meditation cushions in front of a bell – it was such a lovely welcoming! In one instance I was feeling tired and weary from a long day and late night and in the next I was refreshed – what wonders a community can bestow! My heart filled with so much joy when I saw their smiling faces. It was the best surprise!

Yesterday, I began feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the things needing to be done. Then I practiced to recognize my feelings and embrace them with care. My next step was determining what needed the most tending to and what could wait. It’s important to me to transition slowly and not do too many things right away, or all at once.

I went to the Good Food Store (our local, natural food market) and managed to time my trip there in what is often their busiest period: around lunchtime. I stood outside by my car for a few breaths, contemplating briefly whether or not I did, in fact, have to go in there. Quickly determining that being out of food in the house wasn’t really manageable, I took a few more breaths, grounded myself in my body, and prepared to enter the store with openness and joy. All things considered, it went swimmingly, though I was quite relieved when I was done and leaving.

After being sequestered in a monastery for three weeks, external stimulus takes some getting used to. There’s an adjustment period involved. So, I’m adjusting to a new rhythm and pattern and sway.

AND, I have daily writings that I’ll now start to share that I wrote while on retreat – so get ready for lots of words and pictures!

 

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Image

On Retreat

bhn