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)
Sunday January 8th, 2017
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.
Today was an open community Day of Mindfulness, which happens most every Sunday here at Deer Park. The program starts at 9:00am and ends around 3:00pm and is free and open for all to attend. Around 100 people came today. This meant I got to see Mike today, too! (Our days to spend time together are on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays.) Mike even got up for morning meditation at 5:45am, which is an uncommon occurrence for him, given that he’s not a morning person. When we sit in morning meditation in the big hall, the women sit on one side and the men sit on the other side and we face away from each other, towards our respective wall of windows. But while I didn’t see him until after the meditation was over, I took pride in hearing a simple deep breath from behind me, knowing it belonged to him. No one but me, as his wife, would’ve picked up on such a soft, subtlety as the sound of his one inhalation and exhalation. I was comforted by his presence and felt my heart flutter.
The schedule for the Day of Mindfulness was as follows:
9:00am Outdoor Walking Meditation
10:00amish Dharma Talk
11:30amish Dharma Discussion Groups
2:00pm Guided Deep Relaxation
And today something new was added after the deep relaxation, that I’d never experienced in my past winter retreat stays. At 3:15pm a class was offered in the big hall by Brother Phap Ho, and everyone was welcome to attend.
The Dharma talk was given by one of the Sisters, who’s name wasn’t mentioned. As taking notes helps me to both stay alert and attentive, and is an added bonus to include in my blog posts, here are some notes I took during her talk today:
Insecurity can keep up from trying new things – it keeps us from trusting ourselves. It’s not attachment that gets in our way from embracing changes, it’s insecurity.
Mindfulness is not only for happiness purposes, it is very diverse. If we are stuck in our sorrow and we are aware that we are stuck in our sorrow, this is mindfulness, too.
Forgiveness isn’t about the other person(s). It is us who continues to carry the anger and resentment with us as a weight. It’s easy to blame the other person. It’s very hard to forgive ourselves, but this is the first step. “Compassion is awareness that suffering is there, with the determination to do something about it.” (A quote from the Sister that I really enjoyed.) Sister told a story about two monks having been captured and tortured for two years (in the Buddha’s time, I believe it was). After they were released, the older monk asked the younger one: Have you forgiven our captors yet? And the younger one replied: No! I will never forgive them for what they have done to me! They have beaten me, starved me, tortured me, I will never forgive them! And the older monk said: Then you are still imprisoned.
The Sister remarked about how she wished she had had that older monk’s insight, in regards to a personal experience she was sharing about, on the topic of forgiveness. And then she added: “But, it’s always more interesting when you have not reached enlightenment.”
Mindfulness is about learning how to be at peace with ourselves. To see our 5-year old child within us and smile to him or her, to make friends with that injured child within us. We start by forgiving ourselves first. Then we practice looking deeply and peeling back the layers. Next, we water the seeds of joy in us. Then we can begin to practice forgiveness towards the person who has wronged us. We cannot forgive someone without first dealing with our own emotions.
After breakfast, I was asked by Brother Phap Ho to facilitate one of the dharma discussion groups. I agreed, and asked Mike to co-facilitate with me. It was a group for lay residents who are currently staying here short-term, for 1 or 2 weeks. There were about 25 of us. It was a lovely group, very active in heartfelt sharing. Hearing people’s stories reminded me how common it is for people to come to this practice in search of something, whether it be: solace, reprieve, answers, community, rest, comfort, or hope. It makes sense. When someone feels content and happy, they are generally not in search or need of additional support. Those who seek, are those who are discontent in some fashion, who are looking to change. And my heart goes out to them with great compassion, because many seekers will not find what they are looking for here. Many are not yet ready, or want too much too quick, and will leave still craving to find the next best fix.