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)
Tuesday January 10th, 2017
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.
When I reached the top of the 91 dirt steps this morning, I turned to face westward, where on clear mornings I can see a few city lights dancing in the darkness in between two mountain peaks strewn with sage. Only, today, the city was banked in low clouds and fog and I could not see it. Still, I knew it was there, like a buried treasure. I knew it had not suddenly vanished overnight. With every cell of my being, I understood that it would reappear when the conditions were sufficient.
I think there are many things that are similar to the city, things that get covered over and lost, such as: goodness, gratitude, peace, solidity, contentment, happiness, joy, understanding, and beauty. But often we forget that they are still there, underneath the fog of our distractions and suffering and hectic nature, waiting to reemerge.
As I was readying myself on my cushion in the big hall this morning, before meditation formally started, I closed my eyes and was set adrift into the future for what seemed like a long time. In reality, however, it was probably more like 5 or 6 minutes. But in those few minutes, I was transported far, far away from the meditation hall and Deer Park and even California.
When I returned back to my cushion and the present moment, I chuckled softly to myself and imagined that my zabutan (the square pad that sits under the round cushions we sit atop, called zafus) was like a magic carpet that I had just taken a ride on. Conveniently, for my newly created imaginative story, I was seated about 20 feet away from a set of double doors. I pictured my magic zabutan rising slowly off the ground as the doors swung open, affording me the opportunity I needed to fly on out, high and mighty, over the mountain. Whoosh! There she goes!
Today: I saw a handsome coyote fairly close-by, who seemed not bothered in the slightest that people were milling about. I watched as two ravens glided in circles on air currents with a red-tailed hawk. I got wonderfully filthy, dirty, battered up, and sweaty while working alongside a crew of laywomen transporting and spreading mulch in the oak grove. I volunteered, unknowingly, to facilitate a Five Mindfulness Trainings dharma sharing group (I thought I was volunteering to simply read one of the trainings :). And I did my usuals: write, meditate, stick exercises, listen to music, nap, walk, smile, breathe.
Oh, and I also took more notes regarding my talk, on the subject of Why Mindfulness Matters: Mindfulness matters because in order to operate and function beautifully and skillfully, we need to have access to an abundant source of nourishment, in order to keep us charged up. Mindfulness is a large abundant source. And there are many others, too. Ideally, we’d draw from multiple sources. In my experience, mindfulness is the largest spring of energy, nourishment, support, and healing. We have so much energy going out by way of our: job, family, schooling, friends, romantic partner, pets, home upkeep, and other responsibilities. If we are not careful, all of our energy output can eventually lead to burnout, fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, anger, discontentment, and so on. We all need ways in which to replenish ourselves. Mindfulness is a bottomless well that we can draw on in order to keep our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual tanks full, so that we can continue beautifully into the next moment, the next day, the next week, month, and year that unfolds.