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
Saturday January 14th, 2017
Early A.M journal jotting:
I swim in the fragrant wash of the bell as it echoes in the sage brushed hills, pulsing with the heartbeat of fertile land, and in succulent rhythm with my breath and footsteps. My smile calls out, like the red-tail hawk in the oak grove, to greet with reverence both a new and returning day.
I continue to sit in mild tension about my decision not to engage with other practitioners during my stay here. Especially beginners, who have lots of questions. However, while I recognize that this tension is present, I also see that it is decreasing. I’m also not so sure that my desire is to be completely free of this tension, as I don’t want to lose sight of the needs of others.
At home, in my local and statewide sangha community, I am a director, leader, organizer, and mentor. My thoughts and actions are often directed towards welcoming new people and being available for the support and nourishment of others’ practice. And I fulfill these roles very happily and joyfully. But I intentionally do none of these things during my stays here. I come here to focus and concentrate on my own practice. I come here to water my own seeds of nourishment and ease. It would be easy to spend my whole retreat time here answering questions and getting sucked into relatively meaningless social chatter, which I do not wish to do.
My perception is that my behavior can be taken as rudeness, which is where the tension lies. While I would prefer people not misunderstand my lack of engagement as a personal affront, it is also a good practice for me to release my habit energy around trying to manage and manipulate other people’s experiences. In an attempt to care for people, I can lean towards what I call “over care-taking” (which is when I take on the job of trying to control that which is not in my power to control: other people’s thoughts, ideas, feelings, and perceptions). So, it’s a good practice for me to not claim responsibility for budding new practitioners.
When lay friends prepare to leave, like one of my roommates will tomorrow, they are asked to share words of departure in our song/announcement/work circle that we hold after breakfast. This morning, my roommate offered a special thank you to the longterm lay friends (those staying either for the whole 3-month retreat or longer) for being open to connecting with her, answering her questions, and helping to guide her. And I thought to myself: That for sure wasn’t me! For a few moments, I felt badly about that, allowing my tension to dominate my inner thought-scape. But then I let it go, feeling grateful that others were there to help her in the ways she was looking for.
And, again, the practice continues, ever shifting and manifesting in new ways.
The distinction between subject and object is a great stumbling block for scientists. Mind and object of mind cannot be separated, in the teachings of the Buddha. Subject and object are a double manifestation. We have to train ourselves to look at our minds as a river, our bodies as a river, always changing. Double grasping is the greatest obstacle – which is to be caught in the notion that subject and object are separate and independent from one another. Subject and object lean on each other in order to manifest.
When a wave sees and understands that she is made up of water, she will no longer suffer anymore. She will not be concerned of rising and falling, of birth and death.
When you ask the flame of a match: Are you the same flame (as that of another match) or are you different? The flame will reply: I am not the same and I am not different. This is the teaching of the Buddha. The middle way. We, too, are not the same person as who we were as a small child, and we are also not different.
Your mind is a painting, you can paint anything. The truth isn’t to be talked about, it’s to be experienced by yourself.
Tomorrow is Sunday, and another open community Day of Mindfulness, and another lovely chance to spend time with Mike. I saw him briefly both yesterday and today, which was a delightful surprise. I was up in the bookshop today for my working assignment helping the Sister in charge, along with another lay friend, to sort and organize merchandise. The Brothers and lay friends staying in Solidity Hamlet gathered to sing songs, before starting their outdoor walking meditation, just outside of the bookshop. I peaked out the window and when I saw Mike was there, I crept up behind him and gave him a big sneak-attack hug, before darting back from where I had come.
Things I especially enjoyed today: waking up early, drinking tea, walking up the fire road after breakfast and being enveloped in the rising sun shining in a bright, blue sky, doing stick exercises, sorting the t-shirts for sale in the bookshop (they were a mess!), taking a nap, writing new verses for a practice song (that I’m thinking will make a good song/skit for our kids to perform at our spring retreat for the adults during our closing circle), riding in the golf cart with the Sister to the bookshop, and sneaking up on Mike :)
Here’s the song (which is a call & response), with my added on verses:
And when I rise, let me rise, like a bird, joyfully
And when I fall, let me fall, like a leaf, gracefully
(My added verses)
And when I rise, let me rise, like a cloud, joyfully
And when I fall, let me fall, like the rain, gracefully
And when I rise, let me rise, like the sun, joyfully
And when I fall, let me fall, like the moon, gracefully
And when I rise, let me rise, like fresh bread, joyfully
And when I fall, let me fall, like melting butter, gracefully