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
Monday January 16th, 2017
Before dinner, around 4:15pm, as I slowly circled the parking lot listening to music, and the sun was setting over the westward mountains, I inhaled a luscious blend of scents coming from the oak grove. A mixture of cooling wood, evaporating earth, and aged wisdom. I watched as the darkness quickly penetrated into the trees and undergrowth, spreading out like the concern that follows tragedy – heavy and unsettling. Shaking up the energy in creation of a new din to replace the old.
Mike and I took a long hike today. We were gone for 5 hours, with taking periods to rest and enjoy the scenery along the way. The morning clouds, suggesting rain, dissipated, revealing a bright, blue day. We went to the ocean overview spot (as I call it), up the mountain fire road by the gate house. It’s often too hazy to see the ocean, though, as was the case today. Still, the view of the Escondido valley is spectacular and the huge boulder fields are powerfully enthralling. I especially gravitate towards rocks, trees, and birds, and, in particular: raptors and corvids.
I helped the Sister, who’s job it is to maintain the big meditation hall, to sweep and set up pads and cushions at 3:00pm, after I took a short nap upon returning from our hike. On our way up to the hall we came across a fire truck and an ambulance at the men’s camping area. A lay friend had been hiking up a nearby steep trail and fell, badly injuring his knee. The rescue workers, and a few other lay men and Brothers, had gone trekking with a stretcher to get him out. From the accounts we were given, the man was relatively alright.
I am feeling quite tired and sore from so much hiking today. On the white board in the dining hall, where our schedule gets posted each day, there was a note off to the side inviting the short-term lay friends to join together in the small hall at 7:30 tonight. While we are asked to attend all scheduled events (unless we’re not feeling well), which I am very happy to do, I feel fairly comfortable in skipping whatever is going on tonight, in order to rest and go to bed at my preferred time of around 8:00pm. We don’t typically have any programs offered after dinner, which serves me super well, given my early-to-bed-early-to-rise philosophy. Dinner is at 5:30 and by 6:00 I am in my hut typing up the path and process of my day’s unfolding. Then I head to bed, to read for a bit before falling asleep.
The schedule here during the winter retreat suits me well. I find a great sense of freedom in it.
P.S Before dinner, I came back to my hut, to switch out my sunglasses for my clear ones, and found that we had gained a new roommate. A woman who I was told might switch to our hut, in order to acquire some much needed respite from a loudly snoring roommate. There’s often a shifting of energy going on here at the monastery – and it’s almost always a little unwelcome at first.