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 15th, 2017
Early A.M journal jottings:
She settled into her fullest inhalation three nights ago and now sits waning in the dark and lovely sky, amid a few dreamy clouds and specks of golden starlight – the same way she’s taken her bejeweled throne since time began.
It used to be that I’d look to collect praise, recognition, validation, gratitude, and “special” status, as one might accrue shoes or a bigger house or more money, in order to feel worthy. But I find myself, now, searching inward for ease, instead of outward for an acceptance that cannot be given.
It’s cold as….what? I want to say: It’s cold as hell, but that doesn’t make sense. Everybody knows hell is a hot and sweaty place. It’s cold as…all get out? What does that even mean?! It’s cold as…a lettuce crisper – well, it’s not poetic but it is accurate. Yes. It’s as cold as a lettuce crisper in here. And the waning moon beams outside in an empty sky and doesn’t seem to notice the frigidity. And it’s way colder where she’s kickin’ it, like, preserving-Walt-Disney-cold. So, maybe coldness, like everything else, is a state of mind, as opposed to a “factual” physical experience. But that’s how it seems, like everyone would and should be just as uncomfortably cold as the next guy, when confronted with lettuce crisper conditions. Only, “cold” and “uncomfortably cold” are not the same thing. One is an impermanent sensation and the other has a detrimental story attached about how our happiness is hinged on something being other than what it is. We are never more enraptured in a state of disharmony than when we seek outside of ourselves for that which can only be found within.
It might be that I’ll soon need to readjust my policy of not volunteering for extra work during my stay here. The hitch to my policy is that I’ll agree to do anything I am asked, and it appears that news of this caveat is getting out. I used to think that not volunteering to perform additional tasks was challenging, but in the face of possibly needing to say “no” to work requests, my current policy is a cakewalk.
Today, I was asked to help read the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings in the big hall, as part of our Day of Mindfulness. I was mentored by one of the Sisters and when the time came I would speak over the microphone. I read all of the even numbered trainings, #2, #4, and so on. I was very happy to be asked and to help serve the sangha in this way. Today, however, I was also asked to join the cooking team on Thursday, for lay friends day, and to help a Sister set up the big mediation hall tomorrow afternoon, during our Lazy Day. If this continues, I may have to practice declining requests for help and service, which is a far more difficult thing for me to do – which also makes it a good practice for me to engage in, of course. As my path of mindfulness continues, I am able to venture into more uncomfortable terrain. The more varied types of terrain I can navigate, and be at ease in, the stronger my practice becomes.
I got to spend the day with Mike, which was a great delight. I even skipped my daily nap, so we’d have more time together. After lunch, we went up to the Book Shop in Solidity Hamlet, where I purchased a few small items, mostly as gifts for my friends. We hung around the coy pond, watching the fish dart in and around the floating vegetation, occasionally peeking their heads out to chomp at the surface. Then we attended Brother Phap Vu’s class on Buddhism in the big hall at 3:15pm.
There seems to be a bit more programming this year, than in past winter retreats we’ve attended. In these past 9 days, I’ve attended now 4 different classes.
A few notes I took from Brother Phap Vu’s class:
Some types of impermanence are easier for us to accept – like the seasons or the cycle of day & night. But we generally like and want consistency and for things and people to be permanent.
Our minds create far more negative thoughts than positive ones – we need to understand this, so that we can take appropriate action. All actions arise from the mind.
The Buddha described concentration as: Not too tight, not too loose.
I very much enjoyed hearing this way of explaining the nature of concentration. Not too tight, not too loose. This is good way of explaining many things, I think: meditation, mindfulness…life.