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
Thursday January 19th, 2017
I hopped on my laptop, just so as not to miss a day of typing at least something. So here it is: I skipped my nap in order to spend more time together with Mike, which was great! And now I am feeling quite tired, as we walked down to the gate and then along a trail at the bottom. My mind and body are ready for resting. My feet are sore and weary. I gobbled up my dinner so as to come back to my hut as quickly as possible. I am off to bed, before the clock sings 6:00pm!
P.S The coyotes are calling outside – how splendid it is to hear them.
Friday January 20th, 2017
In honor of our presidential inauguration day, I wrote this song this morning, in a coveted time of having the large mediation hall all to myself (since it was a lazy morning):
Sweet people, of this great country,
living in luxury or squalor,
I bid to you, non-fear, on this day of our inauguration ,
if your heart calls out for someone else to lead us.
Sweet people, of this great country,
living in luxury or squalor,
I bid to you, openness, on this day of our inauguration ,
if your heart calls out in triumph for our newly elected head of command.
The tides are shifting, not just today but everyday,
worry not for a future that has yet to come to pass.
Our tomorrow is built upon what we do today,
and, right now, the dawn is ringing in a new morning,
thick with the sounds of birds and rain
(to hear me sing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHXGsie7L1Q)
Spurred by a short story by Jhumpa Lahiri I read a few nights ago, I had a dream early this morning about being part of a duo of young adult children, helping my sister to rescue our baby sister from juvenile, ineffectual parents. I remember grabbing a stack of diapers and a few stuffed animals and blankets for the baby before we cursed our parents to stay put and fled away in their car, my sister with little driving experience behind the wheel. I awoke to feelings of estrangement and, for a few brief moments, as though I were on the lamb. It’s interesting what creeps into our subconscious undetected.
Early A.M journal jottings:
I found myself dangling like bright rounds of sunshine
in the nearby citrus orchard –
I found myself dislodging and careening down a sage hill,
landing at the bottom with a thud and a shudder –
I found myself drifting through the sky, heavy with rain,
and sloughing off barked layers of old baggage –
I found myself clinging on wings spread high
on pockets of air currents –
I found myself rolling in salted waves I knew were in western tow
just over the mountains –
I found myself un-pealing in the footfalls, faces, and stories
that have come calling,
in unison with the barking of my coyote friends,
and the chippering of frogs
My mind is weary today – tired, un-sharpened, and sluggish – pulled taught by leg pains, amplifying my lack of concentration. So, the quest for today is: what shall I enable myself to do and what shall I practice to let go of? Sitting meditation: yes. Stick exercises: no. Work detail: yes. Outdoor walking meditation: no. Napping: YES! A long one, too!
With the rain, we wound up skipping our morning session of outdoor walking meditation. As there was also little indoor work to be done, my day is now unscheduled until 4:30 this afternoon, when we’ll join together for sitting mediation and chanting before dinner. Since I often skip lunch, except for on Sundays and Thursdays, when our hamlets come together and I eat a small meal simply to spend more time with Mike, that means my day is extra open.
At our morning circle, where announcements are made and work assignments given out, I was told by the Sister, who’s job it is to be guest master and welcome new lay friends here in Clarity Hamlet, that I would be getting 3 new roommates arriving today. As my current one is leaving, it will make a total of four of us by the late afternoon or evening time. It was good to find this out, as I am now mentally preparing, which I find helpful. I, of course, am not looking forward to having a full hut of occupants, who will all, most likely, be new practitioners full of questions. Thus far, my roommates have all received the message early on that I avoid social conversations and outer dialog, simply by my body language and lack of engagement. And they’ve all been wonderfully accommodating. But with three new arrivals I’m afraid the scales may soon tip out of my favor. We’ll see! The nature of impermanence strikes again! :)
There was an announcement made that at 7:30pm tonight, in the big hall, there will be an optional sitting meditation period, in conjunction with local interfaith groups who are meeting at the same time in Escondido, to come together and help hold space for those struggling in the wake of this our presidential inauguration day.
Breathing in, I am aware that many people are struggling today.
Breathing out, I am aware that many people are celebrating today.
Breathing in, I am aware that our future is created by the here & now.
Breathing out, I practice diligently for myself and for the world.
Ramblings written in my journal at 1:45pm:
Not wanting to be around for when the new arrivals descend on the hut (I make it sound like locusts!), I grabbed my umbrella and sloshed around trails of running water to the dining hall, where I sit currently beside a cup of hot tea. Besides, better to give the incoming roommates some space and time to settle in without me hanging around in silent repose.
There’s a satisfaction only felt when upon hand-washing your clothes, you watch as a sink-full of brown water spirals out of sight down the drain.
There’s a certain kind of satisfaction experienced solely when what was once cold and wet becomes warm and dry.
There’s a flavor of elation that only one’s husband can create.
There’s a contentment only possible when doing something we love, amid ample time to do it.
Yesterday, Mike and I went for a walk in a eucalyptus grove by the bottom gate, plagued by a bug who found their leaves to be a great boon, that was stretched out alongside an orchard with trees so full of oranges that many were left spilled and wasting on the ground. The rains, which were slated to fall continuously for the next few days, stopped by late morning, the clouds bursting with cooled sunshine. It’s pouring buckets today, though.
On the Zojirushi hot water dispenser, that delightfully tinkles a little tune I’ve yet to correctly identify when the water finishes heating up, the display reads 212 degrees, making it the mightiest 4 liters contained in a vessel in all the land! And as my cup of green tea slides warmly down the back of my throat, I think to myself: How fortunate I am.
In unusual form, I also wrote this in my journal earlier today – a very short fictional story:
She imagined many days coming, but not this one. She hadn’t thought to plan for this one. She sat in pre-grieving over the loss of her closest beloved. She contemplated her own eventual demise, when only the bleaching of bones would be her set task. She even prepared mentally for natural disasters, famine, war, and the biding of time that would assuredly accompany a catastrophic technological collapse. This day, however, proved a sticky-wicket. One, she thought, that was not holding up its end of the deal. One so befouled, it left a bitter odor hanging on her every oily utterance. It was a day with no where to go. And nothing to do.
I sit, now, erect on the floor beside my bunk, with two of three roommates in close tow. I have my earbuds in, listening to the instrumental music of Tabula Rasa, so as to keep conversation at bay. Seeing how quickly people can start spinning off in words, jumping from one thing to the next to the next, I have not even the desire to meet my roommates by way of introductions, answering to each one the battery of initial questions that always follows: Where are you from? How long have you been here? What time do we get up in the morning? Where’s the big hall? and on and on and on.
If it weren’t for the constant promise of talking, I wouldn’t mind at all lodging with roommates. I quite enjoy communing in silence with people. But, oh, the constant chattering – often about nothing. If it weren’t for the cold and rain I’d envy myself a tent.
It’s 6:33pm and our fourth Beattle has just arrived. Likening us to a musical sensation group somehow helps matters – ha! They are finding solace conversing with each other, which is good news. At 7:30pm they’ll have orientation. I’ve decided to skip the sitting being offered tonight in the big hall.
I’ve been honing in my newly crafted inauguration song all day, humming it in my mind and heart and singing it aloud whenever possible, when no one’s around. I’ve been finding it a great source of joy.