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 26th, 2017
A new dark moon has come
Darkening the sky with stars
With the tides, I smile
Evening settles in
Clear skies promise stars to shine
I exhale with ease
Today, I did the unthinkable: I warmed up enough to take my thick hoodie and alpaca socks off! The sun shone with warmth and golden brilliance. It was splendid in a way that words cannot convey. And we had a lazy afternoon in which to thoroughly enjoy it, without any scheduled programs to call us indoors. Since it was also Lay Friends Day, I was able to spend it with Mike, too!
I am dearly looking forward to returning home tomorrow. Home to our son, our cats, our little house, our mountains, our winter, our sangha, our sweet Missoula. I’m also looking forward to going to the airport and engaging in the grand adventure of flight travel! So great!
I’m also looking forward to having access to my own personal space. The only-child within me, calls out for solitude – for a string of moments to myself, without the clutter of others. Everywhere I go here it seems there is someone in close tow. My hut is always occupied, and even on the scads of trails spiraling around the monastery, there is always the possibility of someone just around the next bend.
Silence is not easy to come by. It stows itself away, easily succumbing to swells of fitful clamor. I look for its shade, ravenously defending it when finally, by such rare graces, it appears. Sometimes I feel as though I am alone in my quest for silence – that there are few people who’s heart, like mine, connects more openly in its cradling embrace.
Earlier today we had a dharma sharing circle with the lay friends up in Solidity Hamlet, where we were prompted to speak about why we came to Deer Park. At first it seemed to me to be a rather un-important question – shouldn’t it be obvious why we’ve all come here? But as I considered it more deeply, I realized it was, in fact, a vital question to ask ourselves. It also reminded me of something Brother Phap Hai said in his last Dharma talk about how we need to routinely ask ourselves why we practice mindfulness. I shared about how I come here to: deepen my concentration on the practice of coming home to myself, to strengthen my sovereignty, to delve further into the true nature of life, and to move a metal folding chair and be completely aware of moving a metal folding chair. I spoke about how I equally look forward to both coming here and returning home. And I spoke about how I don’t come here to “retreat” from my daily life, to leave it behind as some sort of “other” reality, but to more fully engage with it. These are some of the reasons why I came here this year.
I’m a mindfulness practitioner because this practice enables me to water the seeds of joy and happiness in myself and in the world – and the more water, the better! And retreats offer a nice, heavy saturating dose of rain (in more ways than one!).
Day 21, Departure Day:
Friday January 27th, 2017
Written in my journal at 4:45am
I “slept in” until 4:30am, though it was in fits and starts onward from 3:15. As today will be a long day of traveling, I thought I’d try to get in a few more winks of rest. I put back on my regular clothes this morning and found more room in the waistline of my pants. Last year, when I stayed for a month, I went home 10 pounds lighter, which I’ve since kept off. It’ll be interesting to see how much I’ve lost this time around, when we get home and I can step on a scale. The weight loss is unintentional, but feels good all the same. (UPDATE: I lost 7 pounds)
Today is lunar new year’s eve day. It’s also a Lazy Morning, meaning no sitting meditation before breakfast, which is a bit disappointing since this is my last day. But, as always, I will go and sit in the big hall anyway, solo and happy on my cushion :)
Written in my journal at 6:30am
A hawk’s cries give rise to a new day, as clear open skies prepare for dawn. And, as the song lyrics go: “I’m leavin’ on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.” I’m already looking forward to the whole experience of air travel: awkwardly going through security, passing innumerable travel goers with rolling luggage and sour faces, victoriously finding our gate, filtering down the skinny aisles of each aircraft on the way to find our tiny little adventure seats, situated as close to strangers as once I was with my best friends in 7th grade. I know most people find it all terribly displeasing and uncomfortable, but I find it uniquely exhilarating.
I think one of the great fruits of this practice is to develop the capacity to experience fascination and enjoyment around the aspects of daily life most commonly seen as mundane, routine, boring, and even unpleasant.
Oh, and I’m also looking super forward to being consistently warm! That one is way up on my list.
The only thing scheduled this morning, as it turns out, was breakfast. The Sisters are all preparing the nunnery and readying the big hall for the festivities that will start today at 3:00pm. The rest of us, however, delightfully have nothing to do and nowhere to go. The next thing on the schedule is lunch, at 12:30.
I’m all packed up and ready to go. Our friends Stan and Treva, here for the past week from our sister sangha in Helena, Montana, are giving us a ride to the transit station after lunch. Mike and I have always taken a shuttle van to and from the airport in the past, but this year we’re trying our hand at the public transportation available, which will be far less expensive. I am a little nervous, though, as we have to get on two different transit systems, in order to make it all the way to the airport in San Diego. I’ve also not gotten a strong sense as to where exactly the one will drop us off – all I’ve heard is that it gets us “pretty close” to the airport, which is a bit unsettling, since “pretty close” is a relative concept. All I know is that we have to get on the Sprinter in Escondido and then the Coaster in Oceanside. Both of which are some kind of train/rail car. And, from looking them up online before we left home, they both appear to run extremely regularly.
Since I now have over 4 hours to spare, I think I’ll grab my ipod and climb the fire road and walk around for a while. Huzzah to the sun that’s shining!