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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Haiku

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I’ve recently taken to writing haiku. While I value all forms of creative and expressive writing, haiku had never been particularly appealing to me, from a writing standpoint, which was mostly due to my love of words and haiku being too short and succinct to embody all of what I wanted to say. But I’ve been learning more about the art of haiku, and developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of it. As I’m getting the hang of haiku writing, it’s becoming quite fun!

In reading online about haiku, a few things really resonated for me: R.H. Blyth, who was a well-known interpreter of Japanese haiku into English, explained haiku as “an open door which looks shut.” One definition of haiku said: a short poem recording the essence of a moment, keenly perceived, in which nature is linked to human nature. And another source whittled down haiku to three words: concision, perception, and awareness.

The art of haiku is not simply a matter of following a set pattern of syllables (5, 7, 5 as we’ve commonly translated it into English, though this can sometimes vary). Traditionally, haiku involves a juxtaposing of something nature/season related with something present tense/human world related. This is where I feel the art of haiku writing comes in. It’s not about penning any ol’ thing that comes to mind in the allotted structure of 5/7/5, it’s about relaying an insight or experience relating to the present moment – taken in this light, haiku is right up my alley :) Haiku is very relate-able and easily interwoven with a Zen-based practice.

I’m finding it a welcomed challenge to coalesce what I have to say in the simple structure of haiku. I figure that, as a lover of the Dharma and an aspiring Dharma teacher, if I cannot manage to offer what I have to say in a clear, precise manner, then I have more work to do in sculpting my experience and insights so that they may have the best chance of penetrating into the hearts and practice of others. Of course, haiku is a rather extreme and limiting way to offer full fledged dharmic teachings, but it’s affording me good practice in getting at the core of things.

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Posted by on February 11, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

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Deer Park, Day 18

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

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Day 18:
Tuesday January 24th, 2017

Early A.M journal jottings:

It feels a strange pairing, to hold both a strong preference for it to stop raining and be inwardly content, even brimming with joy and gratitude. But that’s what’s happening – and I see it as progress, to not allow my preferences to run the show.

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Developing a mindfulness practice allows us to align our intentions of living a happy life, while being an agent of love and service in the world, with the tools and support to embody and carry them out in our thinking, speaking, and acting.

To think this is a passive approach to the woes and struggles we face, both individually and collectively, is a grave misunderstanding. Training in the art of mindfulness is one of the most potent and beneficial actions we can take in order to transform our lives and create peace in the world. May we practice diligently, with fortitude and courage. May we practice with joy and wholeheartedness. When we practice for ourselves, we practice for the world.

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Welcome is the heat from my teacup on my shivering hands. On the tag, affixed to the fishing line thrown overboard by my tea bag, it reads: Earth laughs in flowers – Ralph Waldo Emerson. It made me wonder if perhaps I, too, caused a flower or two to bloom when, just a few moments ago, upon walking under the leafy oak canopy, a lone plump drop of water fell SPLAT! in my eye and I erupted in laughter :)

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Posted by on February 11, 2017 in Deer Park Monastery

 

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Deer Park, Day 17

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

 

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Day 17:
Monday January 23rd, 2017

4:00pm

Lazy Day. No schedule other than meals, and an evening program after dinner, which tonight is Beginning Anew practice.

While waiting for Mike in the big hall this morning after breakfast I devoted some time to thumbing through what’s called: The New Sangha Handbook, put together, in part, by the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. It’s a packet of information pertaining to sangha building, sort of a how-to guidebook for starting and facilitating a sangha. I hadn’t recalled seeing it before, and I appreciated knowing that such a resource had been put together.

In the handbook was a reading I’d never heard of before, called “The Seven Trainings in Diversity,” which were adapted from Larry Yang’s chapter in Friends on the Path, compiled by Jack Lawlor, published in 2002. The Seven Trainings tied directly into what Brother Phap Hai was sharing with us about in his Dharma talk yesterday, so I found it interesting timing to stumble upon this reading today. It’s a reading that I think my home sangha (Be Here Now) might greatly appreciate incorporating into our rotation of readings, and is especially fitting during this time of our political changing-of-the-guard.

The Seven Trainings in Diversity

1. Aware of the suffering caused by imposing one’s own opinions or cultural beliefs upon another human being, I undertake the training to refrain from forcing others, in any way – through authority, threat, financial incentive, or indoctrination – to adopt my own belief system. I commit to respecting every human being’s right to be different, while working towards the elimination of sufferings of all beings.

2. Aware of the suffering caused by invalidating or denying another person’s experience, I undertake the trainings to refrain from making assumptions or judging harshly any beliefs and attitudes that are different or not understandable from my own. I commit to being open minded and accepting of other points of view, and I commit to meeting each perceived difference in another person with kindness, respect, and a willingness to learn more about their worldview.

3. Aware of the suffering caused by the violence of treating someone as inferior or superior to one’s own self, I undertake the training to refrain from diminishing or idealizing the work, integrity, and happiness of any human being. Recognizing that my true nature is not separate from others, I commit to teaching each person that comes into my consciousness with the same loving kindness, care, and equanimity that I would bestow upon a beloved benefactor or dear friend.

4. Aware of the suffering caused by intentional or unintentional acts of rejection, exclusion, avoidance, or indifference towards people who are culturally, physically, sexually, or economically different from me, I undertake the training to refrain from isolating myself to people of similar backgrounds as myself and from being only with people who make me feel comfortable. I commit to searching out ways to diversify my relationships and increase my sensitivity towards people of different cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, physical abilities, genders, and economic means.

5. Aware of the suffering caused by the often unseen nature of privilege, and the ability of privilege to benefit a select population over others, I undertake the training to refrain from exploiting any person or group, in any way including economically, sexually, intellectually, or culturally. I commit to examine with wisdom and clear comprehension the ways that I have privilege in order to determine skillful ways of using privilege for the benefit of all beings, and I commit to the practice of generosity in all aspects of my life and towards all human beings, regardless of cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual age, physical, or economic differences.

6. Aware of the suffering caused to myself and others by fear and anger during conflict or disagreement, I undertake the training to refrain from reacting defensively, using harmful speech because I feel injured, or using language or cognitive argument to justify my sense of rightness. I commit to communicate and express myself mindfully, speaking truthfully from my heart with patience and compassion. I commit to practice genuine and deep listening to all sides of a dispute, and to remain in contact with my highest intentions of recognizing the Buddha nature within all beings.

7. Aware of the suffering caused by the ignorance of misinformation and the lack of information that aggravate fixed views, stereotypes, the stigmatizing of a human being as ‘other’, and the marginalization of cultural groups, I undertake the training to educate myself about other cultural attitudes, worldviews, ethnic traditions, and life experiences outside of my own. I commit to be curious with humility and openness, to recognize with compassion the experience of suffering in all beings, and to practice sympathetic joy when encountering the many different cultural expressions of happiness and celebration around the world.

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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in Deer Park Monastery

 

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Deer Park, Day 16

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

 

dscn5928Main Alter in the Big Hall

Day 16:
Sunday January 22nd, 2017

5:49pm

I woke up this morning to find our hut with one less roommate, the rains having cleared enough for her to pitch the tent she’d brought (though I’m wondering now how she’s fairing, given that the hard rains have returned). And, overnight, our numbers doubled in occupants who snore, though my earplugs are doing a decent job at allowing me to sleep right on through it, for the most part.

It’s rather fun to watch the mind do its somersaults, when it’s your full time job to do so. It’s less fun when you have other matters to tend to, like, well, all the things that go along with living. Not “fun” in the sense that you would necessarily look forward to it, like spending a day at the beach. “Fun” as in: Hey, look how fun those colors are. Like that.

Our minds are never more fascinating to observe than when we intermingle with others, especially those who either greatly differ from us or are painfully similar. People allow us the uncomfortable opportunity to see ourselves more clearly. If we guard our bubble of comfort too strongly, spending time only with those we like and love, we will limit our ability to engage with both our inner and outer environments. We need the pains-in-the-asses, the ones who discriminate, the ones who have strong views about stuff we don’t agree with, the ones who don’t say “please” or “thank you,” the ones who drive hella slow, the ones who talk hella loud on their cell phones in public places, the ones who’s energy pokes at us like cactus barbs. Without challenge, how will we know what we’re capable of? How will we know what work there is to be done to cultivate our inner wellness?

May we look upon those who ruffle our feathers as guides to self-discovery, rather than obstacles on our path to happiness. There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.

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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in Deer Park Monastery

 

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Deer Park, Day 15

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

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Day 15:
Saturday January 21st, 2017

Early A.M journal jottings:

I think I must be a writer similar in fashion to an amateur butterfly enthusiast, who enjoys the capturing of new colors and patterns to add pinned to their glass displays. And while they’re always in search of those elusive beauties, to be the crown of their collection, they delight all the same in honing their slightly morbid craft with everyday varieties. They, too, find it far less favorable when they have no one to showcase their hard-won treasures to, though they suspect not many are fully able to comprehend the painstaking level of patience and skill involved.

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My mood sits a-kilter, as I settle into this padded metal folding chair at the delicate hour of 4:00am. I am holding agitation and the grumblings of resentment, centered around having so many fresh roommates. And it’s not them, as individuals, that I’m sour about – I don’t even know them. It’s the rattling of energy, the chattering, the fumbling around and newness of their countenance. My preferences strike again!

The first one I attempted to avoid meeting, introduced herself to me as my back was turned towards her – a sneak attack! She then proceeded to fire off the standard litany of questions one asks in a place like this. I offered answers that were as short as possible, asking none in volley. She considered it “brave” that I was spending 3 weeks here. As I quickly assessed that she was the type to hold people as verbal hostages, caring not whether they spoke back, I swiftly exited stage right, when she paused to take a look around.

The second was situated on her bed, an arms reach away from my own, and pounced on me as soon as I unplugged my ear buds and tried sliding into my curtained-off bunk under the radar. After introducing herself, she told me that if I found anything of hers lying around in a place I didn’t care for, I could just toss it on her bed. I smiled and nodded, as I pulled down my curtain, soon wondering how she thought I’d know if something was hers or not. It later struck me how often people seem to like creating the illusion of appearing kind and helpful, and stop short of actually being either.

The third is a younger woman, who took up the whole of the hut doing yoga this morning, even though the other roommates were present and unable to move about the hut, given how little space there is.

These roommates put me in close touch with my controlling nature – which is sometimes beneficial and sometimes a detriment, as all aptitudes, talents, and skill-sets are. The practice song: Feelings come and feelings go, my mind is a clear blue sky,” will be my practice today!

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Deer Park, Day 13 & 14

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

 

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Day 13:
Thursday January 19th, 2017

5:53pm

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!

Good night!

P.S The coyotes are calling outside – how splendid it is to hear them.

Day 14:
Friday January 20th, 2017

8:16am

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):

Inauguration Day

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)

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Deer Park, Day 12

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

 

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Day 12:
Wednesday January 18th, 2017

5:59pm

During our morning circle-up at 9:00am, Sister Abbess announced that starting tonight at 11:00pm the rains will come, which are slated to continue through until Monday. She gently instructed us to enjoy the sun today, and to dress warmly over these next few rainy days. All day long, I found the weather forecast to be both helpful and harmful. Helpful in the sense that it has afforded me the chance to mentally prepare myself and harmful in the sense that I allowed it to slightly decrease my enjoyment of today. I am already feeling prematurely grateful, once again, for the fact that our hut has a plug-in heater, affording me the only real opportunity to dry out and get warm here at the monastery.

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This afternoon, from 3:00-4:00pm, the lay women joined together in the dining hall to watch a DVD of Thay doing a Q & A session, during a 2013 retreat in Canada. Here are some notes I jotted down:

Q: What is the difference between joy and happiness? A: In joy there is still some excitement and in happiness it has settled down. When a traveller going through the desert discovers an oasis with water, they experience joy – once their thirst is quenched, they experience happiness.

Mindfulness is an energy that helps you to be there and to see clearly, to live deeply every moment of your daily life. Without mindfulness, you waste the 24 precious hours you’re given each day, you waste your life, because you are not in touch with the refreshing and healing elements within and around you.

Q: How can I help my friends to suffer less without forcing my views of the practice onto them? A: You can tell them your story, your experience of transforming suffering. You can even write them a letter, not to convert them, only to share your experience.

Q: Can you tell me more about engaged Buddhism? A: Many people think that engaged Buddhism is to be socially active, helping to fight injustice or inequality, but it is about incorporating the practice anywhere at any time of day. Buddhism should be applied to every part of your daily life. We should build our own practice before trying to reduce the suffering of others. If we know how to be happy, we are already helping many people. And if we are filled with anger and suffering, we will cause many people harm. Before doing peace, you have to be peace – and if you are peace, everything you do will be peacework.

Q: Is there hope for our future and society? I feel very afraid. A: The future is made of one substance: the present. When we do our best, peace is possible. We also must accept and embrace the truth of impermanence. Just as past human civilizations have crumbled, ours, too, may be destroyed. Mother Earth may need to regenerate herself over many years. Mother Earth has enough patience. We can learn from her.

There is joy when we discover the right path.

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