Deer Park Journal, Day 1

2018 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 5th-26th, 2018

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.

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

Saturday, January 6th 2018

Day 1


3:35am Haiku:

A tender silence
gives rise to a new morning
this is nothing new

Written at 4:31am:

The hum buzzing of the mini fridge has broken the silence in the darkened loveliness of early morning, here in the tea room. I just finished reading the introduction of Jack Kornfield’s book: “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry,” and above where I am writing is situated a wooden sign that reads something in Vietnamese, so artfully scribed that I am unable to decipher all of the lettering. Until just a moment ago, when I put on my glasses, I thought it said: It’s now. And, as it seems as good a message as any, and highly plausible at this given junction, I’ll just go right on assuming that’s still what it says.


I come here on retreat to Deer Park to befriend myself in a concentrated fashion – and I realized today, that while solitude is a vital component for me, in order to befriend ALL the parts of myself, I need to be in the company of others. I need others to show me where I rub up against inner points of friction. Because it’s relatively easy for things to be all hunky dory when I’m by myself alone, in charge of my time and able to craft just the right external conditions of comfort and pleasure. But here on retreat at DP is the ripest opportunity I know to spend time with myself whilst amid others, in an intentional, guided, and focused way. So, this is a unique chance for me to strengthen my solidity, ease, and joy – to grow ever more comfortable in my own skin.

Our schedule today was as follows:

5:00am Wake Up
5:45-6:30am Sitting Meditation
7:30am Breakfast
9:00am Orientation for New Arrivals
11:00am Outdoor Walking Meditation
12:00pm Lunch
3:00pm Working Meditation
5:30pm Dinner
8:00pm Sitting Meditation & Chanting

Small Hall in Solidity Hamlet


I saw the waning moon aglow this morning. I head the call of a lone frog by the coy pond (or was it a toad? I don’t know the difference). I caught a little slippery one later, too, when I freed him from a mop bucket. After breakfast, I went in search of the rising sun cresting over the hill tops, and found it atop the paved fire road. I heard the back and forth caws of 2 ravens in the oak grove, then delighted in seeing them both having found each other, perched in the same tree. I inhaled the scent of an undetermined citrus fruit dangle on a branch and fell into its sweet aroma, the same way I fell into my bed and slumber at noon, with full-bodied elation and release. I cleaned some toilets and mopped our room. I drank some tea and walked my favorite set of earthen steps that climb to the bell tower. And I chatted for a spell with the fish friends, imitating their open-mouthed action when they’d surface the water, hoping they saw it not as mockery but as emulation.

There’s a different pace here – a different meaning of the word “productive” and the teaching “go as a river.” The pulp of my inner stirrings is already settling towards the bottom of the glass. A changing of the guard is happening. A changing so fluid and instant that I’m left to wonder what the heck just happened. It’s as though in a flash – in the unimaginably swift blink of an eye – I’ve been replaced by, well, myself. Myself on a different frequency. One that transmits far and dances a wide berth, making room for all the many parts that comprise me.


Last night’s meditation session consisted of 30 minutes of one of those head-slumping-forward-jolting-you-awake scenarios – which, by the way, no one likes. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s followed by chanting, which I enjoy, I would skip it tonight, as I anticipate another similar situation during the sitting tonight. But, alas, I will give it another go and see how I fair.


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