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
NOTE: I will plan on posting 2-days worth of daily journal entries per day, until all 3-weeks are uploaded here
Sunday, January 7th 2018
Written early this morning, in the tea room:
My attention is held differently here – smaller matters fetch its whim and fancy.
A bug settles near.
It is the whole universe.
It is everything!
In the pond, a splash!
Do coy jump? I don’t think so.
But, what was it then?!
I can never have enough reminders for what it means to be truly and magnificently alive. I can never witness too much beauty or be filled with too much gratitude. I can never see the radiance of the moon too many times or smell too many fragrant flowers. I can never meet my quota for sharing company with sweet, kind people. I can never hear too many crow or raven calls or coyotes howling in the hills. I can never watch the sunrise too many times. I can never water too many wholesome seeds. I can’t imagine ever falling out of love with the written word. And I can never absorb too many splendors that life has to offer.
Today was an open community Day of Mindfulness (DOM), where anyone is welcome to come to the monastery to practice. The DOM starts at 9:00am with a circling up outside to sing songs, followed by a session of guided outdoor walking meditation. Many people came today. Maybe 150-200. To walk in silence with so many people is quite splendid. We then all settled in the oak grove outside of Clarity Hamlet (where the Sisters reside) for a spell, to listen to the sound of the birds and light wind in the trees. I especially appreciated the Brother who introduced and explained the walking meditation before we started. He invited us not to walk like the Buddha or to pretend to be someone else. He said that we should not perform but that we should simply walk as ourselves. It never ceases to amaze me the power that reassurance can have. Even if you think something’s a given. It’s never ill advised to offer reminders geared towards instilling kindness and generating more love, whether it be towards ourselves or others.
After the walk, we were divided into two groups: one to attend a Dharma talk in the Big Hall and one to attend an orientation, designed for first time visitors to Deer Park. The Dharma talk today was given by the Venerable, as he’s known and called, who’s resided here for the last 15 years. As is common with the Venerable, his talk – which is translated from Vietnamese into English through the use of headphones – meandered and was sometimes hard to follow, like losing the trail of breadcrumbs in the woods. Here are some notes I penned down, when I was able to find the trail:
If we cannot self-master ourselves, we need to ask our sangha to help us. To remind us to practice whatever it is we are wanting to work on.
How we interact with others is an indication of the quality of our practice.
Even if the king’s chariot is bejeweled and adorned with gold, in the end it will be broken. There is only the wholesome Dharma that doesn’t age. We are aging every day. We are dying every day. But we are not able to see it; just like the Dharma is always flowing but we don’t see it. We don’t accept change. We don’t know that everything and everyone are changing. All phenomena are flowing – if you know this, it will cut your afflictions by 50%.
Understanding that we will die, enables us to get in touch with the preciousness of today, loving those close to us, being kind, being happy – it has to be this way.
The Venerable spoke for around 90 minutes. 15 minutes or so prior to the end, I shed my headphones and simply listened to him continue his talk in Vietnamese without translation. I was full. It was getting long and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed continuing to follow the trail through the thicket. So I switched my practice from absorbing the Dharma rain, to soaking in the pool that had collected at my feet. I practiced observing my mind’s small tantrums that kicked up, too, like: I wonder how long he’ll keep talking? and People are getting antsy – I’m getting antsy.
I happened to be at the end of my current journal booklet right at the end of his talk. This is the last thing I wrote, which served to close it out, before I added a new booklet of blank pages I’d brought along into my handcrafted leather cover:
Inevitably, someone’s jazzy ring tone will interlace with the sound of the bell. (It’s true :)
After the talk was a recitation of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings – in Vietnamese – in the Big Hall and a recitation of the 5 Mindfulness Trainings in the Small Hall, followed by lunch. It took over an hour for everyone to get through the serving line, despite there being 4 lines set up to fetch our food. I usually skip lunch, but today I was both hungry and decided to make a point to practice not fleeing the large group, as is often my tendency. So I stayed and ate, though on the quick side, as I was long overdue for a nap. Note: Waking just after 3am equates to my being quite ready for slumber around noon.
The DOM ended after lunch, though the bookshop was open until 4:00 and visitors were welcome to stroll around the grounds and linger if they so chose. I popped in the bookshop before my nap – only open on Sundays during the DOM’s – and purchased a small gift for our trio of house/cat sitter friends tending to our homestead while we’re away, along with 3 packages of fig bars. When I awoke, I found an additional package of fig bars by my small pile of clothing. A thoughtful gift from Mike, not knowing I had already purchased some :)
It was lazy afternoon, meaning nothing was scheduled other than dinner at 5:30. And there was nothing scheduled for after dinner either. Dinner itself was picnic style, meaning there were no bells sounded to indicate when eating could collectively commence and talking was also freely permitted. Mike came and sat with me and then Brother Minh Hoa joined us too, which was lovely. The three of us had a nice time together, eating and chatting.
And now, as I’ve temporarily stolen Jack Kornfield’s book that I started reading from the tea room, I’m off to bed to read a few pages before I drift off to dreamland, or un-recalled dreamland, as is more often the case for me.