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
Monday, January 8th 2018
Lazy Day. Meaning we had no schedule except for meals. Well, meals and something at 7:30pm tonight in the tea room for the laypeople called “Joyful Gathering,” as it’s listed on the white board.
Early this morning, when I entered the tea room, I found it to be in a state of mild disarray. So I took to doing a bit of cleaning and tidying up. All of the tea cups were dirty and there were no clean ones left to be used. And even though I have my own cup, I thought it a good idea to fetch some fresh ones. So I hefted a tray of 30-40 dirty cups to the dining hall and loaded up a new batch. I did some sweeping and filled the hot water dispenser and rounded up all the empty water bottles and took them where they needed to go to be refilled. It was satisfying work and I was glad to do it.
I especially enjoyed noticing the progress I’ve made in regards to such matters. It used to be that I resigned myself to feeling like a victim when cleaning up after others, namely my husband. I felt as though I had to do it. And because of that, I loathed the responsibility of it. It was a weight, a burden, and an unpleasant task. Thankfully, I’ve since learned that everything is a choice. There is virtually no action that I take that is heaped upon me against my will. I am the captain of my own ship and I decide where to steer it. How freeing! Now, I practice to clean up after others for truthfully what it is: an active choice I make – and if I don’t want to do it, I don’t do it. And if I do decide to do it, I practice to enjoy what I’m doing in the midst of it. Because that’s the essence of the practice: to connect with and enjoy whatever it is we’re doing. To fully engage and participate in our own lives – whether we’re cleaning the bathroom or chopping vegetables or carting wood or grocery shopping or driving to work… The practice is not found in the meditation hall – the practice is anywhere and everywhere we find ourselves in roam.
After breakfast, Mike and I and my stepdad Steve hiked up the mountain to the boulder field overlook of the Escondido valley. On a clear day, from there, you can see the ocean. But not today. One way, the hike up is about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your speed and the frequency of stopping to enjoy the view or catch your breath. We were gone around 3 hours total. I hiked down solo, re-enjoying my own silent company, and fell swiftly asleep upon returning back to our room, for what was yet another spectacular nap fest :) Napping here is truly one of my most beloved activities. While I nap back home most days, it’s different here. Perhaps because I have so little to tend to. Nothing to do and nowhere to go!
It’s easy to assume one goes on retreat to go on retreat – to get away from the regular to-do’s and escape from daily, mundane activities. And while I think at one point that may have been true for me, it’s not the case anymore. I don’t come here on retreat to get away from anything. I come here to grow closer to everything: my footfalls, the land, animal friends, my breath, the pepper trees, the sweet depths the sound of the bell inspires, my every feeling and thought and pulsing heartbeat that dances in tandem with my movements, people near and far.
I sat in meditation in the Big Hall this morning, among two others who also chose to sit even though it was Lazy Day. I did stick exercises before breakfast and listened as two ravens called for each from across a distance. (Minutes later, they flew by together into the hills and I thought to myself: Oh good! They found each other.) I did some letter writing and hand-washed a few articles of clothing. And I sat in meditation in the Small Hall before dinner, with one other lay friend. It was a good day.