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
Tuesday, January 9th 2018
Early morning haiku:
Rain, an honored guest
graces the land with support
to grow and flourish
Last night, our “Joyful Gathering” meeting wound up being a dharma sharing group with an emphasis on sharing our joys. We had so many lay folks that we wound up breaking up into two different groups. Mike led our group in the tea room. There were about 15 of us. (There are around 25-30 of us lay folk here in Solidity and I am one of only 3 or 4 women, as Solidity is designated for the Brothers, lay men, and couples and families.)
One man, here from Mexico with his wife, shared that when he pays attention, he sees clearly that he is in love with his wife but that oftentimes he doesn’t pay attention and gets swept up in petty annoyances. When he pays attention, he said, the song lyric: every little thing she does is magic comes to mind. I found his sharing so very touching. It spoke to me deeply.
Someone else shared about their joy for the rain – which began falling late afternoon yesterday and has persisted without reprieve through the night and most of today. They called it a welcomed and honored guest (hence the inspiration for my morning haiku). How delightful that someone should share this sentiment! So often we don’t hold the rain – or any inclement weather – in any sort of high regard. So his joy of the rain was music to my ears, much like the sound of the pitter patter of the water has been for much of the day.
Our schedule today was as follows:
5:00am Wake Up
5:45-6:30am Sitting Meditation
9:00am Class (for lay friends)
11:00am Outdoor Walking Meditation
3:00pm Working Meditation
8:00pm Sitting Meditation & Chanting
Today’s class was led by one of the Brothers, who is relatively new to Deer Park, meaning he hasn’t lived here in the last few years that Mike and I have been coming here. I enjoyed the class. The Brother started out by showing a short animated video of how a glass filled with sand is like our mind filled with thoughts and how over time we can learn to settle the sand in order to see things more clearly. Then he went over briefly the Full Awareness of Breathing, which comes from a sutra by the Buddha, followed by an unpacking of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
He explained that the course of karma consists of: wholesome and unwholesome. The unwholesome consists of: destroying life, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, lying, and ill-will/covetousness – aka: the five mindfulness trainings. And greed, hatred, and delusion are the roots of all unwholesome karma.
In closing, he shared the following (on a slide):
“When a disciple understands the unwholesome and its roots and the wholesome and its roots, he or she entirely
– transforms the tendency to greed,
– removes the tendency toward hatred, and
– discontinues the tendency toward the ‘I am’ view.
He or she transforms delusion, gives rise to understanding, and right now in this very life puts an end to suffering.”
He also showed a clip from the movie Kung Fu Panda, which he said always makes him feel good :) and then he shared that the Buddha taught only two things: knowing suffering and ending suffering.
For working meditation, we had a few options we could volunteer for. I opted for helping, on a team of 3, to fashion a tarp to the shipping container serving as the storage area for the bookshop, which is forever springing leaks when it rains. It felt good to climb up a ladder and monkey around on a roof in the rain for a little bit. I’m not sure our quick fix will be victorious but if not, I know of a good roofer who happens to my roommate.
Earlier, we managed to forge a small hardy crew for outdoor walking meditation in the rain. While the clothing I wear here – a pair of brown pants and brown tunic shirt I purchased in Plum Village, designed for OI members and longer term monastery residents – is not at all breathable, it does dry quickly, which comes in handy when you get soaking wet.
As this is the first time I’ve stayed here in Solidity, I’ve been learning where the pools of water collect when it rains. Where to walk and where to deviate, so as not to get my Crocs flooded out. In Clarity, I know the landscape. But here, it’s all new terrain!
I played a bit of guitar in the tea room after breakfast, instead of hiking up the fire road, which is what I typically do after breakfast. But with the down pouring of rain, an indoor activity seemed a better match. For a spell, I had the tea room to myself. One guy came in, then another, and another. I asked if they minded my playing, and when they nodded their heads no, I continued strumming and sing/humming lightly. It was an interaction of sweetness with those fellas. As the rain fell outside and I fell into the guitar, they seemed content to sit and listen, while one sat reading and one sat writing in their journal.
And so it continues: I dearly love sharing intentional space with others. Silent space. Sacred space. Stillness. It’s an intimacy I fall madly in love with every single time.