Deer Park Journal: Day 5

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

Wednesday, January 10th 2018

Day 5


Early morning haiku:

Tea is a delight
in the morning before dawn
I smile and breathe


I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed having so few decisions to make during the course of my stay here, until I saw on the white board at dinner that we had a choice of whether to attend the Venerable’s Class tonight at 7:30pm or sitting/walking/chanting at 8:00pm. Had it simply listed the Venerable’s Class at 7:30pm, I would’ve gone without hesitation. But a choice? Hmmm. What to do?! After checking in with myself, the answer became clear. Sitting meditation it is!

This morning after breakfast, the lay folk gathered in the Small Hall to watch a video Dharma talk from Thay. It was a talk he gave at Plum Village in June of 2004, on the four layers of consciousness. As taking notes helps me to stay focused, here are some notes I jotted down:

We can learn how to walk like a Buddha, mindfully. To enjoy every step – no fighting, no effort.

When we know how our mind operates, our consciousness operates, it’s easier for us to enjoy our practice. The four layers of consciousness are: Sense consciousness (5 senses), Mind consciousness, (Manas) Cogitation, and Store consciousness.

Body and mind are two aspects of the same thing – this is very important to understand. We need to remove the dualistic thinking that mind and body are separate. Mental activity – thinking, worrying, planning – uses a lot of energy. If you want to conserve energy, don’t think too much, don’t worry too much, don’t plan too much.

Impermanence is one of the marks of reality.

We have to take care of our store consciousness, because that’s where the decisions are being made. Store consciousness is like the hard drive on your computer and mind consciousness is like the computer screen.


I’ve been writing letters to two of my friends over the last few days. I finished both of them today, and also started a letter to a third friend. I love the art of letter writing. It’s a lost art, these days, but I’m doing my part to keep it alive :)

Early this morning, on my walk to the Big Hall for sitting meditation, I heard an owl call from very close by. Luckily, someone emerged from the kitchen (it was dark and I’m not sure if it was a Brother or a lay person). We both stood still, waiting to hear the owl again. He soon spotted it up on a power line and pointed it out to me. What a treasured sighting! Moments later, we watched as the owl friend flew off, listening as his wings glided through the still and quiet of pre-dawn’s darkness.

For working meditation today – at 3:00pm – I volunteered to join a work crew tending to a pile of mixed wooden debris. Our task was to sort the pile into smaller piles, in preparation for bringing out the wood chipper. Thicker wood went into one pile, thinner branches went into another pile, and a third pile was for everything else (vines and brambles). It was the kind of manual labor I very much enjoy – the sort where I can get my hands dirty, make use of my muscles, and expend some energy. We had 6 of us in our work team, all lay folks. I was the only gal, which, given the fact that I’m only 1 of 3 total here in Solidity, makes sense :) I enjoyed the opportunity to perhaps shatter some stereotypes of women, in regards to manual labor work, as a few of the men were concerned about my choice to not wear work gloves. Before we set out, one man even picked out a pair of gloves for me from the bin and then asked if I preferred a different color, as though that would be a matter of consideration for me. However misplaced, I saw clearly that these men were all acting from a place of care and kindness. Towards the end of our working assignment, I hopped into the back of a truck filled with more debris to unload. There was one guy already in the back, not really doing much, who cautioned me about unloading without the use of gloves. Having just worked knee deep in a huge pile of mixed wood for an hour or so – sans gloves – I said: I think I’ll be alright. He then told me about the presence of rose bushes, to which another guy chimed in on my behalf: I think she knows what she’s doing. Thanks buddy! Yep, I surely did!

I’ve experienced this stereotype of women not being able to do much in the way of manual labor many times before, and the most grievous offenders of getting caught in this certain stereotype are women themselves. Men are much more likely to hop on board and let go of the stereotype, once they see that I’m capable of working hard and taking care of myself. Whereas women continue to question the strength and abilities of other women in this realm – and themselves, too.

And I have my stereotypes of men in this regard, too! One man told me that he enjoyed seeing me get right into the pile of debris and start sorting out wood – again, sans gloves (which seemed to be a big thing, as I was the only one who didn’t wear them) – because if it were him, he said, he’d be concerned about getting dirty or ripping his clothes or getting scratched up. But I had assumed, mainly just because he was a man, that he’d be all for getting in the fray of working out in the field. Oh, observing the mind can be a funny little thing!

I find it to be good medicine when my assumptions are proven wrong about someone or something, truly. And, given enough time and interaction, I am always proven wrong about something. Every single time.

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