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
Thursday, January 11th 2018
Early morning haiku:
A smile of moon
hangs in the sky and my heart
alighting what’s there
Today was lay day – and consequently, also, monastic day – where the lay people from both hamlets have their own schedule together, separate from the monastics (the monks & nuns), who have their own program schedule all together, for the morning up until lunch, anyway.
So at 5:45am, the lay people from both hamlets gathered in the Small Hall here in Solidity for sitting meditation. Unexpectedly, instead of having a silent sitting session, as usual, one of the long term lay women staying in Clarity wound up offering a guided meditation during our sit. For about 20-25 minutes, she proceeded to lead us through what amounted to a sort of classic style deep relaxation, moving through all the parts of the body as it went on. As it was an unanticipated occurrence – and given the fact that I don’t much care for guided meditations in general – I found her voice disturbing to what I consider to be my most beloved friend here: silence.
As her meditation continued, she seemed to grow more comfortable in talking, as well. What started out as short, succinct phrases began carrying into rather long, rambling verses, further absorbing what little space she left in between her words for a sound of the bell and a few relieving moments of quietude, before she’d start talking again. It was a struggle for me. Unable to tune her out and enter into a fluid state of meditation, I opened my eyes and took up the practice of smiling, as I observed my mind throwing a temper tantrum at not being able to sit in silence. Ah, preferences.
While it was a challenge, it was also a good practice to see where my preferences kicked into high gear this morning. At first, I blamed the gal offering the meditation. How dare she interrupt our noble silence?! We have so little of it here! Then I became like a rebellious teenager, pitching an internal fit, wanting to do the opposite of everything she was instructing us to do. Then I began to switch gears and began to practice the art of embracing discomfort and displeasure. To become an observer of the mind. Okay frustration, I see you my friend. Okay strong preferences, I see you my friend. This isn’t what you had in mind, okay, well, so, what do you want to do about it? There was a calligraphy on the wall in front of me – likely done by Thay – that read: Mindfulness is a source of happiness. I used that mantra as a grounding base to come back home to, when my feelings of upset would swell.
The last 15 minutes of so of our sitting period was held in silence. They were the most glorious 15 minutes of silence I can recall having had as of late. There’s nothing like having a toothache to remind you how great it is to not have a toothache, after it’s been tended to. Although in this case it’s a little different, because I am acutely aware of how precious the slivers of noble silence we have here are. I fall into the pockets of quietude the way one might fall into bed at the end of a long and lovely day. With release and rapture.
After breakfast, we met at 9:00am in the circle garden here in Solidity, for outdoor walking meditation. At 10:15, yoga was being offered in the Small Hall. Some people attended and some didn’t. I opted to skip the yoga and wound up doing stick exercises with Mike instead. At 11:15 we had dharma discussion, for which we broke into two groups of about 20 people each. 12:30 was lunch, which I skipped, as usual. And I had a long and splendid nap from about 12:30-2:00.
We had a lazy afternoon and now, a lazy evening – nothing was scheduled other than dinner at 5:30. Around 4:00, I ventured into the lay friends’ tea room to fetch some water, only to discover that we were almost completely out. (As a point of info here, Deer Park has a certain type of water filtration system set up for drinking water. We are advised not to drink the tap water. Instead, there are water jugs that get filled at certain refill stations where the filters are in use. The jugs are then carted to places such as the tea rooms and dining halls.) When I went to fill my water bottle, not only was the jug on the water dispenser empty but so were all of the jugs sitting next to it. The hot water dispenser for tea was also empty. And the tray for dirty cups needing to be washed was full. I thought to myself: How am I the first one to come upon this scene? Surely others noticed our water situation was in need of tending to!
Though I had intended on doing some sitting in the Small Hall on my own before dinner, I decided instead to swing into action and be the bodhisattva of refilling the drinking water :) I grabbed the three empty jugs and took them down to the dining hall, where I filled them back up and then carted them one by one on a wheeled hand truck to the tea room. I also took the tray of dirty cups down to the kitchen. It was satisfying work, especially since there was almost no one else around, as I much prefer doing that kind of community oriented/care-taking work more incognito style.
It’s just before 8:00pm, which is normally the time we have a sitting meditation/walking/chanting session in the Small Hall. But not tonight. Lazy evening. So, perhaps I’ll do some sitting on my own or perhaps I’ll do a bit of reading before bed. We’ll see. I’m continuing to enjoy having little planning to do here – going with the flow of the moment and seeing what presents itself. Mike is leading a men’s group in the yurt, so I have the room to myself, which is a rare treat.
Tomorrow is an arrival day for new people coming to stay at the monastery. Most people come to stay for a week or two. They used to allow weekend-long visitors to come and stay from Friday-Sunday during this winter retreat time, but they discontinued doing that a year or two ago now. Our sangha friends Peter and Elli should be arriving tomorrow, along with our friends Stan and Treva, from our sister sangha in Helena. I guess I better saddle up for some socializing! :)