Written on Friday:
We depart from here today, on a jet plane, unsure of when next we will return (who is it that sings about this? I can’t recall). How both strange and delightful it is to have so many feelings of home. When I arrived, although I had left my home to come here, I felt as though I was returning home. And now, as I prepare to go back home, I feel as though I’m leaving home, too!
Then there’s the home which remains a constant source of solidity and fluidity. My true home within myself, anchored in the here and now. Home really is where the heart is – literally and metaphorically. When the heart is open, home is everywhere!
As in general the hardest question for me to address is the commonly asked “How are you?,” it stands to reason that its close companion “How was your trip?” should be no different – or in this case: “How was your retreat?” How does one summarize such a breadth of human experience – whether on the daily or to encapsulate a trip – in a way that holds authenticity and meaning? I really don’t know. Honestly, I’m not sure it’s possible. But in the interest of wanting to have some way of responding to inquiries, I can say this:
My mentation processes were afforded the opportunity to become slow and steady in concentrated accord. I delighted in the abstemious qualities of the monastery, as well as foppin’ around the parking lot in the sunshine. And now, full of ardor, I find myself at a liminal point in time, situated between life as a full time practitioner sequestered in a monastery and life as a full time practitioner out and about in the world.
(As I’ve recently started exchanging Words-of-the-Day with 2 friends of mine via email, this above summary was fashioned together with a string of 5 new words that I came across and wrote down while I was on retreat :)
And with that – hold on! So shall begin the posting of my daily journal entries I penned (or rather typed) while I was on retreat for three weeks at Deer Park Monastery in southern California, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.
My husband and I are heading off for Deer Park Monastery to attend a retreat for 3 weeks, for what will be my fifth year and Mike’s fourth year in a row – we leave tomorrow!
If you’ve been following along with me here on this blogging platform, you know to expect 3-weeks worth of daily journal entries upon my return and lots of pictures :)
On Saturday morning, I watched the first 15-minutes of a talk by Sr. Thệ Nghiêm at Deer Park Monastery, given on September 15, 2017 (see Youtube link below). She spoke about something I’ve both experienced personally and spoken about in a talk I gave 3-4 years ago. At Deer Park Monastery, in southern California, behind the alter of orchids in the big meditation hall, sits a circular wooden sign that says: This is it. When I first encountered this calligraphy of Thay’s, I misunderstood its teaching and took it as a glib proclamation, as in: This is it, I guess. Whatever. Sigh.
As you likely imagine, this is not what it means. Back in the day, I knew I wasn’t viewing it as intended, I simply hadn’t developed my own insight about it’s intent just yet. Understanding unfolds over time, with practice in cultivating diligence and deep looking. Words/teachings can only take us so far. They can show us a new path to venture down, but we have to be the ones to move our feet and actualize the fruits of what it has to offer.
This is it is an invitation to look more deeply into every facet and fissure of our lives, really. To see life as ever-flowing, ever-changing, and ever-amazing. To understand the depths of This is it, means to see clearly that this moment – whatever moment we find ourselves amid – IS it, truly. This present moment is the foundation for the next present moment, and it’s up to us to sculpt it in the best way possible. To turn our lives into a living art form.
One of the main root teachings I receive nourishment of, by staying apprised of both local and world news, is in regards to the nature of life and death. In short: there are a lot of ways to live and there are a lot of ways to die. The more I learn and deepen my understanding of this truth – this nature of reality – the more it opens me to the preciousness of life, and the myriad of possibilities that exist.
This is it! is more than a teaching. It’s a way of living.