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 18th 2018
Early morning haiku:
Where is my friend moon?
She’s been hiding for awhile
I miss seeing her
This morning I find myself wanting to journal, verses what I would normally be doing at this time: walking/hiking around listening to music, preparing to enter a day of chatter and interactions and activity.
I played hooky last night and did not attend the Venerable’s Class. I had had my fill of both people and the teachings themselves, after having watched a Dharma talk video from Thay yesterday for 90 minutes, so I chose to stay in. Mike went but returned back to the room early, as he too decided that he wasn’t feeling up to the class. In general, evenings are not my time to shine anyways, when it comes to applying focused energy. Had I attended the class, it would’ve been more an exercise in enduring sleepiness and building patience – both good things to practice, to be sure, and yet there are times when something else is called for instead.
After continued deliberation, I decided to respectfully decline the invitation to be on the 5-person Q&A panel slated for today. I wrote a note this morning while waiting for the breakfast bell to sound and gave it to the aspirant in charge of the activity. (An aspirant – here at Deer Park – is someone who has declared and been formally accepted in their intention to become a Monk or Nun but has not yet received ordination.) It was a difficult decision, as part of me feels as though I should’ve accepted regardless of my hesitations. But I truly feel it is the best decision for me and for the sangha. The other multi-person Q&A panel I was on did not best support the sangha, in my opinion, and for me that is the most important thing to take into consideration.
At 9:00am all the lay friends from both hamlets will gather here in Solidity in what’s known as the Circle Garden. We’ll then be doing outdoor walking meditation, followed by some qi gong. The Q&A panel will be at 10:00 and then dharma discussion will be at 11:15, and lunch at 12:30. Then, just like last week on Thursday, it will be Lazy Afternoon and Lazy Evening – and, I assume also like last week, Lazy Morning tomorrow, too.
Here’s something I wrote in my journal this morning:
We all need to make time
for the great departing,
to reconnect with all
that we’ve forgotten.
If one wishes to be unbound
from the fences which guard
the heart’s fertile fields,
it can be no other way.
We must throw open the gate
wide and release the
I’ve been continuing to read Ajahn Brahm’s book Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life’s Difficulties. It’s an interesting and entertaining mix of short stories, all based on his own experience and practice as a British born Buddhist monk in Thailand and Australia, in the Thervadan tradition. Among a series of very short chapters I read today, I especially liked the chapter entitled: the emperor’s three questions. In it, he tells a rendition of a story which, according to the footnotes in the back of the book, was first published in Yiddish in 1903. The three questions, along with the answers (down below, in case you want to contemplate the answers first) – said to have been given by a hermit – are as follows:
1. When is the most important time?
2. Who is the most important person?
3. What is the most important thing to do?
In writing a letter to my friend Marko this afternoon, I realized that spending time here at DP is akin to on the job training for learning how to live life well, to the fullest. It feels like a very apt analogy! Our “job” as a human being is to enjoy this one precious life. What better way to gain the skills to do so than by coming here to have the practice of mindfulness be our full time occupation for a spell?!
Once again, I’ve spoken very little today. My concentration practice is so much more honed in when I am not engaging in external dialog, and I revel in this deepened space. Despite it having been lay day, with people swarming around, I kept to myself and remained in silence. I imagine some people must have a very particular view of me here – as one who is not warm, friendly, or maybe even kind. But even if this is the case, I practice to let go of those judgements and continue to focus on my own practice, worrying not what others might think. The truth is, I don’t come here to socialize, like so many others do. I come here to reengage with silence and stillness and my own sense of sovereignty.
I was feeling as though I might journal for a nice long while tonight, since it’s Lazy Evening and I have more time than usual. But now that I’m typing, even though I have more things I could share about and include that I have written in my paper journal today, I’m feeling as though perhaps this is enough for now.
It’s 6:39pm and I can hear as people are starting to arrive back to their rooms after dinner just outside. The dorms here are situated in close proximity, about 8 rooms per building block, 4 on each rectangular side. And there are 4 blocks in total. Our room has three bunk beds, for a total of 6 beds, as I imagine the rest have as well. Tonight, Mike is leading another men’s group in the yurt, which is situated very close by here to our dorms. He led one last Thursday night, too. So I have the room to myself tonight. I’m off to enjoy it!
- The person you are with
- To care