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
Sunday, January 21st 2018
Early morning haiku:
She’s out in the night
no longer in the morning
a waxing sliver
A little something else I wrote in my journal this morning:
Are you operating with heart?
Giving it all you’ve got?
“It” meaning ALL of it:
the people around you,
sweeping the front steps,
cleaning the bathroom,
Giving gusto to whatever it is you’re doing
is all that really matters, dear one.
Do it up.
Yesterday, I started thinking about how common it is to mistaken our inner voice of fear for being that of our intuition. Sometimes when we think we’re following our heart, what we’re actually doing is giving into our apprehensions and propensity for running away from something. When we haven’t yet cultivated the ability to slow and settle our harried minds it’s easy to confuse these inner processes.
We can ascertain which voice we would be heeding when it comes to making a certain decision or going in a particular direction, when we put our attention on whether we feel a sense of spaciousness and ease or a sense of restriction and tension. Often when our inner voice of fear is speaking up, it happens quickly, as fear operates based on habit energies, and/or past experiences. Intuition, on the other hand, requires some quietude and stillness in order to surface. Its voice is often over-shadowed by the other less-constructive voices we’ve built up over the years that guard our heart-space and keep us lingering in thoughts of separation and isolation, largely: fear, pain, hurt, anger, and delusion. Our voice of fear is akin to a reaction, whereas intuition is akin to a response. A reaction happens right away, with little to no thought. A response requires the presence of engaged awareness. It takes time for us to hone our ability to listen to our innate wisdom, aka intuition. We often have to get our baggage out of the way first, in order to create some space for our minds to become more still and clear and our hearts to soften and open.
I realized this morning, that at the end of my current stay here (in 5+ days time) I’ll have spent a total of 16 weeks here at Deer Park, over the last 5 years. I spent 4 weeks in January of 2014, 4 weeks in January of 2015, 2 weeks in January of 2016, and 3 weeks in January of both 2017 and 2018. Perhaps I should start writing what would constitute as my third book: On Retreat, Reflections of Spending 16 weeks Over 5 years at Deer Park Monastery. While I say this in jest, it’s really not a bad idea! Ha!
An opportunity I’ve been afforded this time around is that in staying with Mike, I’ve been able to see more clearly some of the triggers that come up for me when it comes to our relationship dynamic and investigate them with more concentrated practice energy and kindness. For example, the bunk beds we’re both staying in are on opposite sides of our small room. If someone who knew us were to walk into our room, they would be able to ascertain which side of the room was his and which side was mine right away. On my side, my small assortment of clothing is neatly folded and arranged in categorized piles: shirts, pants, socks, undergarments. My sleeping bag is straightened out and situated square on the mattress. And my shoulder bag is hanging on a bed post in orderly fashion. Mike’s side, on the other hand, looks as though perhaps an earthquake struck, rendering his belongings haphazardly flung in a myriad of non-sensical directions.
It used to be that his lack of tidiness was a source of great anger and hardship for me. But I’ve done a lot of work around this and things have changed. It’s still challenging sometimes, but I have a much different relationship with it than I used to.
The other day on the Q & A panel, a woman shared that she and her wife tried very hard to have their son – now an adult – to be a neat and orderly person. She then added that they failed miserably. Given what she briefly described, it sounded as though her son and my husband are very similar in their ways. She then spoke about a time when he was visiting home and his stuff was all over the place. After finishing her morning sitting meditation, she had this insight: His messiness means he’s here! She realized that his belongings, strewn in all directions, showed that he was physically there, present and alive in the household, and that was a delight.
And so it continues: all things can either be an obstacle or an opportunity for us to connect more and love more.
The community day of mindfulness is over, schedule wise, but some folks are still lingering around on the grounds, trails, and around the tea room and book shop. Brother Phap Hai gave the dharma talk today, which always feels like a treat when that happens, as he is a senior monastic and delivers very skilled, poignant, practical, and funny talks.
As usual, I took notes. So, here they are:
Seven Factors of Awakening:
7. Equanimity (also called inclusiveness)
He said that the long term practitioners would do well to underline #4: joy. He also said that #7: inclusiveness, means to not exclude anything about ourselves, that we accept & embrace all the parts of ourselves.
Awakening is something to practice right here and now. We need to engage with our daily life as our practice.
There is loving kindness (the mind of love) in aspiration and there is loving kindness in action. We don’t want to be a “going to do it” person, we want to be a “doing it” person. We have a strong negative cognitive bias – called the Zeigonic effect, where our tendency to think negatively has been shown to be 18 times stronger than our ability to think positively. Our cognitive bias starts to shift when we get in touch with our own goodness & kindness and the goodness & kindness around us. What will it take for us to know that we are good enough?
To cultivate loving kindness, we must open up to unconditional friendliness. We often say: I love everyone, except _____. We start with recognizing and accepting where we are, this is a good start! Then we must go further, to soften and embrace. The “far enemy” of living kindness is ill-will and aversion. The “near enemy” is attachment.
Compassion is a quivering of the heart. Compassion involves the wish to remove suffering and harm. The slogan “just like me” is the root of compassion.
In each and every moment there is a transmission happening. Our daily life is not separate from meditation. The secret to meditation is to learn to listen to our lives. We can only hear when we are not talking. A minor practitioner dwells on the mountain, a major practitioner dwells in the heart of the marketplace.
I’m amid a Lazy Afternoon, which is to be followed by a Lazy Evening, such is the way here on Sundays during this winter retreat. And tomorrow is Monday: Lazy Day. So we are floating down the gentle river of time until Tuesday, with no where to go and nothing to do.
In order to go into the Book Shop one last time – which is only open on Sundays from 1:30-4:00ish – and also to attend the Touching the Earth practice in the Big Hall at 2:30, I skipped my daily nap. I’m now starting to feel the absence of my “beauty rest” as I sit typing by the sunlit window in our room. Funny that the term “beauty rest” just came up for me. It’s not a phrase I would ever use normally. But that is accurate in some fashion. Getting proper rest is akin to a flower opening in the sunlight, beauty unfolds like magic! We need rest just as a flower needs sun for nourishment, so that it can become its most beautiful self.