Deer Park, Day 2

Sunday February 9th, 2020
Day 2

Quietude, stillness
Darkness before the sunlight
A new dawn awaits


Last night, while seated in the Small Hall before meditation began, I gazed at a potted plant full of yellow flower blooms situated in front of me in close proximity and thought: the earth soil of the plant is like the Buddha body; the seeds are like the Dharma body that Thay, our gardener, has planted; and the flowers manifesting are us, the sangha body! It was a delightful thought that I carried with me through my sit.

The moon is shrouded by clouds this morning and it’s a temperature outside that I can only identify as tepid bath water. I slept well last night, though perhaps I still have a bit of adjusting to do with my borrowed bedding. My sleeping bag zipper has a mind of its own and I find myself often groping around to stay covered up in the middle of the night. Definitely not the biggest deal in the word to be sure.



Ah. Here I am with a full belly of good food and the room all to myself until Mike returns from dinner. Solitude and quietude are something I richly enjoy and savor and am deeply nourished by.

Today after breakfast, I enjoyed some solo time sitting outside the tearoom by and under the covered porch, playing guitar and singing to the surrounding hills. It was then that the rain started. Lightly at first and then steadily on through the whole of the day, at times coming down quite heartily. I was glad at the last minute that I decided to pack along my thin puffy coat, as that outer layer is much more water shielding than my lined cotton hoodie, which takes forever and a day to dry.

During my morning sit today, this sprang to mind:
We are each our own little world.

Each person I see contains within them self a whole set of causes and conditions; experiences and knowledge; hardships and triumphs; joys and sorrows. Each person is truly their own little world.

It’s good for me to keep this mind when I’m interacting with others; worlds colliding. I have little to no idea what is going on for someone else; what they’ve been through; what they’re going through; what weights they carry. Sometimes I am so wrapped up in my own little world that I forget that I’m sharing space with other little worlds. So it’s good for me to remember: we are each our own little world.

Another percolation during my sit that bubbled up had something to do with shame and respect. And now I can see how these two streams are connected. Because we are each our own little world, our practice should be geared towards respecting others, not shaming them. Honoring, not condemning. No one benefits from being shamed. No one grows and thrives under the conditions of shame. Shame is a great plight; a great dagger often used by unskillful people; a great separator. Shame is born from fear. Respect is born from love.

Today we hosted a public Day of Mindfulness (DOM), where people from the surrounding areas come here to practice with the community. It started at 9:00am and ended after lunch time. We did outdoor walking meditation from about 9:15-10:00, followed by a Dharma talk in the Big Hall from 10:15-11:00ish, followed by dharma discussion groups, followed by lunch. I would guess somewhere around 100 people attended.

To calibrate slow walking movement with so many people is quite an experience. The collective energy is fierce and lovely and fantastically strange. I love sharing space with people that is sans talking, it’s a great intimacy generator for me.

Brother Phap Ho gave the Dharma talk today and started off by sharing that 2020 marks Deer Park’s 20-year anniversary. Here are some notes I took during the Brother’s talk:

Continue reading

Deer Park, Day 1

You may notice there’s something missing from the schedule above. (Hint: think morning meal.) Rest assured, they do give us breakfast there :)

Saturday February 8th, 2020
Full Day #1

Bright moon in the tree
A lit walk, a ticking clock
Westminster bells chime


I’m on monastery time, which for me is when I just naturally wake up earlier than I do at home (and I’m already an early riser on the daily at 5am). Since our tea room is sans tea, I ventured to the dining hall. I woke at 3am, a bit bothered by a light blazing just outside our room. Even with dark curtains, it was enough to pester me enough to disturb my sleep. I opened the door to discover the light was as close as it appeared. It was perched just above our door frame. With no switch in sight (probably because it was on a light sensor timer), I grabbed a folding chair, stood on it to boost my height, and slightly unscrewed the bulb. Success! Darkness. Ah.

I tried going back to sleep after that but to no avail. No matter. 3am/4am wake up times here are par for the course for me here and I revel in this quiet morning time. It’s also a stellar time to write.

I’ve only been here ½ a day and already I am feeling filled up and nourished by this place; this land; my DP sangha. We have basic accommodations, simple living conditions, and everything we need.

I liberated a large spider last night, from the confines of our bathroom sink. It’d been hauled up in there all day. I assumed it knew what it was doing and would find its way out but by the evening I got to thinking that perhaps he was stuck, unable to climb up the slick surface. Already this morning, I was visited here in the dining hall by a scurrying mouse. And last night in the small hall, I heard a pack of coyotes yipping and barking in the hills and watched as a team of ants trickled alongside the baseboard. Critters abound here I guess is my point. And why wouldn’t they? We are here nestled inside their chaparral after all.

Continue reading

Deer Park, Arrival Day

Mike & I’s room at DP

Okay. So, I was on the fence about whether or not to share my 2.5 weeks worth of retreat journaling/reflections from my recent stay at Deer Park Monastery and I landed on the side of the fence that says: let’s just do it! I mean I have them, so, why not?!

Friday February 7th, 2020
Arrival Day

Early winter flight
A cold metal bird awaits
To take us due west


I have arrived, I am home.
In the here and now,
here at Deer Park.

Gosh I have missed this place.

Mike and I arrived right around noon, time enough to get checked in, do a meet & greet with our room, fetch our bedding, and partake in lunch (offered at 12:30). And, as an uncommon treat here, we arrived just in time for pizza for lunch day. Delivered fresh from a place nearby, with some vegetarian options and some vegan options, and a mixed green salad on the side, we ate like royalty. Having left the house in a Yellow Cab at 4:30am this morning, however, clouded my ability to be super alert while feasting. Still, I managed to enjoy my food all the same. As per usual, I was one of the first ones to finish eating; then I washed my plate and fork in the outdoor dish wash tub set up and went straight back to my room to take a nap. A full stomach and a long nap – what could be more luxurious?

I went on a walkabout to acquire some tea after I woke and found it to be a much more challenging endeavor then I was expecting. The layperson’s tearoom, where usually one can find tea quite easily, was not only low on potable water (which gets hauled up in plastic jugs from the dining hall) but the hot water dispensing unit was dry and unplugged, looking as though it hadn’t been used in quite some time. I went to the dining hall to find a wealth of tea options but no hot water. I turned on one of the large water boiling units and then walked back up the hill to my room. While Mike napped and the tea water boiled, I set to unpacking my roller bag filled with everything I’d need clothes wise to spend the next 18 days here. I also assembled my shoulder sling bag with all my “necessities” for strolling about the grounds: chapstick, journal, pen, watch (crucial!), camera, travel tripod, water bottle.

None of the commonly used and collective spaces are connected here. All buildings are a short and lovely walk apart. As such, I find a shoulder sling bag to be an imperative bring-along, especially for someone that loves to write and snap pics. Have journal & camera, will travel!

Continue reading

Back from retreat

I arrived home on Tuesday night, after spending 2.5 weeks at Deer Park Monastery in southern California, based in the Plum Village Buddhist tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. The above sign is a practice teaching in our tradition. To say that we have arrived, we are home means: right here and now in the present moment, the only moment we can be truly alive.

I took hundreds of photos and amassed a retreat daily log journal totaling 55-pages, sitting at 24,183 words. In the past, I’ve shared each journal entry while on retreat at DP. This time around, I’m not sure if I’ll do that or not. I’m not sure how interesting they really are to read day-in and day-out. (If you have thoughts you’d like to share in this regard, please do!)

So for now, I thought I’d share a few retreat reflections (and pepper in a few of my favorite pics).

Continue reading

Going on Retreat

Pic: Me @ Deer Park Monastery, Jan. 2018

On Friday, Feb 7th, Mike and I will be jet-bound to southern California to spend some retreat time at Deer Park Monastery (DP), which is based in our Plum Village practice tradition.

If you’ve been following along here on this blog for a while, you might recall that this is typically an annual pilgrimage we both take together. Last year, however, we changed things up a bit and I stayed home, while Mike went to DP solo and stayed for 3-months. So the last time I was at DP was in January of 2018. This upcoming retreat stay will mark the 6th year for both of us going to DP for an extended period of personal retreat time (since I went solo w/o Mike when I went for the first year in 2014, and last year he went solo w/o me).

This time around, I’ll be there for just under 3-weeks and Mike will be staying for 2-months. Prior to having skipped my retreat stay at DP last year, I knew how valuable these personal, extended retreat stays were to my own practice and well-being, however, since the fall, I feel as though my understanding has been granted a more in depth look at the benefits I receive from going there.

In December, I had the chance to have a one-on-one consult visit with a lay Dharma teacher, who used to be a nun in our tradition, Barbara Newell. After sharing with her about how Mike and I were slated to go to DP in February, she commented about the great importance for laypeople – especially those of us in a leadership position – to make time for this type of extended, personal retreat time (where we’re not in charge or responsible for doing anything on the retreat organizational side of things). She said something along the lines of: it’s one of the most important things we as senior practitioners can do, and it’s something very few people make time for.

Continue reading

On Safety

The above list of basic human needs is based on the work by Marshall Rosenberg and the Center for Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and is is neither exhaustive nor definitive. (c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication
Website: Email:

My husband and I are currently taking a local Communication Class based largely on NVC. It’s a 5-week class series and we have one more class left to go. I’ve been appreciating our instructor and our small group of folks in the class. The tools of NVC are allowing me to stretch myself in new directions. As I explained to my sangha recently during a Dharma sharing circle, in large part, I took the class because communication is a huge part of life, and a lot of the time I’m not very good at it.

I’m someone who is actively invested in ongoing skill building and personal growth work. I love being a perpetual student when it comes to anything that I think will help me to stretch and grow and learn ways to be more skillful. There is always more work I can do and it’s important to me to stay committed to doing my work.

Continue reading