Deer Park: Day 19

(Helpful Info & Terminology: This is part of a series of blog posts written during my recent retreat stay at Deer Park Monastery, located in southern California, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Due to not having had Internet access I will be posting two days worth of my writing each day from while I was there on retreat.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen, are all of us who come here to practice 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. (Clarity and Solidity are just a short 10-15 minute walk in distance from each other).
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning teacher in Vietnamese)

DSCN0854                                                                    Alter in Clarity Hamlet’s Meditation Hall

Day Nineteen:
Wednesday February 3rd, 2016

10:44am

This morning, while waiting for breakfast in the big dining hall, I wrote this in my journal:

“Never having understood why the main alters in both small dharma halls in Clarity and Solidity adorn the statue of the Buddha so lavishly with plates of fruit and immaculate arrangements, when our teachings speak to the Buddha not being a God or someone to worship, I took to searching for my own meaning this morning as I sat in Solidity’s small hall, well before our period of sitting would begin. As I gazed upon the Buddha’s beautiful countenance, flanked by oil lamps, blooming orchids, stacks of earth cakes, and an assortment of plants, a couple of possibilities arose. Since we’re often told that in bowing to the Buddha we are bowing not to a lifeless statue or form we are beholden to but to our own Buddha nature, the capacity residing within all of us to awaken, I thought about how the adornment could represent the offering of care and attention we’d want to provide ourselves, in order to help nourish and support our own practice. The other idea I came up with is that in our own embodiment of serenity and solidity, both on and off the cushion, the fruits of our practice energy will manifest beautifully all around us.”

I don’t think it needs to be one or the other. I think it’s both things at the same time.

I like assigning my own meaning to certain things I don’t otherwise connect with or fully understand in this practice. I prefer it over being given some kind of “official” answer so that I’m able to engage with it on a more personal level. Finding my own experience with something, verses adopting someone else’s understanding, is much more appealing to me – it’s also what the Buddha highly encourages us to do as well, so I think I’m on the right path here :)

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Daily Practice – Day 5

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Day 5 – This morning I forgot to sit.  I was sitting in my car in front of my son’s school at 11:30 waiting to pick him up from his half-day at school and suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to sit.  Not knowing if I would have time later in the day to sit I flipped off my shoes and crossed my legs in half-lotus in the drivers seat to practice a few minutes of meditation.  The support of the car’s seat and the bright sun shining in through the windows felt wonderful.  I managed to get in about 4 minutes of sitting before the school bell sounded calling me out of my meditation.

My son and I spent the rest of the day watching two little kids for some friends of ours who are 2 and 5 years old.  After blowing bubbles outside in a soft rain, playing hide-and-seek, running around the house with foam swords, and reading books we returned home with burritos from Taco Del Sol for dinner and then I wound up with a little bit of time on my hands.  We have a small house, under 600 square feet.  With 2 adults, a teenager and 2 cats we get pretty creative with the utilization of space.  So while my son played on the computer in our bedroom I found an online meditation timer to use and sat on the kitchen floor for my 6 minutes of meditation.

In our bedroom sits one of the most wonderful things we ever spent money on.  It’s an alarm clock that doubles as a meditation timer.  In the beginning I was mainly interested in an alarm clock that when sounded didn’t startle me awake with some loud, stressful beeping or other obnoxious noise.  For a while my husband would use his cell phone as his alarm and every morning when it went off I would be immediately annoyed by its awful   ringing.  I hated waking up to it every morning.  But a few years ago we got this clock and it has made such a wonderful difference in my morning routine.  The alarm has sound level adjustment, which alters the piston that comes out to tap the brass bowl, and is progressive.  So at first it sounds only one bell and then in about 5 minutes it sounds another bell and then in 3 minutes another and so on until eventually the bell simply keeps ringing over and over until you turn it off.  I just love the gentleness of its approach and its simple beauty.

My alarm clock/meditation timer

My alarm clock/meditation timer

I didn’t read through any of the discourses today or chants.  But I sat and that’s what’s important.  Whether it’s on the front seat of my subaru or the kitchen floor meditation is meditation and I am happy to not always be hung up on formality when it comes to the conditions for sitting.  I don’t need a special timer or cushion or my alter to practice.  I can practice right here, wherever I am.