Deer Park Journal, Day 3

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

Monday, January 8th 2018

Day 3

6:12pm

Lazy Day. Meaning we had no schedule except for meals. Well, meals and something at 7:30pm tonight in the tea room for the laypeople called “Joyful Gathering,” as it’s listed on the white board.

Early this morning, when I entered the tea room, I found it to be in a state of mild disarray. So I took to doing a bit of cleaning and tidying up. All of the tea cups were dirty and there were no clean ones left to be used. And even though I have my own cup, I thought it a good idea to fetch some fresh ones. So I hefted a tray of 30-40 dirty cups to the dining hall and loaded up a new batch. I did some sweeping and filled the hot water dispenser and rounded up all the empty water bottles and took them where they needed to go to be refilled. It was satisfying work and I was glad to do it.

I especially enjoyed noticing the progress I’ve made in regards to such matters. It used to be that I resigned myself to feeling like a victim when cleaning up after others, namely my husband. I felt as though I had to do it. And because of that, I loathed the responsibility of it. It was a weight, a burden, and an unpleasant task. Thankfully, I’ve since learned that everything is a choice. There is virtually no action that I take that is heaped upon me against my will. I am the captain of my own ship and I decide where to steer it. How freeing! Now, I practice to clean up after others for truthfully what it is: an active choice I make – and if I don’t want to do it, I don’t do it. And if I do decide to do it, I practice to enjoy what I’m doing in the midst of it. Because that’s the essence of the practice: to connect with and enjoy whatever it is we’re doing. To fully engage and participate in our own lives – whether we’re cleaning the bathroom or chopping vegetables or carting wood or grocery shopping or driving to work… The practice is not found in the meditation hall – the practice is anywhere and everywhere we find ourselves in roam.

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Wild Abandon

Just this morning, I hopped onto the BBC world news online, where I clicked on an article about the current fire and state of emergency in San Diego, CA. Accompanying the article was a short video taken by a motorist who had captured footage of a man on the roadside next to a raging bank of flames, who was trying desperately to save a wild rabbit who was clearly in distress. After running into the flames, the rabbit came back out and the man was able to scoop it up and rescue it.

Tears streamed from my eyes.

The sheer fortitude and concern this man showed for that one tiny rabbit is a powerful example of our capacity to love.

We are made and built from each other’s company – whether in people, animal, or nature’s form. We rise and fall together.

May we stop running and keep loving. May we open our hearts wide like the sky at dawn.

The more we love people, the better we live. The better we live, the more we love.

So, let us love on – even when it’s hard. Even when we don’t want to. Even when we don’t know how.

It’s easy to extend love to those whom we choose to share our lives with – but it’s not so easy with those whom we do not see a commonality with. Our time is short. We have such little time to love with wild abandon. Stop guarding your heart.

Let us express gratitude to all those who circulate around us, whether dear to us or nameless. Let us radiate love to all who are situated in the wake of our heart’s beating. Our time is short. May we love with wild, unfettered abandon, regardless of the company we keep.

Deer Park, Day 20 & 21

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

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. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

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

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Day 20:
Thursday January 26th, 2017

6:14pm

Haikus:

A new dark moon has come
Darkening the sky with stars
With the tides, I smile

Evening settles in
Clear skies promise stars to shine
I exhale with ease

__________

Today, I did the unthinkable: I warmed up enough to take my thick hoodie and alpaca socks off! The sun shone with warmth and golden brilliance. It was splendid in a way that words cannot convey. And we had a lazy afternoon in which to thoroughly enjoy it, without any scheduled programs to call us indoors. Since it was also Lay Friends Day, I was able to spend it with Mike, too!

I am dearly looking forward to returning home tomorrow. Home to our son, our cats, our little house, our mountains, our winter, our sangha, our sweet Missoula. I’m also looking forward to going to the airport and engaging in the grand adventure of flight travel! So great!

I’m also looking forward to having access to my own personal space. The only-child within me, calls out for solitude – for a string of moments to myself, without the clutter of others. Everywhere I go here it seems there is someone in close tow. My hut is always occupied, and even on the scads of trails spiraling around the monastery, there is always the possibility of someone just around the next bend.

Silence is not easy to come by. It stows itself away, easily succumbing to swells of fitful clamor. I look for its shade, ravenously defending it when finally, by such rare graces, it appears. Sometimes I feel as though I am alone in my quest for silence – that there are few people who’s heart, like mine, connects more openly in its cradling embrace.

Earlier today we had a dharma sharing circle with the lay friends up in Solidity Hamlet, where we were prompted to speak about why we came to Deer Park. At first it seemed to me to be a rather un-important question – shouldn’t it be obvious why we’ve all come here? But as I considered it more deeply, I realized it was, in fact, a vital question to ask ourselves. It also reminded me of something Brother Phap Hai said in his last Dharma talk about how we need to routinely ask ourselves why we practice mindfulness. I shared about how I come here to: deepen my concentration on the practice of coming home to myself, to strengthen my sovereignty, to delve further into the true nature of life, and to move a metal folding chair and be completely aware of moving a metal folding chair. I spoke about how I equally look forward to both coming here and returning home. And I spoke about how I don’t come here to “retreat” from my daily life, to leave it behind as some sort of “other” reality, but to more fully engage with it. These are some of the reasons why I came here this year.

I’m a mindfulness practitioner because this practice enables me to water the seeds of joy and happiness in myself and in the world – and the more water, the better! And retreats offer a nice, heavy saturating dose of rain (in more ways than one!).

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Deer Park, Day 17

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

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. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

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

 

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Day 17:
Monday January 23rd, 2017

4:00pm

Lazy Day. No schedule other than meals, and an evening program after dinner, which tonight is Beginning Anew practice.

While waiting for Mike in the big hall this morning after breakfast I devoted some time to thumbing through what’s called: The New Sangha Handbook, put together, in part, by the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. It’s a packet of information pertaining to sangha building, sort of a how-to guidebook for starting and facilitating a sangha. I hadn’t recalled seeing it before, and I appreciated knowing that such a resource had been put together.

In the handbook was a reading I’d never heard of before, called “The Seven Trainings in Diversity,” which were adapted from Larry Yang’s chapter in Friends on the Path, compiled by Jack Lawlor, published in 2002. The Seven Trainings tied directly into what Brother Phap Hai was sharing with us about in his Dharma talk yesterday, so I found it interesting timing to stumble upon this reading today. It’s a reading that I think my home sangha (Be Here Now) might greatly appreciate incorporating into our rotation of readings, and is especially fitting during this time of our political changing-of-the-guard.

The Seven Trainings in Diversity

1. Aware of the suffering caused by imposing one’s own opinions or cultural beliefs upon another human being, I undertake the training to refrain from forcing others, in any way – through authority, threat, financial incentive, or indoctrination – to adopt my own belief system. I commit to respecting every human being’s right to be different, while working towards the elimination of sufferings of all beings.

2. Aware of the suffering caused by invalidating or denying another person’s experience, I undertake the trainings to refrain from making assumptions or judging harshly any beliefs and attitudes that are different or not understandable from my own. I commit to being open minded and accepting of other points of view, and I commit to meeting each perceived difference in another person with kindness, respect, and a willingness to learn more about their worldview.

3. Aware of the suffering caused by the violence of treating someone as inferior or superior to one’s own self, I undertake the training to refrain from diminishing or idealizing the work, integrity, and happiness of any human being. Recognizing that my true nature is not separate from others, I commit to teaching each person that comes into my consciousness with the same loving kindness, care, and equanimity that I would bestow upon a beloved benefactor or dear friend.

4. Aware of the suffering caused by intentional or unintentional acts of rejection, exclusion, avoidance, or indifference towards people who are culturally, physically, sexually, or economically different from me, I undertake the training to refrain from isolating myself to people of similar backgrounds as myself and from being only with people who make me feel comfortable. I commit to searching out ways to diversify my relationships and increase my sensitivity towards people of different cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, physical abilities, genders, and economic means.

5. Aware of the suffering caused by the often unseen nature of privilege, and the ability of privilege to benefit a select population over others, I undertake the training to refrain from exploiting any person or group, in any way including economically, sexually, intellectually, or culturally. I commit to examine with wisdom and clear comprehension the ways that I have privilege in order to determine skillful ways of using privilege for the benefit of all beings, and I commit to the practice of generosity in all aspects of my life and towards all human beings, regardless of cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual age, physical, or economic differences.

6. Aware of the suffering caused to myself and others by fear and anger during conflict or disagreement, I undertake the training to refrain from reacting defensively, using harmful speech because I feel injured, or using language or cognitive argument to justify my sense of rightness. I commit to communicate and express myself mindfully, speaking truthfully from my heart with patience and compassion. I commit to practice genuine and deep listening to all sides of a dispute, and to remain in contact with my highest intentions of recognizing the Buddha nature within all beings.

7. Aware of the suffering caused by the ignorance of misinformation and the lack of information that aggravate fixed views, stereotypes, the stigmatizing of a human being as ‘other’, and the marginalization of cultural groups, I undertake the training to educate myself about other cultural attitudes, worldviews, ethnic traditions, and life experiences outside of my own. I commit to be curious with humility and openness, to recognize with compassion the experience of suffering in all beings, and to practice sympathetic joy when encountering the many different cultural expressions of happiness and celebration around the world.

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Deer Park, Day 11

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

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. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

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

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Day 11:
Tuesday January 17th, 2017

Written in my journal at 7:00am:

Clouds suggest rain but unobstructed skies mean penetrating coldness, in the dark and budding dawn of mornings here. Today it is the latter. In the high 30’s, I’d guess. As I practiced stick exercises, after our morning sitting meditation, I also practiced with my favorite line of the Five Mindfulness Trainings: I am aware that my happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions. The bitter coldness saturated my clothing and exposed skin and stiffened my fingers, as I went through each of the 16 exercises. As I progressed through the series, my movements became more rushed and sloppy. My breath grew shallow. I was cold! Uncomfortably and, at times, painfully cold. And I was allowing the winter chill to also frost my inner landscape, too. My mind freezing and sticking in places.

So I practiced smiling and acknowledging and embracing the turmoil I was experiencing. I practiced to focus my attention on all of the many conditions of happiness, rather than on the one cause of temporary discomfort. And I practiced to accept that I was not able to do the exercises in the manner I preferred, with intention, ease, and joy, and instead chose to find humor in my ungraceful, short-handed version.

___________

Written in my journal at 11:00am:

The same open skies that brought frigidity this morning have now made way for the sun to shine luxuriously warm, further indicating how one situation can change from one moment to the next.

After breakfast, I ventured up the nearby fire road, as often I do, to find the sun peaking up over the mountain ridge. The higher you climb, the sooner the sun rises! Where we are situated, here in the oak grove, tucks into the trees such that we are the last ones for the sun to find and the first ones for it to part company with each day, on the monastery grounds. Though I am quite sure they would be a great refuge in the heat of summer, the giant oak trees stave off the much welcomed warmth of the winter sun during this time of year. For now, however, the lovely rays are temporarily gracing the front porch of my hut, through a small swath in the canopy, and I am soaking it up and squirreling it away in the folds of my skin, like water in a succulent plant.

 

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Deer Park, Day 10

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

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. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

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

 

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Day 10:
Monday January 16th, 2017

6:03pm

Before dinner, around 4:15pm, as I slowly circled the parking lot listening to music, and the sun was setting over the westward mountains, I inhaled a luscious blend of scents coming from the oak grove. A mixture of cooling wood, evaporating earth, and aged wisdom. I watched as the darkness quickly penetrated into the trees and undergrowth, spreading out like the concern that follows tragedy – heavy and unsettling. Shaking up the energy in creation of a new din to replace the old.

Mike and I took a long hike today. We were gone for 5 hours, with taking periods to rest and enjoy the scenery along the way. The morning clouds, suggesting rain, dissipated, revealing a bright, blue day. We went to the ocean overview spot (as I call it), up the mountain fire road by the gate house. It’s often too hazy to see the ocean, though, as was the case today. Still, the view of the Escondido valley is spectacular and the huge boulder fields are powerfully enthralling. I especially gravitate towards rocks, trees, and birds, and, in particular: raptors and corvids.

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Deer Park, Day 8

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

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. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

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

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Day 8:
Saturday January 14th, 2017

6:06pm

Early A.M journal jotting:
I swim in the fragrant wash of the bell as it echoes in the sage brushed hills, pulsing with the heartbeat of fertile land, and in succulent rhythm with my breath and footsteps. My smile calls out, like the red-tail hawk in the oak grove, to greet with reverence both a new and returning day.

_________

I continue to sit in mild tension about my decision not to engage with other practitioners during my stay here. Especially beginners, who have lots of questions. However, while I recognize that this tension is present, I also see that it is decreasing. I’m also not so sure that my desire is to be completely free of this tension, as I don’t want to lose sight of the needs of others.

At home, in my local and statewide sangha community, I am a director, leader, organizer, and mentor. My thoughts and actions are often directed towards welcoming new people and being available for the support and nourishment of others’ practice. And I fulfill these roles very happily and joyfully. But I intentionally do none of these things during my stays here. I come here to focus and concentrate on my own practice. I come here to water my own seeds of nourishment and ease. It would be easy to spend my whole retreat time here answering questions and getting sucked into relatively meaningless social chatter, which I do not wish to do.

My perception is that my behavior can be taken as rudeness, which is where the tension lies. While I would prefer people not misunderstand my lack of engagement as a personal affront, it is also a good practice for me to release my habit energy around trying to manage and manipulate other people’s experiences. In an attempt to care for people, I can lean towards what I call “over care-taking” (which is when I take on the job of trying to control that which is not in my power to control: other people’s thoughts, ideas, feelings, and perceptions). So, it’s a good practice for me to not claim responsibility for budding new practitioners.

When lay friends prepare to leave, like one of my roommates will tomorrow, they are asked to share words of departure in our song/announcement/work circle that we hold after breakfast. This morning, my roommate offered a special thank you to the longterm lay friends (those staying either for the whole 3-month retreat or longer) for being open to connecting with her, answering her questions, and helping to guide her. And I thought to myself: That for sure wasn’t me! For a few moments, I felt badly about that, allowing my tension to dominate my inner thought-scape. But then I let it go, feeling grateful that others were there to help her in the ways she was looking for.

And, again, the practice continues, ever shifting and manifesting in new ways.

_________

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