Into the Woods


On the trail to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, Idaho. Dec 25th, 2018

 

Yesterday, while Mike and I were hiking through the woods amid the winter wonderland-scape en route to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, we were trying to figure out how many years we’ve been upholding the tradition of hot springing on Christmas Day. The best we could figure is that it’s been around 10 years.

Here’s to having lovely holiday traditions that allow our hearts to crack open just a little bit more with every passing.

I’ve walked these woods
10,000 times,
carried them with me
through every turning of day
and maturation of thought

I’ve made use of their good tidings
as cordage to anchor me home

and when storms have raged,
as they have tendency to do,
I’ve held firm to their wisdom
of  resiliency and strength,
so that I may learn
when to sway
and when to shed

 

P.S

I made a 6-minute video montage of our excursion yesterday – here it is! (And it’s set to my newest favorite song: Trevor Hall’s You Can’t Rush Your Healing.)

 

 

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Back to the Woods

dscn5229Jerry Johnson Hot Springs trail, December 25th, 2016, Idaho

Becoming part of a winterscape thick with cedar,
walking tall among elder trunks
and undergrowth buried in snow,
we communed with a part of ourselves
that often lies dormant.

Under nature’s influence
we can be guided back to what has been forgotten.
And when we are ushered
from our slumber to remember,
we will continue to return,
over and over,
back to the woods.

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Unplanned Adventure

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A few days ago my 16-year-old stepson Jaden and I went out paddle boarding on Lake Como in the Bitterroot Mountains (in Montana, not Italy :). It was a beautiful sunny day. We decided to set our sights on making it to the waterfall at the other end of the lake, where Rock Creek spills in at the head of the lake. It took us about an hour and forty minutes to reach the waterfall and it was pretty smooth sailing the whole way. However, things changed quickly when we turned around and started heading back. The wind picked up and was coming right at us, making it very difficult to paddle. Every stroke was a struggle. We were hardly making any progress at all.

After a few minutes of hard paddling we headed for shore and decided to huff our boards down the hiking trail, which ran alongside the lake. We thought that if the wind settled down we’d hop back on the water but we soon discovered that our paddleboards were like giant wind sails as we headed down the trail so we made the call to deflate them, in the hopes that they’d be easier to manage. Hefting out our terribly awkward, deflated 20-pound boards (we weighed them when we got home) and paddles the 3-miles to the trailhead was the unplanned adventure part of our day.

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Deer Park: Day Five

OK friends – in an attempt to speed things up a bit I’ve decided to start posting TWO days worth of writing each day :)

 

(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)

DSCN0886                                                                     Small meditation hall in Solidity Hamlet

Day Five:
Wednesday January 20th, 2016

4:00pm

Today was Monastic/Layperson Day, which meant all of the monastics spent the day together following a certain schedule and all of the laypeople spent the day together with our own schedule. Both hamlets came together for this. At 5:45am the laypeople met in Solidity’s small hall for sitting meditation. At 7:30am all of us, including the monastics, ate breakfast together in the big dining hall and then at 9:30am us lay friends met for a hike up the mountain. We went to a place called Breakfast Mountain, situated up the fire road by the gate house. Once we arrived we did a few minutes of sitting meditation followed by dharma sharing. It was nice to hear what people had to say. While I don’t often like socializing here I do enjoy dharma sharing. The intention and energy are much different. Dharma sharing is a meditative practice, whereas socializing is much more idle and dispersed. I find that general socializing, while here on retreat, is an expenditure of energy going outwards and deflates my practice energy. I steer away from it as much as possible and much prefer talking with someone one-on-one. I come here to cultivate energy directed inward and try to maintain that as much as I can.

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Deer Park, Day 13

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(NOTES: Here is some lingo info that may be helpful in reading these posts.  Deer Park Monastery is in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is often referred to as Thay.  The monks who reside at Deer Park are called Brothers and the nuns are called Sisters.  The sisters reside in Clarity Hamlet and the brothers reside in Solidity Hamlet, about a 5-10 minute walk apart.  The word hamlet comes from the french and means small village.  While they are not really villages they are self-containing communities.  The visitors who come to stay at the monastery, like myself and Mike, are often called lay friends.)

Day 13

Thursday January 22nd, 2015

6:00pm

This morning after sitting, stick exercise, and breakfast I walked up the fire road and stood watching as the morning sun rose over the mountain.  I was listening to my music and then turned around to meet an unexpected and wonderful visitor.  There was a coyote friend watching me maybe 40 feet away.  I was of course a little startled to see a coyote so closely.  He was very beautiful.  There was another coyote nearby as well I saw as he ducked into the brush.  They soon trotted off but reappeared every few minutes in a new spot nearby.  I very much enjoyed watching them and I felt honored that they seemed to enjoy my presence as well.  Of course I was also a bit afraid having them so close.  I jokingly said to them, “So, you guys don’t like attack people do you?  I mean, I’ve never heard of a coyote attacking people before.”  We co-existed peacefully in the morning sun together and then I went off to begin our community day of mindfulness.

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Deer Park, Day 6

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(NOTES: Here is some lingo info that may be helpful in reading these posts.  Deer Park Monastery is in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is often referred to as Thay.  The monks who reside at Deer Park are called Brothers and the nuns are called Sisters.  The sisters reside in Clarity Hamlet and the brothers reside in Solidity Hamlet, about a 5-10 minute walk apart.  The word hamlet comes from the french and means small village.  While they are not really villages they are self-containing communities.  The visitors who come to stay at the monastery, like myself and Mike, are often called lay friends.)

Day 6

Thursday January 15th, 2015

6:00pm

Every Sunday and Thursday are open days of mindfulness here at Deer Park so today was another day of mindfulness.  Not nearly as many people attend as on a Sunday since it is a weekday but still there were around maybe 25 people or so that came.  After morning sitting practice and stick exercise the brothers and lay friends from Solidity Hamlet joined us in our hamlet for breakfast.  At 9:00am the day of mindfulness started and we met in the big hall to watch a video of Thay giving a dharma talk from the 21-day retreat in Plum Village last June.  Before I include some notes I took from that talk let me include some notes I took at the Venerable’s class last night:

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Deer Park, Day 3

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(NOTES: Here is some lingo info that may be helpful in reading these posts.  Deer Park Monastery is in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is often referred to as Thay.  The monks who reside at Deer Park are called Brothers and the nuns are called Sisters.  The sisters reside in Clarity Hamlet and the brothers reside in Solidity Hamlet, about a 5-10 minute walk apart.  The word hamlet comes from the french and means small village.  While they are not really villages they are self-containing communities.  The visitors who come to stay at the monastery, like myself and Mike, are often called lay friends.)

Day 3

Monday January 12th, 2015

4:30pm

As mentioned, it was lazy day today.  Our schedule, which gets written out on the white board in the dining hall, read: 8:00am breakfast, 12:30pm lunch, 5:30pm dinner, 7:00pm Beginning Ceremony (v) (the v lets us know it will be in vietnamese).  On lazy day breakfast is served a little later than usual.

I still set my alarm and woke up just after 4:30am.  I went to the dining hall to do some writing and I also did some sitting meditation after singing the morning chant.  When the sky began to alight with the sun around 6:30 I ventured up to the main hall to grab a stick in order to do stick exercise on my own.

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