(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)
Tuesday February 9th, 2016
For one day a year, during Tet, the monastics invite visitors into their rooms. Yesterday it was the Brothers who opened their doors and today it is the Sisters turn. As I type, in the waning afternoon sun streaming through the oak trees, I can hear voices and laughter spiraling down from the Sisters residence. At 2:00pm there was drumming and a dragon dance, along with the loud cracks of the traditional lighting of hung strands of fireworks, marking the opening of the room visits. I went up and joined the small crowd and followed along as the dragon gave us a tour of the new nunnery residence. It was lovely to see the building up close, as lay people are generally not allowed up in that area and I had not yet seen it in all of its finished glory. As part of the new nunnery residence there’s also a new separate residence for Thay and his assistant. There are signs posted with information about the new building, which I recall from our time spent here last January when Mike and I were able to help during a couple of community working meditation days on the construction project. The new nunnery consists of 8 bedrooms, slated to house up to 5 Sisters per room, along with two bathrooms, with multiple toilet and shower stalls, and a couple of storage areas.
The first January I came here in 2014 my retreat stay included the celebration of Tet as well, unbeknownst to me at the time. When it was the Brothers room visitation day I didn’t feel inclined to enter, especially as a youngish female person. It’s important to me to be respectful of the monks and nuns and going to visit the Brothers just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. I felt the same way this time around as well and as such did not visit with any of the Brothers yesterday. I could see that if Mike were still here I might feel more comfortable visiting with him but to go on my own didn’t feel proper. I did visit with the Sisters last time though, although I’m feeling torn about doing so today. The room visits go until dinner and then continue afterwards until 9:30pm. I find it interesting that they end so late.