(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)
Friday January 22nd, 2016
This morning our little hut was washed in bright moonlight. On my way to the dining hall for tea, around 4:00am, it walked beside me and peeked through the thick boughs of oak trees for one last greeting. By the time I began walking up to the big meditation hall for sitting, around 5:15am, the moon had set over the mountains and everything that had been alighted was plunged into darkness. In my journal this morning I wrote this:
There’s nothing that can be said about the moon that hasn’t already been said,
it is the muse of many artists and creators, yet…
words pitch and heave on the waves of my heart
Its elegant beauty invokes a wisdom deep within,
cradling our afflictions,
amplifying our intentions to be healed and cared for
Another one of my favorite things about being here is the walk up to the big meditation hall in the early morning. I take the steep, dirt steps that lead up by the large outdoor temple bell, situated right beside the hall. There are 91 steps in total. In the morning someone sounds the temple bell continuously from 5:00-5:30am while singing and chanting, so as I climb higher the bell and the singing voice grow louder. It is the loveliest feeling to be invigorated by the steep climb, the cool morning air, and the deep resounding call of the bell. And while I’m sure it’s just my imagination, the universe does seem to bend inwards just a little bit around the bell tower, as though it were leaning in to listen. At the top of the steps distant city lights sparkle in a sliver of space in between the swell of mountains. I like to send my morning greetings on the breeze and hope that it makes its way to the sweet people below. And sometimes the writer in me likes to try to pinpoint the name of the color that permeates the sky at that early hour, as a mix of city lights melt into the dark skies over the monastery. I haven’t really come up with anything suitable as of yet to call it.