Deer Park, Day 12

Our trusty mulching work steed

Wednesday February 19th, 2020
Day 12

Bad dream, 3am
Unable to just forget
My body heavy

3:30am (tearoom)

All is well, save for a terribly bad dream that woke me at 2:30am. It rattled me so much, I was unable to get back to sleep. After some reading and relocating, the swell is starting to subside. But I feel the bad dream still clinging on; my body heavy; my mind still caught by it.


Later on. Switching.

How to be a full-time lay practitioner outside of the monastery (insert smiley face here):
1. Go to sangha.
2. Participate in sangha.
3. Cultivate relationships in sangha.
4. Sit in meditation a little bit (most) every day.
5. Engage with the Dharma (books, talks, videos, podcasts).
6. Attend retreats regularly and on-goingly.
7. Be creative in your approaches to practice.
8. Don’t underestimate the foundational elements of the practice; work with them diligently and often (mindful breathing, mindful walking, smiling, body awareness).


“Zen is the “spirit of the valley,” not the mountaintop. The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there.” – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence


How does my practice improve my everyday life? This is what matters. Form is meaningless without spirit.

6:45am (Dining Hall)

The thread continues.

How does my practice inform my quality of life? My overall sense of well-being? The well-being of others? If I’m not becoming more skillful and kind, what is the point? To keep always these questions in mind is of the utmost importance, otherwise I situate myself at risk of getting caught and lost in form over function; intellect over heart. Who in blazes would care that I’m physically doing the practice if it doesn’t equate to improving upon my own capacity to generate more skill and care and kindness?


The 7am Westminster clock chimes, stilling the chatter coming from the kitchen. I plunge into the absence of human voices like falling into a warm bath at the end of a long day. As soon as the chiming is over – and I mean as soon as it’s done – the loud chatter resumes and I smile (reluctantly and strained) at my own mind’s grasping to the Noble Silence we’re supposed to be observing through until the end of breakfast.


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Mindful Morning Saturday

Offering incense in the dark of early morning

I’m not sure how long ago I started this practice I call Mindful Morning Saturday, maybe a year or so. I’ve posted about it before but I was inspired to post about it again, simply because it’s adds so much benefit, energy, and joyfulness to my weekend.

As an ordained OI member (Order of Interbeing), I am asked to partake in a certain amount of Days of Mindfulness every year – 60, to be precise. And this particular OI requirement often poses some head scratching for folks, both before and after they ordain. True to form, we are not given any specifics as to how to manifest this and are left instead to use our own intelligence and insight in developing our own relationship with how to put this into active practice.

I ordained in 2007. For the first few years after that, I simply continued to attend our locally held retreats twice a year, as well as any locally held special events and days of mindfulness organized by my sangha. Then, in 2014, I started going on retreat to Deer Park Monastery for 3-4 weeks at a time every January. So for the past five years I’ve been closer than ever before, in terms of meeting the required 60 days of mindfulness.

For years, I’d wanted to figure out a way to insert a Day of Mindfulness into my home life routine once a week but I hadn’t known a good way to do it. I think like many of us OI members who are perplexed by this requirement of ordination, I was caught in thinking that a Day of Mindfulness had to be a WHOLE entire day, which seemed impossible if I was interested in doing it every week.

Then, just last year I think it was, I started thinking about the Days of Mindfulness I would participate in while I was staying at Deer Park. Most Sundays at Deer Park are an open Day of Mindfulness, where folks are welcome and encouraged to come to the monastery for a day of practice. The Days of Mindfulness there generally start at 9:00am and end after lunch, around 1:00pm. They aren’t a WHOLE entire day. They typically last about 4-hours. Once I realized this, I started thinking about my own 60 Days of Mindfulness differently.

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Warmth and Flicker

There’s a sigh of relief that only a campfire can foster;

a certain person we become – or rather return to – in the company of its flames;

and a unique opening of the heart that is only possible in its warmth and flicker.


Having gone to bed a little earlier than usual last night, I woke naturally just after 4am this morning. It was 47 degrees outside, as I sat on the back porch, bundled up in a hoodie and blanket, sipping tea, and writing by lantern light. This is what I penned in my journal:

Quietude is more than the slowing down of surrounding sounds. It is an internal settling of our mental chatterings, too. Of course, each is affected by the other, but I reckon it is more realistic – and often more beneficial – to take charge of the latter.

To still the din around us is typically not a matter of choice. We can dampen it. We can ward it off for a bit. We can tuck into the woods and perhaps leave it behind for a while. But the clamor of living, sifting beings will be there to greet us upon our return.

There’s a quietude that can remain, however, amid even the noisiest of places. There are skillsets we can develop and hone, which will enable us to stay accompanied with a calm that is not easily tossed out to sea when a siren wales, or we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a throng of people.


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Early Morning Verses Of A Writer


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To listen in audio form of this post on my podcast:



Silence is enjoying a cup of tea as your sole responsibility.

Silence is what situates itself in the grooves clicking between the movie reel of thought.

Silence is where every end of day settles; and then stretches like a bridge into morning.

Silence is a disposition of character, a grace carried both firm and soft onto the battlefield, turning it to fertile ground.

Silence is anything which serves as a vehicle to transport us back to ourselves in such a way that it’s as though we never left.

Silence reveals truths the likes of which we already know but have forgotten.

Silence is not the absence of sound; it’s the full embodied inclusion of the total acoustic landscape shifting and shaping itself like the Grand Canyon,

shining in holy accord on a bluebird day.



Hello new day.

I see you.

Though, I’m not sure many others do.

Not clearly anyhow.

It’s easy to lose sight,

to go blind.

It’s easy to regard today as being just the same as yesterday;

which will be the same as tomorrow, too.

But I know better.

Today IS a new day!

Ripe with possibilities and opportunities for
goodness & kindness & beauty to manifest.

With our thoughts we make the world.

With our thoughts we make the world.

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Absence of Sound

For a brief interlude, I could detect nothing audible. 
No whirling of the refrigerator, 
no distant whooshing of passing cars, 
no song chatter of birds. 
It was as if all the world had tipped over a precipice 
and was free-falling amid the din of there being nothing left to do but let go.

It was a rare and fragile moment I was only half prepared to savor.
Mostly I was caught off guard,
wondering what had suddenly changed.
When I realized I was cradled in the absence of sound,
I took one breath and it was over,
my ears and heart re-attuned,
so as to be ready in case it happened again.

Scatterings of Thought

I’ve been thinking about what this, my next blog post, would be about for the last few days but have had a hard time landing on just one idea to write about, as a few different practice-related topics have been bubbling around for me, as of late. So, I thought I’d just include a list of the topics along with a brief synopsis of each one, in an effort to get my creative juices flowing a bit. Please note: these scatterings of thought may not make a whole lot of sense just yet.

  1. There is a great importance to develop our relationship with solitude, stillness, and silence if we have a desire to get in touch with ourselves on a deeper level – which is not possible in the fray of everyday life. We need to cultivate a connection to the art of being in and of the world – not getting solely fixated on our doing nature, becoming distracted and dispersed.
  2. How do we best support loved ones going through difficult times? While it’s true that deep listening and loving speech go a long ways to help reduce the suffering of others, sometimes additional action is necessary. How do we best hold both of these truths: 1. We cannot support those who are not ready to receive it, despite how good our intentions are or how “right” we may be in our assessment of how their actions/behavior should change in order to benefit their situation.  2. Sometimes a loving intervention or decisive action may be in order, as oftentimes those who are struggling profoundly are unable/unequipped to ask for help. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  3. What tools do I feel, as a budding Dharma teacher, are most supportive for people to focus on in regards to getting started (and remaining) on the path of mindfulness, in the context of Thay’s tradition?
  4. Is the fact that my friendships and priorities are changing simply a natural unfolding, or is there something I’m missing that I should be actively working on to address or otherwise adjust?
  5. What is the balance between being self-possessed and strong-willed and not overshadowing/offending others? How much responsibility do I take on in regards to the feelings/thoughts/views of others – especially when I judge that others are often threatened by my strengths and what I have to offer and/or are highly sensitive people which tend to take things very personally and are overly dramatic in nature?
  6. When, if ever, is it appropriate to attempt to correct someone’s falsely held notions about something?

And the inner musings continue…

Ah, life. What a splendid manifestation it is!

Deer Park Summary

dscn6082View from the Coaster in San Diego, en route to the airport

The day after we got home from Deer Park my husband and I felt inspired to offer an informal evening of sharing about our retreat experience, at our local mindfulness center. We plan on teaching our sangha a couple of new songs we learned, offer some basic info and background about Deer Park, talk about our experience, show a short sildeshow of pictures, and then open up for Q & A. So in preparation for that, I thought I’d write out what I plan on saying, as it might prove helpful as a sort of summary here on my blog as well. (UPDATE: We had this evening of sharing last night and had around 10 people in attendance, it was a lovely evening :)

To offer a little bit of info and background: In the mindfulness tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh there are a small number of monasteries located around the world, and of those, most are considered practice centers as well, meaning that laypeople, like you and I, are welcome to visit and spend time there at various times throughout the year. There are three monasteries in the U.S and all are open to laypeople: Blue Cliff in New York, Magnolia Grove in Mississippi, and Deer Park in California. Deer Park is located in southern, CA about 1 hour north of San Diego and about 4 hours south of L.A. It’s situated on 400 acres surrounded by chaparral mountains and was established in the summer of 2000.

There are two hamlets, as they are called (meaning “small village”): Clarity Hamlet and Solidity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk apart from one another. Clarity Hamlet is where the Sisters (or nuns) reside, and laywomen who come to stay. Solidity Hamlet is where the Brothers (or monks) reside, and laymen, couples, and families who come to stay. Both hamlets come together at certain times for meditation, programs, and meals, but during the 3-month winter retreat, much of the time, the hamlets operate independently of one another. Each one has its own dining hall and kitchen and also its own small meditation hall. The 3-month winter retreat, which goes from mid-November until mid-February, is designed especially for the monastics (monks and nuns) as a time for concentrated practice energy. During the winter retreat, travel outside of the monastery is very limited and there are also certain boundaries around the property that are instituted during this time frame as well, in order to help contain the energy and support the monastics.

Currently, at Deer Park, there are 18 Brothers residing there and 28 Sisters. And during our 3-weeks there, there were approximately 10 laywomen staying in Clarity at any given time and about 15 laymen and laywomen staying in Solidity. It used to be that people could go for just a weekend to Deer Park during the winter retreat but this year they adjusted their policy and the minimum length of stay is now a week, arriving on Friday afternoons and departing on either a Friday or a Sunday. Lay people can register to stay at Deer Park for up to 2 weeks and then any amount of time over 2 weeks you have to write a letter asking for permission to stay longer. Generally, as long as a practitioner is living in harmony with the community, they are accepted for longer periods of time when it’s requested. Some layfriends are there now for the whole duration of the 3-month retreat and there are a few layfriends there who are also year-long interns, as they call them. So there are different options available for people to go and stay there. Most lay folks, however, tend to stay for a week, so that’s the average length of stay. And despite there being so few lay people around there were a number of folks visiting from other countries and states during our stay there, which was neat to see.

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