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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!

 

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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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Deer Park: Day 21

(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)

DSCN0573                                                                      Writing early morning letters

Day Twenty-One:
Friday February 5th, 2016

12:34pm

This morning I wrote a few things in my journal:

As another crisp evening
inhales its last full, luscious breaths,
in preparation for the sun’s return,
it wonders: At what moment do I cease to be?
to which the glimmering stars rumble
their deepest silence in reply
______________

I come here to let go.
Let go of what? you may wonder, and wisely so.
For, if we are to let go we should know
what it is we’re letting go of and why.
I come here to let go of holding on too tightly –
to a sense of control, to my own preferences,
to my own way of doing things,
to my own understanding even of how things work.
And why is that important? I ask myself, and wisely so.
While I’m careful not to disregard the role my confidence affords me,
and my abilities to be decisive,
being able to loosen my grasp allows me
to create space enough to let new light in,
to ensure I don’t get too stuck in my ways.
I practice letting go so that I am able to build myself up
with both strength and ease,
making sure I’m not constructing in the wrong direction.
___________

I’m savoring this last drop of stillness and silence
Knowing soon movement and sound will penetrate it
and yet…still hoping, ridiculously, for it to last

___________
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Posted by on February 26, 2016 in Deer Park Monastery

 

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Deer Park, Day 7

Deer Park Flowers

Deer Park Flowers

(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 7

Friday January 16th, 2015

6:15pm

I just got back from dinner and then remembered I had a pair of pants still hanging on the clothesline that I had hung out to dry earlier today.  I went out to get them and found them missing.  It was an, “Oh no!” moment, as they were my layering pants that I wear underneath my main pants in order to stay warm.  My main pants are quite thin.  I came back to my hut prepared to start typing and then decided to go back out and see if I could talk with some friends about my missing pair of pants and see if anyone had them.  When I went back to the clothesline one of my roommates was there and she had a basket of clothes with my pants in it!  Hooray!   It is the simple things that stand out to me here.  Like when you have the chance to miss an article of clothing and notice how wonderful it is when it reappears!

Today we had morning sit, stick exercise, breakfast, and working meditation, where I volunteered to clean the bathrooms in our hamlet and outside the big hall.  I was also asked to fill back in the septic tank lids if I had time, as the pump truck had come today and emptied the tanks.  So I filled in the 6 holes over the lids after cleaning.  We had walking meditation after working and then I opted to skip lunch in order to get more rest and take a nap.

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Deer Park, Day Twenty-Five

IMG_6897

Deer Park, Day Twenty-Five 

(written on Tuesday February 4th)

3:30pm.

I’ve not done much today other than rest.  It has been wonderful!  I decided to practice a day of silence today so I am wearing a pin that I made a couple of years ago, and brought with me, that says: I am practicing a day of silence.  I decided, however, to make an exception in my silence in order to write.  To me, writing is both like and not like remaining silent.

This morning I slept in and woke up around 6:00am!  The latest I’ve slept since I’ve been here.  I did some sitting meditation, had some tea, got dressed, and then decided to skip breakfast, on account of not being at all hungry, and return to bed.  I fell asleep for almost another 2 hours.  How splendid!  I had nowhere to go and nothing to do and my body told me of its need to rest, so I did.

After I woke up I went for a short walk to the standing Buddha statue in the Oak Grove.  I visited a hammock along the trail and enjoyed rocking back and forth beneath the trees.  On the way back to my cabin I collected some peppercorns from one of the pepper trees alongside the parking lot to bring home.

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