Deer Park, Day 19

2017 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 6th-27th (though was unable to post until the Internet became available once I returned home)

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego. Mike and I choose to voluntarily lodge separately when we go to Deer Park during the winter retreat, which affords us the best of both worlds: having our own retreat experiences and able to spend time together 2 or 3 days a week. Mike stays with the brothers in Solidity Hamlet and I stay with the sisters in Clarity Hamlet, which are a short 10-minute walk from each other but do operate quite independently.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition 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.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese

ecakesMaking earth cakes for TET

Day 19:
Wednesday January 25th, 2017

7:06am

Yesterday was earth cake making day, in preparation for the Lunar New Year, which is this coming weekend. The making of earth and sky cakes is a Vietnamese tradition, involving the simple ingredients of rice and mug beans wrapped in banana leaves, which are cooked in large pots filled with water over an open fire. The whole community gathers together to create them. It’s a day of being joyfully together. The hamlets eat their meals together in “picnic style”, as it is phrased here, which means they are not held in silence. Songs and stories are shared around the fire. It is a time of social gathering and celebration. It takes the large pots of earth cakes about 8 hours to cook, so people often drift in and out. Since it meant I could spend the day with Mike I was very happy :) Even though I was also quite cold for much of the day, once again. I think the coldness is settling itself deeper and deeper into my bones, as each day I seem to grow a little more susceptible to its clutches. It’s a clear and open sky this morning. I’m hoping the sun’s warmth will not be stolen away by the chill of the air.

Haikus I wrote this morning:

Morning skies are clear
Stars shine near and far with ease
Darkness turns to light

Parched earth drinks anew
Rocks house waterfalls and streams
Green adorns my steps

____________

6:22pm

More haikus!

Life giving sunshine
Gratitude for your smile
Your warmth is my warmth

Tea cup in my hands
Filled to the brim with rain clouds
Always seeing more

_____________

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Deer Park: Day 25

(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)

Tet

Day Twenty-Five:
Tuesday February 9th, 2016

4:26pm

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.

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Deer Park: Day 24

(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)

DSCN0997                                                         Lunar New Year’s Eve Celebration, Sunday February 7th

Day Twenty-Four:
Monday February 8th, 2016

8:29am

I wouldn’t normally spend my time writing at a point when we have a program starting soon, at 9:30, but I felt compelled to write while my memory was fresh from the experience. There was no morning meditation again today. But I sat in the big hall anyway, along with one other lay friend. After sitting I ventured down to the parking lot to stroll and listen to my music before breakfast, where I noticed a new vehicle parked, a light green VW bus. After about 15 minutes or so I noticed someone approaching me from my peripheral vision. In normal fashion I altered my course and veered slowly in another direction. But then I noticed the figure was quite small. It was a young boy of about 4 or 5 years old. He was very sweet and friendly. We chatted for a little while and then he invited me to come and sit with him over on the side of the parking lot. I followed him and we exchanged introductions. He gave me his full, quite lengthy, name, which I didn’t understand. Then he said his nickname was Elisha Love. Upon finding out my name he called out to his mom, who was just a couple vehicles over, “Hey mom, my new friend’s name is Nicole!” He gave me kisses on the cheek and played with my hair as he told me about how he had seen the dragon dances during last night’s Tet performances. We soon parted ways, with me meandering off to breakfast.

Elisha Love and his mom wound up joining us for breakfast, his little voice carrying through and around the otherwise silent dining hall. It was a delight to have his young spirit around. After a few minutes he began softly serenading us with one of our practice songs:

Happiness is here and now
I have dropped my worries
No where to go, nothing to do,
Never in a hurry.
Happiness is here and now
I have dropped my worries
Somewhere to go, something to do
But I don’t need to hurry

He would often mix up the words: Happiness is here and now, I have dropped my worries, something to do, nowhere to go, never in a hurry :) It was a treat to have him singing to us and it brought many smiles.

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Deer Park: Day 15

(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)

earthcakes

Day Fifteen:
Saturday January 30th, 2016

3:10pm

It was clear skied early this morning, when the stars and waning moon still hung in the sky. Once the sun began to awaken, clouds and moisture drifted in overhead and have been with us all day, causing a chill to linger on the breeze. With the moon casting its gaze on my shoulders I could see my shadow reflected on the dirt steps as I walked up to the dharma hall for morning meditation. I was reassured by my shadow’s slow cadence as it climbed each step.

I did stick exercise by myself in the dirt parking lot after our sitting period. After breakfast I waited to speak with one particular Sister and managed to summon the energy to ask her for special permission to join back in with the Brother who leads the stick exercises each morning. While I can do them on my own and know the sequence I very much like joining in with the Brother and have been missing it. I had been wanting to ask her for days and was going back and forth about whether it was best for me to simply resign to the Clarity policy about not participating in the morning stick exercises or simply ask and see what happened. Ultimately I decided it was good practice for me to ask for what I wanted, knowing I would be able to relax in whatever outcome resulted. To my surprise she said it was OK to join in with the Brother, as long as I did not linger once they were over and returned back to Clarity right afterwards. I was expecting her to say no so I was over-joyed when I received a yes!

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Deer Park, Day Twenty-Three

Pilgrims during TET

Pilgrims during TET

Deer Park, Day Twenty-Three 

(written on Sunday February 2nd)

4:15pm.

Today is the last day of TET and was the arrival day for the Temple hopping tour buses.  Every year during TET many Vietnamese people hire tour buses to take them from Temple to Temple in order to gain merit, start the new year with good energy, and to help carry forward their spiritual aspirations.  The people don’t stay very long.  When a bus pulls up to the big meditation hall firecrackers are set up, a dragon dance is performed, there is a chance to go inside the hall to bow in front of the alter, and then the guests are offered tea and a tangerine.  I overheard from one of the brothers that we were expecting 9 tour buses today.  Next Sunday the same thing will happen and a lay friend even told me that for weeks pilgrims will continue to come to Temple hop.

We had breakfast at 8:00 and then at 10:00 we met for walking meditation up at the brothers’ small meditation hall.  Even though we didn’t have a formal day of mindfulness there were other friends who joined us for the early afternoon.  There were around 30 or so visitors who joined in for the walking, which was set up for those of us who spoke English, while the bus loads of people were being greeted and taken care of at the big hall.  Brother Phap Ho led us in some walking meditation up to Yen Tu Mountain, where the big white statue of the Buddha sits, and then down to the Stupa.  He shared with us that the stupa is offered in dedication to the first Abbot of Deer Park (Thay Giac Thanh).

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Deer Park, Day Twenty-Two

TET Collage

TET Collage

Deer Park, Day Twenty-Two

(written on Saturday February 1st)

8:45pm.  

There was again no sitting meditation scheduled today so when I woke up a little after 5:00am I sat on my own in my still roommate-free cabin.  I took a meditation cushion and pad from the tearoom and also sat last night before bed.  After sitting I studied for a little while and then did some reading in Mindful Magazine.  It was very pleasant to start off the day to myself.

Breakfast was at 8:00 and then our program started at 10:00 so with the time in between I helped to prepare our lay friends hut, as we called it, for visitors that would be coming after lunch.  Today was our hamlet’s turn for visitors for the once a year occasion where the sisters’ open their rooms for guests to be invited in.  At 10:00am we gathered outside of our small meditation hall here in Clarity Hamlet for firecrackers and a dragon dance.  We then had an Oracle Reading in our small hall and packed it full of guests.  Before we began I was wondering how we’d fit everyone in our small hall but it seemed to work out OK.  Many people did not attend the reading and the rest of us simply sat wherever we could find room.  After the reading we had a picnic style lunch.  I sat outside in the sunshine to eat and gratefully warm up after spending over an hour inside of our very cold meditation hall for the Oracle Reading.  For some reason the sisters always leave the windows open during the night and it takes a while for it to warm up throughout the day.

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Deer Park, Day Twenty-One

Basket of tangerines (to give away during TET)

Basket of tangerines (to give away during TET)

(I figured since my Day Twenty post was so short, and it goes along with Day Twenty-One, that I would offer two posts today :)

 

Deer Park, Day Twenty-One

(written on Friday January 31st)

6:15am.

Last night after the New Year’s Eve Ceremony I didn’t get into bed until just after 1:00am.  So I’ve just woken up and am now in the dining hall.  I don’t often have dreams, or perhaps it’s that I simply don’t remember them if I do.  But I woke up this morning from a vivid dream that made me want to spring out of bed so that I wouldn’t fall back asleep and return to it.  When I do have dreams they tend to be bad dreams and many times I will wake up crying, half still asleep and half awake.  In my dream this morning I approached a building at night.  It was very quiet and no one was outside.  As I got closer to the building I saw a baby lying on the concrete curb separating the parking lot from some landscaping around the building.  The baby was crying.  It was cold outside and there was only a thin yellow blanket under the baby, but not wrapping over top.  Instinctively I looked around quickly, saw no one, and picked up the baby.  I straightened the baby’s clothes, to cover as much skin as possible for warmth, and swaddled the baby in the blanket.  I went inside the building and it was a college dorm.  I went to the front desk to ask them about this baby I had just found and the guy told me it was Elahee’s baby.  I asked about where to find him and he directed me down the hall, third door on the right.  As I went down the hall there were many guys walking around in big open rooms.  The doors into the rooms were confusing and I wasn’t sure I was in the right spot.  I entered and asked loudly so everyone could hear me, “Are any of you Elahee?”  Everyone stopped but no one responded.  I asked again and still no response came.  The room I was in housed international students and everyone was of a non-Caucasian ethnicity, mostly from Africa and India it seemed.

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