Sustained Practice and Well Being

Over the past seven years, I have spent many days/nights at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, but usually it is for a weekend or even just a day. On two occasions our family have spent 3-weeks at the monastery (once at Deer Park and once at Plum Village in France). These times are always nourishing and provide a nice time away from our regular environment. After our last long visit, in January, the children both said they’d like to stay longer the next time we visit. And though we only spent this past week at Deer Park, it was better than no time, and the children loved the visit especially since the Abbot Thay Phap Dung was available to play silly games with them.

The first question people often ask us about time at the monastery is – what do you do there? What about the children? My best response is that we participate in the activities of the monastery as best we can. For things like sitting meditation, dharma talks (teachings) and dharma discussion, Leslie and I must take turns. Aside from that, we join the community in eating together, cooking together, walking together, playing together, and working together. It is a time to slow down. How often can you take 45-60 minutes for every meal? How often can you take a 45-minute walk in the middle of the day with friends? Or, to sit and have tea for two hours in the afternoon while the children play?

Every minute of our lives are often full of doing something and Deer Park allows us to be doing nothing. It is a good practice. What I have learned on this most recent trip is that sustained practice is important for me to be able and take Mindfulness into my regular environment. Though I often sit for 45-60 minutes every day, it is easy to slip into forgetfulness. As a member of the Order of Interbeing, I am expected to have 60 Days of Mindfulness every year. This means a day of practice like those at the monastery. Obviously, I can go for a day or a weekend to the monastery, and Days of Mindfulness in my local community, but it doesn’t quite get me to the depth of practice that sustained practice could provide. It is difficult to truly slow down in a day or in a few days. Deep practice, deep looking, and exploring my Bodhisattva vows require more time. One week, three weeks, one month are the direction I am going.

I feel very fortunate to have a supporting family and to have a supporting sangha at Deer Park. As we explore the options, my hope is to spend 1-3 months each year at the Monastery. Many people weigh in on this hope, and it may not happen, but it is an exploration and a direction.

  • TakomaTiger

    Kenley, Thanks for opening this subject.

    For me, the flow goes both ways: how to more deeply experience our lives while at the monastery, and also, how to bring more of what we like at the monastery back into our daily life.

    Thich Nhat Hanh talked about this in his very first book for Westerners, the Miracle of Mindfulness. An excerpt is below.

    A lotus for you.

    ******

    In my small class in meditation for non-Vietnamese, there are many young people. I’ve told them that if each one can meditate an hour each day that’s good, but it’s nowhere near enough. You’ve got to practice meditation when you walk, stand, lie down, sit, and work, while washing your hands, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, drinking tea, talking to friends, or whatever you are doing: “While washing the dishes, you might be thinking about the tea afterwards, and so try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible in order to sit and drink tea. But that means that you are incapable of living during the time you are washing the dishes. When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life. Just as when you’re drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life. When you’re using the toilet, let that be the most important thing in your life.” And so on. Chopping wood is meditation. Carrying water is meditation. Be mindful 24 hours a day, not just during the one hour you may allot for formal meditation or reading scripture and reciting prayers. Each act must be carried out in mindfulness. Each act is a rite, a ceremony. Raising your cup of tea to your mouth is a rite. Does the word “rite” seem too solemn? I use that word in order to jolt you into the realization of the life-and-death matter of awareness.

  • TakomaTiger

    Kenley, Thanks for opening this subject.

    For me, the flow goes both ways: how to more deeply experience our lives while at the monastery, and also, how to bring more of what we like at the monastery back into our daily life.

    Thich Nhat Hanh talked about this in his very first book for Westerners, the Miracle of Mindfulness. An excerpt is below.

    A lotus for you.

    ******

    In my small class in meditation for non-Vietnamese, there are many young people. I’ve told them that if each one can meditate an hour each day that’s good, but it’s nowhere near enough. You’ve got to practice meditation when you walk, stand, lie down, sit, and work, while washing your hands, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, drinking tea, talking to friends, or whatever you are doing: “While washing the dishes, you might be thinking about the tea afterwards, and so try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible in order to sit and drink tea. But that means that you are incapable of living during the time you are washing the dishes. When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life. Just as when you’re drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life. When you’re using the toilet, let that be the most important thing in your life.” And so on. Chopping wood is meditation. Carrying water is meditation. Be mindful 24 hours a day, not just during the one hour you may allot for formal meditation or reading scripture and reciting prayers. Each act must be carried out in mindfulness. Each act is a rite, a ceremony. Raising your cup of tea to your mouth is a rite. Does the word “rite” seem too solemn? I use that word in order to jolt you into the realization of the life-and-death matter of awareness.

  • grace

    Kenley-

    I can’t believe that, as we’ve been circling through life so close to one another, I’ve never known about your connection to Plum Village/ Deer Park–

    I took a class at Wesleyan University called “Engaged Buddhism”, in which I first read Thich Nhat Hanh– it ended up changing my path a lot, as I’m sure it does for everyone.

    Anyhow, here is one of my favorite poems he wrote, you have probably read it many times, but here it is anyway:

    Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow –
    even today I am still arriving.

    Look deeply: every second I am arriving
    to be a bud on a Spring branch,
    to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
    learning to sing in my new nest,
    to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
    to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

    I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
    to fear and to hope.

    The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
    of all that is alive.

    I am the mayfly metamorphosing
    on the surface of the river.
    And I am the bird
    that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

    I am the frog swimming happily
    in the clear water of a pond.
    And I am the grass-snake
    that silently feeds itself on the frog.

    I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
    my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
    And I am the arms merchant,
    selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

    I am the twelve-year-old girl,
    refugee on a small boat,
    who throws herself into the ocean
    after being raped by a sea pirate.
    And I am the pirate,
    my heart not yet capable
    of seeing and loving.

    I am a member of the politburo,
    with plenty of power in my hands.
    And I am the man who has to pay
    his “debt of blood” to my people
    dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

    My joy is like Spring, so warm
    it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
    My pain is like a river of tears,
    so vast it fills the four oceans.

    Please call me by my true names,
    so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
    so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

    Please call me by my true names,
    so I can wake up,
    and so the door of my heart
    can be left open,
    the door of compassion.

  • grace

    Kenley-

    I can’t believe that, as we’ve been circling through life so close to one another, I’ve never known about your connection to Plum Village/ Deer Park–

    I took a class at Wesleyan University called “Engaged Buddhism”, in which I first read Thich Nhat Hanh– it ended up changing my path a lot, as I’m sure it does for everyone.

    Anyhow, here is one of my favorite poems he wrote, you have probably read it many times, but here it is anyway:

    Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow –
    even today I am still arriving.

    Look deeply: every second I am arriving
    to be a bud on a Spring branch,
    to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
    learning to sing in my new nest,
    to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
    to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

    I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
    to fear and to hope.

    The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
    of all that is alive.

    I am the mayfly metamorphosing
    on the surface of the river.
    And I am the bird
    that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

    I am the frog swimming happily
    in the clear water of a pond.
    And I am the grass-snake
    that silently feeds itself on the frog.

    I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
    my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
    And I am the arms merchant,
    selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

    I am the twelve-year-old girl,
    refugee on a small boat,
    who throws herself into the ocean
    after being raped by a sea pirate.
    And I am the pirate,
    my heart not yet capable
    of seeing and loving.

    I am a member of the politburo,
    with plenty of power in my hands.
    And I am the man who has to pay
    his “debt of blood” to my people
    dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

    My joy is like Spring, so warm
    it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
    My pain is like a river of tears,
    so vast it fills the four oceans.

    Please call me by my true names,
    so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
    so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

    Please call me by my true names,
    so I can wake up,
    and so the door of my heart
    can be left open,
    the door of compassion.

  • Ah, a lovely poem and one of his most quoted I suspect. We all inter-are, as I am sure you experience in your life farming. I look forward to a continued dialogue with you.

    What other material did you read in your class?

    With a bow, for your writing.

  • Ah, a lovely poem and one of his most quoted I suspect. We all inter-are, as I am sure you experience in your life farming. I look forward to a continued dialogue with you.

    What other material did you read in your class?

    With a bow, for your writing.