Renewal and Taking Care of Yourself

The new year brings us the opportunity to reflect on the past and ponder the future. Our family spent two weeks at Deer Park Monastery with a six-day Holiday Retreat in the middle. The second day of the retreat I was honored when Thay Phap Hai asked me to participate in the planned dharma talk.  We did this talk with our friend Karen Hilsberg.

The Plum Village sangha has a practice called Beginning Anew that we used for the foundation of our talk, since the theme of the retreat was renewal. Rather than focusing on another person, as we typically do with this practice, the focus of attention was ourselves. Karen provided us with four meditations that we explored in the one-hour talk. Please enjoy the talk.

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Four Meditations for Self-Renewal

  1. Flower Watering/Sharing Appreciation. Looking deeply, I see many positive and wholesome qualities in myself such as…
  2. Benign Regrets. Looking deeply, I regret that I have caused myself pain through my thoughts, speech and actions in the following ways…
  3. Hurts and Difficulties. Looking deeply, I can understand my own hurts and difficulties with deep compassion and friendliness toward myself, without blame or criticism as follows…
  4. Challenges and Intentions for the Future. For the future, I anticipate the following challenges and intend to practice mindfully and skillfully in the following ways…

The key here is to be kind and honest with yourself. If you can’t listen here, you can download the talk.

4 days, 25 Monastics, 80 Children, and More

With almost 250 people filling Deer Park Monastery, the 6th Annual Family Retreat was a great success. Leslie and I (with kids) arrived a couple days early to help setup and plan for the arrival of many friends. From July 2 through July 6, the monastery was transformed into a time of families practicing together. It was very nourishing to see many old friends from past retreats and to share, learn, and grow together. The Dharma is deep and lovely and it was very present in those attending the retreat. How wonderful to spend time with parents on the path who have similar values and interests as we do in our family. About half the people camped while the others stayed in the simple dorms. The weather was hot, but not unbearable. This Retreat was the most culturally diverse I’ve experienced at Deer Park (having never attended the People of Color Retreat) and I was happy to be sitting and practicing with friends on the path. So, some readers may wonder what happens at a monastery with 80 children.

Continue reading “4 days, 25 Monastics, 80 Children, and More”

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? Continue reading “Sustained Practice and Well Being”