1 Week at Zen Monastery

“While knowing is important it is often not enough; I must deeply understand and grasp deeper than having information. I must practice it”

Main and other insights gained

-(Main insight and what this writing is about) Be ok with what is happening right now. If it’s not “good” realize that its ok, its ok to feel uneasy, its ok to have weird thoughts, its ok… Notice them but don’t push them away and chase a “better” state or don’t mask it with activity.

The importance of a community of like minded people working together towards a common goal. In Buddhism the community is called a sangha.

-Be mindful of who and what we allow to reside in our minds. We don’t let everyone into our home but we allow such bad people, bad thoughts/situations to occupy and dwell in our minds which is far more precious. 

– We are what we consume from what we watch, to what we eat, to what we listen to. Basically what we allow in through any of our senses. These things leave imprints in us.

–  The importance of silence and space to allow things to grow. I don’t know what life was like 200 years ago but I bet they had far more space and silence in a day. We don’t know what a such world looks or feels like because we never lived it.

The Start

Just returned home Friday November 1st from Deer Park Monastery. It was founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. The website says this “Deer Park is a place to quite the mind, look deeply and enjoy the wonders of life within and around us though the practices of sitting meditation, walking meditation, mindful eating, and deep relaxation meditation and sharing Togetherness.” All I can say is that I fully agree with that.

Biggest insight gained: To fully embrace every state of being; Embrace every thought and every feeling and every mood and stop trying to make it feel good. There is a saying in Zen “This Is It” and I feel this best describes what I found. Before I entered the Monastery I could have spoke about this. It’s actually the basic purpose of mediation. To accept what is happening and to watch with equanimity as various thoughts and feelings arise but to practice not getting caught up in them. If you do, simply notice you’re caught and come back to the breath. I wasn’t taught this knowledge on the retreat. It’s information I learned from prior studies.

On the second night I awoke around 12:50 am with a very deep realization of what I mentioned above. I didn’t get any new information it was like I internalized it or understood it at a deeper level. I saw that despite knowing this information I realized I had still been grasping for the “good” states of being. At that moment and currently at this moment I am totally ok with feeling like crap or for having bad thoughts. I’m ok with things not working out, I’m ok with what comes even if its not “good”. Because it is actually all good because it’s life. I don’t need to reject what’s happening at this moment and look for a better state. I don’t need to listen to music to make myself feel good because I want to chase some uneasy feeling away. I didn’t realize that I was, though subtlety, always trying to cover up these uneasy feelings with something else.  What I saw was that it was and is ok and I no longer need to run. I don’t need to cover these up. I saw that covering them up prolongs the states I was trying to avoid in the first place; additionally, they would seem to manifest in other behaviors. If I learn how to properly deal with them by accepting WHAT IS I can actually loosen their grip on me, which for me is this ever uneasy feeling, this restlessness, this needing to prove to myself, this needing to prove to others who and what I am. The biggest thing I want to stress is that I could have said all this before and I have but I somehow grasped it much deeper in my being. While knowing is important it is often not enough; I must deeply understand and grasp deeper than having information. I must practice it. It was a blessing that I would have never bet on; an insight I never thought would have helped me. You see what I wanted was for the “bad” to go away but, unfortunately, it never does.

A brief description 
I have never been to a Zen Monastery so I was sure what to expect as far as how a day would unfold. Here is a sample schedule that reflects an average day while staying.

What I wanted to “get out” of staying there was a mind of gratitude and leave with good feelings, which I did but it didn’t happen the way I envisioned it would and the insights I did get were things I wouldn’t have put money on getting.

Arrival time is set for Friday between 2 and 4; I was there shortly after 2. The gentleman checking us in said there wasn’t anything on the schedule for us expect dinner so we had the afternoon free. I dropped of my items in my room and went on a little walk up this pathway to a hill that overlooks the park and you can see a portion of Escondido, Deer Park is tucked away on a hill side of some mountains.

When I reached the topped I found a place to sit. The first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t feeling happy, and honestly I should have know this but I guess wishful thinking. I actually felt exactly the same except for it being very quiet and I could hear all the sounds of nature. However, all my thoughts from before entering were there. I also was getting urges to check my phone but I vowed to myself to limit my access to the phone while I was there, plus I wasn’t sure of the rules.

After awhile I went down and before I knew it the dinner bell was ringing. The first 20 minutes of dinner is eaten in silence which I knew meant to eat mindfully. I think it was the first time, since I can remember, eating in such a manner. What I noticed was all the different tastes of the food as well as the textures and that it took me a long time to eat. A good 30 minutes. Each bit was fully chew and then swallowed.

Shortly after dinner I retired to bed and woke up the next morning for morning meditation. The second day was filled with thoughts and feelings similar to the first day. But we had an orientation that went over what to expect and expectations of us while there. The Brother (monk) discussed the basic meditation process. I believe what he said had something to do with my new understanding though he didn’t tell me anything “new”. But life is vastly interdependent and usually when we look for a single cause we can’t find it. If there is a single cause we can look at that deeply and see so many other causes inside that moment.

After the orientation I asked myself a question “what is this feeling?” “Why do these thoughts keep coming back?” I felt the question go deep and I’m sure the all the space the monastery offered allowed the question to really work it’s way in. But who knows exactly how these things happen, they just seem to.

With Eyes Wide Open

I open my eyes and wonder where I am. How did I get here? Is any of this real or is all just a dream, a figment of my imagination.

I realize a great hunger but why am I so hungry? I thought I just ate! Is this hunger real? Hummm maybe I’ve been here way longer than I realized.

Let me just go and grab my things and I’ll be on my way.

I open my eyes and wonder where I am…..

Judge Them First

I imagine having everything I ever said and thought recorded. I imagine it’s there for all the world to see and to scrutinize.

How deeply am I a bungling  hypocrite? How logically consistent am I really? How honest am I really? Am I really the good person I like to think that I am? Am I really the hero?

Unfortunately I am the hypocrite and the  liar and not the good hero. I blush at thinking about how much work I need.

Dreaming Mind

The mind seems to always be dreaming. The difference in wakeful dreaming and sleep dreaming is consciousness.  Consciousness seems to act as a barrier that keeps the dreams more orientated and cohesive; nonetheless, it’s still very dream like if we actually pay attention. Remove the barrier and we know how crazy things can get in our sleeping dream state.

The Easy Way

Simplicity isn’t easy because our nature tells us we need more. Collecting and living in abundance is actually the easy way. However, the best and easiest way to live a purposeful life is through simplicity.

Discipline and habit (suffering) are our friends. Don’t fear suffering, embrace it!

A Man (or woman) livith

Having an orderly soul is the main key to life.

white, black, rich, poor, fat, thin, ugly, beautiful, sick, healthy, old, young right, left matters not. The inverse of one’s position should matter not nor should it agitate one’s heart and mind. It’s through the inverse that life exists, not it’s  eradication of the inverse.

we can all meet in the field of our humanity and disparities.

may I seek to bring my soul in order and see life for what it is, no more need for hatred or division.

 

Emotional spasm

1) Placing inordinate emphasis on the most trivial matters by reacting to shallow momentary emotional spasms are not the best grounds for developing any sort of deeper fulfillment in life and leads one to continual momentary dissatisfaction.

2) I say explore life’s deeper values and exercise the governance (not blind governance) of all deeper values in ones life while rejecting the shallow emotional reactions. Just the starting point to any sort of meaningful life: practice.

3) Balance and moderation in all things is an art: habit.

Them you or me

Take away intent, meaning or point
You take away a mans (woman or zers)
Meaning to be.
It’s the over complication
Of life
To be more than it has or needs to be
For if we look deeply
We see the person that is in front of me
Them, you or me needs to be
The person we set out to be
What’s next?
Nothing but me
What does this even mean?
Can we even comprehend
If we cannot see ourselves honestly?
Unfortunately this is where the disconnect
Between them, you and me is what I see
We miss the unity
Because once I know and understand the person in the mirror
Nothing but a brother stands in the world I see
And there is only unity
Symbolic gestures are part of who we are
But more deeply it is what lies in a persons heart.

I am not a poet, as you can see, nor am I even good at writing poems. I usually right whats on my mind as a way of helping me articulate and deepen my thinking and thought process. The above is sort of in response to some things I have noticed and the best way I know how to point as what I think is a root problem in our country is.

I would describe myself as a classical liberal (look up what this means because it is totally different than the modern term liberal) and I emphasize duty and personal responsibility. I have come to this point of view through meditative practices (understanding my minds conditions) and the studying of various schools of philosophical thought as well as a belief in the scientific method.