So much happened at Deer Park. I’ve learned so much about myself. I learned about the practice of mindfulness and meditation – to take each step, each breath, each bite – with joy and purpose. I think the quote, “walk is if you are kissing the earth with your feet,” accurately summarizes the idea of everything I learned. It means to do things with love, with intention, with care and gentleness, it means to recognize the moment and each moment for what it is. Each step matters just as much as the destination.
This has been transformational for me. It has helped me understand and recognize my thoughts as they are happening. It’s almost like another dimension of awareness and liveliness I never knew existed. It’s like being woke on another level. Like I know I’m woke intellectually but this is like another kind of woke. It’s like a spiritual wokeness that is difficult to describe.
Most days we did meditation 4 times – 5:45am sitting meditation, 9am working meditation, 5pm walking meditation, and 8pm sitting meditation. Sitting meditation was the hardest, especially for 30-45 mins which is how long we usually did it for. I felt myself getting better, but it was still a very hard practice to keep my mind from wandering around. Yeah, I noticed that my mind wanders A LOT.
We had 3 meals a day – all amazing vegan food made by the monks. It was a good mix of all kinds of stuff – viet, italian, burgers, mac n cheese, etc. Surprisingly, I never had ANY craving for meat the entire week, which I was really surprised about. Each meal we ate in silence for 15 minutes and with intention.
The landscape there is beautiful. It’s in the mountains. In the night you can see the stars so clearly. I went on a few hikes and did a lot of staring into nothingness which was extremely soothing. I thought I would get bored but as I was getting to leave I found myself yearning for more time there. I wanted to stay another week. (But they wouldn’t let me >.<)
I also had a moment of realization at Deer Park. On my first day, I noticed myself getting anxious and timid, not wanting to talk to people, and making waves of assumptions about the people I was seeing just based on what I noticed about them. I got into this “I hope they don’t notice me” type of mentality. I didn’t notice I was doing this at first, but after a couple days I noticed how I had opened up to people and how so many of my assumptions about these people were completely off based. I think the mindfulness space was helpful in getting me to know, see, and understand my thoughts as they were happening in real time and sometime in the middle of the retreat I had a realization about myself. This is not the first time I have gotten this way. In fact, I realized that I have been this way all my life. Everytime I walk into a new and uncomfortable space I get this “I hope they don’t notice me” type of way. I think it’s a defence mechanism of sorts, starting all the way back to middle school, where I stay tried to stay as secluded and to myself as possible. I think it was a complex I developed from being bullied and trying to hide my sexuality. But to see what was happening at Deer Park and for the first time, see it as a pattern – I think was something very significant for me.
My experience at Deer Park has been transformational in so many ways. I’ve never felt so at peace and so liberated in my life. It’s like my mind and spirit were free when I was there with no worries at all. Only focusing on the beauty that exists in front of me. Like it was extremely healing for my soul. I will definitely take this practice of mindfulness throughout my life. I highly recommend it for you too! I think you will LOVE it!!! I also think about what this means for our society. If all of us had just a little understanding of mindfulness, what would that look for how we treat each other and how we treat the world? How do we bring this to type of mindset to the masses?
Also, I got a crush on a monk. UGH! What is my life. I’ll tell you about it later.
K. Love you and miss you,