Category Archives: Deer Park

Mindfulness Sweetens Our World

Rain’s freshness Healing this Dry Earth ~d nelson. Below is a letter sent to friends in my meditation community on Thanksgiving.

How wonderful that it is now raining in Northern California.
From Native Peoples I’ve lived with, especially Hopi, I learned to express
deep gratitude I feel for rains, which sustain all life.
These current rains here are blessing us with clean air to breathe and putting
out the devastating wildfire. Thank you land ancestors for helping me express this thanks.

I’m feeling very grateful for having Thich Nhat Hanh as my spiritual teacher for the past couple decades,
as he has provided compassionate & wise teachings for experiencing well-being,
while continuing to offer a beautiful example of practicing them at 92 years of age.
Furthermore, using skillful means he has spoken honestly to me about impermanence, explicitly climate change,
preserving mother earth, human relations & other issues of concern to us all. Breathing through an air mask for these past couple weeks, when outside, I’ve felt accepting of dry, smoky, unhealthy conditions as they were.

Skies were also smoky here many weeks this past summer. I’m feeling more solid as a mountain than I could have without our practice of stopping, conscious breathing & trainings to not do harm to ourselves & all beings. There is a sadness I feel for descendants who will not have the privilege I’ve had of growing up in a seemingly stable environment.
May they be happy & feel safe in the world they inherit.

I’ve great gratitude for being able to take refuge in a mindfulness community or sangha.
Such a wonderful condition of happiness being a part of a community
that practices living in harmony & awareness;
that we may awaken from the illusion of separateness.

On Thay’s (affectionate Vietnamese term for “teacher”) continuation day last month
some lay friends on retreat at Deer Park Meditation center gathered,
expressing gratitude to him by sharing the benefits of, or fruit, of their meditation practice.
Some were quite new, with real beginners mind. Others were more experienced brothers & sisters. A clip of these heartfelt expressions, including images of Thay enjoying tea at Tue Hieu in 2007 (his root temple, at which he is now spending his last days)
can be viewed here, if interested: “mindfulness sweetens our world.”
Wishing you sweet fruit from the practice you’ve chosen to bring happiness, healing & insight.

fruit of our practice (click to watch happy video)

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Have a Lot of Faith in Myself

mind, like pond, moves towards clarity & stillness ~d nelson

Looks like they are practicing Zen
sitting, walking, eating
& working meditations.
But are they really practicing?
Are we sure? And what about us?
Perhaps 50 percent,
or maybe just
10 percent of the time
or less, if being honest
with ourselves.

But part-time Buddha’s
are capable of strong aspirations
for diligently practicing virtues
with all their hearts
in order to transform
suffering & find peace
& well-being for self & others.

Mindfulness is to recognize
& know we have a body at this moment.
Mind may be shy to acknowledge this.
But then, with body, speech & mind
in perfect oneness it’s possible
to stand & truly behold
the expansive sky, the deep-rooted tree
and hear their whole stories.

When we plant a tree
& have faith it will thrive,
there’s hope for its future.
A mother’s belief that her child
will grow up is also necessary.
Without faith the tree & the child will prematurely die.
The same is true of our practice.
We may have failed a thousand times
but with faith in wholeheartedly practiced noble teachings
our full potential for awakening remains achievable.

Being Humble

(originally posted Sept 27, 2012)

done fishing today

done fishing today, Lesbos, Greece inner sea ~ D. Nelson

Last week after some quality time cultivating my garden of mindfulness at Deer Park, I packed up the camping gear and slowly drove out of the hidden mountain valley. Neil Diamond’s glorious Jonathan Livingston Seagull soundtrack CD was playing, as I rolled slowly across bouldered hills into the fog of Escondido. Still on my mind’s consciousness was young brother’s talk, which included reference to the ancient Chuang Tzu story of an empty boat. Chuang Tzu was a Taoist sage, living sometime before 250 B.C.

“If a man is crossing a river and an empty boat collides with his own skiff, even though he be a bad-tempered man he will not become very angry. But if he sees a man in the boat, he will shout at him to steer clear. If the shout is not heard, he will shout again, and yet again, and begin cursing. And all because there is somebody in the boat. Yet if the boat were empty, he would not be shouting, and not angry.

If you can empty your own boat crossing the river of the world, no one will oppose you, no one will seek to harm you….

Who can free himself from achievement, and from fame, descend and be lost amid the masses of men?

He will flow like Tao, unseen, he will go about like Life itself with no name and no home.

Simple is he, without distinction. To all appearances he is a fool.

His steps leave no trace. He has no power. He achieves nothing, has no reputation.

Since he judges no one, no one judges him.

Such is the perfect man:

His boat is empty. “

(20:2, 4, pp. 168-171) Chuang Tzu. The Way of Chuang Tzu. Translator/Editor Thomas Merton. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1965.

watery clear lake divide

Embracing that thought of the empty boat as a koan I began the drive home with clear, blue southern California skies and end of summer heat. Recalling the front tire blowout (mentioned on my “finding the key” post) on the way down I was planning on taking it easy driving the interstate back. As I first met cars an intentional remembering that these cars are empty. Empty of anger, ill will, and ultimately, empty of having a separate existence. We are flowing on this river of time and space together. Cooperating like the cells of my body, and not competing. Even though my quickly judging mind might think, “hey, these people are in a hurry, seem impatient and my slow mindful driving is not making them any happier”, I adjusted best I could to support harmony on the road out of Escondido. Breathing and smiling holding the wheel of my empty boat. Fortunately the early morning traffic was light and spacious. No tailgater, no tailgatee.

 

full of everything ~d nelson

On the way down it seemed, in my memory, that the air was mostly clear. So as I approached the high San Gabriel mountains which were obscured by smog I sighed to the air that could be seen. Over the grapevine my empty boat journeyed through the San Joaquin Valley farmland with fruit and nut trees next to the roadway and an occasional fruit stand with fresh produce. Sometimes the freeway went across the California aqueduct, a canal which brings water from the north into the valley and southern California bringing it life, keeping it from returning back to its natural state of being a desert.

 

Empty boats of different colors, dancing up the interstate at the speed that is not too fast, not too slow, but just right for them. Well sometimes the big truck passes the other big truck and goes kind of slow, relative to the vehicles that were doing 90 until forced to go 60 while the big boat was in the fast lane. But knowing that it’s an empty boat I felt happy. Seeing truckloads of bright, red tomatoes make me happy. Seeing an occasional bunch of tomatoes that bumped off and smashed on the freeway made me happy. Cruise control made my leg happy. When the afternoon heat kicked in the a/c made me happy. Missing the large pieces of rubber tire retread across the highway made me happy, also. I was mindful to help my empty boat not hit anything, this time.

water contact ~d nelson

May all beings be happy and safe, be aware of obstacles and arrive alive. After awhile I notice a vehicle on the side of the road with a flat tire. Having been in that situation a couple of weeks earlier I had understanding and compassion. So I pulled over and offered to help. She seemed nervous at my presence and told me that triple A was called and already on the way. Wishing her well I smiled and got back into the boat. After several more hours, getting close to the Bay Area, I spotted smoke and soon approached a fire engine on the opposite side of the road. It was just finishing putting out the fire on a completely burnt out shell of a car. Couldn’t even tell what kind of car it used to be. No evidence of the occupants but I was sending metta that they are free from injury. The traffic was backed up a couple of miles slowly passing that scene. Instant reminder of how fragile we are. How quickly life goes by. After taking my time driving it was wonderful to regain my land legs and do some walking meditation through my neighborhood. Perhaps a step closer to realizing the empty boat inside myself. Although it will take many more rivers, that’s ok. One breath in awareness at a time, still a happy and imperfect man.

Talks from that retreat, as well as many others, available as a podcasts at: http://deerpark.libsyn.com/iamhome/2012

Post in memory of Phap De (young brother, 1935-2016)

Equality Without Complex

We have the complex of superiority as human beings and we think we have that kind of intelligence, that kind of consciousness that other living beings do not have. But I’m not very proud of that kind of mind that we are using in daily life: the mind of discrimination caught by many notions, the foundation of all kind of suffering. We discriminate against this and that, and that creates complexes of superiority, inferiority, and equality.
~Thich Nhat Hanh

contemplative dinner mtn hike

While hiking up Deer Park’s sacred mountain
along with many friends on the path,
a koan intrigues my trickster mind,
“what keeps us all apart?”

equality without complex (4 of 9)

Sitting quietly, looking down at a leaf, suddenly
the cloud, the tree, & the logger reveal themselves.
Upon recognizing earth & sky within the leaf, also,
the wind briskly asks, “what side are you on?”

equality without complex (9 of 9)

Humbly mind answers, I’ve been on either side,
I’ve been on both sides,
and now I vow to taking no side
other than understanding, compassion & love.

sitting like Buddhas

Smiling under leaf’s tree to mountain sunset’s revelation
that freedom from the equality complex
is found by transforming an insatiable habit
of mind trying to make things equal.
Discriminating mind fails at:
recognizing its own conditions of happiness;
having sympathetic joy for other’s good fortune;
and cultivating empathy for other’s misfortune.

lotus koi pond ~d nelson

On the surface, me & so-called non-me
may seem as separate splashes & waves,
but underneath, all is water.
All of creation, seen & unseen, uniquely expressed
in the past, present & future cosmic oceans.
Such joy briefly experiencing inter-being
during an outrageous inner sunset among friends.

When It’s Hot As Hell, Lets Cool It

dog paddlin’ to cool hot paws ~ d nelson

I have been in Hell, many kinds of Hell, and I have also noticed that even in Hell compassion is possible. With the practice of mindfulness meditation, you may very well prevent Hell manifesting. And if Hell has manifested, you have ways to transform Hell into something that is much more pleasant. When you get angry, Hell is born. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Friends,
lets breathe in to calm & care for our bodies
lets breathe out to cool & care for the earth.

cooling Washington run-off

Stepping out last week after a pleasant nap
my paws got fried on the backyard pavement.
I’m grateful to only have small burns to heal
as 30 percent of the world’s population is now exposed,
in this new climate, to potentially deadly heat for 20 days per year or more.
As air heats up, it becomes less dense, which effects, among other things, airplanes.
Many flights are canceled or delayed because some planes can’t safely lift off in extreme heat.

Breathe in, hot
Breathe out, cool
A meditation I began 30 years ago when I left the cool
of Berkeley, and grad school, for the work & heat
of the Valley of the Sun in Arizona.
I remember thinking, why did I have to arrive
to record-setting heat waves in Phoenix?
Records have continued to fall (or is that rise)
to this day. That’s just how it is.

earth’s gift of clean water

I have aches & pains in my body
which get soothed by total relaxation.
Breathing can relax, as can gentle walks,
gentle cycles, sitting & lying down.
A natural healing remedy.

July is getting hotter, NASA

How wonderful to have support
from calm, kind friends & loved ones,
along with cool breezes, waters, or even ice.
Feel the burning chill-out, cool, calm.
As the planet heats up
so are us earthlings.
Twitter tales of anger
seem to appear daily,
not just on the news,
but on the streets of my community.
I appreciate friends’ reminders
to seek refuge in cool & calm.

I’m picturing a calligraphy
on the front of my favorite meditation hall
which had the symbols, vo su,
which translates to “busylessness”.
We can do that for ourselves,
be less busy, less distracted,
for our loved ones, as  a random
act of kindness for all beings.

Breathe in, hot
Breathe out, cool.
Nothing else.
Well, perhaps watching the beauty
of earth & sky around us.
Watching the river flow.
Hearing our heart beat.

Thank you for not even exerting energy
on my behalf, to comment on this post.
Please conserve your precious  energy, dear one.
Later we will all dance together this summer
in our calm, cool stillness.
Dancing joyously in our hearts
without raising our temperature,
or the earth’s, a fraction of a degree.

Community & Friendship’s Delight

delighted sitting Buddhas ~d nelson

Dear WordPress Community, and Friends on the path,

So easily mind goes here, then goes there.
The mind can go in a thousand directions
including thinking that it’s alone.
But, with mindfulness, concentration & insight
we can remember the path upon which we’re stepping.
On this path are also countless beings supporting us,
at this moment, some of them are of the human-type.

delightfully recycling, together in Deer Park

I’m reminded of so many elders and others
who are isolated and feeling lonely right now.
They wish so much to be with other human beings.
I’ve had these feelings arise, myself
and I’m only almost an elder.
Perhaps you’ve longed for human companionship, also.

delightful flower

I’m offering a bow of gratitude for all the friends who came
joyfully together on retreat with me recently.
It felt very comforting, connected and safe to be vulnerable being
with those I’ve known for years, but see infrequently.
I feel so fortunate to have had conditions which introduced me to teachings
of understanding & love, the mindfulness community and many friendships.
I recognize that not everyone has had such favorable conditions.

interbeing rock delight

A diverse collection of friends took a moment to share in a beautiful portrait of what community is about, each in their own words. Community as relationships with others; sometimes neighbors, sometimes spiritual or like-minded friends, sometimes far away, or even scattered across the blogosphere.
I’m touched by their personal expressions of how crucial community is
to our most basic well-being and feelings of connection.
Their intention is to help others feel welcomed and welcoming into a community.
Some of us may feel encouraged to let go of feeling alone
& build or strengthen our own “community”.

collective energy of mindfulness

This 7 minute collage of many voices, entitled Community & Friendship’s Delight can be viewed on-line at:  (There’s even a rare glimpse of me towards the end)   🙂

Hundreds More Smiles

One standing a little left
the other just a little to the right,
Teacher & Student both near
yet, somehow far apart.

Hundreds of smiles,
along with the fate of humanity
await this reconciliation.

Oh, to embody wisdom teachings
borne from ancient ancestor’s desires to transcend
life’s minor pains & major devastations, varying as
scrapes, aching shoulders, misunderstandings; even anger & terrorism,
to dwell contentedly among fellow flowers in this vibrant garden.
Peaceful, well-being can clearly be
seen at bottom of pool’s shallow end.
We can play there with our water fins & waders
as we build up endurance for the deeper, darker end,
– a worthy, attainable aspiration.

Sitting Between Steps, Thich Nhat Hanh & students ~d nelson, flickr. Taken during a walking meditation rest at Prajna Temple (Bhat Nah), March 2007.

While healing one or more lifetimes of misunderstandings & hurt
in a short while is too much to ask for,
it is most possible to find near pain-free, happy relief
by stopping in this moment, yes, this one,
fully aware of breathing going on,
then rejoicing for that gentle pause
with a gratuitous, big smile!
At that moment
the teacher within
& the wise teachers, without
come together, to also
rejoice, smiling.

You’re warmly invited, my friend
to witness Hundreds More Smiles
of those who recently attended
& benefited from a mindfulness retreat
entitled, “Breathe, It’ll Be OK.” held at Deer Park, California.
Genuine expressions of real happiness & refuge
attained with supportive friends
who offered their true presence.
May it water your own smile’s seed of happiness
& bring a few moments of inner peace!

Gratitude to my friend Elizabeth who plays her piano so beautifully
& the Heart & Soul chorus for offering backing vocals
on my song, “Thank You, Dear Teacher.”

Conscious, mindful  breaths, along with peaceful steps & genuine smiles can clearly bring us ease and reduce anxieties & fear. These actions of peace in ourselves, and peace in the world are also for children far into the future.

“We say we want to strike against terror, we want to destroy terrorism, but do we even know where to find it? Can we locate it with a radar? Can the army find terrorism using its night goggles and heat sensors?

Misunderstanding, fear, anger, and hatred are the roots of terrorism. They cannot be located by the military. Bombs and missiles cannot reach them, let alone destroy them, for terrorism lies in the hearts of human beings. To uproot terror, we need to begin by looking at our own hearts. We don’t need to destroy each other, either physically or psychologically. Only by calming our minds and looking deeply inside ourselves will we develop the insight to identify the roots of terrorism. With compassion and communication, terrorism can be uprooted and transformed into love.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

smiles-124 ~d nelson

smiles-124 ~d nelson