Monday, April 26, 2010

True happiness and other lessons from Deer Park

I'm back, from yet another hiatus this semester! It has been a wild few months and I find that sometimes in order to truly take a break I have to step out of the blog routine for a couple of days to re-vamp my energy. In any case, this weekend was an incredible experience that I have been looking forward to writing about for the past couple of days. While I cannot attempt to recreate my experience in words, I do want to share a few really insightful things that I learned this weekend.

For those who do not know, I went on a Buddhist meditation retreat at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA (where there is literally nothing except a 7-11 and a lot of wildlife!) I originally went on the trip for the sole purpose of learning how to "clear my mind" and have a weekend escape from the chaos of homework, projects, work, and the neverending flow of emails in my inbox! It's funny though - while I went there to "clear my mind" I ended up doing just the opposite. I learned how to focus - on everything from the smallest task of walking, chewing, or even breathing. It's incredible what you can do when you a)challenge yourself, b)live in silence for hours at a time and c) explore the lifestyles of other people. (And I can't overlook the minor detail that I was surrounded by signs warning of rattle snakes and STILL managed to meditate and remain calm. That in itself is an accomplishment!)

The weekend was spent meditating, discussing Buddhism with other college students and the concept of "mindfulness," and the most challenging part of all - passing a majority of the time in complete silence. It's interesting how awkward it is to sit through an entire meal at a table of strangers without speaking one word to each other! I never would have guessed. Aside from the planned activities, there was a lot of down time to just "be." (I made sure I spent plenty of time doing that since I had no excuses to distract myself!) It was great. I am not going to say that I had mind-boggling life revelations or suddenly discovered the path I am supposed to take, but what I did realize was pretty relevant to my life right now. One of the quotes from the weekend that stuck out the most was "true happiness comes from within" - and while this is related to what I have blogged about for a while, I think the words in this exact form speak volumes. While I know personally sometimes it is easy to get caught up in being busy or having so many things to do and "stress" about, at the end of the day, the real happiness comes from inside. It doesn't matter if I'm stuck in a room with a colleague that is driving me crazy, or my project isn't going right, or whatever it may be, but instead it's simply up to me to overlook those things.

One of my favorite moments from the weekend that will stick with me forever was when I walked into the "Big Hall" for the lecture on Saturday afternoon and a group of five monks were singing "Imagine" while one of them played the guitar. The song, the lyrics, and the positive energy that was filling the room was enough to complete my weekend! I've included the song here for your own enjoyment.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today ...

Well, now I am back and ready to go! I've learned to eat slower, walk mindfully, and not overlook the truly beautiful things in life such as the gift of LIVING and BREATHING! Things we take advantage of each and every day that we wake up. I'm looking forward to what this (crazy) week has to bring.

Sending all my love on this marvelous Monday.



  1. That sounds like an amazing time!!! You'll have to tell me more about the experience and what you learned... I'm sure you have a lot to tell! The silence speaks the truth, and the way you handle that truth speaks volumes as well.

  2. Imagine....if everyone experienced true happiness. Imagine....if everyone lived in the moment. Imagine....if we could comfort others by our presence alone, with no words necessary. Imagine....if all human beings worked together to relieve suffering in the world. Powerful thoughts to power us through the week!