I have arrived

Thank You

Reflections on the Order of Interbeing Retreat at Deer Park

By Nancy Nina

I felt a little tremulous and unsure as I arrived at the retreat, for I had only recently been ordained into the Order of Interbeing. This was my first overnight in a monastery. I was the new kid on the block and intended to mostly observe and remain grounded in my mindful breathing, from a somewhat distant and invisible vantage. I wanted to “learn the ropes” and “do it right.”

I walked the beautiful grounds, drawn to and sustained in my practice of mindfulness by the footsteps of those who had walked these paths before. The mountains and the great stones, the water and the flowers, the goldfish and frogs, the monks and the nuns, the laymen and women, all filled me with joy and gratitude. I circumambulated the new Dharma hall and felt at home. I had arrived.

By the time we met for our first gathering, I felt comfortable. I was happy to sit and watch, careful to catch the clues and cues, so I might fit in, without causing too many ripples.

It didn’t take long to see there were to be no observers at this retreat. It was a participatory weekend.  I learned I was to facilitate a small family group of five, representing the fourfold Sangha; one monk, one nun, one layman, and one other laywoman. We spent the first evening bonding, following Brother Phap Tri’s encouragement to get to know each other. I cannot find words to express my surprise and joy, discovering such open hearts and warm welcomes from everyone.

As the retreat progressed, each person told a story of how someone had touched them and inspired their practice. Tears and smiles, laughter and profound silence held us, as we each used loving speech to tell our story, while all the other cells of the body breathed mindfully and listened with understanding and compassion.

My heart broke open hearing the challenges and joys of my lay sisters and brothers in the Vietnamese community. Through them I caught a glimpse of the precious culture of Vietnam, home of our beloved lineage. I wept in compassion and joy as I heard of the gifts and challenges of the monastic life. I have been changed by these stories. The sisters and brothers at Deer Park and the family of the Order of Interbeing have come alive to me. It became clear to me too, that any feelings of unworthiness or having to prove myself, were relics of the past, leftovers from unskillful states of mind established in other situations. Instead, at Deer Park, I felt welcomed and accepted by my brothers and sisters.

Thank you for the treasure of Deer Park.

Nancy Nina, True Attainment of Light, is a founder of the Cedar Sangha in Eugene, Oregon. She works in an herb shop and cares for a senior with multiple sclerosis.

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I Have Arrived, I Am Home

By Thich Nhat Hanh mb60-IHaveArrived1

Dear Ancestors, der Father, dear Mother, dear Buddha, dear Patriarchs, dear Teacher, dear Friends, I have arrived. I am home. While I am still making steps, I have already arrived, I am already home. I have stopped wandering. This is the teaching and the practice of Plum Village, the Dharma Seal of Plum Village.(1)

I have arrived in the Pure Land, a real home where I can get in touch with both my ancestors and my descendants. I can touch the paradise of my childhood and all the wonders of life. I am no longer concerned with being and nonbeing, coming and going, being born or dying. In my true home I have no fear, no anxiety. I have peace and liberation. My true home is in the here and the now. I have found true happiness.

During so many lifetimes I have been a wanderer, searching for peace and happiness. On my path of seeking I have fallen into the abyss of mistakes, bitterness, and despair. There were so many times that I thought I would die before I would find what I was seeking. Dear Buddha, you have helped me, you have saved me. You have shown me that what I was looking for is within myself and can be found in the present moment.

The project of building is the project of ten thousand lifetimes. But looking deeply, we see it has already been realized. The wonderful wheel of transformation is always leading us ahead. Take my hand and you will see that we have been present together for a long time in this wonderful existence.

mb60-IHaveArrived2Our wonderful existence includes both happiness and suffering. How can happiness be possible without suffering? When we are able to see that suffering is the element that can be used to make happiness, we suddenly stop suffering. With this understanding, my happiness becomes immense and is able to embrace all the suffering. I no longer need to search or run after anything. I have stopped.

I am no longer a wanderer because I have a path and I don’t have to worry anymore. My path is the path of stopping, the path of enjoying the present moment. It is a path where every step brings me back to my true home. It is a path that leads nowhere. I am on my way home. I arrive at every step. I am taking my steps with leisure because I don’t have to hurry. That is my life; that is my practice.

The wind is still circulating. Don’t you know that my child? While the faraway rain is approaching the nearby cloud, drops of sunshine from above are falling down helping Earth to see the blue sky.

I am still moving around with ease, freely, not bound by the idea of being and nonbeing. Therefore my child, on your way home, make peaceful and leisurely steps, because there is only one moon, there is no waxing, there is no waning.

The Dharma Seal of Plum Village is “I have arrived, I am home.” It means happiness is possible. Freedom is possible. Right now. Right here.

Reprinted from I Have Arrived, I Am Home (2003) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, www.parallax.org.

1. The Buddha taught that there are Three Dharma Seals which are the marks of the authentic Dharma: impermanence, non-self, and nirvana. If we don’t recognize these Three Dharma Seals in a Buddhist teaching, then it is not an authentic teaching of the Buddha.

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