Journey through the West

On our journey through the West, we have been travelling through five states so far. Here are some moments that will stay in our hearts.

Phoenix 2-day Retreat

Celebrating the transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

Our first retreat was a 2-day retreat. It was a great experience for us to see how the members of the organizing team supporting one another to come up with a rich schedule for the retreatants, knowing that it was a short event. Amazingly, only on the first day, the atmosphere of the retreat was harmonious and peaceful; everyone was practicing wholeheartedly, from the guided sitting meditation, to listening to the Dharma talk, participating in the workshops, and so on, especially the Beginning Anew workshop where we felt healing took place.

On the second and last day of the retreat, we had about 16 aspirants who took the 5 Mindfulness Trainings and a lovely young girl, Eden, who took the 2 Promises. It was an amazing experience for us all to witness that many retreatants taking deeper roots in the practice. 

After the retreat ended, we gathered for a potluck with the organizing team and Sangha members. The atmosphere was warm; we sang songs together, ate and laughed together. It was a pleasant way to conclude and celebrate the end of a successful retreat.

Camping at Bluewater Lake State Park

The scenery there was beautiful; the mountain was green, and the Bluewater Lake was close by. The first night there we encountered heavy rain, thunders, and strong wind, because of this, some water started to leak into the RV though the skylight, though we closed them. To resolve the issue, we cut a plastic bag and tugged the pieces under the skylights. In the morning, we took a walk around the park and enjoyed the scenery. There was a water dam in the canyon close to our RV site. On one side of the dam is the Bluewater Lake and the other side is the swarm in the canyon. It is a beautiful place filled with green vegetation and wonderful birds.

Albuquerque 2-day Retreat

Inviting the bell in New Mexico

Overall, there was more free space in between activities in this retreat; and therefore, retreatants had chances to connect with one another. There were fruitful and transformative sharing among us. Some found their faith and hope in humanity restored, others bravely opened their hearts and shared about their difficulties in life. As for me personally, I felt grateful to be in a retreat with almost 40 people. Being on this Road Retreat, apart from my two elder Brothers, the rest of the monastic Sangha is not with us; therefore, having a larger group of those who truly want to practice helps me to have a place to also take refuge in. I have learned a great deal through listening to others sharing about the struggles and transformations.

Camping at Rocky Mountains National Park

The very first thing we all noticed when we got to the RV site was that the weather was colder than that in Albuquerque, and of course, Phoenix. After we set up the RV and had dinner, we headed for the lake. The weather was very cold, but the lake was amazingly beautiful, with mountains around and puffy clouds above.  Before we settled in for the night, we tried to turn on the heater in the RV, but we had no success. The night in our rolling Temple was cold; I woke up a couple of times but was able to fall right back to sleep. We finally could turn on the heater in the morning, and enjoying the beautiful morning, at over 8000fit from sea level, from our warm space was a blessing. I took a walk to enjoy the sound of lake and the scenery of the mountains and the clouds. However, it was windy and cold, despite having my warm clothes on, I headed back shortly.

Happy monks camping.

Fort Collins Retreat

For this retreat, we had many Sangha members from the Fort Collins Sangha; some were first time comers, and some other were long-term practitioners of the Plum Village tradition. We began the retreat with a Sangha evening, on which we arrived in our RV 1 hour late due to traffic conditions. Therefore, the evening was quite tiring for us, and also surprising for the organizing members. However, the second and third days of the retreat went brilliantly. I was in the Fort Collins Sangha Dharma sharing family, and most of the participants were very glad to be able to share things that weighed heavily in their hearts and mind; about current global issues of discrimination, political division, and so on. No one was trying to give advices, but rather listening deeply to one another, and that was just what we needed. On the last day, we had 15 retreatants who received the 5 Mindfulness Trainings. 

Fort Collins sangha

The closing circle was heart warming; we as Brothers and the organizing members received so much gratitude from the retreatants. After the retreat, the three of us and some of the organizing team came together to have a potluck at Bruce’s place, one of our organizing team members. We had a lot of fun together, and even better, some family members of the organizing team also joined us. For me, being around children helps me to get in touch with the young, innocent, and playful spirit of my inner child. It was a good time we had together. I also loved the neighborhood; there was a huge field that looked like a suburb, the community there also had gardens, hens, roosters, and a compost system. I felt that it was a beautiful and healthy environment to live in.

Sangha Evening in Denver

After the potluck, we parked our RV next to Bruce’s house and spent the night in the moving temple. Brother Freedom and Bruce went for a hike early in the morning; Brother Gem and I went for a walk around the community to enjoy the large field and natural scenery. At around 10 am, we drove off to Denver and parked at a church for the Sangha evening, which would start at 5pm. We arrived at the church at around 1pm, so we decided to park the RV there and visited downtown Denver. We walked along the river of Confluence Park and enjoyed the atmosphere there. It was a refreshing experience to be downtown Denver, because I have not been to a downtown of that scale in many years. Although, I did enjoy the environment of downtown Denver for a change, I realized quickly that my heart still belonged to the quiet mountains and trees of Deer Park monastery. 

The Sangha evening was only 2 hours long, but the participants were glad to see us and also to see one another. Since COVID started, the restrictions limited people from meeting one another physically, so I felt that it was, just like any other retreats we had on this road retreat, a wonderful opportunity for them to reunite. Also, it was good to see a few retreatants from the Fort Collins retreat joined us again including Dave; a wonderful and warm-hearted OI member who helped us organized the retreat and the Sangha evening. 

After the Sangha evening, which concluded 3 retreats in 10 days, we granted ourselves 4 lazy days. This would be an opportunity for us to rest, refresh ourselves, and have some reflections on our experiences, preparing for the retreat in Provo on the 28th.

Zip lining

On our way to our next campground, we stopped at attraction that offered many activities, including zip lining. We met our friendly and wonderful guides and also a family joined us. It was nervous for me at first, but after the first 2 stops, I felt more relaxed and confident. The zip line platforms were all built on a natural cliff, and so I felt closer to nature. We would go on the zip lines, and below us were pine trees and a clear running stream at the last stop.

Camping in James M. Robb Colorado River State Park:

We spent the rest of the day at the small, yet peaceful campground at the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park. Although our stay was short, I was able to see many beautiful stars in the night sky, watching the trains passing under the foothill across the Colorado river, and observing some ducks or mallards swimming by the river.

Visiting the Arches National Park:

After saying farewell to Colorado, we arrived at Utah. Our first destination was Arches National Park. We drove to a parking lot near the popular sites and took a walk to visit the famous arches like the North and South Windows, the Double O Arches, and the Turret Arches. We also went to see the iconic arch that is the symbol of the state of Utah, the Delicate Arch. After taking lots of photos and selfies,  we headed back to the freeway.

As we continue our journey with joy and siblinghood, we will keep you updated with new experiences on the way. “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way”.

8 thoughts on “Journey through the West

  1. What a wonderful story! Enjoyed the adventures of the Rolling Monks and felt as if I travelled with you (having been to these areas). I hope you find many beautiful places as you drive north from Boise, like the Clearwater River or any of the mountains, forests and rivers that nourish us all and our other-than-human siblings.

  2. Dear Brothers — I found your journal and article! I really enjoyed reading about your travels and look forward to reading about the rest of it. You have just completed your stop in Oakland, CA and I am so grateful for all of you in making the stop in the Bay Area. May you be well and safe travels as you head back to Deer Park.

  3. Heather Okvat (Hety) says:

    Dear Brothers, It was wonderful having you with us in Phoenix. Thank you for making this journey. Sending every good wish for you and all – May you/we all be happy, May you/we all live with ease, May you/we all be healthy, May you/we all be free from suffering.

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