By Deborah Westcott
How do I love Deer Park Monastery? Let me count the ways!
Deer Park is my spiritual refuge. I love the monastics and the friends I see there. I love the monastery itself.
I first came to Deer Park Monastery in 2009 at the recommendation of my therapist. I began coming to regular Days of Mindfulness, and attended retreats with Thay in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Over the years I have attended several other retreats which have enabled me to grow emotionally and spiritually. I also attend local Sanghas, including RB Sangha, Peaceful Path and The Rising Tide Sangha.
In 2014, my Mom had a stroke. I took care of her at her home until she transitioned. One day the Sisters came to the house and chanted Namo ‘Valokiteshvaraya and May the Day Be Well. When they finished my Mom said, “I love you.” My Mom also was able to sit with the Sangha one night for a few minutes. I love Deer Park. And Deer Park loves us back.
In January 2018, my brother Jim received a stem cell transplant. It was a roller coaster, and it continues to be. Recently Jim was in the ER with a fungal infection and congestive heart failure. He spent ten days in isolation in the hospital. He is now home in self-isolation. If he had become infected with Covid-19, he probably would not have survived. Through the guidance of the practice, I was able to practice patience, non-waiting, to be present in the here and now, and to not fear the future. Deer Park is my lighthouse in the storm.
I feel so much gratitude for the many insights I have learned through this beautiful practice, and the many benefits it has offered, especially the Sangha. I recently attended the Earth Holders’ Retreat, right before California went into lockdown. I am so grateful. There were so many beautiful people and wonderful practices. It was healing and inspirational to see a healthy and peaceful way of being in community, and in nature, especially considering these hard times. Deer Park is my example of a happier and healthier way to live.
Now we are in the throes of Covid-19. Things are changing, and they will never be the same again. It is springtime! Spring is so pretty at Deer Park. I am missing some of my favorite flowers, but I have photos of past springs. When Deer Park reopens, some things will be different. But that would be true anyway. That’s life. Some things will be the same, though. There will still be the practice. As Thay wrote, “On the long, rough road / The sun and the moon / Will continue to shine”. We at Deer Park will walk that Path together.
Editor‘s note: this article is reprinted from The Day I Turn Twenty, the magazine commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Deer Park published in the summer of 2020.