Hearing My Songs

by Misa Nguyễn

I did not expect to be at Deer Park Monastery for this long – almost three months! I look outside my window now and see the lush Oak Grove, when it should merely be a daydream if an airplane had taken me back home two months ago. Hooray to the no travel advisory due to Covid-19! In fact, when I first arrived at sixteen, I did not expect to continue to come back at seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, and now twenty one. Beloved Deer Park, I did not expect you to become a home.

I still remember that first day. To date, it is still the hottest, most scorching day I’ve ever spent here. It was Teen Camp. I came home with no less than eight mosquito bites, five new phone numbers, strengthened calves, and a sparkling in my eyes and warmth in my heart.

Teen Camp 2019

Beloved Deer Park, I continue to come back to you because of the teachings I’ve learned, and also teachings I have yet to learn, from everyone and everything you have to offer. These are the things that I have learned from Deer Park:

From the Venerable, that sometimes you should spend ten years reading a book. Rereading sentences and chapters before you even reached the end. To do our best to understand our wise spiritual ancestors and wonderful companions on the path.

From the Brothers, that sometimes you have to be the person singing the loudest and most joyously. And that if you teach others the words and melodies, then we will soon all fill the valleys with our harmonies together.

From the novice Sisters, the importance of a “beginner’s mind” as Thay has described it. Having an open mind and an open heart, embracing and guiding all, as companions on the path. Having that inner fire to learn about the practice, the world and themselves. Diligently taking notes during Dharma talks on how to keep that fire lit for years to come.

From all the Sisters, the beauty in community. That a harmonious family is not luck and hope, but strength, trust, hard work, forgiveness, patience, respect, and offering the last cup of avocado smoothie to someone else. That we can cry together, and then the next moment fill the air with our laughter. That everyone has something to offer, no matter who you are.

From fellow lay friends, the power of having companions on the path. From the mountains, the power of silence.

From the hiking trails that dwindle down to the width of one person, the importance in learning how to be with yourself.

From the birds, the importance in hearing your songs. A Sister once told me that it was good that I could hear them singing. That some people who come to Deer Park are so stressed and caught up in their own self that for their entire stay, they do not hear the birds at all.

This sums up my experiences here at Deer Park quite beautifully and simply. That with the practice of mindfulness, being joyful and at peace is always within our reach – through each breath, step, and smile. With the practice of mindfulness and the teachings of the Buddha, you can always hear the birds singing.

Beloved Deer Park, I did not expect you to become a home. But since that first hot day, you have always stayed with me inside of my heart. When I come here, I am just coming back home.

Thank you for all that you are. Thank you for being here for so many of us.

May we continue to grow, blossom, and transform, together.

One response to “Hearing My Songs”

  1. Greetings Deer Park Monastery,
    You have my deep gratitude for the posting of Misa Nguyen’s beautiful listenings today on May 25th when after the Buffalo and Texas shootings we are at a loss, in Post National Shooting Disorder. I usally get solace from writing a poem at times like this. But today my poem only ended with a question I could not answer :
    what is the rite of passage
    to heal
    the children who survived,
    the children of their children
    the parents born of their children
    in whose brains
    the massacres like endless embers
    will not die ?
    Then I find Misa Nguyen’s peaceful words – and I know the children themselves are the answer.
    Lotuses for all,
    Julia Wright

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