Incredible Gift

Grass labyrinth

by Anna Gerner

Deer Park has had a transformative impact on my life, leading to growth, healing, and change. Despite initially feeling hopeless about my situation, attending a Wake-Up Retreat at Deer Park became a turning point in my journey towards healing.

Wake Up Retreat. A large group of young people standing in a circle in the parking lot.

When I arrived, I was very nervous. Usually, I had such low energy that I had to be laying down the entire day apart from maybe two or three hours. It was difficult for me to keep up with the daily activities and I was constantly fretting about my health. As the days went on, the spirit of Deer Park sunk in. My mind started to calm, and I noticed that I had a tiny surplus of energy. I hadn’t realized it before, but the constant tension in my mind was a massive drain on my energy. As my mind calmed, so did my body. I felt muscles relax that felt like they had been carrying tension for decades. The heaviness and pain in my body started easing some. I fell in love with sitting meditation because it allowed me to experience deep calm. During these periods of calm, I could feel my body doing what it naturally wanted: to heal.

Learning to live in this relaxed way made a massive difference. By the end of the retreat, I was up and moving around for ten hours a day. This felt miraculous to me. I couldn’t believe I had the energy to walk around and connect with others, when just days before I felt like I didn’t even have enough energy to sit up in a chair. Releasing the constant worrying in my head also made room for clarity and gratitude. I may have illness in some parts of my body, but more importantly I have wellness in others. Whenever I would think of it, I would tune in and feel the energy of life in my body, in other people, and in the natural world around me. When I would walk, I would be happy to notice all of the functions in my body that were working perfectly for me to be able to do that. My focus shifted from how many things are wrong to how many things are right.

Having more of a focus on what is going right spilled over to the rest of my life. I realized that throughout my life I was always trying to achieve. I was always reaching for more conditions to be happy instead of being happy for the way things are now. When I took a step back from all the things that I wanted and all the conditions I needed in order to be satisfied in life, I saw that I already had so many of the things I once wanted. I made it a practice to sit in meditation and just BE: relaxing and smiling at how many truly amazing things I have in my life, and feeling gratitude for the current level of health and energy in my body. I don’t have to constantly strive for things to be different. This has completely transformed my attitude. I can feel contentment now and I am no longer moving through life in a frenzy. I can also feel deep appreciation for the people, things, and situations I have in my life. Being able to truly and deeply experience life is a skill I will have with me for the rest of my life.

Since going to Deer Park for the first time two years ago, I have maintained a daily practice and have returned many more times for retreats and days of mindfulness. Others in my life have seen how the practice has affected me, and have accompanied me when I return so they can learn the practice themselves. I can see what I have learned at Deer Park spreading out in my community. Every time I return, the practice sinks in deeper and transforms more and more areas of my life. I have nearly fully healed from my physical condition, and Deer Park is a huge part of why. I want to thank the monastics for opening their home to lay people and sharing the practice with us so that we can see the path to healing, transformation, and joy. Deer Park is the most joyful place I know, and I am grateful to everyone who contributes to the place, the energy, and the practice there.

Originally published in The Day I Turned Twenty

3 responses to “Incredible Gift”

  1. What a beautiful post! I’m so glad you wrote and shared this. It’s a different and very helpful perspective.

  2. I am very moved by this story. It sounds a lot like mine. I am in the early part of the journey back. I validate how much the practice is changing my life. Perhaps one day I can attend a retreat, for now I am grateful for all practitioners who have come before me and opened up the door to my path. Thay’s teachings and the work of the monastic and lay people are helping me find my way to my true home!

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