My name is Dajean. I am one of the laypersons staying in a tent. After staying at Deer Park for one week, I have come to understand the meaning of metta. The Sisters have not only provided me with things to make my stay more comfortable, they have also managed to help me become more mindful of my practice. From the songs to the community, this place has been like a warm hug after a long day. The city of Baton Rouge does not have luxuries such as Deer Park. I had to look up this opportunity myself because no one around me was aware that such a place exists. I worked hard to make sure no matter what, I would be fortunate enough to have this opportunity. I can never truly capture all of Deer Park, only because I’m a small person. The past week has shown me how capable I can be for those who cannot explore this practice as much or people who have no prior knowledge such as myself.
Deer Park has shown me that there is more than one way to live life. Before this, I only knew one way to live and it was unwholesome for me. The way I lived my life a week ago is different than how I live my life now. The world can be such a place where unwholesome seeds can be buried very deeply. My practice has allowed me to discover not only what those unwholesome seeds were, but also how do I take care of them. I am able to nurture myself in a way that I understand. When I first experienced the warmth here, I realized how fortunate I truly was. You can only experience that feeling every once in a while, and especially not every day. If I can capture that feeling every day and share it with others, the more peace within myself and the more I can share it with others. Sometimes, the strength to continue on for myself was in many ways difficult. Life before Deer Park was manageable but not fulfilling.
I thought I had to find a stable career in order to be successful, yet somehow, my definition of success has changed since I came here. I have been more successful now than I have ever imagined I could be. For me to choose to want to explore my spiritual journey at such a young age is a success! I would love to go back to my hometown to tell them how many things I have let go that Deer Park has allowed me to let go. To show them that whatever hardships we carry in our lives, we don’t have to give power to it. That we can experience peace on Earth, which I have felt here so many times since I’ve been here
Waking up in the mornings to meditate has conditioned me to be mindful as soon as your day starts. I never knew how important those moments were until Deer Park. Deer Park has also shown me that every source is a resource so treat it with care. All of the Sisters have become like my caregivers. Anything I needed, whether I knew I needed it or not, was presented to me. From the fermented salty lemonade or the really delicious food, they put love into every aspect of what they have done for me. I’m not used to unspoken kindness from people I don’t know, yet I felt it. If I asked a question, a sister knew right away how to answer. The questions I asked never felt stupid when I asked them nor did they ever tell me it was. So I kept asking. I have learned a lot from my short time being here, from monastic life and Buddhism.
The amount of peace and stillness I have experienced could not have been felt through the internet. I am content to have felt such moments to continue to carry with me wherever I go. Not many people my age would even consider spending time with themselves to get to know who they can be. Deer Park has given me that chance and I have decided to give myself that opportunity. I would like to use my given opportunity to create my own Sangha one day in my hometown. There are not many public opportunities where I’m from for people to come as a community and focus on their mindfulness through meditation and loving speech. I would like to create safe haven forthose who have felt like I have but had no idea what to do. I would love an opportunity to explore more of my practice here so I can teach others what Deer Park has taught me.
This article was written by Dajean Marie Landry for the The Day I Turn Twenty book celebrating the 20th anniversary of Deer Park Monastery.
3 responses to “A Safe Haven”
My visit to Deer Park 8 years ago was a life changing experience. On my first day there, I cried, unsure what I was doing there, that I could be alone with myself, my thoughts, and my fears at the silent retreat for an entire week. During a meditative walk, I came upon a rabbit on the trail. Though it saw me approaching, it made no attempt to hop away. I gingerly walked around it and continued on my way. Later I asked one of the monastics why the rabbit was so calm and didn’t run away. He simply stated, “We give them nothing to fear.” The retreat taught me mindfulness in everything. On my last day of the retreat, I didn’t want to leave. I’m grateful and indebted to all associated with Deer Park. With deepest gratitude.
Deer Park Monastery has been an amazing memorable experience for my lover and me. In gratitude ♥️