From August 13 to 18, 2006, over eighty lay people from all over North America attended the first large retreat outside a monastery in which our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh was not physically present. Eighteen monks and nuns from Deer Park, Green Mountain, and Maple Forest monasteries came to the beautiful YMCA conference center in Estes Park, Colorado. Situated on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, the location is magnificent and a favorite for Thay and the monastics. The monastic contingent was led by the incomparable Thay Phap Dung, abbot of Deer Park. Happy to be reunited with distant brothers and sisters, the monastics manifested a bubbling happiness that spread to all the retreatants. Their playful joy did not dampen the depth of their wisdom, as we experienced during the question and answer session (see page 18).
For the first time the sangha went on a long mindful walk into the high country, led by the intrepid Thay Phap Luu (Brother Stream), taking most of a day to hike, picnic, and even — for the daring ones — dip in a refreshing pool. The tea ceremony on the last evening filled us with laughter and delights, such as the song “YMCA” with surprising new words, written and performed by one of the “families.” (see page 21).
As a gift for Thay, the monks and nuns created a video of the retreat. You may see it at www.deerparkmonastery. org/dharma_talks/video/stillmind_documentary.html.
We can only hope to enjoy many more such retreats in the future.
—Janelle Combelic, True Lotus Meditation,