Reflections on the Order of Interbeing Retreat at Deer Park
By Nancy Nina
I felt a little tremulous and unsure as I arrived at the retreat, for I had only recently been ordained into the Order of Interbeing. This was my first overnight in a monastery. I was the new kid on the block and intended to mostly observe and remain grounded in my mindful breathing, from a somewhat distant and invisible vantage. I wanted to “learn the ropes” and “do it right.”
I walked the beautiful grounds, drawn to and sustained in my practice of mindfulness by the footsteps of those who had walked these paths before. The mountains and the great stones, the water and the flowers, the goldﬁsh and frogs, the monks and the nuns, the laymen and women, all filled me with joy and gratitude. I circumambulated the new Dharma hall and felt at home. I had arrived.
By the time we met for our first gathering, I felt comfortable. I was happy to sit and watch, careful to catch the clues and cues, so I might ﬁt in, without causing too many ripples.
It didn’t take long to see there were to be no observers at this retreat. It was a participatory weekend. I learned I was to facilitate a small family group of five, representing the fourfold Sangha; one monk, one nun, one layman, and one other laywoman. We spent the first evening bonding, following Brother Phap Tri’s encouragement to get to know each other. I cannot find words to express my surprise and joy, discovering such open hearts and warm welcomes from everyone.
As the retreat progressed, each person told a story of how someone had touched them and inspired their practice. Tears and smiles, laughter and profound silence held us, as we each used loving speech to tell our story, while all the other cells of the body breathed mindfully and listened with understanding and compassion.
My heart broke open hearing the challenges and joys of my lay sisters and brothers in the Vietnamese community. Through them I caught a glimpse of the precious culture of Vietnam, home of our beloved lineage. I wept in compassion and joy as I heard of the gifts and challenges of the monastic life. I have been changed by these stories. The sisters and brothers at Deer Park and the family of the Order of Interbeing have come alive to me. It became clear to me too, that any feelings of unworthiness or having to prove myself, were relics of the past, leftovers from unskillful states of mind established in other situations. Instead, at Deer Park, I felt welcomed and accepted by my brothers and sisters.
Thank you for the treasure of Deer Park.
Nancy Nina, True Attainment of Light, is a founder of the Cedar Sangha in Eugene, Oregon. She works in an herb shop and cares for a senior with multiple sclerosis.