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Deer Park Monastery San Diego

News | 25th Jun 2012

Deer Park Monastery

The 400-acre Buddhist sanctuary situated in the scrubby mountains near Escondido, California known as Deer Park Monastery is a monastic community established in 2000 by the members and practitioners from the Plum Village community in France. Both the French and American retreat centers practice and teach the Vietnamese tradition of mindfulness. Plum Village, formed by Vietnamese monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, after the Vietnamese government denied his request to return to Vietnam, has lead mindfulness retreats since 1981. The Deer Park Monastery is one of two branches founded in the United States. The other retreat is Blue Cliff Monastery, located in Pine Bush, New York.

Surrounded by chaparral and oaks, the Sangha, or community, is open year round for disciples to learn, meditate and receive teachings. The Deer Park property is divided into two hamlets: one for monks and laymen called the Solidity Hamlet, and one for nuns and laywomen known as the Clarity Hamlet. The two hamlets join regularly each week to practice the teachings of Thích Nhất Hạnh. According to their training, nourishment comes both from formal meditation sessions and by performing meditation during daily life activities.

The monastery, open year round, offers a variety of options to escape everyday life and experience the mindfulness teachings. These include: one-day activities on Thursdays and Sundays; three, seven and fourteen-day sessions referred to as a General Stay; special retreats arranged for up to 300 participants, themed weekends where participants can explore a theme of interest, and periodic special events. The monastery also encourages involvement in Work Days, where participants pitch in together to maintain the community.

A General Stay, different from a themed or special retreat, allows the participant to become part of the community. Arrival, allowed only on Fridays, begins with an orientation, to maintain a “stable and solid” practice and essential to completely benefit from the visit. Those wishing to stay longer than a 14-day General Stay may submit a request to the community explaining their motivation for wanting to stay longer. The community then makes a decision based on your first two weeks that is based on the hopeful participant’s “capacity to live in harmony” and “commitment to the practice” of the community.

Additionally, since its inception, the monastery hosts an annual retreat. Thích Nhất Hạnh travels to Deer Park to give teachings in person. The Deer Park Monastery retreats offer the basic practices of sitting meditation, as well as chanting, walking meditation, group discussions, mindful eating, “touching the Earth,” total relaxation, and working meditation. Activities incorporate mountain hiking, bon-fires, and performances with songs or skits. Some retreats provide extra activities that include a private consultation. Both experienced practitioners and beginners are welcome at retreats.

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