Be the Cause

Deer Park Monastery

The moment I meandered up the small hill passing fragrant Eucalyptus trees along the way, I sensed a different frequency. Something felt so right about the muffled sound of resonant temple bells in the distance and the serene presence of monks in plum-colored robes dedicated to the Dharma. In that instance, I felt an immediate sense of harmony.

I quickly became aware of the depth I often lack to my way of thinking – am I truly the sum of all my thoughts? How sad. Just a couple of hours ago, I drove furiously down El Toro Blvd just so I could pick a number to stand in line at the post office. Mindless. Subconscious. Cyclical.

But quite glaringly, here at the monastery on the hill, with the scent of sandalwood-infused incense wafting throughout the grounds, I have entered a new world of reality.

Solitude. Lightness.

My habitual, every day flow of thoughts & my subsequent emotional reactions to them dissolve into the fading sunset & beyond the surrounding Chaparral hillsides of Escondido. Suddenly, each footstep, every breathe, the momentary pause becomes purposeful & deliberate.

Atop the hill stood the most majestic meditation hall, fittingly called “The Ocean of Peace.” We blessed the earth by meditating on the ground itself surrounded by rabbits, red fire ants, blossoming Oak trees, and the orange-hued sky. Such natural tranquility can only exist up here.

There was a deafening sense of quietness all around – I felt untouchable.

But as I sat there, motionless against the darkening sky, the moon gave way to a flood of intrusive emotions that I wasn’t prepared for. Stillness will do that. I had nowhere left to go – no cell phone to answer, no email to respond, and no one to care for, except my own self. All I had to do was sit.

There is so much buried deep within the mind. And the subsequent pain, of course, is a result of clinging to them. I know better, but I can’t do better. It is frustrating, yet I sit there, quiet, pensive, breathing still. In that instance, I feel a deep need to scream welling inside of me – if I could just release it. I sit still – feeling my aloneness, such desperation, and such groundlessness. All I knew, right then & there, was that I couldn’t give rise to anger. But the sadness is palpable.

I feel my breath. I cannot explain the pure joy of the simple awareness of my in-breath and out-breath. Such lightness. All will be okay.

The moments pass, as they always do & it gives rise to different feelings and thoughts. Nothing ever stays the same, does it? Everything arises; everything falls way, says Ajahn Chah.

Time passes quietly by and we meditate some more, chanting and reciting with the Sangha; walking ever so gently throughout the monastery’s beautiful orchards; savoring our tea with renewed joy; sharing our organic meals imbued by noble silence; and allowing each & every sounding bell to recapture that inward peace – a return to our home, where it all resides.

As Sunday afternoon approaches, I am feeling unsettled about leaving these sacred grounds.  How do I allow this serenity to last? How do I carry this calm to the tumult back home? But I startlingly realize the enemy doesn’t reside in Orange County, it lies within. There is no external passageway other than allowing the Path to arise within me.

And so I begin again.

In November, I plan to trek up that silent hill once again. You should join me.


  • gianna

    Sonali! Such powerful words you write here…so beautifully written…your experience of grace. I so wish I could have joined you on this journey. Thank you sooo much for sharing! :) I would love to hear more about this special weekend!

  • I read your post and I felt really sad thinking how Everybody got stuff to deal with all the time. being in silence brings an awareness that we are not used to? It’s awkward and calmin? It’s time to actually concentrate on yourself and to observe you starting at a physical (breath and tension) level and then letting thoughts settle until you have a basis to not make judgements.

    It almost doesn’t make sense that you ask the question “How do I allow this serenity to last? How do I carry this calm to the tumult back home?” I think Gautama would feel sad when we ask that since he found a pretty simple good way that can supposedly be practically followed by everyone.

    I know you got stress and frustration. But I thought the point to buddhist thought is that if you can create calm at some point in time, you should feel encouraged to critically look at why that only lasted for a moment and how to sustain that critical thought with a non-judgmental and and non-self-destructive and peace fulfilling mind. All you can do is to decide what you want from this moment on. The more I meditated I found out I can find more clarity the more aware I am. And that’s pretty liberating to know that I can practice getting better at understanding, thoughts, speech, action, livihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. Then I can look at myself as someone searching and finding (a buddha) and at others like me (sanga) trying to be a living example (dhamma) of what we are trying to find(a buddha,dhamma, and sanga). Worrying about the future and regretting the past always happens but I got a bit better at it when I took the time to.

    My words are more philosophical than I want them to be. The homeboy Buddha would agree with the home boy Immortal Technique telling us about mistakes, “Son, when you fight to be free, you see things as they are not how you want them to be.”

    My advice to you is not not look at yourself as the enemy. Not to look at your regular life as a tumult. Start to change that perception as soon as possible. Maybe we shouldn’t depend on the bells and temples on seaside cliffs? But to use what whoever was nice enough to create that enviornment to give ourselves a break. can we always depend on whats inside the temples that are on the tool that sits above our shoulders? I think we can if we keep practicing as you are.

    Buddha told me that you are already just as perfect as he was: An exceptional human being.

  • gianna

    I also feel we shouldn’t depend on the bells and temples and seaside cliffs, but sometimes…we have to get away into this type of atmosphere…because the world has become such the opposite of simplicity…all the traffic, noise, chaos…but I truly feel the more we all meditate, the more we can find peace and sit down on a sidewalk next to a traffic filled street and still feel the peace. That’s the goal. :) I feel that we are more talented than we all claim to be…we have the ability to find calmness and settle ourselves…but sometimes a retreat reminds us and the trick is taking this peace into every situation we are confronted with…I do feel it’s important to sit in nature and on the earth. The Earth needs us…those rolling hills and beautiful beaches aren’t there for us just to observe but to really interact with. Sometimes I’m afraid to meditate because I know I’ll get to deeper layers of myself and my emotions, but what it does is lift off lots of trivial worries, nervousness, insignificance, and thoughts that aren’t helpful to you or me.

    Supun, these are good words to work with: “My advice to you is not not look at yourself as the enemy. Not to look at your regular life as a tumult. Start to change that perception as soon as possible.”…I think for so many of earth’s inhabitants…it’s so important to see the light and pure perfection of ourselves. I feel the way we can do this is through meditation…connecting with goodness…all one can do is be infused with goodness. Sometimes doing guided meditation can help….letting sweet light run though every part of our body. Visualizing streams of light and heartfulness…and letting that seep in and stay stay stay…I also feel releasing emotions is extremely helpful…to let the light keep coming in and replacing fear with trust, sadness with happiness, anger with joy…and all that jazz.

  • michele

    Sonali, I havent had an opportunity to experience silence quiet the way you have, but lately I crave the quite, something I used to avoid whenever possible. Something keeps calling me to silence but when I get there, I’m left to face all that my mind wants to believe is still unresolved. I think the universe is trying to teach me one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn so far-about accepting and allowing. I feel a great deal of gratitude and forgiveness but I still need to stop being afraid to relinguish control of the outcome of my journey. I resist a great deal. I know that all the things I affirm for my life will remain out of my reach until I am truly content in the present moment-until both my heart and mind can come to terms with the fact that nothing really remains unresolved. It just is what it is. There are unlimited possibilities for me if I just put my trust in LOVE. I am responsible for my happiness so I remain committed to being aware of the ebb and flow of my emotions and thoughts and remembering that I am most definately not the sum of my thoughts (as much as my ego would like me to believe)I am a beloved child of the universe and that the path I’m on isnt necessarily the easiest one (trying to live in a state of awareness) but it is the path that aligns me with God’s plan for my life. In spite of the difficulty sometimes, I know its where He wants me to be. I think its where He wants you to be too. I think I’ve come a long way surrounded by the what seems like a constant barrage of noise and bustle all around me. I can only imagine how my life would be changed by a whole weekend of silence somewhere as beautiful sounding as Deer Park Monastery. Keep going Sonali. Your life and your journey is a constant source of inspiration to me. Namaste.

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