Last Sunday morning a group of us met at the winery and caravanned up to Deer Park Monastery north of Escondido. The Monastery was established in 2000 by Thich Nhat Hanh and covers over 400 acres high up in the hills. For those of you who were considering joining us but didn’t go, you missed a GREAT day.

After parking, we hiked up a hill about 1/3 mile to the meeting area where over 150 people from all walks of life and ages gathered in a clearing for an introduction. Then this mass of people slowly walked heal-toe down the hill in silent walking meditation to a clearing where we sat in silence reflecting. After about 10 minutes, we slowly returned to the starting point. Being part of this large “sangha” (community) all moving in complete silence was a very moving experience for me.

After the walk, most of the group attended an intro talk while I attended a Dharma talk in the main mediation hall. The monk who gave the talk was an expert speaker and the whole lesson was very moving and I will paraphrase below.

He started with how he was told thousands of times, “Just breath and smile” which is a trademark of Thick Nhat Hanh’s teachings. Then he asked, “How do you smile?”

“By doing good things”. “But what is good?” “Good things are helpful and kind. Bad things are hurtful and cause pain.” “You don’t have to be a criminal to do bad things. Are you hard on yourself? Do you get short with others? Do you talk behind someone’s back? These are all harmful.” “So do good things – and smile.” I found this very simple and yet so powerful advice.

After the talk, there was a brief break and we gathered around the large Koi pond and sat reflecting in silence until lunch which was oh so delicious. We returned back to the winery around 2:00 all feeling very “mindful” of each other, the experience and our own thoughts and situations. The Monastery is only open a few days a month, but it is well worth the effort.

One of Koi Zen Cellars founding beliefs is to build a “Sangha”, a community of people, a tribe, who share a common love of wine, friendships and good times. Unlike the monastery, the winery is open 6 days a week, so come and be part of our wine sangha, meet new people and share that sense of community that is so very lacking in our disconnected world. So, get off social media, use your phone as a phone and invite a friend for a glass of wine, or come alone and meet a new friend. We can’t build a community without you.

Cheers,  Darius