Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nasturtium Seeds

It's time to gather nasturtium seeds. This year i planted a variety i particularly like: Buttercream, a pale yellow. So i'm gathering their seeds now. If i delay collecting seeds until September, i can't find them. So NOW is the time.

The wrinkled, roundish, green seeds grow 2 or 3 to a stem, but several have already dropped onto the ground. If you live where winters are mild (such as the Pacific Northwest), nasturtiums will reseed themselves.

Nasturtiums are high in vitamin C, so if i feel a sniffle, i go directly to the nasturtiums and munch the peppery leaves as well as the flowers.

The seeds of mindfulness that we plant every day also have the power to protect us from the ills of life, beginning with protection from ill-will. Your mother told you to count to 10; mindfulness encourages us to simply notice how irritation, frustration, and anger feels in the body.

Yes, the symptom of ill feeling still arises, but instead of exploding or imploding, we take the middle way. Dare to "feel" how irritation feels in the body: Unpleasant, yes. And what else? Where is the tightness, the tension located? Mindfulness encourages us to look with interest instead of reactivity.

If nothing else, simply note your experience: "Irritation. Irritation. Irritation." Or "Frustration. Frustration." And even: "Anger. Anger."

Notice that the ill feeling arises. (Well, that's the easy part.) Notice that it ceases. Then it's gone. Maybe it's only gone for a moment or maybe it's gone for good.

Mindfulness is our vitamin to protect us from dis-ease.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peach Fantasy

20 years ago, a gardening friend gave me a little peach tree, which i squeezed into a not very sunny spot at the back of a flower bed.

I was thrilled to see my first peaches, but then the raccoons got to them first.

A few years later, a branch, laden with young fruit, split off. This branch-breaking is common with peach trees. Our nearby peach orchard loses several heavy branches every year.

Now sawed down to one remaining branch, this year that one branch has broken off, heavy with small green peaches.

How many things do we squeeze into our lives, seeking to savor the sweetness of material goods, friends, travel or what have you?

Yet, the fruit doesn't yield as we had hoped. Material goods need to be maintained. Friends lose touch. Travel is stressful.

It's time to cut the peach tree down altogether. It's time to renounce my fantasy of home-grown peaches.

What, in our daily lives, is it time to renounce?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene has come and gone. It rained for 20 hours, beginning and ending with a couple of hours of mist.

I was kayaking on the Connecticut River looking for migrating nighthawks (none) for an hour before the rain started on Saturday evening. The confluence of the West River and the Connecticut was extremely low, with the put-in place being a slender, shallow channel through mud flats.

All the boats had disappeared from their docks. During the last heavy rains, 3 years ago, all the boats and docks floated down to the dam, 10 miles downriver.

By noon on Sunday, the rivers were over their banks and the barren docks were breaking up and floating away one by one. Streams were also out of their banks and flooding the floodplains. Woe to people who had homes or businesses in low-lying areas.

The treetops waved wildly for about 10 minutes, and i thought my eastern casement windows (closed but not locked) might rip off their hinges and fly away.

The electricity went out, as we knew it would, but for only 3 hours.

Rain and winds sweep through our lives. Two weeks ago, a writing friend learned she had liver cancer. She died a few days later.

At noon yesterday, the rivers looked more solid than liquid, with trees, branches, debris, and docks floating away.

Our earth-ly bodies also float away, down the river of life.

A raindrop dies into a puddle, into a trickle, into a stream.

We die, the ego dies, into the ocean of impersonal space that surrounds us.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Listen to the Sound of the Falling Rain

Listen to the rain.
Close your eyes and soak into the sound of rain raining.

Notice the "flow" of sound that comes and goes so fast, it's nearly impossible to separate out individual sounds.
First: zoom out to the panoramic "view"/sounds of rain.
Then, try zooming in to the raindrop level.
Every time you lose focus, zoom out to the panoramic view/sound again.

Contemplate the life cycle of a raindrop, beginning with what you can see/hear/feel.
A raindrop comes into view.
It plops onto a window or the ground and loses its raindrop-ness.
That raindrop just died into a puddle, into a trickle, into a stream.

Notice gone-ness. Gone. Gone. Gone.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Nightime Nicotiana

Coming home at night, the sensor floodlight flashes on. I park my car under a hemlock tree and walk toward the front door and the white garden.

I didn't leave the front light on, so i'm walking into dimness--starlight/moonlight above; floodlight behind me.

The white flowers of the white garden dance in the dark, and then i smell the heady fragrance of Nicotiana. "Ahhh," i say to the night sky.

During the day, Nicotiana isn't much of a flower to look at. It's a bit lanky with single trumpet flowers seeming to cluster at the top but then the stalk stretches up so there's a flower every inch or two. Since the leaves, stem, and flowers are sticky to the touch, i leave it alone.

When we close our eyes to meditate, it can seem a bit dark in there. And maybe it seems like there's not much to "see." As we focus on the sensations of the body or the sounds around us, we may relax into calmness, even if only for a few seconds. "Ahhh."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Welcome Cukes

The long cucumbers in the garden are long alright: 2 feet long and thick with seeds. Now: What to do with 4 of them?

This is the stress of vegetable gardening. Either it doesn't grow--like my zucchini, can you believe it?--or it does grow.

Then there's the stress of the over-supply. I figure it will take 1-2 hours to work some magic on these cukes. They could become pickles, but salsa also solves my tomato and pepper abundance. (Who pays attention to the fact that abundance--of any sort, really--is problematical?)

The Garden Club is having a fund-raiser today at the Welcome Center on the interstate. Coffee and baked goods are welcome, sure, but travelers love fresh fruit and fresh veggies in a plastic cup. Add a sandwich baggie of chips to the cup of salsa and...

Welcome to our green state!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Drive By Mindfulness

My friend Ann has done a lot of traveling this summer--a week at the lake, a bike tour in Italy, a trip to Colorado. Now that she's home, she's having major repairs done to her house.

And her garden? "I do drive-by weeding," she says. "If i walk by a flower bed and see a weed, i pull it. Then i just tuck it under a bush. Due to the construction, i've hardly been out in my backyard at all."

When life gets busy, sometimes all we have time for is drive-by mindfulness. As we walk by our flower bed, we are mindful of walking, of bending over, of pulling a weed.

When we are in the car, we turn off the distraction of music, and, for 5 minutes, note our experience out-loud. "Hearing." "Seeing." "Feeling."
Hearing the sounds of the external world.
Distracted by a thought, we "hear" the internal world.
Bringing ourselves back to the task at hand, we "see" the external world.
The mind wanders away. Visual thinkers "see" the internal world, as they are thinking/hearing the internal world.
Once again, we bring our attention to what we are doing.
"Feeling" the hands on the steering wheel, "feeling" the sensations of sitting, "feeling" the tiny sensations of tension in the body as we drive in traffic.

Continue to label: Hearing. Seeing. Feeling.

In this way we practice drive-by mindfulness. In fact, you could say, we are driving by mindfulness.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gladiolas--Pleasant or Unpleasant?

My friend, Gladys, doesn't like gladiolas because they remind her of funerals.

I can understand that funerals give rise to an unpleasant feeling.
But look, really LOOK at a gladiolus. Look at the flowers. Look at the stalk of flowers. Using bare attention, devoid of opinion or judgment, note what you see.

As the Buddha says, "In the seen, there is only the seen."

The beautiful flower is really quite pleasant to look at.

We often develop little "allergic" reactions, not only to gladiolas, but also to our own emotions. Feeling fear, anger, or sadness "feels" unpleasant, and we develop strategies to avoid the unpleasant feel of these emotions.

Mindfulness enables us to simply "be with" what is. A simple flower. Pleasant. A simple emotion. Unpleasant.
Then the moment passes, and no trace remains. We don't have to cling on to the pleasant or the unpleasant. That moment really is gone. There's no need to replay it in our memory. There's no need to find the unpleasant feeling unpleasant, and thereby engender suffering for ourselves.

Just watch the flow. Pleasant. Unpleasant. Neutral.
Really. That's all. Pleasant. Unpleasant.
Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I lived in Hawai'i briefly many years ago, and i fell in love with plumeria, also called frangipani. When my parents arrived to visit, i made leis for them from the fragrant plumeria flowers.

Among my houseplants, i have plumeria, and it is blooming now. When a blossom falls off, i float it in a bowl of water until brown spots of aging appear. Then i compost it.

The tender, creamy white, fragrant flower that arouses tender feelings in me--that blossom ages and withers.

When i lived in Hawai'i, i was a tender young thing and in love. Now my hands have brown age spots.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lesser and Greater Happiness

This week began with 3 days of rain. Evening temperatures have dropped from summer warm to polar fleece cool. These conditions mean: Let the transplanting season begin (again)!

Now we have a couple of months (or more, if you're really hardy) to divide plants and move them around. Thin out the overgrown colonies and give the extras away or compost them.

The decision to divide clumps can be difficult. That mass of flowers looked so great when it was blooming in July. Now it's a mass a green leaves. In fact, it's mostly green background for 5 of the garden's 6 months. Other flowering plants need some space.

Sometimes we have to give up a lesser happiness in order to experience a greater happiness. In the garden, this can mean dividing a big clump of flowers. Yes, it brought us happiness for 2 or 3 weeks. But we might be happier if other flowers were blooming around it during the other 5 months of the gardening season.

In meditation, we give up the lesser happiness of "getting things done," Facebooking, or music in order to cultivate a secluded internal garden of calm. This calm can carry over into our lives for minutes or hours as we build a new habit of greeting our day with joy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Meditative Gardener is at a conference and will return Monday, August 15

Have a great summer weekend.

Relax into August

August. Leave the flower gardens on automatic pilot. They know where they are growing.

Go out to the vegetable garden and pick some tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and squash. Pick the cucumbers and squash small and tender and sweet.

Then let life be. Just as it is.
Let the gardens be--just as they are.
Plop yourself down in nature, somewhere near a body of water--a lake, a pond, a river, a stream.
Before you pick up a book or your smart-phone, look around you.

Relax. Relax into summer.
Relax into the present moment.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Some years ago i collected seeds from white mullein growing along the roadside. Mullein is a common roadside plant with fuzzy gray leaves and a 5-7 foot tall stalk of very small yellow flowers.

This white-blooming variety escaped from a nursery, now defunct, and reseeded themselves on the nearby roadside. Actually, i collected seed for 3 or 4 years before one finally took hold in my garden. Now i have dozens.

We have to replant our intention quite frequently, even during a single period of meditation. We replant the intention to be mindful, to be kind, or to practice patience. Then, one day, mindfulness or kindness or patience shows up in a place we didn't expect it, and we en-joy the blooming of our practice.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Win-Win-Win Situation

Gladiolas are blooming, and i have enough to offer bouquets to friends. Yesterday, i spent the day with Dharma friends on a mini-retreat of study and practice at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. I took 2 bunches of gladiolas to front office people who are in the background making sure we have what we need.

Generosity is the first supreme quality that we practice on this path. Even if we don't get around to meditating some days, we can still practice generosity.

Last evening at a community theater, i bought 10 raffle tickets to support the fledgling group. I quickly tired of writing my own name on the tickets, so, for fun, i wrote the names of other friends in the audience.

"And the winner is.... Gloria!" Who was sitting right next to me and totally surprised to win a $20 gift certificate to a bookstore.

She was happy. I was happy. And the theater was happy. We were all winners. A win-win-win situation.