Friday, August 30, 2013

The Flavor of Joy

I made a tasty squash and potato casserole with one of the BIG old squashes from the garden.

And i nearly demolished an entire big, beautiful kale plant by making kale chips. Yummy!

I love eating from the garden--so fresh and so local. It makes me feel so happy.

This happiness is one flavor of joy. Pay attention to your happiness--it comes in many varieties.
I've told you mine. Now, you tell me yours.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pine Cone Harvest

The driveway is littered with pine cones, so i'm adding those to my fall harvest.

No, i'm not going to eat them. Pine cones make great kindling for starting a fire in the wood stove. They catch fire quickly, and the pine resin burns hot enough to set the actual kindling of sticks and twigs on fire. Eventually the sticks and twigs set the logs on fire.

Some of us don't "catch on fire" with the Dharma until later in our meditation lives. At first, meditation is sufficient, calming and stress-reducing. We follow the teacher's instructions, and that is enough.

The Buddha left us a deep, rich, and consistent set of teachings in the Dharma. Just open The Meditative Gardener and sample a few. Experiment to see if they "light your fire."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gardening & Non-Gardening

My friend Cassandra reports she was visiting her friend Andrea. Andrea and her husband were busy harvesting their garden: washing their just-dug potatoes, blanching green beans for freezing, cutting up cukes for pickles, getting ready to can tomatoes and freeze blueberries. Their kitchen was a veritable beehive of food preparation.

"How's your garden?" Andrea asked.
"Well, i have a few flowers," Cassandra replied, "but even that is pretty minimal. I don't have a vegetable garden."
Andrea stopped in her tracks. "You don't have a vegetable garden?"

Cassandra felt compelled to justify herself. "Well, i have gardening neighbors. And i drive by a farm stand every day on my way home from work."

Some people are following different paths than we are. Whether that's a spiritual path or a non-gardening path, who are we to judge?

Of course, judging is what the mind does so well. Sorting the world into good and bad, holy and secular, right and wrong. Etcetera, etcetera.

Sit back into non-judgmental awareness and watch the judging mind at work. Back and forth it goes, a volley that never ends. "They're so wrong, and i'm so right." Or "They must be right, and therefore i'm doing it wrong." Etcetera, etcetera.

Often it feels like the judging mind is just going around and around. It can even give us a literal headache.

Andrea gardens. Cassandra doesn't.
Really, that's all that is happening.
Free of anyone's opinions.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teenage Squash

Boy, you just can't leave the vegetable garden alone for one day. If you do, watch out! Those vegetables grow from babies to troublesome teenagers overnight. Then you have to deal with them--strictly and lovingly.

Before we left for a long weekend, i grated up 10 big summer squash. I came home four days later find 5 more sizable squash.

Strict yet loving-accepting parenting forecasts the best outcome for teens. Overbalancing on one or the other spells trouble.

How do we walk this line in our own daily lives?

We are not following an "If it feels good, do it" path or an "If it feels good, then it must be right" path. That's too much acceptance.

On the other hand, we are not forcing ourselves to meditate for 60 minutes at four o'clock in the morning, no matter what. That's too strict and makes the body (and mind) contract.

We practice kindness, yet we also have to make an effort. We aim for a consistency of practice, about the same length of time (even if that's "only" 5 minutes) at about the same time every day.

Now i have make some more effort at harvesting summer squash. Maybe i'll practice kindness, to myself, by giving them away.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Too Much

The tomato hornworms are back in my garden. They're so well camouflaged that i haven't actually seen one yet, but i do see their handiwork--bare tomato stems.

The tomato hornworm eats tomato leaves. You have to admit that tomato leaves have a signature scent (and perhaps taste?) that smells good to us tomato-loving folk. On occasion, i've even bought tomato-leaf scented soap.

The best way for me to control the tomato hornworm is to have a very limited section of flowering tobacco (Nicotiana). This year i've let the Nicotiana pop up everywhere it wants. I have too much of it.

The tobacco hornworm is very closely related to the tomato hornworm, so my theory is that the flowering tobacco serves as an alternate host for the tomato hornworm.

Too much of anything leads to stress. Too much food (I should diet.), too many clothes (What am i going to wear today?), too much stuff around the house (I can't find.....). Too many tomato hornworms.

It's time to prune the clutter. And it's time to pull out the flowering tobacco in and around the vegetable garden.

Photo from

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Too Much Squash

I harvested 10 large summer squash last evening. Then, since we're going away for a long weekend, i grated them all in the food processor and froze them in baggies.

10 large squash are unpleasant. Actually, the squash themselves are pleasant, but the thought, "What the heck am i going to do with all this?" is unpleasant.

We could grumble and complain and thereby perpetuate the unpleasant, but that just makes us grumpy.

The Buddha suggests we recognize unwholesome mind states and end them.
He also suggests we give rise to wholesome mind states and figure out how to continue those.

So how can we give rise to a wholesome or skillful mind state around 10 BIG summer squash?
(Your suggestions are appreciated.)

  1. Give them away (and thereby practice generosity).
  2. Put them in the neighbors' mailboxes and get an additional chuckle.
  3. Grate them, as i did, and freeze for winter localvoring. 
  4. Throw them away. There. That was way too easy. Done. And your compost pile will be so happy.

Here's my favorite recipe for grated summer squash or zucchini:

Blond Brownies
  • 1/3 cup canola or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Then add:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash of salt

After mixing, add:
  • 1 cup grated zucchini or summer squash, drain and squeeze all the water out
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup walnuts 

Turn into a greased 8x8 pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Photos from and

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Japanese Food

Japanese beetles are eating my Japanese painted fern.

Hmmm. Of course! What else did i expect? Maybe it's their soul food? Maybe they're thinking: Finally! Food from home. I'm so tired of eating these foreign foods.

Japanese beetles: Unpleasant (although they are beautiful).
Japanese painted fern: Pleasant.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The White Garden at Night

A white garden is also called a moon garden. Last night, in the hazy moonlight of a partly cloudy sky, my white garden looked and smelled heavenly.

In our night vision, all colors fade to blue-gray-charcoal except for white, which lights up the darkness.

When we can concentrate in meditation, all sensory input fades to the background, while our object of meditation (breath, hearing, or feeling) draws our attention completely. If the mind doesn't exactly fade to stillness, it quiets to wispy whisperings, giving rise to a deep sense of calm.

In the moonlit garden, my senses are limited to the sight of white and the fragrance of phlox and Nicotiana.

Oh, smell the calm.

Photo from

Monday, August 19, 2013

Meditating Frog

We went shopping for garden statues again, and this time my sweetie found a fun one. He usually likes the naked young women; i favor Buddhas and saints.

We found a meditating frog at the local farm and garden store. Perfect for the front step. Just the right combination of nature, spirit, and whimsey. I can't help but smile when i walk in the front door, and i hope visitors smile too.

"Breathing in, i calm body and mind.
Breathing out, i smile."

This verse by Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us to bring our attention back to the breath.

Whether we are sitting in meditation or walking in the front door.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Having Faith

Last summer i bought a small hanging pot of portulaca. It was cute, but it didn't "hang" that well. The magenta flowers were in the pot, not hanging down the sides.

I over-wintered the flowerless succulent indoors, then, in the spring, i divided it and planted it as an edging where it is now spectacular.

We undertake meditation in hopes of it blooming into our lives, but then, it may seem as though nothing is happening. If we keep tending it, even during the dark and cold times, it will eventually flower and surprise us with the beauty of the calmed mind.

This is all the faith we need on this path. Not faith in something unbelievable nor faith in something miraculous. Just the faith to sit and watch the present moment.

And then it blooms.

Photo for

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ripping Out the Mint

My non-gardening sweetie couldn't stand looking at the 4-foot tall mint patch that was falling over onto the kale, so he waded in and ripped out several armloads of mint. I carried it to the compost pile for him.

It's hard to watch stress overwhelming someone we care about. Perhaps we want to wade in and save them from their suffering. But, really, they have to pull the weeds out of their own (mental) garden. We can only offer our support in the process.

Stress is hard to live with, whether it's our own or the vicarious stress of someone we love.

Our path is our own path. No one else can walk it for us.

Let's take a mindful walk in the garden and reduce our own stress.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chocolate Mint Re-appears!

A friend gave me chocolate mint several years ago. I planted it at the edge of my mint patch, but then i lost it, since chocolate mint only grows about 6 inches tall and the neighboring, more vigorous, apple mint is 4 feet tall.

Now, after last summer's construction project, with 2 trenches dug through my former herb garden, chocolate mint has reappeared! About 12 feet away from its original location.

One thing about mint: It's a survivor.

Our sweet meditation practice can easily get lost in the overwhelm of daily life. Meditation is so small, and life is so big.

Yet, when disturbances strike--the eustress of good things or the distress of troublesome things--meditation survives to sustain and nourish us.

Allow meditation to reappear in your life. Today.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Picking Vitamin C

I caught a cold while i was on retreat, so, flying home, i kept drinking water and dozing. After i picked up my car, i drank a bottle of HonestTea and a can of seltzer water. By the time i reached the Vermont Welcome Center on Interstate 91, i was really ready for a bathroom break.

The Vermont Welcome Center is beautifully landscaped, and the "islands" that separate the parking lot from the driveway were filled with the rose hips of Rosa rugosa gleaming red in the sun. I picked a handful on my way in, and another handful on my way out.

Rose hips are quite sweet. They are also extremely seedy. But i was desperate for Vitamin C, and, hey, those little seeds are good "intestinal brooms."

Do you take daily vitamins? Meditation is our Vitamin M.
And the prescription: Take one daily.

Yes, meditation can be a little seedy, and it can be a little bit sweet. But we all know, it's really good for you.

Rosehips photo from

Monday, August 12, 2013

Training Pole Beans Up

My pole beans, like mischievous children, are running away, over the ground, instead of climbing their poles. I have to train them, one by one, to send their vines up, not out.

Our minds can be quite mischievous at times, running here and there, getting into trouble, causing stress and distress. We sit down in meditation to train our mind to pay attention to the present moment. The mind runs hither and thither. We direct our attention back to our breath or to sensations of the body.

When we have a moment of stability of mind, just a single moment of concentration, we can look out over the forest of thoughts, and, perhaps, harvest a single insight.

Oh, that green bean is so fresh and delicious!