Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Our Native Path

I grew up eating canned spinach, which we each seasoned with a dash of cider vinegar from the cruet on the table.

Since discovering Baked Kale Salad at a vegan restaurant a couple of weeks ago, i've been baking kale halfway to kale chips, then slicing it into thin strips. Since the baked kale is already olive-oiled and salted, today i added a dash of balsamic vinegar. I was immediately transported to heaven. The taste is so reminiscent of my soul food. (And i'm sure fresh kale is better than canned spinach!)

Perhaps we grew up in a particular spiritual tradition that just doesn't fit us anymore. If we are lucky, we discover
Wonder what path will beckon this 10-year-old?
our native spiritual path--the one we've been on all along, perhaps without having the name for it. The more retreats i go on, the more i recognize that i was doing Buddhist practices when i was five, eight, and ten years old, even though i grew up in the heartland of America.

There's something very familiar about this path. And i have to say: It tastes delicious.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Zucchini Crime Rate

When Katie moved into our little town, she asked about the crime rate in the village (population 50). "None to speak of," said one neighbor. "Except in August, you'd best lock your car doors. Otherwise, you might could find a big old zucchini in the passenger seat when you get back into your car."

Hmmm. Is that generosity? It's not exactly "taking something which isn't offered." It's more like "giving something that isn't wanted." But everyone gets a big laugh out of it. And it gives the "crime victim" an opportunity to pull the same prank herself.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Zucchini a Day

I'm harvesting 3 or 5 zucchinis every day, while they're still smallish. Obviously, I can't eat that much zucchini, so, on Sunday, the urban grandchildren picked 3 zucchinis each, and took them back to the city. Along with 3 big Walla Walla onions.

One of my neighbors, Whit & Tonia, have a lot going on this weekend--a married daughter home to give birth to her second child (this morning) and her father, my morning meditation neighbor, Whit, in the hospital for a still undetermined heart condition. He's having a defibrillator installed this afternoon. I took a zucchini casserole down for the 6 adults (Tonia, her 3 children and 2 spouses who were focusing on the 3 (now 4) grandchildren).

We practice generosity without even thinking about it.

We freely offer the fruits of our labors of love, the vegetables from our garden to our friends and neighbors. And our heart goes out to them.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Share Our Surplus

The township i live in (population 1,800) has 3 tiny villages. One committee, the Transition (to Energy Independence) committee, has a Share Our Surplus program (S.O.S.). Every Saturday in July and August, they set up 3 farmstands--one in the east village, one in the west village, and one in the center village. If you're driving by, you can pick up or deliver the surplus from your garden. At the end of the day, a volunteer takes whatever remains to the Food Shelf in the nearby town.

All sorts of generosity are at work here:
  • the generosity of the gardeners who donate their extra veggies
  • the generosity of the volunteers on the committee who do all sorts of schlepping
  • even the generosity of the people who pick up free vegetables, thereby saving someone the work of disposal

Generosity is the first step on our spiritual path, and that path begins with a trip to your vegetable garden. Share your surplus with someone today.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Black Plastic Pros & Cons

Carole laid down black plastic in her vegetable garden to absorb and increase the heat in the soil for her peppers and tomatoes as well as to suppress the weeds. Now, a tribe of voles has taken up residence under the black plastic, and are pruning every plant in sight. Not only the broccoli and the beans, but also the peppers, including the hot peppers. (I wonder if the leaves and stems are as hot as the peppers?)

 We too lay down various forms of weedy thought suppression: Oh, i shouldn't think that or Oh, i shouldn't feel that way or I don't want to feel this painful feeling.

We try to grow nice-ness as our cover crop. And what happens? When we're not looking, our best efforts are nibbled away, undermined by the very feeling/thought we are trying to suppress.

Mindfulness is our refuge. Lean into that unpleasant feeling as if it's an acupressure point. Make friends with that unpleasant thought/feeling.

That's the way to grow a garden. Pepper your life with mindfulness.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Goodbye, Lawn Mower

It's time to trade in the lawn mower. It has become incontinent--leaking oil onto the garage floor. Even though it just had its annual physical exam at the hardware store a couple of months ago, it's now back there again, on life support. This faithful servant of 22 years has to be retired from service.

The man who is the mower of the lawn at my house still loves to ride around in green circles for an hour every other week. He's 78, and he probably doesn't have 22 years of service remaining. Nevertheless, he is choosing a new riding mower and continuing to serve his community in many different ways. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Zucchini: While It's Still Small

I picked my first zucchinis this morning. I caught them while they are still less than 8 inches long. Whew!

We try to catch our bad habits while they are still small, still just a thought in the mind. We pay close attention to that thought, just as we (hopefully) pay close attention to that baby zucchini.

Sink into that thought, whether it's irritation, impatience, desire, or what have you. Label it. Label it out loud, so that you can hear yourself being mindful. Label it out loud, so that you can hear mindfulness above the inner din.

I'll be eating zucchini for dinner this evening.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Kale Salad

I went to a day-long retreat with Shinzen Young on Saturday. At lunch, a friend and i went to a vegan restaurant, and i ordered Baked Kale Salad.

Kale leaves, halfway to becoming kale chips--sort of crispy, sort of leafy--were served with caramelized onions, sliced tomatoes, and a lovely dressing. Delicious! I made my own version for dinner last night.

We know kale is good for us. We know meditation is good for us. "Raw kale salad is too chewy," one friend complained. Our mind is busy, sometimes really busy, chewing things over when we sit down in meditation and notice just how noisy it is.

We have our strategies for getting away from the mind: add more noise--music, TV, movies--some form of entertainment. We have our strategies for getting away from kale: ignore it.

Only when we stop ignoring the mind does it begin to quiet down. Our mind is like an insistent 3-year-old--it wants to tell us something. And we are tired, tired, tired of it.

Pay attention to the mind with mindfulness. Accept those repetitious thoughts with kindness. This is best done on the cushion, while having your "noisy" meditation. But you can notice the mind while you're eating kale salad too.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Compost Grows in the Garden

Kay is the gardener of her family, but in April she asked her husband Tom to put the compost on the garden. He spread the entire contents of the black bin over the garden, then he rototilled.

Kay is now finding dozens of tomato plants sprouting in her garden, along with a couple of peppers, an unknown squash (oh-oh), an avocado tree, and maybe a watermelon? For Kay, tomato plants are a weed; she's pulling them out wholesale, except in certain spots, such as where the spinach didn't show up. May as well have something growing there.

Pulling weeds, she comes up with a lobster claw, lots of eggshells, and an interesting chunk of wet soil that turns out to be a rotten grape.

Burying your kitchen scraps in your garden is one form of composting, but that is not what Kay intended.

Here are the phrases that teach us about karma:

When we act upon intention,       such as spreading compost on the garden 
all beings are the owners of our actions,
and inherit its results.         such as stray tomatoes and an avocado tree

Our future is born from such action,  Tomato plants, peppers, lobster claw
companion to such action,
and its results will be our home.      such as weeding out tomatoes

All actions with intention,
be they skillful or harmful,             (I'll let you be the judge of this.) 
of such acts we will be the heir.      Exasperation? Or laughter? Or both?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Green Beans and Kindness

Here comes the summer garden. I picked my first batch of green beans, and the cherry tomatoes are ripening. I stop by the farmstand on my way home every day, and buy 2 ears of corn for dinner. For the time being, i'm buying tomatoes too so i can have tomato sandwiches for breakfast, for lunch, and, well, for dinner too when i don't get home until 9:30 p.m. Let's eat summer.

Now, we can see the direct connection of food to plate because we're going out to our gardens and harvesting the food that appears on our dinner table, maybe less than an hour later. We know where that plant came from, perhaps we even know where the seed came from. We know the soil, and we know where that soil came from--last year's compost, perhaps.

The source of our thoughts, our actions, our habits, indeed, our personality is lost in the mists of time. Just for today, we watch our thoughts with care. When we have a stressful thought, we substitute the opposite, which is often loving-kindness. Loving-kindness for ourselves, first of all.

Serve yourself a nice green helping of goodwill and kindness toward yourself. Now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bougainvillea Home

My bougainvillea matches the trim on my house. They're both magenta.This summer, i placed my bougainvillea where i can frequently see it, and looking at it every time i'm in the garden brings me a lot of pleasure. It's so rewarding to find a place where a plant really feels at home.

Where are you at home?

I'm at home with calm and quiet. I'm at home in the garden and in meditation. I'm at home on my deck watching the birds come to the bird feeder.

Our natural home is in Nature. Go find one place in your garden where you can feel/sense this feeling of at-homeness.

The bougainvillea blooms beautifully in these warm summer days.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Real Thing

This morning i picked and ate the first ripe cherry tomato in my garden. Oh, my. It tastes like a tomato! Twenty minutes later, the flavor lingers in the back of my mouth. Real tomatoes at last. So much better than supermarket tomatoes. Even better than locally grown hothouse tomatoes.

Taste the real thing: Calm.

Close your eyes and meditate for a minute right now. Breathe. Taste the calm. Notice that you are alive. Watch tiny shards of anxiety creep in. Notice opening your eyes to look at the computer screen. Breathe. You are alive. And peace is in the room, right beside you.

Friday, July 11, 2014

White Coral Bells. And Pnk Coral Bells. And Coral Coral Bells.

On my way home from a meditation retreat yesterday, i stopped at one of my favorite roadside stands. They had just received a shipment of  Heuchera (coral bells)--13 varieties--which they were selling at $2 apiece. I loaded up a flat with 19 big plants in little pots--green leaves with white veins, purple leaves with silver veins, chartreuse leaves, scalloped leaves, pointy leaves. I feasted on Heuchera.

We think that having more will make us happy. Buying releases that particular desire; then another desire arises, and we are in its clutches.

What are some things you would like more of?

I have an entire flat of Heuchera. Today it's time to decide just where to plant them. Here? Or there? Those decisions are stressful. And, besides, i have other gardening chores (a.k.a. more stress).

"More" feels good for about a minute. Before "more," stress disguises itself as desire. After "more," stress disguises itself as "too much to do." No matter which way you turn, stress is hiding under some leaves in the garden.

Let's take a simple walk in the garden now. Mindfully.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Intoxicating Flowers

Those poppies that we sowed on the last snow in March are blooming now. Papaver somniflorium--the flowers of sleep--otherwise known as opium poppy.

I pick a bouquet every day, or several, and give away as many as i can. Yesterday i took a bouquet to the receptionist at the jail where i volunteer to teach meditation on Thursday mornings. Most of the women i meet are in jail for possession of heroin. Or perhaps we should say possession by heroin.

Intoxicants, of any kind, alter our consciousness and take possession of us for a few hours. Meditation offers the possibility of altering our consciousness more deeply and more permanently than wine or heroin. If you spent your wine money and wine time on a meditation retreat, how much would that add up to? And the effects would be more long-lasting.

We take intoxicants to relieve our stress and pain. Now. We are aching now, even in the midst of our wonderful lives. Notice that. Wake up, and take the stress reliever that offers you an actual remedy.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Breaking the Heat Wave

Thunderstorms broke the heat wave last evening, and more thunder showers are predicted for today. Which means that today is a good day to transplant.

I have volunteers growing in all sorts of places i don't want them--cherry tomatoes in a little flower garden, and flowers in the vegetable garden. Today is the day for them to switch places.

In the summer of our lives, when we are busy with family, job, and paying the mortgage, it's hard to focus on our spiritual life. It's harder still to transplant meditation into our busy lives.

But sometimes, our lives don't play out "like they're supposed to." A thunderstorm rolls through our life, alerting us to the need to do something different.

Transplant mindfulness into your life today. Reading this blog mindfully, clicking the mouse mindfully,  touching the keyboard mindfully. Allow mindfulness to walk with you away from the computer and out to the garden. Transplant yourself into summer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Weeds Like It Hot

Full steam ahead. It's summer. It's hot. My gardening dribbles down to an hour in the early, early morning while the temperature is still in the 70s, and maybe half an hour in the evening after dinner. Sometimes, i dare to go out and work in the shade, but I'm not keeping up with the weeds, which are jumping for joy. More every day, particularly in the spots that didn't get mulched.

The weeds in our minds jump with joy every time we give them an opportunity to grow, every day that we don't mulch our minds with mindfulness.

What are the weeds that grow in the garden of your mind? Irritation? Frustration? Self-blame? Anxiety?

The first thing we do is sit down and watch them. Sit down and have a glass of iced tea with anxiety or with self-blame. Notice its habits. Where and when does it like to grow. Be curious. Get to know your weeds.

Because, you know, weeds make an excellent green mulch in the garden.