Seventy Years and Counting

I have decided to live 100 years. Well, why not? Can I not decide on anything I wish? Isn’t anything possible? That which is not in my control will determine so very much of the future. That which is in my control are my thoughts, decisions and daily actions. I make plans, not to achieve their end, but to have a direction that allows for the inevitable change in them. No plan, no changing the plan. You see? What changes? Nothing. Only the plan. Easy breezy.

I wonder if others feel their lives only just beginning at seventy years old. No matter. I do. And there is SO much to do and so little time. Had I known this from the beginning, I would have accomplished much more by now. Then again, the present is all that exists and all that ever did. I accomplished being here now, did I not? Will I accomplish being here in 30 years? We shall see! Life is nothing, if not adventure. This is the beginning of my brand new adventure. I am giddy with excitement.

Zen and the Art of Gardening

From the beginning, the zen concept is a paradox. Zen is without words and can only be defined with words. In his book, The Three Pillars of Zen, by Philip Kapleau, he offers a definition on page 385: “….the process of concentration and absorption by which the mind is first tranquilized and brought to one-pointedness, and then awakened.”

It is this exact thing that the zen gardener is doing. Concentrating on the garden, the soil, the plants, the leaves, the flowers, the bugs, coming to focus without distraction, and suddenly coming to a deep understanding of what is observed, that is not separate from the deep understanding of the observer. Only then is the zen gardener ready to act, not upon the garden, but in co-creation with the garden. The observed and the observer are one in zen and the art of gardening.

Some of us are programmed to approach gardening in this way. Some of us are programmed to think and plot and plan and design, without meditation. Either way, one ends up with a garden, and the life of the garden is beautiful, rewarding, and nourishing. So what is the difference, and why differentiate?

For me, the fulfillment is in the co-creation. I was honestly surprised when I saw the first produce appear on the plants. I was astonished. I had forgotten that there would be this outcome. But it was more that I was never concerned with the outcome, only with the activity of gardening and nurturing the life there. It is kind of like being somewhat surprised at your adult children. You knew that would happen, but you were always focused on the child, so that their maturity can feel kind of shocking. This is known in zen as the path with no goal. I find it a very liberating path, filled with adventure every day.

Many if not all gardeners have experienced what I describe. But if you have not, or are curious about this path as a way forward in your gardening, here is the technique. Sit somewhere within or on the edge of your garden every time you go out to work there. Sit still for 20 minutes or more before going to work. That is all. The communication from your garden to you requires one thing, your stillness. Don’t try to see or hear. Just sit, eyes open, but still. Try it out, and let me know if it changes your gardening habits in any way. I would be interested to hear.

People sometimes volunteer to work in my gardens. There is a requirement for volunteers, however, and it is this. Sit still within the gardens for 20 minutes before going to work. As a teacher of Zen, this is the teaching. Take it or leave it, no problem. Want to volunteer in my gardens? Send me a message, and we will get you started with your first 20 minutes.

Nature and the Nature of Reality

To study Buddhism, is to study the nature of reality, unless you are studying Buddhism as religion. That is something else altogether. The nature of reality is what the Buddha was studying. Zen teachings say that the study of Buddhism is the study of the self and to understand the self is to understand all beings. I would say these are accurate statements, speaking from my own experience.

I don’t like getting bogged down in semantics and scholarly explicits. Yet, a little word may go a long way to help get our minds around what it means to say understanding the self and understanding the nature of reality.

Let me put it this way. Many people are pretty well convinced, as am I, that an important source of all human beings’ problems is the disconnect from nature. Nature is that in which we were born into on planet Earth. We were born into a natural world of earth, ground, air, water, ether, fire. These are the elements of the natural existence on earth. They were not created by humans. Humans were created by them, and are comprised of these elements. So are the trees, all the plants, animals, rocks, and mountains.

When you can see that you are made of the same elements as the naturally occurring world around you, you may more deeply understand yourself. Especially if you place yourself in a location in which these elements are strongly experienced through your senses of touch, smell, taste, and hearing, you are even more likely to have insights about your own nature, and the question of “who am I” begins to have some answers.

In a time of global chaos, gardening has become an increasing trend. Seed companies are having a difficult time keeping up with orders. Nurseries are selling out of garden soils and plants. I think that in a time of global chaos, people are intuitively looking to nature for answers.

Whether you plant a seed in the ground, purchase a plant to transplant in the ground or to keep in a pot, or whether you grow one or more plants anywhere at all, you are a big step closer to understanding yourself. Imagine a world in which more and more people understand themselves through understanding plants and find that as a way to calm their minds and emotions, as a way to find peace.

People who find peace in growing a plant will find that they care deeply about the protection of the environment on earth, and this will impact their choices in many areas of their lives. You will find that your actions will have an impact you did not expect, as your actions accumulate with the actions of others and you see your connection to them. You will feel less lonely, and you will join the stream of human beings who care about the nature of themselves, the nature of others, the nature of reality, and nature.

Pride and the Shovel

People say “Did you do all this?!”

I cannot say that I did. I cannot say that I did not.

I do take pride in my shovel

and the person who invented the shovel

manufactured the shovel

delivered the shovel.

I take pride in human creativity, resilience, strength.

I take pride in the air, the soil, the water, the seeds, the plants.

Proud is a funny word. It indicates ego. Ego indicates self.

Gardening, shoveling, these are selfless acts.

I hold the shovel. The shovel digs.

I plant the seeds. The seeds germinate.

I water the seeds with water that is not “mine”.

The plants grow.

I shovel, weed, nurture, love, and deeply honor that of which I can only be one little part, one little, vital, interconnected part. Pride has very little to with it. Other than to say, I am proud of the shovel.

Physical Mental Emotional

You arrived on earth embodied. Whatever mental and emotional states came with or ensued, they are housed in your body. Agree or disagree, this statement is the premise for my post today.

The physical body should be cared for much like any machine you own. It operates according to physical laws, which are the laws of nature on our planet. Understanding your own physiology empowers you to care for yourself in sickness and in health.

Eating disorders, physical disorders (disease), mental and emotional disorders, can be addressed successfully through nutrition, exercise, structural and postural adjustments. The key underlying all of these adjustments is your breath, meaning the oxygenation of your cells.

These principles are simple, and everyone can follow and heal through the understanding and use of them. However, we live in an age in which a great many people, likely the majority, are uneducated and uninformed of these basics.

Over forty years as a professional in natural medicine and therapeutics has taught me all that I know, and all that I know is through applying studies to my personal experience. I am here to assist others on the path to their self realization, wholeness and good health.

In closing, I have saved the most important for last. A deep knowledge of yourself means that you understand that your spirit is housed in your body. You must care for your body as a temple if you desire a relationship with your true self, your spirit. I post this in honor of and specifically for those who are on a quest of self awareness and knowledge. Many blessings. 🙏❤️

From where I sit this morning

One morning at Maitri Retreat

Aug 31, 2011 – Standing alone on the deck.  The sky hints of pink, but promises light moment by moment. I hear every silent breath, mine and the trees’.

Ellen arrives like an apparition from the dark, whispers in my ear that someone or some thing whispered in her ear, awakening her with the sound of her own name.

Arising to follow the call, she found the door standing open…now she is standing next to me.  We are silent.

Suddenly movement in the dark dawn, down below us, in the trees.

We follow the movement, separate, and disappear from one another.

I wander through waist high grass –

find nothing and no one, not even Ellen.

7 AM sit is silent, still, free.

Space

What is it I love about Colorado?  Surely it is the sapciousness, like in New Mexico.  The trees in Colorado give space a shape without using it up.  A tree must surely know its own empty self, just like the sky and the clouds- like they know they are not separate at all.

Respect

August 22, 2012

Respect for that which I have no respect, may take me a long way down my spiritual path.

That which I do not respect, is placed somewhere outside of my mind, and therefore out of my conscious experience – excluded.

“Preference” is written all over it. Zen is the art of non-preference.

Embodying that which I do not respect = being whole, being one with all beings. Humility is here. Empathy is here. Compassion is here- in the embodiment of my experience as a whole.

Breath as Healing Technique

Today as I drew breath down into my belly, it filled up almost all the space inside me, but I paused and then breathed in a little more and my front and back were separated from one another as the space between expanded.  A full breath cycle swept exhale and inhale along the undersides of my rib cage and massaged the tissues in front of my spine.  Breath gently soothed all the tender places inside and alongside my spine, and the lightning strike of disc contacting nerve became more like strong river flowing.  “Breath sweeps mind”, I guess.