Sunday, May 6, 2012

(Home) work

We're into our 4th week of the apprenticeship and, like my dad used to say, I'm busier than a one legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Three classes, tenken, chiden, calligraphy, sewing, dharma talks and the occasional nature walk to hear the birds and eat the wild eatables.

Did you know crows mate for life and can recognize human faces? And Redwood Sorrel tastes like sour candy. Super moon was out this morning.

Class one starts at 8 am this morning. It's an introduction to Buddhism. I can't attend these classes too many times, it always comes up fresh. Homework is: What is the middle way and how do you know you're on it?

Class two is a spontaneous improv zen. We take this class in a big yurt that was gifted to us some years ago- plenty of room to run around and act out our insides. We lay on the floor and make weird noises, followed by partner work where we explore what our body wants to say (this is a silent improv). Very interesting- my body speaks a lot of kung fu and spider man. Occasionally it sings somersaults.

Class three is a heart sutra class. Pretty heavy stuff, taught by a zen priest who left residential practice to teach at Berkley. A lot is being unpacked. As questions arise, new questions arise, and I don't get to ask them. I'm compiling a list.

And then there is farm life. Learned how to hill potatoes and run our irrigation. Fussing with drip tape and coordinating pumps to reservoirs to digging newts and banna slugs out of sprinkler heads.

We also went on a field trip to the Edible School Yard and to the Almeda Collective Farm. Edible School yard is beautiful. Wendy Johnson took us, who is a spring of lore, both GGF and organic farming from the 70's onward. Of course, I cried; how did my karma get intertwined with inner city children? Almeda collective is amazing. It's an abandoned military base that offers close to free housing, job training, farm training, and counseling to homeless people. Evan, the manager there, is doing amazing things.

It's time to sit. What's the middle way? I think it means bouncing around life like a ping pong ball, trying to save all beings, and asking that question, is this good for all beings? Making it simpler, is this good for all beings at this table? In this marriage? In this temple? In this city?


  1. I think the middle way is a constant balancing act. You know you're living it when your heart and your mind agree with one another.

  2. I'm not sure one can answer that...for "good" is up to an unending list of interpretations. What one sees as good for another, the other sees as restricting/frustrating/horrible... just ask any child told to eat his green beans. Or the guy at the office asked to be accountable for his time...or the woman to spend less.

    On the up side, "my body speaks a lot of kung fu and spider man. Occasionally it sings somersaults." made me laugh out loud.

  3. It might be easier to ask, "What are the likely consequences of that act?" Like, I have been suffering lately from mindlessly laying the kitchen scissors down somewhere besides the drawer they belong in. I know, this is down-home spirituality for you.

  4. Maybe just asking: is this the middle way?

    Maybe having a positive reaction: Beware of greed
    Maybe having a negative reactions: Beware of hate
    Maybe having a neutral reaction: Beware of delusion.

    Maybe a lot of not doing much, since it is so hard to figure out what is good!

    But then there is the story of the Buddha when he was aboard a ship and saved 500 some people.

    He read a man's mind; the man was going to sink the ship and kill everyone. The Buddha killed this man, saving 500 some people and the man from his own karma.

    Big question: Did he suffer karmic effects from this?

    1. Perhaps the bigger question is the karma of the earth itself, with reference to the Gaia concept.