Sunday, September 23, 2012

Red Sky at Night

Tonight, Friday night, has a beautiful evening soft blue sky with pink wispy clouds, a crescent moon and a warm feel in the community.  Maybe because it's Friday, maybe because last night we had the annual harvest square dance or maybe it is always like that but I showed up for it this time.  Just like one of my teachers said, my negative mood has passed.  Like she also said, it will surely come again so just look at it, maybe find some humor in the silliness that is human life, or at least some curiosity.  Like another teacher said, (yes, I talked to many people about my nasty mood this week) in regards to my negative feelings toward a few particular people, which were so strong I could barely be in their presence, I don't have to think too deeply about it.  In other words, I don't have to analyze the situation to figure out "am I projecting some part of myself onto them? am I hiding some part of myself that I don't like and see in them? are they insane or am I? etc."  I don't really have to make it so complicated.  I can trust my intuition about people but not turn away from whatever discomfort comes up and just keep trying to meet them.  Questions are good but thinking you'll figure out the "answer" is futile.

Like the one above, I keep running into the same walls lately.  I have this doubt sometimes whether this community is the place to be.  Then I read over what I just wrote above and think how great it is that I have such wise people to talk to in the times of challenge.  Could I find that anywhere?  MAYBE!  Maybe not.  That is not the point.  The wall is this:  if I think life will be better somewhere else I am simply mistaken.  My life is my own little universe that I take with me.  I see the people around me, the landscape, etc with the same eyes, the same karma.  So can I accept the doubt?   Sometimes. Last night we had this amazing event called the Harvest Dinner and Dance.  It is coming to the end of the farm and garden season and all of us apprentices harvest and cook a meal for the community with as much local produce as possible.  (Beet burgers, potato fries, coleshaw, apple pie) We also decorate the dining room, changing it all around, and set up the pool-deck for a square dance with a band and a caller!  It was great fun.  People got dressed up, people laughed and hollered, held hands, circled left, circled right, and do-si-doed.  It brought out a very special side in everyone.  And I saw people differently, even the next day.  It made me wonder why we only do this once a year?!  Like I almost forgot for a second that we have this side of ourselves.  Good to know it's still alive and well.  But I wonder if we are cultivating it enough in this community.  One might say in response to this question that we all go out and do things and see friends and family and go out on the town but I don't think it is the same thing.  I read this article once in Vanity Fair and it was talking about the Kennedy administration and how Jackie O. sort of revolutionized the White House by throwing these large social/political/cultural events bringing people together from all these different spheres and providing a space to connect and share and have a good time.  She believed it was really beneficial for political relations to be able to see others as more than their jobs or at least outside of the usual realm of interaction.  I think the same thing could be said for Green Gulch.  That having these social events together would allow us to see each other in many different lights and subsequently foster more honesty and compassion.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

How do You Shut-up the Inner Critic?

Kuan Yin, bodhisattva of
You don't.  Like my mom and dad used to say, "we don't say shut-up, it's not nice."  I'm not good enough and you're not good enough.  Lately, this has been the cycle.  The annoying part is that the criticism of other people is much more conscious than the self-criticism.  So I'm trying to explore this road to its source but I can only see like a foot in front of me at a time.  In other words, I see the thoughts start (it's making my zazen miserable), I think a few not nice things, like "he's so full of himself" or "she's so fake" and then I feel bad for thinking that but don't know what to do with it and can't see the next step or even the road behind me.

Later I start asking myself, why am I so critical of others?  People often say that you see flaws in others that you don't want to see in yourself but are probably in there somewhere.  People also say that you are critical of yourself but would rather redirect it towards others because it doesn't hurt as much.  Finally, people say this pattern of thinking is Ancient. Twisted. Karma. ie. it started a hella long time ago.  One of my teachers recently cautioned me against asking the question "why" too much.  She said it won't get you very far or it gets you too far but with no end.  So I am not sure if or when it is helpful in this case to ask why I am this way.  I supposed it is more helpful to address what's going on right now, considering I cannot change the past.  My husband, the sweet wise man he is suggests rather than telling the inner voice to shut up, what that voice really needs is some mothering, some gentleness, and some patience.  He says that you really can't love everyone (hey, it doesn't mean you like everyone either) unless you can love yourself.  It sounds so cheesy and obvious but we all know it's true.  The question is how.  How do you accept your flaws, the stupid things that come out of your mouth, the fear of failure, the people pleasing, the eye rolls, the hurt you cause others, etc.  If you don't learn to accept these you will spend your life trying to only do things you know you're good at and you'll have to avoid every single person who is not perfect.  Hmmm...

I can barely wrap my head around this stuff.  Dealing with the subconscious feels like something I am unequipped for but I think maybe I signed up for it when I decided to study the self.  It's just so confusing trying to see the relationship between what happens in my life, what happens in my head during my life and what happens in zazen.  The connections are just not so clear!  In the meantime I just want to hideout in my room so I don't have to see anyone.  Then you can't think mean things about them.  And you can escape into some book or some other comforting thing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Potato Dig!

I deadheaded big beautiful wilting, tilting, fading dahlias.  I threw them into the wheelbarrow and put the occasional one in a can with water.  These were destined for the student flower table to live on a few more days under the loving eyes of a resident.  Bees, drunk on pollen, moving slowly in the yellow center of red "arabian nights" flowers, had to get a move on as I reluctantly cut down their source of food and pleasure.  They moved on.  I looked for tiny buds, future flowers, to leave behind in the wake, the flourish of purple, pink, yellow, and white.
I look at my watch, 1:56, time to go! Danny, Christina, and I walk lightly with a little pep toward the farm.  There's a mystery ahead with this "potato dig."  As announced at work circle by Sara Tashker, there will be drumming and fun.  It gets warmer and sunnier with each step we take.  It seems we are the first to arrive.  A table is set out to illustrate the three "classes" of potato, each sign with a few potatoes to give a visual.  There's the "1st" potatoes, as in, "1st" rate?  No disease, no damage, no green, not huge.  There's "GGF" potatoes. No disease, damage ok - if healed, less than 1/4 green.  There's compost potatoes, which is pretty much everything else.  Oh yeah, and small is good.  Fancy. Premium.  Everything is better if it's tiny, right?  Cute.  Finally there is a table for the oddities.  Strange shapes, likenesses of famous people, and of course the classic cock and balls.  One example looked like a manatee.  That was cool.
The sun is getting hotter.  Feels good.  Rows and rows of dirt upturned by the tractor.  Potatoes exposed.  More people trickle down.  Mary and I will work together.  We take our "fingerling 1st" and "fingerling GGF" boxes and find a row.  Sara Davis tells us they will be sorted again as they are washed so we can go fast.  And fast we go!  The sun is hot, I take of my long sleeve and tie it over my shaved head.
Where's the drumming I wonder.  I see Mick the baker walking down the road with his usual t-shirt with the sleeves cutoff and baggy pants.  He's carrying large bongo drums in a black bag.  Someone has setup a flatbed truck in the middle of the field.  With the first hit of his hand on the skin my heart swelled, my head bobbed and my pace quickened. I laughed.  I howled!  With his sunglasses on, he looked like a blind man.   Seeing the sound with his hands.  Up and down the rows, boxes and people and potatoes, of all kinds.  I don't even like potatoes that much but today they were beautiful.  My eyes quickly learned to see the hidden dirt covered root vegetables that blend in with the clods of rich crumbly earth.  Sometimes I'd squat with open hips, sometimes I'd bend over with my arm resting on one thigh, sometimes I'd kneel on the ground sucking in my belly, aware of my back.
I looked at my watch, 2:57, time to go back to my other work.  Sad to go.  The drumming and howling continued.
Happy Food Awareness Month!

What I Remember, Sept. 11

Last night Steve Stucky, abbot of San Francisco Zen Center, gave a dharma talk at Green Gulch Farm. Mostly it was related to our self-proclaimed Food Awareness Month but he did start out by calling on us to take a moment to recognize the anniversary of the September 11 attack in New York.  He recognized the trauma that happened and the impact it had on many people.  What he also said that really resonated with me is that it was a significant event AND insignificant.  I'm not sure, some people may find that to be hurtful or blasphemous even but I feel it rings true.  I find it is true for many reasons but one of the reasons, and this comes up for me every year, is in what we often forget or don't say when we invoke the tragedy.  We forget or choose not to acknowledge that things of this nature happen in other countries every day.  Many people live in fear and trauma every day.  And sometimes the United States and its military are direct contributors to this fear.  We know this fear, maybe because we have felt it ourselves or at least because we have seen other people express it.  We call the people that hijacked the planes terrorists I guess because they are trying to invoke terror but to people outside the United States we may be considered the terrorists.  And they would not be wrong.  Part of our military offense/defense is to invoke terror into the governments and people of other countries so they do not even consider retaliating or attacking our soil.  What scares me is that many people see no coincidence between the attacks in New York and our actions abroad.  Do unto others as you'd have done to you.  Note, that it isn't the same as "eye for an eye," but "do to or for others what you would want done to you."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

36 Leaves

That's how many leaves are required to work for one apple.  36 leaves photosynthesizing and creating the skin and sweetness for one apple.  Did you hear that they have finally created a genetically modified apple?  The most stubborn and difficult of all fruits has finally been conquered by that it won't brown!  Welcome to September, Food Awareness Month!

By way of Wendy Johnson, by way of the Buddhist Global Relief website, Wendell Berry offers some helpful suggestions for us to consider when it comes to our food:

  1. Be aware of what is involved in eating by “reclaiming responsibility for one’s own part in the food economy.” See how eating takes place “inescapably in the world” and “is inescapably an agricultural act.”
  2. If possible, “Participate in food production to the extent you can” by growing and preparing some of your own food.
  3. “Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home.” When possible, “deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist.”
  4. “Learn, in self-defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production.”
  5. “Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience, if possible, of the life histories of the food species” and “what is involved in the best farming and gardening.”

In other news, Stanford just published a study, I think a meta-analysis where they analyze a large group of studies looking at roughly the same subject, and produce a statement about what the studies found in total.  The final word that was relayed to me last night is that they say organic food and conventional foods are no different when it comes to essential nutrition.  All I can say is in my heart of hearts I do not think that is wholly true AND it misses the big picture.  It may put some people's minds at ease or allow others to say "I told you so" but it shouldn't.  Using pesticides is still bad for the planet and bad for the health of all living creatures.  Not everyone believes the scientists who largely agree on this but they probably will someday.  The fact that using genetically modified foods as a main part of our diet is primarily a United States thing is concerning.  The fact that LARGE corporations like Monsanto and ConAgra are huge opposers to the California initiative to require labeling of GMO foods is also concerning.  What is the message that it sends when they don't want us to know what's in our food?  

Finally, I had a dream the other night that I was an X-woman (like the comic book where people mutate and have superpowers).  But I was only 70% X-woman, they tested my blood to find out how much power I had.  The problem was, because I was only 70% X-woman I was not accepted by those who were full X-(wo)men but I was enough X-woman to be hunted by the government.  Probably a big reflection of my thoughts these days: farming and institutions.