The Egg Carton

2016-06-23 06.18.59

When we go out to West Virginia, we stop by a small market called “Graden’s Market” that is outside Lebanon Church, Virginia.  It has gas pumps as well.

We generally stop there to fill up our Subaru, because gas is $.20 per gallon cheaper that in West Virginia.

We stopped by the last time that we went out.  Betsy went into the market to buy some supplies that we needed at the farm. She also bought a dozen eggs.  They were in a styrofoam container that had the following label:  “Please return egg cartons for reuse.”

When we buy eggs in a carton in Washington, the carton gets recycled- not reused.  And that is how we do things in the city.  I am reminded about how little things do make a difference.  And so we are going to change our habits on our way to West Virginia:  we will stop by Gradens each time we go out to return an egg carton and to buy a new one.

The other surprise was the eggs that we got.  They came from Alan and Patie Ferrell’s farm and from chickens that are range fed. And the eggs themselves are almost too delightful to eat:  the are soft pastels of brown, light blue, and soft shades of white.

 

On Being A Wandering Pilgrim

Wendell Berry

I am a huge fan of Wendell Berry’s.  I love his story telling and delight in the contour and simplicity of his words.  And, as I continue on my path, I am struck by his wisdom.

The following paragraphs are excerpted from his book, Jayber Crow.  Jayber Crow is a mythical figure who is trying to find his way, but often gets lost.

“If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line- starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King’s Highway past appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City.

But that is not the way that I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrim has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back.

Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I have deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led- make of that what you will.”

 

Inspired by Faith, Committed to Action

DSCN2847

Four of us  went to Honduras in the early part of March, 2016, to spend time with villagers in five mountain communities that were a part of our ongoing support to the Trinidad Conservation Project. Three of the towns had previously been in the cluster, while two new towns had been added.

On previous trips, we had been engaged in projects and lived in the communities. And a part of our presence there had been to witness changes in the communities regarding number of trees planted, fuel efficient stoves built, and house gardens planted. We gloried in how much organic fertilizer had been made, and how no one was using harmful tradition methods such as slash and burn, and chemical insecticides and pesticides.

This year, we experienced a different deeper layer.

Hondurans are going through tough times: a drought has pervaded the country; a plague is destroying the country’s pine forests, crops have failed, and a well known and respected environmental activist was assassinated. Some families may have to leave their villages because there is no source of income and food.   They may have to migrate to dangerous urban areas if the drought continues. Security, drugs, and corruption continue to be realities.

Having to face all of this, it would be completely understandable if the people that we met were despairing. Yet, that is not what we saw. What we saw glimpses of were shining, smiling, faces and hopeful discussions.

There was also a sense of living in intergenerational communities (grandmothers and grandfathers, parents, children); much less attachment to things for a sense of well-being, But something else was evident, and that was their living in a faith that they would be empowered to care for themselves and each other. And that is the power of the Vecinos Honduras presence, embedded in what Roy Lara does; he is a skilled agronomist, and he cares for the villagers. He himself is carrying out his calling, that work with people in small communities can make a difference.

Here is another observation about the trip. A two way interconnectedness exists between the Washington and Honduran communities.  We do serve an important role each hour we spend listening and observing in our five villages, and with both Roy and Edwin. It has to do with the caring qualities and energy that we bring to the relationship. So, we inspire by our interest and compassion. And, in return, we become inspired by what we are witnessing up close and from photos. It is truly a mutual exchange of energy.

Thoughts on Gratitude from Jack Kornfield

jack kornfield

 

In some Buddhist traditions, there’s a prayer in which one makes a rather unusual request of the universe: Bring me challenges and obstacles.

Jack Kornfield’s words from an interview with the Huffington Post.

In certain temples that I’ve been to, there’s actually a prayer that you make asking for difficulties,” Western Buddhist master Jack Kornfield told the Huffington Post. “May I be given the appropriate difficulties so that my heart can truly open with compassion. Imagine asking for that.” 

Being grateful for not only life’s blessing but also its suffering is a key component of living a spiritual life — and more broadly, to a fulfilling and meaningful life.”  

If we see the world as sacred, which is an expression of the spiritual life, then gratitude follows immediately and naturally. We’ve been given the extraordinary privilege of incarnating as human beings — and of course the human incarnation entails the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, as it says in the Tao Te Ching — but with it we have the privilege of the lavender color at sunset, the taste of a tangerine in our mouth, and the almost unbearable beauty of life around us, along with its troubles. It keeps recreating itself. We can either be lost in a smaller state of consciousness — what in Buddhist psychology is called the “body of fear,” which brings suffering to us and to others — or we can bring the quality of love and appreciation, which I would call gratitude, to life. With it comes a kind of trust. The poet Pablo Neruda writes, “You can pick all the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring.” Life keeps recreating itself and presenting us with miracles every day. 

“I remember my meditation master in the jungles of Thailand who would ask at times, Where have you learned more compassion? Where have you learned more? Where has your heart grown wiser — in just having good times, or going through difficulties? “There’s a Buddhist-oriented therapy in Japan called Naikan Therapy, and one part of that training is to review your life and begin to remember all the things you have gratitude towards, even the things that were difficult and taught you lessons. Or even the people that were difficult, sometimes in your own family — [remembering] the gratitude you have for family, that they’re even there. 

And speaking of gratitude, in a group that I taught recently, there was a man who spoke up whose son and daughter-in-law had become meth addicts. They were both addicts to the point where this fellow and his wife as grandparents had to take the children and raise their grandchildren. After a moment of great despair, he began to do a gratitude practice to see what he could be grateful for. He was grateful to have the grandchildren in that way, he was grateful that his children were still alive and that they were considering treatment. He was grateful for the depths of compassion that had grown when he learned about the waves of addiction that were prevalent in the country, and that he could somehow contribute to bringing an end to it…. He said that by being able to find gratitude as well, he was able to bear the difficulties and to bring some grace and love to it. 

To become mindful — which Zen master Suzuki Roshi also called “beginner’s mind” — is to see the world afresh without being lost in our reactions and judgments, and in seeing it afresh with a clarity, we begin to be able to respond to the world rather than react to it. (I like to translate mindfulness as loving awareness — an awareness that knows what’s present, and also brings a quality of compassion and lovingkindness to that.) 

The cultivation of mindfulness — which modern neuroscience has now shown in 3,000 papers and studies in the last two decades to help bring emotional regulation, steady attention and physical healing — really allows us to become present for our own body, for the person in front of us, for the life we’ve been given. Out of that grows quite naturally the spirit of gratitude. Now it turns out, like all good things, they feed one another. Cultivating an opening to gratitude also helps us to become more mindful of the life around us and what circumstance we’re in. 

Anne Wilson Schaef [author of When Society Becomes An Addict], has described ours as an addicted society. Whether it’s consumerism or addictive substances or just keeping ourselves busy or being online or working 80 hours a week, we have things that keep us busy because, in some ways, the culture wants us to keep engaged and not to look around much… not to see the struggles of people, the continuing injustice, the economic disparities, the people who are hungry, climate change. What becomes clear is that there’s no outer fix or satisfaction — no amount of computers, no amount of nanotechnology or biotechnology and all the great things that we’ve developed that will stop us from continuing warfare, racism and environment destruction. 

Those outer developments have to be matched by a transformation of human consciousness to realize that we are interdependent and we depend on the air we breathe, and on people in other nations as they depend on us. We are woven, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, into a single garment of destiny. When we see this, we begin to realize that the values of consumerism and getting more and more — which start to become emptier and emptier — don’t satisfy the heart. When we look at what’s satisfied us in the past week or month or decade, it’s been the connections, the love and the openness of our lives to the places we’ve traveled and the people we’ve met. This really is the basis for gratitude. Then we start to sense that it is possible to live with a quieter mind and an open heart, and with a sense of satisfaction within ourselves — it’s the satisfaction of well-being. 

 

Thoughts About Bodhi

Collie and Bodhi

On 24, Bodhi underwent emergency surgery to help relieve acute gastric distress. He died of a heart attack as the surgery was being completed.

Bodhi was deeply embedded in our family and the various parts of our community. He was full of soul and compassion and had much to do with how I looked at my life and journey.

Here is a poem that we received from a friend:

 

Robinson Jeffers: The House-Dog’s Grave

I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you,
If you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you’d soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no,
All the nights through I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read‚
And I fear often grieving for me‚
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying.
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope that when you are lying
Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.

No, dears, that’s too much hope:
You are not so well cared for as I have been.
And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided…
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.