Slow Gardening

My streaks are starting to become hard and wearying. I am struggling with the yoga and I am struggling with what to write each week on the blog. 

The yoga is hard because of the time commitment and also because a lot of the practices are physically hard to do, and continue to be hard to do even after more than 60 days of consistently doing them.

I did the Strength practice the other day and thought: When will this ever get easier?? I have to approach the Balance practice with a sense of humor because it is all but impossible, and if I don’t find a way to laugh, and go easy on myself, I will just quit. 

This blog is hard for other reasons. Mainly because, until lately, I’ve not been reading anything except for newspapers. I’ve also not been consistently doing my 1K a day word dump in Scrivener. I need to develop more consistency in those two things. I need to put the iPad away and read. 

 I’m deathly sick of Facebook but find myself looking at it anyway. I’m actively resisting any urge to engage with anything or anybody. I’ve even stopped happy birthday-ing people. I want to quit it and if I didn’t have the studio I would in a heartbeat. I never leave Facebook feeling informed or uplifted. 

I’ve been feeling this really strong pull toward detachment and solitude. I keep flashing back on my yearly, sometimes more than yearly, retreats at Springwater, how I’d come home from them centered and aligned and inspired. It’s been too long. I almost have a fear of doing that now, not that I have the time for it. And I don’t know why.

I’ve been having escapist fantasies of doing yoga on the beach during my hour of practice each day, imagining lifting up into crescent lunge, opening my arms out wide, gathering it all in… 

In reality, yoga in the sand is crappy and messy and my form falls apart, but if I could find a flat stable piece of ground, that would be so nice, and then afterward, to sit and meditate there? Ahhhh….

My list of household things to do is long and my desire to do any of it is short. I just want to sit and read and write and then read again. The other day we moved the hammock stand into place in the side yard but I haven’t hung the hammock on it yet. I have some idea in my mind that I have to deserve my hammock time. That I have to fall into the hammock in a heap of exhaustion either from doing housework or yard work. There is some bug in my brain that says that lying around is self-indulgent and must be earned. 

The other day I was doing a little gardening, my first spate of gardening of the year.

I warmed up by just walking the yard, taking the measure of the season, noticing how things had survived the winter, or not.  The thing G wanted me to do was plant some marigolds in a planter in the back, but first there was some cleaning and weeding to be done. I took my weeder bucket and trake and started carefully cleaning out dead leaves and weeds, sweeping the flagstones, standing back and admiring things. I swept under the little Buddha statue and then took one of the marigolds, planted it in a little blue ceramic pot, and placed it in front of the statue, kind of like an offering. 

I am not a Buddhist. I am not a person who bows to statues. But I think what these little garden Buddhas represent, with their closed eyes and their meditative stillness is the me who wants to do that, and be like that. I want to be the one who goes into the yard to observe, and appreciate, and weed, and sweep, and call that “gardening.” Or “meditating.”

G is getting the garden done.

G opening the hot tub for the season

She is making great strides with planting and mulching and digging and doing. Whereas I take a different approach. I am more concerned with doing it in a way that slows me down, makes me pay attention to the plant I am weeding around in this moment, watching as it becomes visible as a result of my making a  weedless space around it. I prefer to garden slowly. I don’t care how long it takes. I like taking my time. 

Not a lot will get done at this pace, though. By the time I’m through, the leaves will need to be raked and the hammock again, stored for the winter. 

A Box of Time

So, it’s over. (Xmas, that is.)  It was sweet –and certainly buttery!

I got some techy gifts (a new internet router and a new version of Wanda, my GPS) some clothes and of course, books.

But what I really wanted was not under the tree.

What I really wanted, and ask for every year and never get, was a big Box of Time.

I wish Amazon sold gift cards for the time it takes to read all the books they sell.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  I think they need to get on that.  Seriously.

I did get a book entitled, The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo, which says it will help me “Reclaim Yesterday, Enjoy Today, and Master Tomorrow.”

I really doubt it, but who knows?  It could happen.

But that’s not what I really want to do: I don’t want to reclaim yesterday or master tomorrow, I just want to feel like a day is a really long amount of time.

The last time I felt time slow down to the point where everything took it’s fair share and not more, or less, was when I was on retreat at Springwater.

When you go on retreat, you put your life on “hold” for awhile.  You get off the gerbil wheel.  Everything stops moving.

At first it’s unnerving and you hate it and try to make believe you’re still  very busy and everything is critically important. You try to make the retreat into a job and you try to do everything perfectly and efficiently and ahead of schedule.

And then you realize that a day is already perfect in design and proportion and you just have to insert yourself into it.

On retreat I would spend  whole afternoons, and I mean from 1PM to 4 PM, just lying on my back on the lawn, looking at clouds.

And at night, I’d sit out and look at stars.

It took an eternity to eat a bowl of oatmeal.

The day started before dawn and ended after dark.  A day there was actually 24 hours long.  An hour there took a whole hour and not it’s usual 15 minutes.

(I once worked for a woman who used to describe being “over-booked” as trying to “stuff 10 pounds of baloney into a 5 pound bag.”  That’s a good image. I like the word “baloney” too.  It resonates.)

I know it’s silly of me to want a Box of Time.  Every day is already an empty box filled to the brim with time.  The “art” of living a conscious, productive, amazing life, is to fill the box neatly and carefully.

It helps to imagine that all your activities are eggs.  Each one needs its own spot.  You can’t jam too many in, or they’ll all break and you’ll have a colossal mess on your hands.  Only so many eggs can fit in a box and there has to be a little bit of space, a little bit of padding, between each one.

Part of my hope for this New Year is to pack the eggs better.  I want to fill my basket with lots of eggs and have no broken ones at the end of the day because I will have calculated properly the length, breadth and depth of a single day.

Commit to Something

“If you are really interested in finding out…”  –Toni Packer

When I was sitting meditation retreats regularly at Springwater Center back in the 80s and early 90s, I used to have the same discussion, over and over again, with Toni Packer (the resident wise woman there) about how hard it was to sustain my meditation practice once I got home.

At every meeting I would whine, “But Toni, you don’t understand! I live in the WORLD, I have a little kid, a husband who’s not into this stuff, and friends who aren’t into this stuff!  When I go home, it’s a battle to carve out even 15 minutes a day to sit on my cushion!

And she would always say the same thing: “If these questions are really important, if you are really interested in finding out…” and here she would become very quiet, and just look at me (lovingly).

“But I AM INTERESTED!” I would whine.

“Then just do the work,” was the implied answer.

My MO up until fairly recently has been this:  I get all excited over what appears like THE path to clarity, enlightenment, self-knowledge—whatever you want to call it, and I pursue it with great vigor and intensity until it gets really, really hard.

At that hard point, I begin to have doubts.  Is this really the way?  Is this really the way FOR ME?  Maybe I should try “X” instead. And so I switch to X.

It’s like climbing a mountain, getting to the hard part, then deciding to go back down to the trailhead and try an alternate route to the top.  No. I simply cannot keep doing this anymore.  Why?

I don’t have enough time left.

I think when you are young, you can spend some time going up halfway, then back down, then up again, then back down, exploring all kinds of trails, but after a while you’ve just got to pick one and stay on it.  You’ve got to decide: This is who I am.  This is my path.

There are thousands of routes to the top.  Some are steep and treacherous.  Some are long and arduous.  Some are dark and scary.  Some have hungry animals that will eat you if you’re not careful.  There’s no easy way to the top, so the best thing is to just pick a path and stick with it.  Even if it’s the wrong path (there are no wrong paths), or hard (all of them are hard).

Just pick and commit.