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Friday, February 20, 2009

Tending The Flow

Calmness of mind does not mean you should stop your activity.
Real calmness should be found in activity itself.

-Shunryu Suzuki
zen mind, beginners mind

I have been working on integrating my mindfulness meditation into my active day, into my life. It is very good for me to make the time to meditate, to set that time aside to be silent and still; to breathe and be with my thoughts.

But one thing that i have learned is that this calmness, this still point, this serenity needs to be brought into my daily activities. My first conscious encounters with this were during my time with the Wet Mountain Sangha, a group of Zen Buddhists who met once or twice a week to meditate. At the Wet Mountain Sangha there was sitting meditation, chanting, reading of inspirational works and discussions, even a book study group.

But what i enjoyed most beyond the sitting was the walking meditation. It was this small integration of an activity between twenty minute sitting periods where i learned to carry the stillness, the mindfulness into an activity.

Years later i am still working on integrating the serenity i achieve in my sitting meditation into my daily activities. This helps a lot with anxieties which arise in the mind.

Often when doing something, performing a task or duty, we expect an immediate result. I know myself fairly well these days and i know that i am someone who enjoys a sense of closure, a sense of accomplishment. I do not like jobs with no end in sight necessarily, i prefer work where when i am done working something is repaired or finished, created, healed or resolved. However, like mindfulness, some things in life are never finished, they are a process or a practice.

Some things are obvious, like eating or sleeping. Or, take the brushing of your teeth, once they are brushed, they must be brushed again soon and regularly.

But then there are other things which simply must be done and no immediate result is in sight, things which take patience. As a gardener i know that this is the case with growing vegetables. I can plant a seed, but its growth to maturity must be monitored and it must be cared for and its needs attended to. In this way, gardening is a long process, a continual flow which even continues into the winter with cover crops, and is extended to mulching and composting, the slow activities of worms and chickens as they contribute to the rich fertility of the soil.

Something i have struggled with for years is financial gain; the work to acquire money in a timely fashion. I have learned to slowly loosen this ideas grip on my emotional well being. When i was doing a lot of landscaping jobs, often the work would be completed for weeks before i ever saw payment. At times i felt that i was just working and not getting paid because of the time between the two events, and i often found this frustrating. I have come to see that my daily work, no matter what it is i need to do that day is all part of the flow of the abundance in my life.

David Skul, a friend and mentor of mine, refers to this as "tending the flow." I love that phrase, "tending the flow." I find that it comes to mind often when i begin to worry about the amount of work or time i am putting into a piece of jewelry or the writing of an article or a piece for my blog. Worries about "wasting time" arise but when i answer that thought with faith that abundance is on the way and give it room and time to grow and fruit in its own time, i realize that i am simply tending the flow.

It is much like gardening. I may go out, pull weeds, and water my garden, but there may not be any tomatoes that day.

I feed my chickens everyday whether they give me an egg or not. I am simply tending the flow. I am simply living and going about the business of life. I am being alive, doing what i have chosen to do in my life.

I recently ran across a quote by Nelson Henderson printed on a box of tea. It is a quote which added another dimension or level to my idea of tending the flow. It deepened the idea, or rather, it deepened my understanding of the flow i am tending.

"The true meaning of life
is to plant trees,
under whose shade
you do not expect to sit."

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