Bits of zen flotsam & jetsam from the daily practice of a zen fool with shards of modern Buddhist art from my studio. Sometimes cranky, sometimes inspiring, mostly entertaining.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Here's a little shot of some of the work I did at The Altered Image workshop I took a couple of weeks ago. When I wrote the initial post about the workshop I talked about how much I liked the instructor's (Tony Bounsall) suggestion that we look on our work as creative compost and then as a lover of metaphor I stretched this to include all of our life's material as creative compost.
Our wonderful blogging friend 108 Zen Books ran with the compost analogy in a fun series of 5 posts which you should definitely add to your life/garden manual. A couple of days ago I noticed the weather in the garden take a distinct turn in the direction of fall, the air cooled, the sun's intensity waned even though it remained bright. The quality of the light changed in a way I can't quite pinpoint and a feeling of quiet and order settled over everything. Clouds roll around forming, disintegrating and reforming, the weather changes a myriad times each day. The manic intense energy of summer has headed off to another hemisphere.
I have been doing some seed saving: kale, parsley, mustard greens, foxglove, lettuce, onion, nasturtium, cilantro, radish. And this morning I decided it was time to remove the lavender of it's dried stalks. As I rubbed the tiny flower heads off onto a piece of newsprint, it's intoxicating scent filled the air and I thought "harvest". We have been talking about compost in terms of our practice, our training, living our lives, whatever you choose to call it. How about the harvest? Where does that figure into the picture.
We could talk about karma and that we harvest what we sow. Trite perhaps but seemlngly true enough. It is like the story that the grandfather tells the small child about the 2 wolves that live inside us, the angry one and the kind one. When the child asks which one will win, the wise grandfather reminds her that it is the one we feed that grows. So it is with harvest, I think. The seeds we nurture and cultivate, watering and tending, giving them our attention, those are the seeds that will grow in our hearts. The choice is always ours. It is easy to fall back into the dark tangled weed patch of unconscious habit but at some point we stumble out, hat askew, morning glory twined around our left ear. You get the picture. Such is the gardener's life.
When I think of harvest I am reminded of something my Zen teacher used to say to me when I told a story of where I was astonished that something had gone so well . She would say, " those are the fruits of your training." And so I think that about the harvest, that if we are diligent and train and work with our "stuff" in earnest then gradually, often without notice, change comes about. Slowly, surely, we advance in the direction of the little rows of compassion and , the patch of letting go and a basket full of all acceptance. This is the work of a life time, many lifetimes, if you will. If we can remember that this is the most important work we will do in our lives, then there will be something to harvest. And being human, of course sometimes we forget, get blown over in a ferocious storm and fall into the thistle patch, but that's okay. We just get back up, pick out the prickles and gather up the hoe again.
All this harvest talk makes me think of ripe tomatoes and fat squash but it also make me think of a line from Daishin Morgan's little book "Buddha Recognizes Buddha". He says "training and enlightenment are not separate". And so the spiritual garden is like this: we are always planting and weeding and watering and harvesting. It's all going on at the same time. And all the while if we are good organic gardeners we keep adding to the compost heap, because it will feed the garden and make our harvest rich and strong and luscious. Hey, is that a hay seed I see behind your ear?
Buddhism & Art...if I had to pick two words that give an overview of what I get up to in this world those would be my choices. Buddhism is the ground upon which I rest all else. I like to think it brings me some sanity. It helps me think in some logical way about what I am doing and look at it as deeply as possible. What did I just do? Why ? What's that all about? ...To try and look at my life without sliding over things or fooling myself...To be present for life, not rejecting or preferring one experience over another. Buddhist practice makes my life full and rich, sometimes filled with joy and sometimes with a deep experience of the suffering present in this world.
After all those words does it seem odd to say that it is the simplicity of Zen that appeals to me? This inclination to simplicity pulls me to try and integrate my practice and work, to paint Buddhas, to observe my process as I work.
I am drawn to mixed media, integrating script and words with images and colour.