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Friend or Foe?


Weeding season is here! Otherwise known as gardening season. The local gardening Facebook group is loaded with posts that begin with a photo of some green thing or some six legged thing; "Friend or foe?" ,"How do I get rid of this?", "It's driving me crazy, it's everywhere!", "Do I actually have to dig it up? Can someone please come and take it away?"

The garden is a metaphor for life, unfolding in real time. Actually it is life, unfolding in real time! Making judgements is one of our strongest human impulses. "Is this good or is it bad?" "How do I get more of what's pretty and less of what's ugly?" Our habit and the chatter it creates in our mind prevents us from seeing what is right in front of us. What is in front of us in the garden are many beings, responding to the conditions that exist. How can we move out compulsive habitual states of mind and into something different?

Karen Maezen Miller has some succinct advice in her book 'Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden.' It's a beautiful book.

"Ten things to do to spare the garden from stubborn entanglements:

1. Blame no one. I could blame the yardman for the weeds. Or everyone who ever let them fester. In other words, I could blame the folks who aren't around for what they haven't done. I could blame the sun, the dirt, the wind, the seed, the rain, and the shade. But what does that matter when the spade is in my hands?

2. Take no offense. Blame requires that we ascribe malice and meaning to empty words or actions. Consider the energy we expend to prolong fictional injuries. How hard is it to get over what's already over? I know: it's hard. But there's a way.

3. Forgive. Forgiveness is the cure. Forgiveness reconciles the rift between the self and other. Like property lines, the barrier between us doesn't really exist except as a function of greed, anger, or judgement.

4. Do not compare. There is no greener grass. There is no other side. Your life is not a competition, a race, or a chase. No one is ahead of you, there is no way to fall behind. Satisfy yourself with what you have in hand. It may not look like much, but this right here is everything.

5. Take off your gloves. ... A gardener wears dirt, unafraid to get muddy, scratched, or stung, because that is how we see, hear and feel. Native intelligence flows through your fingertips. Wisdom is received in direct connection with the world, telling you how deep to dig and how hard to pull, when to gather and when to release.

6. Forget yourself. The world needs fewer people to own their greatness and a few more to own their humility. So let's stop pretending. We are never who we really think we are; nor are we anywhere close to the ideal we strive for. ... No longer obsessed with your self-image, you become genuine. Barefaced and open, your smile is easy; your eyes are wide and bright. Nothing is beneath or beyond you. You can do the smallest things.

7. Grow old. It isn't easy; it's effortless.

8. Have no answers. ...In Zen, we don't find the answers; we lose the questions. It's impossible to comprehend the marvel of what we are or understand the mystery of life's impeccable genius. Thankfully, there is no need. ...The state of not-knowing does not imply lack of learning; it is the totality of truth.

9. Seek nothing. ... Just for one moment take my word that you lack nothing. That you are perfectly okay even when you are not okay.

10. Go back to 1."

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