A recent article written for Portobello Zen Buddhist Priory Newsletter –
Yesterday, as I lifted the lid of the water butt to put some dry willow bundles into soak, I notice cracked ice pieces floating on the water’s surface. Winter is here.
We have been busy in the gardens since the last great snow falls of March and are only now slowing down a little – we still have lupins and daisies flowering. As light fades and temperatures drop, plants submerge into rest or are spent and, for myself, I have a feeling of contented withdrawal, of slowing down.
,laying back, resting and recovering.
I am pleased to have time now to recharge my batteries. At a recent dharma talk and discussion at the Priory about the Buddha’s Enlightenment we were reminded of the Buddha’s placing of his hand to the earth to draw upon support in the face of Mara, this has led me to consider once more the importance of earth as our ground and support.
Over the past few years I have been much pre-occupied with earth, soil, ground as I have worked on growing, gardening and reforesting projects, working alongside folk who need some support and a helping hand. This form of therapy seems to work well for all of us. I like working collaboratively, with mutual support, getting my hands dirty. Working with soil, seeding and nurturing growth and well-being seems a useful way of living. All of these thoughts have clustered together to form wildseed zen – my way of understanding practice.
Within practice I notice the need for balance between the physical and the ephemeral. At times when sitting zazen I can be with the vast blue skies but then need to feel the ground beneath my feet. This brings me to soil/earth and winter.
I have not dug into ground for a few weeks now, I have eased back and growth and earth are doing the same. I like to consider how earth renews, how the cycle of life and death goes on and renews, how forms dissolve and, in the spring, others come up. Our earth is precious, without topsoil we could not be; without withdrawal, ceasing and dying back, the process of decay, micorrhizal and micro-bacterial actions, the work of worms and beetles, the actions of weather on soil and rock we could not continue. The earth is indeed our ground, it is fundamental to our existence.
As I consider this jumble of thoughts I am grateful, thankful for the teachings on dependent arising, interconnection and impermanence and for the teachings of the earth. It lends some understanding to “all is Buddhanature”. As we ourselves move through life, old age and death we pass through many forms and eventually return to earth and space to be part of continuing phenomena. In this season, just as plants and trees draw back, some to continue, some to decay, I notice the process in myself and I relax and rest in this welcome winter darkness. I am content with ‘this’. Earth and winter are great teachers.