Email 4, Part 1: Workin’

From email update May 5th:


“the joyful dispatch of tasks and duties”

–Aeron Kopriva, June 2008


This phrase has stuck with me like a kind of melody. I hum it every now and then. And it totally captures the spirit of my time serving at the Dhamma Neru meditation center. Especially during the last course, when they put me in the garden in order to spare me from kitchen burnout, I felt such a peaceful rhythm in the work. Lacing up my new boots; pulling on jeans still earth-caked from the day before; lugging shovels and buckets across the silent field; uncovering hypnotic centipedes, an ant nest with eggs like seed pearls, and giant, iridescent earthworms. Making friends with the flies that dive-bombed my ears the whole time, hehe. Turns out that instead of jerking your neck and swatting frantically, you can pull up the hood of your sweatshirt to block their targets. Then they just give you soft buzzing background music, sweet li’l thangs.

The nature of the work itself — pulling out massive growths of ferocious, thorny vines, tangled tight as fishing nets and rivaling the dandelions for Fastest-Spreading Weed In The Garden — also came at a perfect time. In a lot of the discourses, the meditation teacher uses gardening metaphors to explain the work we’re doing with our minds. Planting good seeds. Tending young plants. Pulling out deep-rooted “sankaras,” or desctructive habit patterns of the mind. What a gift, to be able to spend my days actually pulling out roots! The easy, spidery kind and the thick, stubborn types. Sometimes I’d be hasty or the weed would simply be too strong, and the root I was tugging would break off in my hand — game over, no place left to grip and pull. And unless the root comes out whole, the weed will simply regenerate. But instead of being discouraged, I’d just move on with a smile, knowing that it would grow back weaker next time. Same thing goes for meditation. Even if I can’t remain equanimous with my pain or keep my attention on my breath, I can smile and keep trying, knowing that the roots are weakening with every minute I make the effort. In a funny way, it’s given me a real respect and affection for weeds. They can be amazingly tenacious. Tough to get out. Might take years. And what allows me to admire, rather than despise them, is growing confidence in my own patience. The vines in the garden might return, but when they do, another worker like me will be waiting with the shovel, gloves and bucket. The pain or distractions might resurface, but when they do, we’ll be alert and ready for them.

This kind of organic integration between theory and practice — the meditation and the volunteer labor — was partly what made my time at Dhamma Neru so special. Along with the lived edict that work will not be truly beneficial without a foundation of self care and positivity. Now that my time at the center is over (my last course ended a week ago), I hope I can keep the spirit with me. So far, so good. And on to the adventure’s next chapter.

One thought on “Email 4, Part 1: Workin’

  1. bohemiankitsch June 15, 2009 / 4:07 pm

    beautiful. simply beautiful. your words give me both strength and joy as i learn to mature.

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