This morning I am thinking about something that Suzuki Roshi once told a group of students – life is impossible. A student asked; then how do we do it? You do it every day, Suzuki Roshi replied.
On these cold mornings I like to open the bedroom curtains a little then hurry back into bed and feel (imagine) the warmth of the early morning sun-rays whilst appreciating the cold beauty of the thick frosts. It’s a peaceful yet vivifying wake-up. After some time I’m ready to get out of bed, hopefully resist the lure of the internet (and all the tragic news in my inbox), and perform that supremely life-affirming action: I put the kettle on. The day may be full of emotional challenges, but it can still start gently… and with tea. HH Dalai Lama is often quoted as saying, changing the world for the better begins with individuals creating inner peace within themselves, which requires warm heartedness. Start the day as you mean to go on, I say.
Guy, who was the Land-Caretaker at Wangapeka for several years, has just published a fantastic book of humorous, engaging and heart-warming short essays about his experience, which speak to this. Here’s one of my favourites:
Eternally Boiling Jug – by Guy Nicholls
If the jug wasn’t on it was worthwhile putting it on so it was on, and not off. The putting on of the jug is a fool-proof-life-affirming action. The jug is the centre of the entire kitchen – life and heat emanate from it filling space throughout the rest of the kitchen. If any degree of doubt was being experienced it was quickly remedied by putting the jug on. Many unaccountable hot drinks were prepared for no better reason than the jug wasn’t on. I of course had no dependancy on hot drinks whatsoever, not even close. My addiction was a mask loyally worn with love and charity, with a sense of obligation towards the jug. If I came across the jug and it wasn’t on I could detect a sorrowful lonesome siren* tempting me, calling me to action, to the slouch sofa on the eastern porch by the wisteria** vine to watch and observe, to look over harmony happening in the garden and the birds diligently working away at the leftovers.
*the sound of the sea could not be perceived from the Wangapeka Retreat Centre. However in certain conditions the vibrations of oceanic frequency is distinct.
** There was no greater entertainment than to observe bumblebees feed on the wisteria blossoms in spring, especially during a silent retreat. The hollyhocks around the main building also provided endless stimulation.
I am leading a weekend Cooking For Awakening course at Wangapeka in August. I asked a friend, who has previously run her own cookery courses, for any advice. One thing that she emphasized is how the beauty and harmony of the Wangapeka itself is a huge part of the positive experience for retreatants. Just being on the land, being in nature, sleeping soundly, having a quiet break from busyness and routine (and internet) is so healing, that the content of the workshops may be a mere ruse to get you up the mountain. (If you like the sound of any of this, sign up!)
When I read Guy’s Autobiography of A Landcaretaker I have more evidence that my friend’s right. Boiling the kettle, waiting for the toast to pop (“the challenges of life are simply what takes place in between pieces of toast” says Guy, encouraging me to pay attention at all times), being with the cats, replenishing the peanut butter jar, observing the valley mist…teachers are all around us.
wisteria photo by : けんたま/KENTAMA
boiling kettle photo by : Benjamin Lehman