Y’Know What I’m Saying?

If you are interested in exploring the teachings of the Buddha, the good news is that his teachings are for the most part very straight forward. Much of his advice was presented in the form of lists which are unambiguous and easy to comprehend. One such list is the 10 Unwholesome Actions which are, obviously, to be avoided. Here’s the list – does anything jump out at you?

  1. Killing Living Beings
  2. Stealing
  3. Sexual Misconduct
  4. Lying
  5. Sowing Discord
  6. Harsh Speech
  7. Idle Gossip
  8. Covertousness
  9. Ill-will
  10. Wrong View

Isn’t it something to contemplate, that 4 out of the 10 are to do with the way we communicate?!  I had to look up the list again this afternoon to remind myself that, as lately I’ve been aware that the ways I communicate have sometimes left me feeling unsettled.

One of the joys of working here at Aro Hā is being part of a large team, many of whom also live here in community. The retreat centre is spread across 8 sub-alpine hectares, and staff work in shifts starting before 7am and ending after 10pm. So, there is a lot of handing over information, passing on messages, and the official (and unofficial) debriefing that happens when we are both on and off shift, at home, and out socialising. IMG_2553

This last week or so, I’ve begun to pay more attention to my speech (and emails, and facebook messages). I’m thinking that if I could bring better awareness to my speech it would result in many more mindful moments throughout the day, simply because I spend so much of the day communicating in one way shape or form. I’ve already noticed the uncomfortable feeling when I’ve said something that’s untrue or unkind, and retrospectively it’s not too hard to feel into the motivation behind much of my speech – it feels like this could be an interesting place to practise.

Continue reading “Y’Know What I’m Saying?”

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Inspiration From All Directions

Our 30-day retreat with Lama Mark Webber finished last Thursday – it’s been an amazing month; I have learnt so much and feel very inspired. Of course I am inspired by the teachings, and the very presence and energy of Lama Mark, that goes without saying. But I have also been inspired by so much that has arisen in conjunction with that retreat; the people who were part of it, and the experiences that unfolded during the month as a result of my time at the Wangapeka. The vast amount & range of cooking that I wanted to offer in support stretched my imagination and repertoire in the kitchen… and as always, there were times that my patience and energy were also tested! Waking up to sunrises like the ones above and below were definitely part of the reward though!

On the evening that the retreat ended, by extraordinarily happy coincidence (whatever) there was a public talk at the Nelson Buddhist Centre given by Tara Choying Lhamo. She is a young Austrian-born dharma practitioner who has lived in retreat for over twenty years. For twelve of those, she lived and meditated in solitude, high in the mountains of Nepal in Lapchi, one of the retreat caves used by Tibet’s great yogi and saint, Milarepa.

I found her story and her presence equally astonishing. She was so clear and present, so open, grounded, poised and warm.  Continue reading “Inspiration From All Directions”

The True Spirit Of Our Food

I’ve felt a bit of an internal shift happening in the last month, and I’ve noticed some new and spirited thoughts & questions appearing in my mind. Actually there are two trains of thoughts chugging through, seemingly diametrically opposed, but somehow offering balance.

Today I’m sharing some thoughts on the first subject – it’s to do with learning, and to with sustainability and the environment. Because, hello people!, we are running out of time.

It seems uncanny now that I look back, that 2 years ago NZ’s Hospitality Business Magazine ran a 3-page article on me, the Riverside Cafe where I was head chef, and the S.O.L.E principles that I / we werehb_nov_2014_p26-29-copy practising. When they first telephoned me to inform me that they wanted to do the article, embarrassingly I had to ask the editor what SOLE stood for (sustainable, organic, local and ethical I soon found out!) I had never heard of that acronym before, even though apparently it was the year’s zeitgeist. I, and the community that owned Riverside Cafe and worked with me, were just managing the cafe according to what we felt were common sense ideas mixed in with our own personal sets of values. We weren’t trying to be trendy. It’s seems that article came from the future, to point me towards something that I hadn’t at the time fully grasped.

Continue reading “The True Spirit Of Our Food”

The Most Important Point….

I’ve been living on a greatly reduced income for a couple of months. Unlike millions of people who actually never know when their next wage is coming, I knew this ‘gap’ was ahead, so I made some calculations and gave myself a meager daily budget to make sure my money would stretch.

The first 2 or 3 days were the most challenging – I felt I was in a self-imposed prison of deprivation and worry about the future. And boredom.

But before long I saw these weeks as an experiment: I have a bit of a stubborn nature, and I wanted to prove to myself that I had the discipline to live simply and renounce some very unnecessary habits (usually involving a trip to a café!) When it was reframed like that, it became more interesting. But what was the point, really? What was I trying to prove, or achieve? I have a credit card and guaranteed work ahead, why didn’t I just put a big food shop on credit?

suzuki2

Suzuki Roshi taught that, “The most important point,” and here he paused to make sure he had everyone’s full attention, “is to find…out…” another pause, “what…is…. Continue reading “The Most Important Point….”

Matariki – happy new year!

In the Māori language, Matariki is the name of the Pleiades Star Cluster, and, the season of it’s rising which happens in NZ’s mid-winter. For many Māori, it heralds the beginning of a new year. Traditionally, Matariki is the time to ‘prepare the ground’ for the coming season, but the emphasis actually is on our inner ground – it’s a time to seed our own intentions, re-connect with old skills, and set new goals.

The three lovely parts of this can be to; first practise being present. Secondly, reflect on your purpose, what’s important to your being, and re-orient yourself as necessary. And lastly, give thanks and feel gratitude for the privileges and blessings in our lives.

When times are tough it doesn’t come easily to have these kind of positive reflections, but today I just did a simple mindfulness of breathing practise, and ended with some gratitude, and it really re-charged me. The line from the William Stafford poem ‘Cutting Loose’ came to me – “Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason, you sing”.

I have spent the last 2 weeks cooking for back to back retreats at Wangapeka. It’s a beautiful place any time of year but MY GOD it was cold at night! When I look back now at the quickly snapped photos I took of some of the meals, I’m kind of stunned how colourful everything was. Even in the ‘bleak mid-winter’, there were bursts of rainbow colours in every meal, and heaps of gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. Always something to smile about seems to be the message.

I didn’t get a picture of our Ginger-Roasted-Pumpkin à la Emma Galloway, but here is the link to her site with the recipe and some gorgeous pictures. She serves it muddled with quinoa and herbs, but on this retreat I served it with couscous and all the beautiful rainbow chard shown above. Perfect winter lunch.

I sign off with William Stafford’s poem, and all my best wishes for the new year. May all beings be happy.

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose
from all else and electing a world
where you go where you want to.

Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound
will tell where it is, and you
can slide your way past trouble.

Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path—but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be lost,
learning how real it is
here on the earth, again and again.

 

 

The Perfect, Elusive Loaf

I came across this bread recipe last week, courtesy of Jim Lahey of New York’s Sullivan Street Bakery. Apparently it produces the most perfect loaf of bread, despite no special ingredients, techniques or skills. You don’t even have to knead it! They say even a 4-year-old could make it, and it’s got 5-star reviews by 1,286 people. It looks absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t wait to give it a go.

I’ve tried it 3 times already, and it’s been a failure each time.

Am I using stale flour? The wrong type of yeast? Maybe the recipe is missing some instructions… it must be Jim’s fault. Or maybe I’m using the wrong cooking vessel, the wrong temperature water? Am I trying too hard?! Not practising enough?

Why does something so seemingly obvious, simple and effective elude us?

I must just be my karma…. the conditions aren’t right…. I’ll keep trying.

 

(Bread photo by Liliana Fuchs)