Gardening and Recipes
Reclaiming the Fallow of the Year
adjective: fallow (of farmland) plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility.
Synonyms: uncultivated, unplowed, untilled, unplanted, unsown; unused, dormant, resting, empty, bare.
In our northern climes, before the advent of artificial sources of light, the months of winter were a long dark time. Nature too, took her rest and there wasn’t much to do on the land for our farming ancestors. Long nights and cold days meant folks got a break from the busyness of life and entered into a more timeless place. The stillness without encouraged a slowing down, uncovering a stillness within. It’s the place before the formation of ideas; before an opinion or comparison arises. It’s the place of intuition, inspiration, improvisation and creativity.
What did our ancestors do during the long dark winter months? Told stories, stoked the fire, made love, slept, painted, played music, made something simple and hearty to eat, bundled up and took walks.
Modernly, the lights are always on, figuratively and literally. We have lost something important to our well being in converting all of our time to the activities of the light.
This familiar story shows the value of emptying or losing track of the known, to restore the fertile ground.
A man went to visit a teacher to find out about Zen. While the teacher served tea, the professor talked about what he knew about Zen. The master poured the man’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring.
The man watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!”
The teacher replied, “How can I show you anything unless you first empty your cup?”
Knowing is a kind of filter that limits our vision and closes off possibility. In other words, we only see what our knowing will allow us to see. Allowing ourselves a period of fallow both empties and widens the field. Laying down the realm of the known and unknown, relinquishing our usual tendencies to form opinions and judgments, we enter the vast and wide of the Great Way itself and allow ourselves to be reshaped by this undoing.
An old master said: “The way is vast and wide, how could it ever be a matter of knowing or not knowing? Knowing is arrogant; not knowing is stupidity; the way is far beyond both of these.”
Practices for the Dark of the Year
Doing a single task with all your attention gives you a needed break from the jar of constant distraction. Doing a thing, wholly, brings its own kind of joy and you can learn to rest again in the gentle peace of everyday things. When you’re sitting with a friend, give them your full attention. If you are walking, just walk. If you are sautéing onions, notice their color and smell as they cook, the rhythm of the spoon in your hand.
Give yourself time to do nothing.
This winter sit in candlelight, stare into a fire, go outside and watch the moon and stars, listen to the rain fall, sit by the ocean and watch the waves roll in and out, rest on a bench and watch birds and passersby, rest by a lake or a river and notice the insects and trees and the sound of water over pebbles.
Put down your electronic devices.
Of course. Of course! A couple hours before bedtime, or for a time early in the morning as you are waking, put away your devices and the sounds they make to alert you of emails and phone calls.
Sweet sleep restores our bodies and allows the mind to rest, to dream, to let the intelligence of all things find its way into our consciousness.
Anywhere. A short stroll or a long walk about, it’s what our bodies are meant to do. It reminds us of the true pace of life and shows us the aliveness of the world.
Read aloud to each other.
A forgotten art, we can take it up again. Like walking instead of riding, we slow down to take in more. Resting in the cantor of the human voice, we savor what we may otherwise have missed.
No explanation necessary, right?
Be quiet and listen. Notice when judgments and opinions arise, when you are comparing yourself to others or complaining about unimportant things. Then, just return to the place where you are.
Cook simple meals and share them together.
Find a local farm, bakery or supplier and gather some things that look good to you. Learn to cook a few seasonal meals that you will enjoy making. The simpler, the better.
Notice what has already been given to you.
You are given this life as a human being, each of your senses, this fine body, the moon and the stars, the green leaf, and watery sea, a home, food to eat, and each other.
May you truly enjoy the blessings of this season.
Fall and Winter Evenings in Santa Rosa (2019)
Sept 2 – Closed for Labor Day
Sept 9 – Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (On ‘Schadenfreude’ – the desire to see others suffer)
Sept 16 – Deanna Hopper, Meditation Instructor
Sept 23 – Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (Fall Equinox)
Sept 30 – Michelle Brandt Sensei
Oct 7 – Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi
Oct 14 – Rev. Christopher Bell, Head of Practice
Oct 21 – Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (Practice of Turning the Light Inward)
Oct 28 – Michelle Brandt Sensei
Nov 4 – Closed for Sesshin at St. Dorothy’s Rest
Nov 11 – Rev. Christopher Bell, Head of Practice
Nov 18 – Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (Gratitude)
Nov 25 – Michelle Brandt Sensei
Dec 2 – Rev. Christopher Bell, Head of Practice
Dec 9 – Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (Buddha’s Enlightenment)
Dec 16 – Deanna Hopper, Meditation Instructor (Winter Solstice, Practices for the Dark)
Dec 23 – Closed for Winter Break
Dec 30 – Rachel Mansfield-Howlett Roshi (Ringing in the New Year Together)
Summertime Meditation Evenings 2019
Mondays at the Santa Rosa Zendo
May 6 Reverend Chris Bell
May 13 Roshi, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett
May 20 Meditation Instructor, Deanna Hopper
May 27 Memorial Day Closed
June 3 Roshi, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett
June 10 Reverend Chris Bell
June 17 Roshi, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett
June 24 Meditation Instructor, Gary Brandt
July 1 Meditation Instructor, Deanna Hopper
July 8 Roshi, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett
July 15 Sensei, Michelle Brandt
July 22 Roshi, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett
July 29 Reverend Chris Bell
August 5 Roshi, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett
August 12 Sensei, Deanna Hopper
August 19 Roshi, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett
August 26 Sensei, Michelle Brandt