In Praise of Aimless Contemplation

Notes of a Dharma Farmer © Tarchin Hearn, Green Dharma Treasury, 2010

When away from our land; travelling, teaching, living in cities and on the road, I read, I study and I am seduced by microscopes and telescopes and imaging technologies that reveal worlds of creative activity that are often outside the range of my unaided senses.  Yet, as a gardener, an important part of my work, actually an essential part, involves wandering aimlessly on and through the land, with senses open; observing, listening, smelling, touching, and tasting.  Standing and surveying a meadow of grasses and wild flowers.  An orchard.  A mound of potatoes.  A row of carrots.  Getting closer; kneeling in the earth, down on all fours.  Not-knowing, –  just inexplicably interested.  Woven in.  Becoming part.  Entering this family.  Welcoming in – all the members.

In the midst of this blessed joining, come occasional specific impulses for action, an urge to do.  And so, I do!  A flurry of activity.  A whirl of busyness.  The leviathan throws around his crude clumsy vastness; a great oaf in a museum of delicacy.  Eventually, the weather front of impulse passes.  Winds of desire and compulsion subside, and the sun of rest and rightness warms my bones.  I feel a bit fatigued.  I put down my doing and again wander along the path, and sometimes off the path.  Off the path is good.  Ha!  What is that yellow?  A new flower?  I hadn’t noticed that one before.  Bending closer, seeing flecks of red and myriad dewy magnifiers.  Tiny hairs and delicate fragrance colouring my mind, texturing the fields of knowing.  Studying the soil, the various neighbours; a carnival, a pilgrimage, a convocation.  This wild and elegant community.  Did it just appear?  or, have I been walking by it, oblivious, for days?

Meditation can be like this.  A dharma farmer of the meditative life, at least a wise green thumbed and fingered dharma farmer, spends much time wandering aimlessly; bemused in this orchard of wonder.  A daily practice of worship and reverence.  Wandering forth and freshly touching the myriad creatures and beings that together, are weaving into existence the garden of one’s experience.  I need to do this frequently, just as I need to frequently wander on the land.  Once a week is not enough, nor is once a day.  Within this seeming patchwork quilting of discrete events, I sense a continuity of happening that slips deftly away from all my attempts to grasp it.  Here is a skin pattern, a muscle tension; a texture of attentiveness, of being and becoming.  Sensing a shiver of thought, I kneel with it and marvel at the feelings and memories, the soil textures and shifting climates of body and mind.  My daily wandering is unscheduled; no particular agenda.  I’m on holiday – every day a wholyday!  Loafing in the fields of nowness.  Bowled over by what I find.  Was it already here?  If so, how is it I never saw it before?

Dharma farmering and two-acre farmering are similar disciplines.  Mostly reverence, care-filled observing, astonishment and gentle, loving, bafflement in the face of life in all its fecundity, its grandeur, its tear popping, intellect challenging, impossibility.  Then, rippling through all of this, a need to do precipitates a flurry of digging, pruning, or composting; changing the landscapes, stirring dust, and accelerating the shifting of worlds.

Reflecting further on this natural impulse to activity.  In a garden, the desire to do can be part of a deep yearning to immerse oneself in the ultimate creative venture, a dancing that weaves together the living gifts of everything and everyone; life-lines of creatureliness flowing with and through and around each other; conversations of becoming – world making in action.  Deep contemplation is also like this; a blessing of communion, a reverential participation in something mysterious and beyond.

I enjoy watering the garden.  I find it healing and strangely satisfying.  Other creatures that make up our garden: plants, birds, insects and soil critters; even the earth and air, seem to enjoy it too.  Some well meaning friends have urged me to install reticulated water systems.  They say I could use my time more creatively, but I like standing and waving the hose, a life moistening contemplation.  Meditation has a similar feel.  I pour attention and wonderment and kind appreciation on the wildly blossoming garden of now.  And all the while, I notice things.  I contemplate the intertwining lives of myriad beings and becomings, each of us environment for the other, all of us dancing and breathing together this mystery of existence, our ancient tryst of belongingness.

Meditation and gardening , both require a relaxing of rush; a valuing of the meander; a willingness to pause and then to head in new and sometimes unexpected directions.  Both thrive best with frequent ‘aimless’, wonder filled contemplative observation; watering the flowerings of appreciation for living and relating – a mystery too big to grasp but not too big to be.  Action emerges from this deep well of recognition and respect – a homing instinct calling us into life.  Good gardening and good meditation are cornucopias, universes of edible bounty, inviting all beings to partake in the banquet.  Me food for you.  You food for me.  Us food for everyone.

May this food be prepared in the space of love
and may it be eaten in the space of love.