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Lions Roar : January 2017
completely controlled, only assisted. Building soil this way invites introspec- tion and meditation. It is the scenic route, the long detour, but the reward is living soil that you can thrust your hand into if you wish—tender, fertile, lush plots full of life. In do-nothing farming, the soil is your host. It’s better to find a place among the assembled guests rather than take a leading position. This giving up allows you to see things much more clearly. Lesson 3: Create a Space that Fosters Life, and Welcome All Life to It In my gardening, I strive to create a space that welcomes and fosters all life. As a result, all life assembles there, whether “helpful” or “harmful” to my harvest. Field mice will come to snack on the young greens and turnip tops. A ground- hog may make a home for her family right in the middle of the pumpkin patch. Insects you have never seen before will make weekly debuts throughout the warm months. This is a testament not to failure but to success, for the well-popu- lated organic farm is a triumph. We may garden with the goal of har- vesting perfect heads of broccoli, using all manners of pesticides at the slightest sign of danger. But in the practice of nothing- ness, accepting what broccoli comes is the most honest way I know to interact with the land. After all, insect damage is a mark that the vegetable is also a liv- ing thing, a part of the whole biological world. We can learn more from partly eaten broccoli than from perfect heads. Watching the cycle of life and its testimony to life’s transience is one of the greatest lessons of the fields. I have learned to watch for and cherish the veg- etables, vines, and trees that want to be here. Fukuoka writes, “Do not ask what to grow here, but what grows here.” Listen to the seasons, smell them, feel them on your skin, and watch what each one brings. Lesson 4: Lose the “-er” I try to farm without the “-er” in farmer, to garden without the “-er” in gardener. What this means is to practice horticul- ture without putting yourself in the cen- ter of everything. Take note of how much farming happens when you’re not there and don’t overestimate your importance to the project. The best place to farm is outside yourself. I strive to farm with a sense of pres- ence rather than dominance. Many of our gardening tools and concepts are based on some variation of dominance: weed and pest control, the tiller and spade breaking the “uncooperative” soil. My own farming passed through various iterations of the dominance model until I realized that abandoning myself was perhaps the best approach. Since then I have farmed without being a farmer. Be a presence on the farm for the time being only. Farm as if you were already gone. One way to lose yourself is to farm in silence, without machines, listening to the soil. Farming with machines limits your experience to that single-frequency hum, blocking out the real signs of life. Another way to lose yourself is to keep your hands moving from the beginning of the day to the end. Small tasks are just as important as large ones. The goal is not to be blindly busy, but to let the action of the hand take over from the control of the mind. Time your work so it fills a day completely without overflowing. Learn the rhythm of every task on your farm and follow it like a back beat in a jazz ensemble. Action should be considered, but once considered, pursued purely. When I am weeding a new bed, the 100-foot row ahead can seem endless. But I keep my hands moving, one weed at a time, and each moment is a success. Similar to Thich Nhat Hanh’s “washing the dishes just to wash the dishes,” I weed only to weed. Do-nothing farming is the practice of watching and observing, of waiting and removing yourself from the equation. The germination, the growth, the harvest—I have no hand in these. In the end, learn- ing to do nothing has been my greatest challenge and most valuable lesson. ♦ USING MINDFULNESS IN DAILY LIFE “Both insightful and helpful, with gifts of wisdom and many practical tools to work with your own mind and heart.” — JACK KORNFIELD, author of A Path with Heart 256 pages | $15.95 “This much-anticipated second book promises to be the work of a modern-day philosopher that people actually care to read!” — A LYSIA SILBERG, UN Global Champion for Women’s Empowerment in Entrepreneurship 120 pages | $15.95 www.newworldlibrary.com ALSO AVAILABLE AS EBOOKS LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 22 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE