First Green Meal of the Season, and Thoughts on Lao Tzu’s Writings

Last night’s dinner: a coconut carrot salad filled with our own garden greens.

We celebrated the new growing season last night by hogging a ton of our young garden greens for dinner. I made a simple carrot salad with raisins, Bragg’s aminos, agave, and Veganaise, then tossed in several hands full of our garden lettuces, arugula, and Italian parsley, and topped it all with some fresh lime juice and shaved coconut. I don’t even remember eating it. I think I just inhaled it. After a long winter of imported market greens, our fresh garden food was pure bliss.

Early this morning, all the plants were brought outdoors for good and the grow lights were shut off. Today is May 16. There are no more frosts in the forecast. Today it’s going to reach 80 degrees. We’re getting some unusual heat this week – in the 90s – and then it will settle down to typical late-May weather.

If you’re in Zone 6 and haven’t yet planted sunflower seeds, right now is the time. Sunflowers grow steadily but slowly. They’re the quintessential summer flower, and it’s nicer to have them blooming in July than September. I planted sunflower seeds all around the house last week. I plant to plant even more.

We can plant all our veggies in the next week. If you’re starting from seeds, I hope you’ve already germinated them. If not, and at this point, it would be best to buy young plants.

Bonnie, the commercial nursery plants brand found everywhere from Wal-Mart (yuck) to better garden centers, has introduced a line of organically-grown veggie plants for gardeners.

At about $4 a plant, it’s more expensive than at-home seed germination, but so worth it if you must buy plants instead of sow organic seeds. You and your loved ones are going to eat these veggies: buy organic and grow organic.

Last night, I grabbed my copy of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and curled up on the couch. It was a windy, cool night; perfect for reading. The Tao Te Ching, the bedrock writing of Taoism, is pure jewel consciousness. Thirty minutes with it, and I feel completely restored.

I came across this familiar excerpt:

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself; if you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

Self-transformation is the heart of the Buddhist path. More than anything, we humans resist the truth that the disappointment, anger, resentment, frustration, and longing we feel is entirely generated by ourselves, in our own corrupted hearts. The suffering we experience is a direct and fixed result of our refusal to love purely, forgive completely, and accept unconditionally.

Look within and ask yourself if your heart is pure. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we have no conceptual overlays or patterns of conditioned habits - that our motives are honorable - when in fact we have agendas that have nothing to do with love, Dana, compassion, joy, or Bodhi mind.

In Pali, the word for this kind of self-delusion is Kilesa. Kilesa is a defiled mind, driven by unwholesome desires, a mind that obscures clear seeing, a mind that is a hindrance to its own happiness. We see it all the time and everywhere: people who cling – sometimes for years - to anger, restlessness, remorse, agitation, revenge, and obsessive and regressive thoughts. Their relationships are defined by drama. Their precious and impermanent energies are poured into conflict and confrontation.

Desperately, they reach for distractions – excessive consuming (shopping, overeating, overdrinking), baseless dissention (with family, friends, and strangers), drugs, alcohol, sex, obsessive exercise, self-deprivation, tattoos - anything to divert the mind from its own restlessness.

They bring tremendous suffering to themselves, then blame others for their suffering, when their suffering was born in and nurtured to maturity in their own minds. This is bad Sankhara – mental formations that cling to illusions at the expense of reality. In Buddhism, this is the cycle of Samsara from which we all must free ourselves. And we can.

By transforming our selfish impulses into Metta (pure love), by embracing Anatta (non-self), and striving for Bodhicitta (pure mind), we release ourselves from suffering. When we transform ourselves this way, we transform those around us. They, in turn, transform those around them. In the course of time, the pure love of the Buddha lives in hearts everywhere.

Transforming self, as Lao Tzu described, is the most powerful of Buddhist practices. Let’s all contemplate our minds, bodies, and feelings. Let’s embrace lovingkindness and the reality of non-self. We are all one. The awakening starts and ends within.

Live in peace.