The novitiates are carefully combing the grass inch by inch. They work mostly in silence, they are focused yet blank. They work entirely as a unit yet separately. There is no room for ego, they must study each action, each mundane yet magnificent blade of grass, they must sweep each patch of dirt until the work is done and it is never done.
The art of living, of sitting zen, requires more than meditation it demands that all actions are sacred no matter their importance because everything matters and every moment demands full measure of attention and intention.
The novitiates understand this as they go about their work and in watching them I come to understand as well. I sit mostly in silence beside them in breathy awareness. I am noticing each inhale and exhale and sometimes I join them in silent work.
One of them struggled yesterday. She finished her work and her silence and her mindfulness and when it was time to go in and rest for the night she stopped in front of me and belted out a long string of concerns. She stood two feet and legs planted, wings tucked by her side, head at a slight tilt and began a long conversation of slow and building clucks at first rubbing low and then rising to a soprano crescendo. I listened intently and began messaging her aching legs and feet and she began instead to hum more but maintained the validity of her concerns. Rosey is a serious student in the order of zen chickens but some days she just needs to talk it through. I listen and support her and we both come away feeling pretty good.
Just because the picture of practitioners of any species working in a quiet, sunny garden sounds relaxing does not mean it’s easy. Staying in the moment, dropping the part of you that wants to feel important and working without expectation, not so much as a fat worm, is difficult.
This particular group of zen students, the chickens, will never know if their lessons and their work will ever soothe another soul or make a more peaceful planet. Most who practice cannot know the results of their work. They only know that in being peaceful they bring peace, in being mindful they bring awareness and compassion. They are not in charge of results and have no expectation but certainly in realizing the moment they manifest the value of just that.
So we sit and when we do that is all we do. When we comb the grass or scratch the soil, that too is all we do with all our focus and attention. The work of yesterday is past and tomorrow is its own decision, what we have is right now under a blue sky, warm sun, on top of a rich earth in the light of this second.
We will sit with that and be glad. There is no other way for a band of chicken novitiates and their friend on their way to nowhere because we are here…just here and now.