I have now been at Eleusis for nearly a week and spent my first ever weekend here alone. In fact this is the longest period I have stayed without companionship. There is much to do and at the moment I am just really establishing a daily routine (of sorts) and mostly concentrating on tidying up the immediate environment around the main building - cutting the grass, weeding the main flower bed at the front and starting the mammoth task of organising rooms, shifting pieces of furniture etc, cleaning as I go. Dharmavidya was here with me at the beginning of the week, and aside from visits to local friends and to the shops for essentials he has concentrated on an area of paving round the back of the main building - a hard stand for a wooden building to house all the tools and garden equipment in preparation for the first stages of transforming the main barn. During this period I have managed a first cut of the area of grass we use as a general activity space - eating (when warm enough), workshop activities and discussions, clothes washing and so on - as well as some of the main field where people camping usually set up their tents. Its been hard going I have to say since the two petrol powered machines are both not starting and I have had to resort to using an old electric powered mower. It makes me smile to think about how this beaten up inverted plastic bucket with a front wheel missing just goes and goes and goes. I have become rather fond of it. Okay its not the easiest of tasks, nor the quickest, pushing and pulling this through the long grass, but it has helped to get the job done. Give it another week as well and the scythe would be needed. This is a whole other prospect. On Thursday Dharmavidya and I consider it wise to buy a hover mower given the Herculean task that still faces me. I only get a couple of hours in the evening with the new machine, managing to get quite a bit more done before sun down. On Friday morning we are greeted with rain and the grass is then far too wet and has been so ever since to get any further.
Inside I have re-organised the room on the ground floor as a sleeping space and office for myself. I shall be here a while so it needs to be practical and a comfortable home for me. This room and the one next to it - to the right of the kitchen as you face the building - both get quite damp so there has been a good deal of work cleaning down furniture after pulling it out from the walls, shifting mattresses to dry out and clearing the debris from around the stoves that have been used by people on occasional visits over the winter. I have also started a thorough clean of the kitchen, also adding some shelves and a spare unit from another room. I often do the catering when groups gather so feel I need an operational kitchen that suits - to some extent- the way of working I have learnt during my time as cook in the Amida community. I start also familiarising myself again with baking bread and using the soya 'cow'. Its been a while since I have done either of these things.
And so to practice. Well I haven't yet settled on a routine. Three mornings this week I have sat zazen for half an hour or so, and on Wednesday night Dh and I sat in the meditation barn in the light of a rather special full moon.
My plan is from Tuesday to begin a routine that will remain relatively consistent (that is outside of what happens during scheduled events) through the summer until September. Thus anyone visiting will know in advance the skeleton practice at the centre and, when here, can join in as they choose. I shall publish this tomorrow.
Tonight for supper in addition to a leftover vegetable curry from Tuesday night I had nettle fried rice with mustard and onion. One tip I learnt a couple of years ago with nettles, use only the top leaves. Best in springtime. Pick leaves from the stems wearing rubber gloves (of course) and wash thoroughly. Believe me given the amount of nettles growing here there is plenty enough if you just use the tender tips, and it the makes clearing of an area of ground doubly satisfying.
Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica - primarily a source of food for caterpillars of a number of different moths and butterflies including the Red Admiral, Vanessa Atalanta. Nettles are associated with a number of health benefits particularly gastro-intestinal complaints and urinary infections. In taste when cooked they are rather like spinach. It is said that Milarepa, the famed Tibetan Buddhist ascetic, survived years of solitary meditation subsisting on nettles alone. As a result his skin turned green and he lived into his early eighties.
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