These days I live alone in a rustic farmhouse set deep in the countryside. Living alone I can follow my own rhythm. I go to sleep when I’m tired, I get up when I wake. Perhaps I go outside and enjoy the calm atmosphere of the dawn before the sun has risen. There is something magical about that early morning feeling: the calm air, the complete silence and the coolness, because, right now, it’s summer and as the sun comes up and the day goes on, the temperature will rise. It gets up into the mid-thirties here at the moment.
The seasons here are very distinct: summer is hot, winter is cold, spring is wet, and autumn is misty. The vegetation changes accordingly. All around at the moment, it’s like a sea of pale gold. And then, in the distance are the trees because essentially, I live in a small forest, in a small woodland.
Living attuned to the seasons, living attuned to the land, aware of the sky, the phases of the moon, the stars at night, the changing weather. When it is going to rain it generally comes from the west and you can see the clouds gathering in the far distance before they arrive. And you can sense it in the air. Actually, we need some rain at the moment. We are in the midst of quite a long drought. The plants are all very thirsty.
I am very attuned to the plants. Like my mother, I go around and talk to them and attend to their needs and think about their lives, how different they are.
I suppose, in a way, I’m a kind of anachronism, because this must be how people were long ago. Living in an animate world, surrounded by spirits of one sort or another, sensing their effects, their impact, their needs, feeling myself to be part of this natural world, all its different currents flowing together or flowing apart, constantly changing.
It’s very different from life in a city. I have long periods when I don’t see anybody at all. In a normal year there would be summer visitors. People come and stay for a little while – but only one so far this year, because of the virus.
There is something very healing about the solitude. I don’t have to go on a retreat, my life is a retreat. I live close to the spirits and stay in tune with the seasons, a bit like an old Daoist.
I haven’t always lived like this and nobody can tell the future, but for the moment, this is what is allotted to me. Accepting what is allotted is a fundamental part of a spiritual life.
The followers of Buddha were called bikkhus, what it essentially means is somebody who accepts what is allotted to him.
The great Zen master Dogen wrote a seminal essay called Genjo Koan. The term koan in Dogen’s writings essentially meant: accepting what is allotted to you.
Amida Buddha is the Buddha of All-Acceptance. Accepting what comes, each day our daily bread, this is a foundation for a healthy spiritual life.
Today there are a few ripples of white cloud, high up in the blue sky. Perhaps before long, we will get a drop of rain and the plants will all be cheerful again. In the meantime, we all enjoy what we have.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much