One of the Buddha’s teachings that surprised me the most was about plowing different kinds of fields. Imagine one field is soft and full of rich earth. One has loose sandy soil with pebbles and gravel in it, and one field is rocky, hard-packed clay. He asked, “Which field would you plow first?” What do you think? I was sure he’d recommend starting with the hardest one.
Often we feel we have to tackle the toughest things first, before we have a right to enjoy the rest — to come back to simply being in the present, to bask in the warmth of this beautiful October light. Are you surprised to learn that the Buddha recommended plowing the easy field first? It’s OK to walk on the sunny side of the street. It’s good to be mindful and turn towards what’s brightest in our lives. This is a form of self-compassion. It’s a true kindness.
My friend in Boston, Dr. Stephanie Morgan, wrote about depression as turning away from aliveness, turning away from living. When you’re depressed, it doesn’t feel like a choice to avoid and procrastinate, to deaden oneself, or be paralyzed with anxiety. It seems there’s no escape from slogging along, forever plowing stony fields. And yet, with a little support, more and more often you remember: “Oh, I can choose to plant a seed of mindfulness. I can water it with some tenderness and care.”
Each moment we do this, we’re turning towards the light, like a sunflower towards the sun. We’re cultivating a wide-open empty field of awareness, planting a new crop of ease and contentment. Each time we catch a whiff of calm, serenity, mindfulness, joy, energy, or courage, we eagerly breathe in that sweet scent of fresh air.
Our lives flourish in the light of compassion. Even when we’re sweating in the fields, we’re awake, alive! Blossoms open in the sunlight, like our hearts. And each time we notice moments of delicate opening, mindfulness is strengthened. We plant seeds of reverence for life, watered with gratitude and appreciation.
Image Credit: T. Goodman