Some days, not many, I have enough left at the end of the day to go for a bike ride. Riding is one of the few things that will truly clear my head of all the noise. Each ride is different in how long it takes for the mind to quiet and to allow for the ride to be experienced. Some days the mind never stops spinning. Some days you get thrown to the ground or into a tree by unseen forces trying to help you – their technique is crude but effective. Pain focuses the mind on the moment. I notice my mind has become quiet by how my riding changes. fear leaves my body, my muscles relax, my hands and toes stop gripping, the bike floats under me or I over it, and I start to see and smell and hear the evening. I begin to ride.
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with growing vegetables. I am as well. As was I last evening as I was riding down through the juniper and sage covered hills. Funny place for a quiet mind to go. To wondering about all this stuff – really? Quiet? – somehow yes. Then a biology course I took long ago – or actually only one class from that course- came to mind. That class had a huge impact on me and I don’t even remember what the course was – behavioral evolutionary type stuff perhaps or it could have been a biochemistry class I’m not at all sure. I do remember the hour the teacher talked about motives. He had us read a wonderful article called Potter’s Progress. In the article a woman talks about the process of centering a pot on the wheel prior to forming a pot. It was all about motives. About finding the core motive for any given action or thought. The one in the center of it all. The one which kick starts the mind and gets all the other motives spinning, which kick off other reactions and whirling. By the time you get to the action its pretty darn impossible to know what started the whole thing rolling. You’re just left wondering why you just acted like a dumbass.
You are probably still wondering how this relates to growing vegetables but I think I’ve figured it out. Since that class I’ve spent alot of my time trying to find those core motivations. Cause, when you are able is when you get centered. And if you aren’t centered the pot never will be – the point of the article as I remember it. I’ve come to find that one of my core motives is “do no harm”. I like most of the rest of us was harmed as a child. I came away from it all with this as a mantra – do no harm. Of course in my clumsy attempts to achieve this goal I have done plenty of harm. It has almost caused more harm than good.
But let me back up a bit. When I graduated from college I became a carpenter. I can see now that that class, that article, was most likely responsible for me seeking, finding and loving the physical work of carpentry. It was the direct and immediate feedback I got from the work -just like the direct and immediate feedback that woman got from the lump of clay spinning between her hands on the wheel. If the work was not going well I needed to look inside myself and fix whatever I found before any external change was going to happen. I could struggle for days on end before I would remember this tidbit of information and then actually do something. But when I did things shifted. A centering occurred. Even if nothing got fixed or solved – that rarely happens. But the awareness allows…….
So again how does this relate to growing vegetables you ask? Well I’ve been reading Woody Tasch’s book Slow Money the last few days The night prior to this bike ride I read a definition of sustainable organic agriculture as agriculture which “does no harm”. So somewhere in the middle of coming down the Ridge of Doom but before I got to the Plunge my mind stopped spinning and I started riding and all this seemingly disparate thought connected. My bike and I floated through the juniper, cedars, and sage. I was smiling. The evening was smiling back.
Do No Harm.