By Richard Eaton Living at Manzanita Village nourishes me deeply. There is no duality between daily life and daily practice. They are the same. When I cook, it is practice. When I do carpentry, it is practice. When I walk to the shed to get a tool, it is practice. Being mindful as often as possible in all activities—truly mindful, completely aware of what I am doing with focused, relaxed attention—that is the practice. The other part of practice is learning how to be gentle with myself when I forget. Compassion and metta.
Every day, I fall in love with the beauty of Manzanita Village. Its diversity is amazing. As the seasons change, the colors are astounding. The shades of colors in the trees and shrubs create a rainbow of earth tones. Wildlife abounds. A variety of birds sing throughout the day and night. Night songs are different from day songs. The birds' songs are nature's mindfulness music. Rabbits are everywhere and so are woodrats and a few much larger Norwegian rats. We hear coyotes at night occasionally and I have seen a few in the daytime out in the open ranch fields a mile away from here. We have heard that mountain lions are around, but I haven't seen any sign of them, yet.
The skies here are just incredible—at sunrise and sunset, and all day long. The clouds shift and change constantly, and the blueness of the sky is so pure and clear that it is almost unbelievable. Even when there is cloud cover, the patterns that are created are something to behold. At night, when there is no cloud cover, you can't miss the Milky Way. It just jumps out at you. Plus the sky has been painted with ten billion more stars than any city sky.
It's been some time since I have had the opportunity to experience the remarkable openness of land space and sky space. How wonderful it is and how sad that it keeps being destroyed in the name of progress and technology. Will the human animal ever learn to stop defiling his nest—the planet earth? The ecology practice work that Christopher and Michele integrate into the meditation practice is helpful for finding ways to hold the sadness and grief around planet issues, both physical and social.
It is so easy to run out of adjectives when talking about the beauty of this land and its transforming and healing nature. I know that is true for any land when one takes enough time to truly be there, to be quiet enough, and stand still long enough to see and hear what the land has to show and teach. When people arrive here for retreats, filled with the energy of city life, I marvel at how Manzanita Village and the land work their magic. And I know that the healing will happen.
Richard Eaton is a resident of Manzanita Village, a retreat center in San Diego County, California. For further information about Manzanita Village, see Sangha News.