By Sensei Alex Kakuyo
As a homesteader, I spend a lot of time dealing with manure.
I clean it out of the cat’s litter boxes. I step in it each time I feed the chickens and I collect it from our two rabbits, Belladonna and Oleander. That last part might be surprising to some people. It’s not often that people talk about growing their poop collection, but it makes sense in the context of gardening.
Simply put, soil is a living thing and the wise gardener feeds it lots of yummy foods because nothing grows in hungry soil. Rabbit manure is a special treat for garden soil. The manure is nutritious, high in nitrogen and phosphorus. Also, it breaks down slowly, providing nutrients throughout the growing season.
That said, rabbit manure might be good for my garden, but dealing with it is unpleasant. It has a slight smell, attracts flies, and occasionally winds up on my clothes when I’m not careful. On those days, I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just buy fertilizer at the store.
But even if I buy fertilizer at the store, I’ll still have a pile of poop to deal with. The only question is will I handle the manure in a skillful or an unskillful way?
This is true of raising rabbits, and it’s also true of daily life. As Westerners, we have the misguided notion that life is a meritocracy. We believe that if we make good decisions, if we’re good people, then bad things won’t happen. But this isn’t true.
Part of being human is waking up each morning, knowing that there will be a pile of crap for us to deal with. Perhaps it will be literal manure from an animal in our household. But it may also be the loss of a job, a broken down car, or any number of things that we don’t want to deal with. It’s frustrating, but it’s also an inescapable part of life.
The only question is will we handle the manure in a skillful or an unskillful way?
Buddhist practices like meditation and mindful breathing help us calm our mind in the face of life’s difficulties. Chanting and sutra study help us look to the teachings for guidance; showing us ways to transform life’s burdens into something useful.
That’s why it’s important for us to do them every day. Life is always handing us manure, so we need to be consistent; ensuring that we have the spiritual tools to deal with it.
When we approach challenges in this way; accepting that there will always be new ones and having faith that we can deal with them, the whole world opens up. And all of life’s difficulties become fertilizer for our garden.
Namu Amida Butsu
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