Happy Farms / The Garden of 1,000 Dharma Doors

A sharing by Lou Salomon, Lower Hamlet Happy Farmer

A “Dharma door” is a practice, an activity, a place or anything else that allows us to be fully present in the here and now and to touch a deep insight. 

For me, the Happy Farm, the vegetable garden at Plum Village, is a space where the doors to the Dharma are many and where a thousand flavors and colors abound at every moment. They call me to awaken my senses, realize the profound nature of things, experience impermanence, and savor interbeing.

Being at Happy Farm means being close to Life. 

It is seeing the cycle of the seasons unfold, the seeds transforming, letting incredible abundance spring from their entrails, and realizing that nothing is created and everything is transformed.

It is observing that to turn compost into fertile soil, you have to go through a major transformation process. It is also about letting life fill us with wonder and letting the magic of Mother Earth heal us – seeing that interbeing expresses itself everywhere, at every moment. It’s like a breath of fresh air that brings me closer to the essence of my being, closer to the origin and to eternity. 

Being at Happy Farm also means cultivating a deep trust in life.

I’ve been very involved in a number of social and ecological associations since I was 20. Like many people who are concerned with the state of our planet, I felt a sense of urgency to take action. I felt a driving force that pushed me to do more and more, with more and more projects, and that I didn’t really have the right to “rest”. 

Today, being in contact with Nature every day has enabled me to calm my mind, return to my body, and to relax this contraction. I have come to see that I am Nature and have developed a radical acceptance of “what is” so that I can act from a freer, deeper, and more creative space. 

Some have asked me if I feel worried when I see unseasonable weather conditions. My answer is “no”. Maybe because I am a young farmer that I do not have decades of weather patterns to compare to. Also, I feel that by being close to nature, there is a deep trust in her resilience. Our mission as farmers is to accept what is, to adapt to it, and see how we can get even closer to nature and co-create with what the weather is offering on a daily basis.

Being at Happy Farm means having the chance to grow with other Happy Farmers, to cultivate the joy of being and doing together and spiritual friendship. We marvel together at the size of the sweet potatoes, enjoy breakfast with freshly picked tomatoes and basil, share our internal processes and anecdotes about our mindfulness practice in the garden, fill with mud every time it rains, and see the smiles on the sisters’ faces when we bring in the crops – especially the tomatoes 😊

Being at Happy Farm also means developing our ability to be equanimous and to navigate beyond notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

One moment touched me deeply last summer when someone in the group identified an insect that had just been caught in a spider’s web. We felt a natural impulse to save the insect, but was this fair to the spider? Should we intervene or let Nature be? We stood in silence and watched the spider eat the insect. It’s hard to say what was the “right” answer at that moment, but what was present in me was being able to accept and be fully present to what was there, to feel humility in the face of the forces that animate life, and to perceive that beyond form, there is only energy that is transformed. 

Vegetable gardening also means being able to accept the part of yourself that creates the conditions for a seed to germinate, caring for the plant and harvesting its fruit with gratitude, and the other part that at times has a more destructive effect, such as removing a certain ecosystem to create new beds, or using tools to cause the inevitable death of certain insects or earthworms. So it’s about embracing these two directions in your heart and finding the ground where the paradoxes meet. 

This morning, a new day dawns on the Happy Farm and the Dharma doors open my heart to the profound reality of life. If you are coming to Plum Village, you are welcome to come and savor these delicious nectars. See you soon!

From Left: Helena, Nora, Sr. Lam Hy, Lou

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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