Center for Ecology and Humanity
Para español, aqui.
Dear Potential Guest,
So, you are thinking of coming to Nicaragua? Maybe even thinking of coming to visit or stay permanently with us at Abundance Farm? On this Friday evening in February 2005, I am writing you to give you an idea of what you might encounter here.
Five years ago, at Sky Meadow in Vermont, I met someone who became an important influences in my life, Miles Sherts. I was one of the students at the first meditation course he offered, and it was my first mediation course. He handed out several sheets of paper before we started the weekend of meditation, including some words of advice he had written for us. I still have those sheets of paper, with a short description of Buddhism alongside Miles's personal statement. Miles wrote (among other things): "As we begin to experience ourselves and the world through direct observation with calm focused awareness, we become free of conditional habits which have kept us limited and caused us to suffer... I encourage you to bring yourself to retreat as if it were your last chance to find what you have been seeking so long and hard. I invite you to trust for a moment this process laid out by Gotama Buddha and risk setting aside your doubts and fears. You may become something new in the process."
Although I generally don't teach meditation or spirituality per se, I do tend to see our guests and ourselves as engaging spiritually here at Abundance Farm. I don't consider Abundance Farm unique in this regard. There are many places like this in the world, where people engage spiritually, whether they think of themselves as doing this or not. For me, spiritual means the interaction of mental/emotional and physical activity, ultimately becoming more joyful and less painful, as the blend of mental/emotional and physical activity become more harmonious (through often-painful processes). One of the most common frustrating situations we encounter is something that runs counter to what we had planned on. Are we willing to allow ourseves to change, and experience the pain of throwing away old plans we had made for ourselves? If we find out that our old plans and habits, supposedly aids to make us happy, are doing just the opposite, what are we going to do?
What I have observed here at Abundance Farm and elsewhere in the world is that most people are not as interested in the intensity of change that I cherish. Of course, that is fine, and there are also many places in the world where you can live just as you are without changing much. But Abundance Farm isn't like that. If you come here hoping to keep your old assumptions intact and have a pleasant experience, it probably won't work. Most people, on first visiting Abundance Farm, reflect that it seems like a disaster zone, especially compared to a utopian dream. This place may seem too hot, too cold, too windy, too dusty, too wet, too dry, with too many insects, too many thieves living nearby, etc, etc. Oneself may seem too slow, too stupid, too poor at speaking Spanish, too ugly, too bad at cooking, etc, etc. Everything outside and/or oneself may seem worthless.
But perhaps what we experience (making those judgments about Abundance Farm and oneself) is only the way our mind often behaves, and not the only way the mind can behave.
I can image that there are some people who already have achieved enough clarity that when they arrive at Abundance Farm, their frustrations will not be great. Yet, experience suggests they are a lucky few. Indeed, quite a few of those who arrive intending to stay several weeks leave just a few days after they arrive, when they encounter their personal demon.
But several of us haven't left. We keep letting ourselves be born again every day, reinventing our minds and assumptions, learning better how to be happy while also being productive farmers. I think if we didn't open ourselves to this degree of learning, we'd have to leave too.
As Miles wrote, "I create and hold a container for you to explore the nature of your own mind, and realize your own truth. I believe this will set you free, and it is for this that you have always longed." Sounds appetizing, huh? In my experience it didn't work out so nice in practice. That "container" seemed more like a hell-ball. Miles created that by making us sit for hours and hours and hours until our bodies ached. I don't think I was the only one who wanted to slide out to the parking lot and sneak out in my little car. But for whatever reason, no matter how much I wanted to leave, no matter how much I hurt, I didn't leave. Neither did anyone else. (Thank you, Miles, for offering the challenge and the support that appealed to us and supported us.)
At Abundance Farm, we don't intentionally create a container for you, as Miles did in the meditation retreat. But I think the experience, if you take on the challenge, can provide the same reward. You can come to contact the demon you have been running from and have a chance to dance with it, become its lover instead of running in what seems like another direction.
On the other hand, maybe you don't need to come to Abundance Farm to have that experience, to be a happier and better you. Perhaps you could find a group of people who are open to growth in your local community. Or maybe sitting there in your chair, you could realize that any frustration that arises, is just the work of your mind. Maybe no other people are required. You could save some money and resources by just staying at home. The story goes that the Buddha ultimately found what he was seeking when he went off to the woods and meditated alone; he didn't find it in another country or at a retreat with other people.
But if you're like us, and for some unknowable reason your heart tells you that Abundance Farm may be your home now, you might have to come anyway.
I'll rewrite one of the quotes from Miles in a way that makes more sense to me in our context here: "I encourage you to bring yourself indefinitely to Abundance Farm as your chance you have earned for yourself to find what you have been seeking so long and hard. I invite you to trust for a moment the process that follows naturally when you trust yourself, when you pursue your instinct to live your dreams, and when you stick with your dreams beyond the inevitable escape desires you encounter to run on to the next thing. You may become something new in the process."