Into the Valley of Stillness
by AZC Member Nick Salome
Going to to Tassajara for the first time, I really didn’t know what to expect. I expected ‘solitude’ certainly; and ‘solace’ in a world that seems so torn apart, and ‘stillness’ in a life wrought with activity. But once there, I really found all sorts of wonderful lessons and Great Wisdom in small acts of grace and teaching in so many unexpected interactions. Perhaps the most unexpected feeling was that of ‘solidarity’ which now I realize shares a root with both ‘solace’ and ‘solitude’, but means something so very different.
I remembered that there is great joy in simple hard work. With no promises of Heaven, I better be useful here on earth! However, I also learned that sometimes that same hard work can be a running from my fear of non-existence. “Utility” can become “salvation”, and I saw myself feverishly working like a miser neurotically hoarding coins yet living like a beggar on a great pile of gold (the endless now). Being busy can invade the stillness, and yet not but the stillness can free me from the need of this ‘salvation’ of working hard. Although there is ‘goodness’ in these acts of labor, they cannot make of me a “good person”. For to claim to be a “good person” would imply a permanence to which none of us are entitled, and yet all of us are a part.
I learned to bow; to bow to the dishes before they are washed and put away, to the vegetables before they are chopped into bite-sized cubes, to my plate before serving a meal, to the weeds before releasing them from their clinging to the earth. I learned to bow to each other on the path and at work as we shared the space and labor of the day; and to my self, even to myself I learned to bow. Through all the workshops on “Racial Justice” and talks about the complications of “Twining Vines” and the hours of ‘just sitting’, I found myself looking at the weeds of my own self-delusion and I learned to bow to them before ‘releasing them from their clinging to my self-regard.’