One of the difficulties I have with painting is to resist doing too much. For a while I spent more time copying the exact number of petals in a flower, for example, as a way to slow down that compulsion to load on the petals. It has become a practice to see what is “just enough.” Brush strokes, cooking, talking, and so on… what signals that moment when just what is needed has been delivered? This, of course, is the flip side of Mindful Consumption. Mindful Offering.
A long time ago, when we had just moved into our farmhouse and were still socialized enough to have relatives visit, my parents, cousins, and cousin-lings came for lunch. A rather large presence, my elder cousin swept into the kitchen, lifted lids off pots of simmering curries, looked at the pot of rice and proclaimed, “We can’t feed everyone with what you’ve cooked! Besides what would they think… rice in a small dish like that!” She can be a fearful deity in the kitchen and I tend to take a submissive stance with her. So we dispatched Frank to the far reaches of rural Ontario to find more white rice. Brave soul, he returned with a couple of pounds of grain and she cooked it all up. We ended up freezing tons of the stuff and eventually threw it all out. But our reputation as generous hosts was intact.
This is deeply trained stuff. “Good enough” is often taken to mean I’m only just doing what is required to get something done – and half-heartedly at that. The idea that we may do more by titrating our offerings to the actual need of the situation or person is a tough sell. Not only does it require letting go of imagined judgements but it also requires trusting that we have listened deeply for what is truly being asked of us.
An interesting sidebar which may be related in the deep interconnected recesses of my brain: My ordination dharma name is Chân Diệu Thi. On the certificate, it is translated as “True Wonderful Fulfillment.” While on a personal retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery, I was helping out in the kitchen. The monastics were teasing me about my need to get everything done (feeling fulfilled, I guess) before zazen when one asked for my dharma name. I told her and gave the translation at which point there was rapid-fire discussion in Vietnamese among the monastics. Apparently, the more accurate translation is True Wonderful Offering. As disappointed as I am not to be fulfilled, I must admit this is a better challenge for my practice. How to be True in my Offerings…
Thank you for practising,