There was once a monk whose job in the monastery was to bring water up from the spring each day. His equipment was a long pole with two buckets - one at each end.
He carried the water up the long, uphill path, deposited it in the large cistern at the monastery, and turned to go back for more. He did this five times each day.
The bucket the monk carried on the right side of the pole was perfect. Not a drop of water would leak out during the long walk up to the monastery. The bucket on the left, however, had developed a hole. Drip, drip, drip… water was lost all along the journey. The hole grew gradually larger over its years of service. And now - when they arrived at the top - less than half of the starting water remained.
The leaking bucket noticed what was happening. Although she was happy to be of service, she felt worse and worse as the leaking increased. Finally she spoke up. “Master” - she said - as they climbed to a steady drip, drip, drip, “I am failing you. I can not do the job you need me to do. You need another perfect bucket like my sister on the right.”
The monk looked to the leaking bucket with a smile of deep love. “Look behind you” he said. And the leaking bucket looked back. There, stretching along the path, she saw one side of the path bare and dusty. The other side - the left side - had grown lush with beautiful flowers. “That is your work” said the monk. “Sometimes the work we do is long invisible even to us. It blossoms only later.”
This month, we have set ourselves goals to practice in ways that help us cultivate qualities within ourselves.
I have broken my vows of practice - perhaps not a thousand times - but often enough. I imagine that few, if any, amongst us, have managed to carry all of the water we set out with at the beginning of the month.
Carol Hepokoski speaks of planting seeds.
“You’ve been gathering seeds,
testing them out on new ground.
Some take hold
Others fall away...”
This month, you may have planted seeds. You may have forgot a few and left them in a pocket somewhere. Perhaps they’ve slipped through and made it to the ground to germinate as a surprise in the future. Perhaps they remain in their crisp, paper, packet waiting for another growing season.
What we must remember though is that even our intentions are themselves seeds. They may not have been planted at the perfect depth, with the ideal spacing that we all ignore, with the perfect amount of sunlight, plant-food, and irrigation. Seeds have ways of their own. They surprise us and pop up in strange places.
Though you’ve broken your vows up to thirty times this month, the potential for growth remains.
Today, besides marking the end of our month of practice, we celebrate the Celtic festival of Lammas. Lammas is a few days from now - the 1st of August. Lammas - from the Anglo-Saxon for “loaf mass” is the time when the first crops - and especially the first wheat - are ready for harvest.
The seeds we each planted this month - however inexpertly - are not at their fullness yet. They have, however, just begun to bear fruit.
For myself, I know that my practice brought be greater mindfulness and helped me place more attention on watching my own well-being. I hope that today, you can see and celebrate your own first harvest.
The first harvest is in. Growing things may yet be tended. More seeds may yet be planted.
Carol Hepokoski again
“Good work for your hands, your soil, your soul.
Planting seeds...nurturing life...feasting at
gathering seeds for the next generation.
Seeds of change.
May you find in them the complexity of heritage
and the deep goodness of life itself.”