I am excited to swing back into action this summer, despite a pandemic, global riots, and the fact that my partner and I ended a winter road trip just as our country shut down due to the virus and we got stranded 2,400 miles from home. We’re thriving, and I want to celebrate the many blessings in our life by doing what I do, and love, best. What is that, you ask? Stick around and I’ll show you.
My partner Meg and I currently live and volunteer at Dharma Treasure, a Buddhist meditation retreat in a remote part of the Coronado National Forest called Cochise Stronghold. When we arrived, we found just 2 resident staff on the 5 acre property, which has guest facilities, chickens, and utilities to maintain. The property is lovely, and the grounds are simple, elegant, and easy to maintain. Yet, they’ve been without a maintenance technician and gardener for some time.
Meg has been revitalizing and upgrading the gardens while I’ve started catching up on maintenance and helping others in the community when they need something built, moved, etc. There’s nothing really falling apart right this second, but there are several projects such as removing an old solar water heater, holding tank, and making sure all pipes are sealed, holes patched, etc; projects that have been and will continue to be put off unless I can find the tools, and feed myself long enough, to do the work.
Perhaps the most important project I’m organizing is the refurbishment of the Dharma Treasure workshop. That and trapping ground squirrels (DT is strictly catch and release – we are those creatures, on another trip…). The shop is large and well built, with plenty of room for heavy machines and space to lay out projects. What few tools there are, are old and falling apart. Soon the rest will be taken away by the former resident to whom they belong.
Dome, Sweet Dome
When I first lived in the Stronghold in 2016, I was blessed with the friendship of a beautiful soul named Allegra. I regret that I do not have any pictures of her, but here I’d like to leave a tribute to the spirit of Allegra. Meg and I had the privilege of renovating the Dharma Treasure vegetable and main gardens. The dome veggie garden in particular was a pet project of Allegra’s. She used to use straw bales with middles cut out as her beds because they were the right height and the retreat could afford them, but not to pay someone to build a whole new heavy-duty raised bed.
The day the community met to discuss Allegra’s Garden was the day before Mother’s Day. I can’t say Allegra was like a mother to me, because I didn’t know her that long or well, but I had a good feel for the person from our time together and I saw her as my idea of the feminine spirit of the Stronghold – forgive me, ye Normals, if I wax weird .. you would too if you lived in this place. I had a chat with a stand of old yuccas that told me I needed to make a gift for the recently departed Mother of the Stronghold. So Meg and I made a modest yet helpful cash donation, and I volunteered over 20hrs to put it all together, alone (by choice because I meditate while I work).
Meg was in charge of plant selection, and we’ve got a wide variety of sun and heat resistant edibles now. She’s been in those gardens every day, making sure we get the most out of our limited growing space. Animals are, apparently, college educated out here, and will get into just about anything unless you wrap it, top and bottom, with chicken wire.
Train to Meditate, Meditate to Train
I am glad to be of service here, and am eager to learn about meditation. For a while now I’ve been aware of a link between running and meditation. The first step was to stop thinking of “running,” with all the assumptions like shoes and pace and the idea that special time and clothes had to be set aside and used, and start looking at it as simply state my body is in, just like the lotus position, that can be used as a catalyst to find balance and peace from which one can begin to focus and train ones attention. The reverse works as well: meditating on and studying ones experience will help improve efficiency and therefor endurance. Runners employ mantras all the time and don’t even know it.
I want to write a manual and help others learn how to use the combination of pedestrianizing (walking, jogging, running) and meditating to strengthen the body-vehicle and cleanse the soul. I’m calling the practice PEDITATION. I am eager to keep developing the idea, and have organized plans for how to implement it.
Phase 1 is precedent. I am constructing a ~1/2 mile footpath and have a few simple ideas for lengthy endurance challenges I’ll use to fundraise for a series of journey runs which I’ll use to raise awareness and funds for charitable causes.
I had originally envisioned using the Sangha property and raising money for Dharma Treasure, but YOU try getting a bored (not misspelled) of directors to take a shit without seven committee meetings. I tried bringing the proposal to the bored, but they wouldn’t agree in writing to not steal my idea, so I locked myself in a room for a week, and built my own damn project.
Please check out my SOLE-OH SUMMER SERIES! It’s six different routes of varying lengths and profiles, around Cochise County. I am committed to this (beginning July 2020), and am also opening it up to any competent ultra-pedestrians who would like to participate. I am offering a platform to promote causes, brands, and products. I just want to tell their stories on my own platforms to show all y’all that we have us a movement goin’ on up in here, and it’s worth tossing us a few bucks to see where it goes next.
I am grateful to Dharma Treasure and the Cochise Stronghold community for their support.
My deepest gratitude goes to Culadasa for his belief in my vision, and my ability to manifest it.
Cheers, peace, etc,
-Barefoot Jake Brown