“I do not particularly like the word 'work.' Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.”
--Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolutio
A gardener friend was giving me advice on starting seedlings indoors and told me, “It’s a miracle when any seed sprouts and survives.” This is very true. She said, “The soil must be kept at anexact level of moisture, the exactamount of light, and the exactdegree of warmth in order for the seedling to make it.”
I was beginning to doubt this seed-sprouting thing would work at all. I wondered why I was doing any of it in the first place.
Gardening is a very personal experience; everyone has their own ways of growing, and I am glad for the variety. I learned how to grow based on the methods of Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese master of cultivating earth and spirit, whose teachings were centered around doing everything as close to the way Nature does it (without us humans) as possible.
I never tilled; just scattered the seeds, re-mulched, and watered. And I seeded not just once, but several times throughout the season, just as Nature does—so that my plants were all varying ages, existing together in various stages so as to help each other make it. The older, established plants serve as elders, guiding the new, fresh plants, all of their roots entwining around each other, sharing nutrients and creating a thriving unseen world—the organism that is the soil itself.
“Observe Nature thoroughly rather than labor thoughtlessly.”
--Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolutio
It’s really not about whether you start seedlings indoors or out; the fact that you have a garden is a tremendous win in Fukuoka’s eyes, as he believed small farming was the path toward healing:
“The healing of the land and the purification of the human spirit is the same process.”
Fukuoka’s philosophy goes beyond gardening. To become a student of unaltered Nature, to really watch and learn, to know deeply how it is when things grow without the interruption of humans, imposing what they believe are better methods—these are ways of being that many of us resist because they go against what our modern culture teaches us.
Mother Culturehas trained us into believing we must work hard to get results. She teaches us, continually, to put our noses to the grindstone in order to earn our keep. And so we do, often thinking poorly of ourselves for not working hard enough.
Mother Culture says we don’t do enough; Mother Nature shows us how to do less.
More from Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution:
I believe that if one fathoms deeply one's own neighborhood and the everyday world in which he lives, the greatest of worlds will be revealed.
If nature is left to itself, fertility increases. Organic remains of plants and animals accumulate and are decomposed on the surface by bacteria and fungi. With the movement of rainwater, the nutrients are taken deep into the soil to become food for microorganisms, earthworms, and other small animals. Plant roots reach to the lower soil strata and draw the nutrients back up to the surface.
For so many of us it is an incredible challenge to take action toward taking less action.
We can wish our lives were less complicated, less busy, less chaotic; but, when it comes down to making changes to alleviate those “moving full speed ahead’ aspects, we make excuses to keep as is what we have in place as though our lives depend on it.
In truth, Life itself, if we can listen and actually hearIt, is forever whispering that our existence depends so much more on allowing and being, than on pushing on, digging in, and doing, doing, doing.
“Mother Culture” is a term coined by Daniel Quinn in his 1992 book, Ishmael, which I highly recommend
How can you see your life from the eyes of Fukuoka? In what ways are you working too hard, and in doing so, further holding yourself apart from the natural process of beingthat will bring you the joy and peace you so seek?
Where in your life can you do less, ease off, let go?
Ask these questions of yourself as you go about your life in the coming days and see what comes up for you. Release any resistance to the possibility of making changes toward less doing and more being.
Take notice of where your mind tells you—sometimes adamantly—that it’s impossible to do your life any differently. That’s the voice of Mother Culture speaking through your inner critic.
Practice the Earth Dog Qigong form
I’ve included a link to the full-length Qigong Lesson Film for Earth Dog. The simple, flowing movements of this Qigong form cultivate and honor the aspects of Earth Dog Qi. Earth Dog brings us home. She calls us back to honesty, to fairness, integrity. Dog Qi is loyal, watchful, and just.
By cultivating these qualities, we can attune ourselves to the ancient truths of our planet. May we be watchful of the master teacher that is our home.
--Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution
On the publishing date of this article it happens to be Earth Day. It is my prayer that we become a species that no longer needs to distinguish one day out of the year to pay due honor to this miraculous place we are blessed to call home. May we come to know fully the absolute privilege it is to be students of this planet, rather than thinking of it as something we must conquer.