Apart from the natural beauty of Ojai, the people I’ve met and worked with at the Foundation have of course been instrumental to shaping my experience there. Here are some of the ways in which they have inspired me:
The gardener: She says she loves her work so much, she would do it without being paid! She taught us how to make sandals from spare tires. A ‘primitive skill’ that I was delighted to acquire in no time. And she’s put us in the habit of asking each other every evening: “What was the best part of your day?”
The cook: He honours his work of providing nourishment and joy to people by leading a ritual of thanks-giving and an offering to the ancestors before every meal he serves. And he spontaneously gives out the longest, most frequent hugs to nearly everyone he meets, seemingly spreading affection simply for it’s own sake.
Words: Everyone uses language in a way that imbues everyday acts with mindfulness and relationality: Things are “gifted”, not given; even inanimate objects “live” in their cubbord, shelves and sheds.
When I was working in the kitchen the guests we cooked for virtually showered us with appreciation and gratitude at every single meal for the love and nourishment they said they could taste in our food.
The Buddhist group that stayed here when I first arrived built a wall of sticks around an ant trail that was in the middle of a path, respecting these other creatures’ space.
A group of young friends from San Francisco, soc sci students and artists, made up their own week-end retreat at TOF, discussing with me the meaning of “ritual” and how to bring it to our everyday lives to increase our attention and intention in what we do.
My fellow volunteers: It’s been interesting to see from a European perspective how critical these young people are of their country concerning everything from the lack of a fully established recycling system to the inheritance of injustice against Native Americans. Most of them are well travelled and think highly of Europe. And try fervently not to say “like” all the time 🙂