Shelling peas....does anyone remember shelling peas with their grandmother on a summer's day, sitting in the kitchen with a bowl on your lap, talking about whatever came up, listening to words of experience or tough lessons learned, sharing dreams and schemes, or just sitting silently, enjoying the sensation of unzipping brilliant green pods to liberate those sweet peas and watching them tumble into your bowl?
My grandmother and I often shelled long-beans that yielded a sturdy pink striped bean--it required plenty of boiling time, but when the beans were ready, covered with butter, salt and pepper, placed on the table and shared, the experience was incredibly satisfying.
Not only was the taste sensational, but the fact that we had prepared them together and talked about all sorts of things in the process was a loving exchange.
Near the end of my grandmother's life, she craved this dish. I know it was much more about comfort, connection and love, than just taste.
Those times that my mother joined us in shelling peas was a revelation--Is this how mothers and daughters talk to one another? Are these stories meant to be kept or shared? And what about those burning revelations of infidelity, betrayal and secret joy? What was I supposed to do with that?!?
As it turned out, I was in training to be a keeper of secrets, a keeper of dreams, an unofficial repository for the family drama. Perhaps I stepped into the role with childish pride; I was my grandmother and my mother's confidant, that can be powerful stuff for a child, but where was the space for me to confide in them?
As I matured, I learned how to shell peas and allow my voice to be heard, regardless of what came up.
I learned how and when to put in my two cents worth.
Even in their discomfort, I had to speak my truth, not necessarily theirs. They learned that I didn't mean to cause harm, but the struggle to be honest and forthright was essential to our love for one another.
Shelling peas--though it's become much more of a metaphor for gathering and sharing from the heart, it's still such an elemental opportunity to share and learn.
If I have to create space now for shelling peas, well then, I do. It's that simple.
I book lunch with my dear elderly friend, my second mother, who offers wisdom with a wicked sense of humor and a girlish giggle, always reminding me to pick my battles wisely....she knows! She's lived through so many, and it's written all over her heart and the love she shares.
I invite my dharma sisters over for dinner; they know sometimes I'm going to cook, sometimes we just head out to the local noodle shop, but the desire is for nothing less than open, unvarnished dialog in the no-judgement zone.
Sustenance, balm, tears, hysterical laughter, hugs, and no bullshit advice on the Path, this is what the four of us demand from one another and freely offer in return.
Or I say YES, no matter how "busy" I am, when buddies J & K call a meeting of our Mac n' Cheese and Martini Club! I don't remember how this pea shelling event began, but every 3-4 months one of us starts feeling especially bedraggled, mixes a pitcher of martinis, concocts the most decadent Macaroni and Cheese casserole possible (fat free not allowed), and sends out the call, "I need my buddies!"
Do I drink martinis? I'm good for a few sips. Do I eat mac n' cheese? By the plateful!
Do J & K know what I am most afraid of and how raw that fear can be? Do I let it all hang out and expect advice?
Am I well versed in the intricacies of their lives, their hopes, wishes, lies and dreams? Oh yes, and more....
No matter who I shell peas with, we take it all apart and put it back together again, and if the old pieces don't quite fit, we create new pieces. Love is vast and indestructible.
Hey, isn't that what Avalokiteshvara and Shariputra are doing in the Prajna Paramita?
Going beyond the beyond!
Isn't that what compelled Shakayamuni Buddha to twirl that flower between his fingers on Vulture Peak, and didn't Mahakashyapa basically say, "pour me a martini, man!", when he smiled back?
And what about that shoe the Blue-eyed Barbarian left in his grave? What is that?
It's an invitation!
Pick up the shoe, try it on, take it off, give it to someone, then sit and talk, sit and shell peas, sit in silence, open up the whole universe as you might zip your thumb from one end of a pea pod to the other.
The universe is right there.
Thank You dear J for your friendship!