Work food

July 29th, 2007

With endless respect for those who must truly work for food, these are the words that came to me over the last week as I was away at a meditation retreat. Will work for food.

I think this is the kind of work that we most yearn for: the work that gratifies in the most immediate and essential way. The vital work of life, deep beneath and beyond the piffling stuff of livelihood.

That is the kind of work we do on a cushion, sitting for eight hours a day, at dawn and on through the dark, sitting in our sweat and tears, past boredom and pain, through fatigue and frustration, long past quitting time until time itself quits. We sit and sit and sit and grind away at the rock wall in our head and when a bell rings we eat. We work and we eat. The work is never easy. The food is never better. When the night falls, the day is so completely done. Not one hunger remains.

And although we call this a retreat, it is not the retreat we would choose if we could, once again, vacate our lives for a fleeting pass at pleasure. It is a real job, and like every real job I’ve got, it is damn difficult.

But the one here at home is the most difficult of all. Taking all that hard-won ease off the cushion and back into the cluttered kitchen. Past the laundry hampers. Down the list on the refrigerator. Perhaps that is why, after a half-day at home, my daughter tugged at me and said, “Mommy, it seems like you left all your happiness at the Zen Center.”

Honk. Honk.

Mommy’s home, this time Mommy’s really home, where she works for food. And the food here is what she loves most of all, Georgia, because it is love. Pinky promise.

And pass the pudding to Barbara Karkabi at the Houston Chronicle, who filed this profile while I was off in the trenches. You can see she got the “juggling” part right.


  1. Welcome home! What a great post. Glad you’re back, in all senses of the phrase.

    Comment by Shawn — July 29, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

  2. The article in Literary Mama was absolutely amazing!

    Comment by Mama Zen — July 29, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

  3. Karen,
    Welcome home. I am so happy to have you back. Thank-you for sharing your article on Literary Mama (like a rock solid anchor it was reading those words) and for returning back to your world with such presence and grace. I have missed you and am happy to reconnect.
    And as for your retreat being work, work food, ah yes, this is the truth of it.
    May your days returning home integrate all that transpired while away.

    Comment by bella — July 30, 2007 @ 2:28 am

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