Every weekend I go to a place where people are happy to be there. They are courteous, smile when they greet each other, and happily share with one another.
No, I am not talking about a weekly trip to a temple, dharma center, or dharma talk (although I well could be!). The joyous place I am referring to is my local farmer's market. Located in the center of Lafayette, the farmer's market I visit is the second largest in Indiana. With vendors selling local, in season fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, honey, crafts, breads and baked goods, and with music playing and people laughing, the atmosphere is carnival-like.
Yet still, it is almost holy. Ever since I started going, I noticed that although many patrons are full of boisterous energy, almost everyone is careful and mindful when choosing produce. They search reverently through the stacks of vegetables and cartons of berries, until they find that perfect bunch of basil or half pint of raspberries, and then proudly turn to the farmer to pay, an exchange which is often accompanied by a few moments of friendly banter.
As I walk through the street that has been cordoned off for the morning, I am amazed at how many people are smiling and so happy to be there. They are also willing to share with one another, which I personally experienced yesterday when I found the most beautiful basket of tart cherries I had ever seen. It was quite a large basket for one person, and it was $7. It was also the last basket. After I paid for my strawberries, I turned to a woman who I had seen also eying the cherries and asked if she would like to split it. She enthusiastically agreed, and after we asked the ladies at the booth, we paid, everyone thanked each other, and the lady and I parted ways with an even half basket of beautiful fresh cherries.
For the most part, I don't think that type of exchange would be possible at most conventional grocery stores. With their fluorescent lighting, piped in music, and aisles of processed foods, a typical grocery and farmer's market are worlds away. Not to say that grocery stores are bad, or that one can't have the same type of friendly and meaningful exchanges with the butcher, baker, or produce person. You may get to know them well and, in fact, cherish them greatly. Grocery stores are convenient and are a fixture in modern life, and let's face it, the reason for the aisles of processed foods is because we (as a society) demand it. But the major difference in atmosphere and overall feel cannot be denied.
So getting back to my weekly market ritual, I just want to say how great it is to wake up, excited to go there, walk from my apartment, arrive and peruse the many vendor's booths for fresh, local produce. From the time I start out until I place the last item on my shelf or in the refrigerator, I am undeniably happy. And I think the same is true for most of the people who attend the market. This is why I strongly believe that in order to be happy, people need to somehow be close to the earth, and connected with their community. Recently I have lamented the fact that spiritual practice is sometimes difficult to reach, but who am I kidding? It is right here, right now, in the simple exchange at a produce stand. This is one of the few places one can immediately see the immense benefit that purchasing something fresh for oneself/family has on another person and their family. How's that for love, compassion, and true spiritual practice?
To find a local farmer's market near you, check out Local Harvest
May all beings be happy!