The Pickaxe – Kissos, Greece – May 2017

August 9, 2017

pickaxe roundhouse kissos july 2017

The round house at Kissos is a really beautiful space; all variety of workshops and gatherings, meditation and dialogue happen between its bamboo walls, where the rising and setting sun casts stripy glints and shadows on the floor. On one side a view of the vegetables growing on the terraces and on the other a panoramic masterpiece over the stone-slated roofs to the forests and glittering sea; on a clear day it’s possible to see the mountains of Evia and the Halkidiki peninsula, ending in Mount Athos. Over past days however, as a final resort to be rid of an infestation of ants, we had to dig up the foundations, remove everything apart from the roof, to reveal this unsightly mud floor… and a plethora of wriggling nests! So all hands to the pickaxe, and like so much of life when I take the time to look and listen, this mundane task became surprisingly symbolic. Because through the season here I’ve been struck again and again by the words and imperative of this poem by Rumi called The Pickaxe. Its language is a powerful blow to our ego preoccupation and tendencies to spiritualize, waft around, disassociate, waste time and energy with frittering and not being true… so to be read with care. But in the end this is where the treasure is; when the ground we know is pulled from under our feet, exposing our weak foundations, and we are drawn to look beyond, into the fertile, broken, new earth. I’m left questioning, what are my ‘two glints in the dirt’? What are yours…?

Rumi: The Pickaxe

Some commentary on I was a hidden treasure, and I desired to be known:
Tear down this house.

A hundred thousand new houses can be built from the transparent yellow carnelian buried beneath it, and the only way to get to that is to do the work of demolishing and then digging under the foundations.

With that value in hand all the new construction will be done without effort.

And anyway, sooner or later this house will fall on its own. The jewel treasure will be uncovered, but it won’t be yours then.

The buried wealth is your pay for doing the demolition, the pick and shovel work.

If you wait and just let it happen, you’d bite your hand and say, “I didn’t do as I knew I should have.”

This is a rented house. You don’t own the deed.

You have a lease, and you’ve set up a little shop, where you barely make a living sewing patches on torn clothing.

Yet only a few feet underneath are two veins, pure red and bright gold carnelian.


Take the pickaxe and pry the foundation.
You’ve got to quit this seamstress work.

What does the patch-sewing mean? you ask. Eating and drinking. The heavy cloak of the body is always getting torn. You patch it with food, and other restless ego-satisfactions.

Rip up one board from the shop floor and look into the basement. You’ll see two glints in the dirt.

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