- The Farm
- The Alliance
If you would like to come and spend some time with the land this weekend (Oct 9 and/or 10) here is the information and registration link. It’s a work weekend and there is no charge; the schedule is loose and you can come for part of it.
The real reason for this note is to share a beautiful interview with Tenzin Palmo, about practice and emptiness. She is the nun who spent 12 years in a cave in Tibetan Buddhist practice; she is also an absolute delight to meet. She is talking (at this moment) about the importance of foundational practice, which would be calming or mindfulness practice. And about practice in daily life as well.
I recommend this interview very highly. It’s about an hour, and you could listen to it in small pieces if you like.
Rather than talking about any of the kinds of fear people are feeling these days, I’m going to invite you to spend some quiet and calm time with us, in the crisp cool days and nights, glorious fall colors, harvesting, transplanting, bonfire, good conversation…as much or as little of the weekend as you like.
Work weekend: Saturday and Sunday, October 9 and 10, with more information and registration here.
That’s my invitation right now – ordinary life and community.
The next official event after that is Rohatsu sesshin, seven days of silent sitting meditation beginning the evening of November 30. Mostly it’s serious Zen people who like this – but talk with me if you’re tempted, everybody has a first time.
For both events, we’ll take care of Covid safety as appropriate to the time.
We have a couple of photos: a new altar cloth, hand woven by Kathleen Quinn (in the picture). And I started bringing in firewood for the winter – though to heat with wood throughout would take a lot more labor power than I have alone.
There is still space for extra people who want to live here. Reading the website gives you an idea. A couple of interested people are coming for the work weekend, which is a great time to get the feel of things.
At no cost to you, iGive.com gives a percentage of your online shopping to us. You go here, fill out the forms, put a button on the gadget you most use for shopping, and name Mountains and Waters Alliance. The rest of it is basically automatic. If you do this by November 15 and actually buy something by December 1, we get an extra $5. But mostly, it’s a steady trickle, with a burst of cash for big shopping events or plane tickets etc. Lots of stores are on it – just go to their website as you would otherwise. (Don’t ever stop supporting your locally owned stores!)
Love you all.
The IPCC climate report triggered a lot of thoughts about how to get to action.
Given the scale of the problem – climate change is being driven by enormous corporate, military, and government offenses, while our personal consumption has very little effect – why bother changing your own life?
This is why: so you can be ready to live without the destructiveness of fossil fuels and much more.
That’s enough examples. If our lives depend directly on use of fossil fuels, lithium mining, or the like, nearly all of us will protect our lives first. And our children’s immediate lives, even if we are sacrificing their futures to do it. We need to get off that dependence – every one of us – or we will not be free to interfere with the system that is plunging us into climate disaster.
That’s about it on personal lifestyle – and it’s a lot to do. Every single person who claims to be worried about climate change needs to get rid of this dependence, or they will be an enemy at crucial moments.
There is more.
Roger Hallam, a founder of Extinction Rebellion, gave an in-your-face talk about what it takes to make change. First, effective strategy involves material disruption of the machine – political or industrial machine, that is. Protests and marches raise energy, feel good, help with networking – but they don’t interrupt the machine. Interrupting the machine actually does interrupt the machine. Like that well-known tactic of the strike. Like the Valve Turners who safely shut down the pipelines bringing Canadian oil into the U.S. Like every person who has ever blocked a road or locked themselves to a drilling rig.
When you begin resisting, the authorities call you ridiculous, terrorists, and your demands unthinkable. If you’re effective, they arrest you. At some point, they quietly begin negotiations.
Hallam suggests that 500 people in jail or 3000 arrests is what it would take (for the UK); he gave historical examples including the US Civil Rights Movement. He points out the difference between a protest and actual disruption: it’s disruption that works.
Right now in Minnesota at Line 3 (StopLine3.org) people are showing up, disrupting the drilling of the pipeline under the rivers. They’re also filing court actions, publicizing the leaks, pointing out the disastrous social consequences of man camps, pointing out the many ways the drilling is illegal, petitioning any public official who has clout, pressuring the banks that fund these projects and the insurance companies that protect them – materially interfering with the pipeline construction in every possible way.
People specialize in things they can do. Some people physically block the machinery, which gets them arrested and often abused. For each such person there are five or six support people. Some people write letters or phone their legislators.Some send money, or raise money. And everything you can imagine in between. Look at your options – and get ready to live without fossil fuel. Stop thinking electric cars will save our way of life: they won’t.
If we’re going to stop fossil fuels, we have to want to actually stop them. That means some of us have to be doing the other work, securing food, transportation, health care, education, community, shelter, and safety for after we succeed.
Hallam observes that, just like in military strategy, it works to focus on one target at a time, and be overwhelming there. Line 3 is happening now, the team is strong, and although Minnesota’s official actions are closer to its worst stereotypes than its best, it’s far from the worst place to be in jail. (Maybe it’s not possible, maybe we are strong enough to overwhelm them in multiple places at once – the point is to think strategically and work together.)
Finally, Hallam says there are practically no excuses for not getting out there.
I’ll say, about this other work, that the only people excused are the ones at the front lines or those working 80 hours a week (yes, they do that) on legal, lobbying, fundraising, and the like. The rest of us – well, do we want to be allies of the earth or allies of fossil fuels? Let’s get to work on that sustainable infrastructure called food, shelter, transportation, health care. And community.
This is an update on the events calendar I sent out last month. It seems like a good idea to be more careful with the unknowns on the new Covid variants. The uncertainty of life is requiring us to pay attention.
When you register for any event, please let me know whether you are vaccinated, which seems to give considerable protection. Also let me know if you are especially vulnerable or live with vulnerable people. We did this safely twice last year, before vaccines, adjusting precautions as we went.
specifically designed as a space to care for ourselves and each other around the challenges in today’s world. We will resume in September. Email me if you’re considering joining. We’ve been meeting Sunday evenings. Details here.
Mondays, 6 am Central Time, details here.
11-5, lunch and snacks offered. We have garden projects and building projects. I have been out of state (returned August 3), so consider what feels safe to you. Probably entirely outdoors. Details here.
Combines sitting meditation with outdoor work as sacred ceremony. Garden, land care, and possibly some building. Free to past volunteers. Please register – we’ll go ahead if there are three registrations by the 15th. Details and registration here.
(Thursday night to Tuesday afternoon): Sitting silently together, in the zendo or outdoors. Probably cancelled, but let me know if you plan to come. We may just wait for December. Registration required; fee or work exchange. Details and registration here.
We have raspberries to prune and move, rhubarb to divide and plant, possibly hazelnut bushes, strawberries, and who knows what else.
All the workdays are Saturday but could be extended on request. All come with a great lunch, free camping and so forth for those who stay extra – and probably veggies or plants if you would like some to take home.
This will definitely happen, but possibly online.
Seven days of silent meditation, honoring the enlightenment of Dogen (founder of Soto Zen). A very quiet kind of adventure. Requires registration plus fee or work exchange. If you have not done sesshin here, we’ll need to talk first.
The construction, the protests, and the arrests continue at Line 3 in northern Minnesota. A central information source is http://stopline3.org. They are asking people to come now, but there’s plenty of other support to offer, especially contacting your legislators, the governor, and the President.
I don’t need to tell you about wildfires, floods, heat waves, disasters, and deaths continuing. We live in difficult times. Please take heart. (Note The Gift of Fearlessness group as a space to hold this .)
You’re invited to a beautiful day in the country, with some good work and a feast at the end. The weather forecast is cool (low 70’s) with showers tapering off around 11 am – perfect for the weeding projects.
Please tell me what hours you’d like to come. If you want to arrive before 11 or leave before 5, just tell me. To come just for supper, see below. Also see Covid safety notes at bottom.
Send me an email with this information: Your name, of course. __________________
bringing friends? (names) ________________
bringing kids? (names and ages) __________________
Planned arrival time ______. Planned ending time ______ . Staying for supper? ________
Which area of interest/skill? (details below)
Special stuff: check any of these boxes on food: ___Vegan ___ Need meat ___ Other restrictions ___________
And any other needs (allergies, physical limits, etc)? _________________________________________
If you are not vaccinated, or have special concerns about Covid, please check here ___. I’ll contact you so we can work it out with everybody who cares.
Some people have put many hours of love into this place (or into the Alliance): just come. But tell me so we can organize food.
If you’re new here and not up for work yet, you’re still welcome to come – and it would be nice if you can bring a potluck dish.
I have no idea how many people will come; I’m pretty sure of at least two. Any number is fine.
I’ll send another email with directions, parking, “what to bring” information, and the rest.
The big project: move the picture window out of the truck! Probably wants 3 strong people to do it; took 2 skilled people to put it in the truck…
Everything else is a wonderful bonus. Leading options:
There are three doors to install. I need at least one person with skills equal to or better than mine. Two such people, and/or a real carpenter, would be greatly appreciated.
We could put up the outhouse, if we got really enthusiastic. (composting toilet is ready)
Move heavy things:
Once the truck is empty, there’s a lot of firewood to haul, left from tornado damage 3 years ago.
There’s a firepit to build, all the stones are close by and it’s half done. Creativity involved.
Plant things: (your choice)
Weeding: There’s a garden. There are always weeds, maybe harvesting, or feel free to harvest the weeds, some are great food.
Pruning raspberries – an adventure: I set out to prune the raspberries and came away with quarts of ripe black berries – and there’s more. I can provide the armor, tools, and the plan.
Foraging: wild raspberries, nettles for pesto and soup, milkweed for freezing and canning, daylilies for freezing and pickling, herbs.
Fruit trees: They’ve gotten lost in the grasses and flowers – find them and see if they need anything. We can have a tour after.
Too much to ask:
Some people have put many hours of love into this place (or into the Alliance): just come. But tell me so we can organize food.
If you’re new here and not up for work yet, you’re still welcome to come – and it would be nice if you can bring a potluck dish.
We’ll be mostly outdoors and it’s easy to do physical distancing. Most people are vaccinated.
Still: Some people can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons or aren’t vaccinated for their own reasons; some people live with vulnerable people; some people are just concerned. Whatever. If you have any of these situations, please tell me at registration and we’ll make a decision so everyone can feel safe. And if you have symptoms, are exposed to Covid, or have been on a plane or train in the past two weeks, please talk to me so we can figure it out.
I have no idea how many people will come; I’m pretty sure of two, which is enough. Limit is probably 20.
I’ll send another email with directions, “what to bring” information, and the rest.
I’m reaching out to ask for chanting and prayers for the protection of northern Minnesota.
Here’s the story: I went outside to visit the Central Altar – a magnificent rock face at the creek, with dozens of faces that sometimes show themselves. What offering to make? Sometimes I chant the Dai Hi Shin Dharani; the rock people seem to like it.
And then this thought: I could chant and ask the rock people here to send the blessing all the way up to Line 3, where waters and rice beds and Lake Superior and the Mississippi River are in danger, where humans are in danger from man camp workers and from toxicity, where treaty rights need to be enforced, where urgently needed water is diverted from living things to be used for drilling, where water protectors are locking themselves to drilling equipment as Enbridge moves forward with consent of both governor and President – I asked them to send the blessing, and I chanted, and the energy was strong.
DAI HI SHIN DHARANI
namu kara tan no tora ya ya namu ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra ya
fuji sato bo ya moko sato bo ya
mo ko kya runi kya ya en sa hara ha e shu tan no ton sha
namu shiki ri
toi mo ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra
rin to bo na mu no ra kin ji ki ri mo ko ho do sha mi sa bo o to jo shu ben
o shu in sa bo sa to no mo bo gya mo ha te cho to ji to en
o bo ryo ki ru gya chi kya ra chi i kiri mo ko fuji
sa to sa bo sa bo mo ra mo ra mo ki mo ki ri to in
ku ryo ku ryo ke mo to ryo to ryo ho ja ya chi mo ko ho ja ya chi
to ra to ra chiri ni shifu ra ya sha ro sha ro mo mo ha mo ra ho chi ri
yu ki yu ki shi no shi no ora san fura sha ri
ha za ha zan fura sha ya ku ryo ku ryo mo ra ku ryo ku ryo ki ri
sha ro sha ro shi ri shi ri su ryo su ryo
fuji ya fuji ya fudo ya fudo ya mi chiri ya nora kin ji
chiri shuni no hoya mono somo ko
shido ya somo ko
moko shido ya somo ko
shido yu ki shifu ra ya somo ko nora kin ji somo ko
mo ra no ra somo ko shira su omo gya ya somo ko
sobo moko shido ya somo ko shaki ra oshi do ya somo ko
hodo mogya shido ya
somo ko nora kin ji ha gyara ya somo ko mo hori shin gyara ya
somo ko namu kara tan no tora ya ya
namu ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra ya
somo ko shite do modo ra ho do ya so mo ko.
(Here is my very long dedication from today; I included everything, of course you will change it:)
May all awakened beings manifest through the three treasures their luminous mirror wisdom. Having chanted the Dharani of Great Compassion, we dedicate its merit and virtue to:
The original teacher Shakyamuni Buddha, the first woman ancestor Mahapajapati, the first master in China Bodhidharma, the eminent ancestor Dogen, the great ancestor Keizan, and all ancestors who have transmitted the Way,
to all dharma-protecting devas, to the dharma-protecting saints, to the protectors of the whole earth, to the earth spirit of this place, and to the monastery-protecting spirits,
to mountains, oceans, and soils, to forests, meadows, and prairies, to land, water, and sky, to the whole earth and all her peoples.
We pray for peace in the land, harmony among nations, protection from natural disaster, prosperity and longevity for donors, tranquility within the sangha, and ample sustenance for the community.
In particular we offer this energy to the safety and well-being of the lands in northern Minnesota where the pipeline threatens everything; to the encouragement, safety, and well-being of the human beings protecting those lands, to the structures of treaties, international agreements, and laws that offer protection, to Sheriff Darin Halverson, may his example be followed by other local police, to the governmental powers who could honor those treaties, agreements, and laws, including President Joseph Biden, Governor Tim Walz, and Attorney General Keith Ellison, to the pipeline workers that they may quit their jobs and become water defenders themselves, and finally to the hearts and minds of the owners of Enbridge, that they may wake up and abandon doing harm.
All Buddhas throughout space and time, All honored ones, bodhisattva-mahasattvas, wisdom beyond wisdom, maha-prajnaparamita.
Do you ever feel like your chanting is answered, your offering received? That’s how it felt today. I’ll be doing it again. Indoors or out. Would love to hear if you do it too.
Over 2000 people gathered in northern Minnesota June 5-8 to protect land, water, and treaty rights against Enbridge Energy’s Line 3. Over 200 of us were arrested in the process, and hundreds stayed at Camp Fire Light, at the place where Enbridge plans to drill under the Mississippi River near its very beginning. Now the center of action is at Red Lake Treaty Camp, where drilling seems imminent.
The most important thing I have to offer here is comments on the importance of treaty rights, a paradigm-changing teaching from attorneys Frank Bibeau and Joe Plumer. I’ll follow that with a brief outline from the Treaty People Gathering, action steps, a personal report from a friend who risked arrest, and a million links if you want to go farther. For background information, you can read the first two paragraphs on each of these: https://www.stopline3.org/issues/ and https://www.stopline3.org/chronicles
It’s important to understand treaty rights and what they mean. The bold comments are direct statements from Frank and Joe in the Sunday morning training.
We have to understand current events in terms of the treaties.
They said it so clearly that I finally understood.
Those treaties were made between the ancestors of indigenous people and the ancestors of the white people.
Even though my personal ancestors arrived much later, I too am a treaty person.
We are all governed by the many treaties made on this land, by our mutual ancestors. This is a shared history, white and indigenous, and it binds us together.
The whites did not understand the indigenous relationship with the land. They assumed that tribes owned land, and could sign it over.
Right off this tells you something was wrong with them. Owning land? Well, they also thought they could own people. Now they pretend not to own people, and they are very confused when we talk about land as a being with its own rights, its own existence, as everyone used to know.
Whites also did not seem to understand the meaning of a treaty. In a treaty, the two parties are separate and remain separate. Neither acquires the right to dominate the other. Another problem is the white understanding that the only thing reliable is what’s on paper, even though they were making agreements with people who had no history of writing and sometimes did not speak English. One such treaty is expressed in a wampum belt, showing two bands extending side by side, never crossing over, separate and equal. This is how treaties are.
For many decades, whites didn’t even honor their own version of the treaties, reneging on promises such as food and supplies, leading to disputes such as the Dakota War of 1862. The current dis-honoring involves the right to hunt, fish, and gather – what good are those rights if the waters are poisoned, the fish dead, the forests paved? No tribe agreed to have its lands destroyed.
Treaties are the supreme law of the land, above the Constitution. They cannot be changed without agreement of both parties.
If a bully can make an agreement and ignore it, there is no international law, no community of respect, and no protection against the force of the strongest weapon in the hands of the most brutal invader. Respecting treaties is essential.
For those who want to go deeper, this link has a detailed discussion of treaties in the Great Lakes area, rights, history, and common misunderstandings: http://glifwc.org/publications/pdf/2018TreatyRights.pdf
As I listen to the attorneys talk about treaty rights, I sense something going on that I can’t quite name. It feels like being on the edge of a cliff, needing just a slight push to go over. After – the right to mine, drill, and destroy ends, and the power of bullies gives way to the power of relationship. Human communities and inter-species communities are able to make our way.
Frank Bibeau says, “Every time Line 3 gets closer to happening, it pushes our treaty rights closer to the front, and now we’ve gotten to that place with the litigation starting with the Corps of Engineers.” (https://grist.org/food/line-3-pipeline-protests-enbridge-wild-rice-treaty-rights/ )
The matter of indigenous people being arrested for trespassing – on land that was stolen from their ancestors historically, that is supposed to be public land, and that was turned over to a private corporation with only token concern for the damage they will do – it shows how everything is wrong-side-up. The matter of using helicopter and sonic booms (can cause permanent physical and mental damage)
We stand at a turning point in history. And the whole world is watching. (The international press was visibly present.)
And now some stories from that weekend and after.
Most of us arrived Saturday, either at the main camp or the MNIPL camp (Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light). The main camp had a welcoming ceremony Saturday afternoon, while at the MNIPL camp a dozen people were making signs and others helped us all find our cabins or tent spots. After a Gandhi Mahal dinner we (MNIPL) gathered on the beach for talks, prayer circle, and an end-the-Sabbath ceremony.
Sunday was a long day of training at the main camp – and was hot, dry, and more hot.
We were divided into three groups: red, yellow, and green. Red meant you planned to get arrested. Yellow meant willing to be arrested. Green meant staying as safe as possible, understanding there are no guarantees. After the morning speakers, each group received its own training.
Very early on Monday, about half of us went to the pumping station. That’s described in Ann’s report below. MNIPL hosted a prayer circle at a different location, then most of us went on to the bridge – the main action spot, a road crossing of the tiny Mississippi. The red group headed for the planned pipeline crossing (near Mississipi headwaters) and stayed there. The yellow group chalked on the bridge: “President Biden, Honor the Treaties, Stop Line 3.” The green group marched, chanted, listened to speakers, chanted some more, and waited for news. It was hot. Teams brought water and snacks.
Mid-afternoon the leaders announced that we had no arrests here, and that work was stopped at the pumping station for a whole day. The red group began building Camp Fire Light. The rest of us dispersed – many to take a dip in the Mississippi Headwaters at Lake Itasca. Back at camp, we relaxed, recovered, heard of the first hundred arrests, and eventually had a closing circle. Night brought the gift of a cooling thunderstorm.
From Monday to Monday was a long ceremony at Camp Fire Light. Then, Sheriff Darin Halverson came to carry out Enbridge’s eviction notice. After peaceful negotiations, the protestors left as a procession with drums and singing. Here’s a writing about that from Tuesday night:
from Neo Gabo Benais: “The right to have ceremony under the treaties protection was honored by a county sheriff… The Northern lights task force [coordinated police response to protests]… was quick to mobilize and try to take over the easement but the sheriff held them off for 3 days. …the sheriff honored our treaties and let us have ceremony and leave in peace with zero arrests…. we ended up with 50 people choosing citations to fight for our treaties as we demand to be seen in federal court. Now that’s how you fight the black snake, together. Everyone left this action energized and not traumatized. Everyone is waiting for the next one. Howah!!!! Miigwech!!!”
Also Monday, June 15, a court decided in favor of Enbridge continuing to build. The dissent from Judge Reyes was priceless:
‘This case is about substitution. Substituting supply for demand. Substituting ‘shippers’ for ‘refineries.’ Substituting ‘pipeline capacity’ for ‘crude oil.’ Substituting conclusory, unsupported demand assumptions for reviewable ‘long-range energy demand forecasts.’ And substituting an agency’s will for its judgment.’
I’ll end this with a first-person account from the action at the pumping station. Ann Schulman writes about her own experience.
Dozens of people had been in the field all morning, dragging logs, dead trees, and rocks, onto the road and digging ditches. About eight of us, mostly Seniors, were sitting on a slab of concrete thirty yards away and drinking water in the shade of some metal structure. It was hot, over 90 degrees and none of us were inclined towards heavy lifting.
A helicopter, somebody said that it was ICE (probably so), had been flying over the area for a while and kicking up a lot of dust. After a time, people had trickled away from the field. Not everyone. Three people (that I could see) were still in it when the helicopter began a vertical decent directly onto their heads. I panicked. Didn’t the pilot see that there were people underneath him? How could he be landing? It wasn’t an empty field! I stood up and saw two figures run off to the right, somebody said that it was a woman and a girl. But a male figure disappeared in a cloud of dust beneath the helicopter. Where was he? I fought the sand and dirt blowing into my face to keep my eyes on the disappeared person. After three or four brutal seconds, a running figure darted from the haze with a helicopter a body length from the top of his head.
As I watched this person run, I remembered an image from the movie The Fog of War. Only this wasn’t a war, or a war zone. It was a peaceful protest with over a thousand civilians at the Enbridge pump house site.
My friends shook their heads in disgust. They had had enough. Machines flying into human beings, who are protecting the water through peaceful protest was way more than they wanted to see. I was too frozen inside from what had happened to notice that it was time for me to go too. My eyes had become irritated and swollen and had begun to water. And water. And water.
The next day my friends drove my car the four hours back to St. Paul, while I scheduled an emergency appointment. The closest eye clinic that could see me on such short notice was another forty-five minutes away.
The doctor asked how the dust and sand had blown into my face. I said, “It was a helicopter.” She stared for a second, not quite comprehending. “You got too close to a helicopter?” she asked. “No,” I answered. “A helicopter got too close to me. “ I added. “It was a Line 3 protest.”
She remained silent, turned her back, and typed into the computer.
Maybe she knew how dirty tar sands are. Maybe she understood about Tribal Sovereignty and genocide and wild rice, maybe she knew that the modified pipeline would cross under the headlands of the Mississippi twice, under twenty two rivers, and over two hundred bodies of water on indigenous land before arriving on the shore of Lake Superior. Probably she understood that spills happen regularly from these pipelines and the Great Lakes and world might not recover. Maybe the silence that I found deafening was actually compliance with a clinic rule about not getting involved?
“Its irritation, not abrasion,” she said after the exam. “Use water drops four times a day.”
Water. Healing. Helicopters.
Water is Life.
Spring has burst forth in the past two weeks. Everything in me welcomes it. So today just this, with Wendell Berry:
We don’t know what will happen next, though things seem to be improving as more people are vaccinated. We discuss expectations at the beginning of each event (and in advance by email). Summer activities are mostly outdoors. We expect people to be responsible if they’ve been exposed, recently traveled, have vulnerable people to protect, and so forth. Expect standard safety protocols appropriate to the situation.
May 15, Saturday, we will be planting the garden, which has been prepped by several people on May 1 and other days. Tomatoes, potatoes, butternut squash, green peppers, canteloupe, and some herbs. Morning, afternoon, or both. Send an email to Shodo, and we’ll coordinate start and stop times, lunch, what you might need, directions, and carpooling. If we get everything in, there are a few other projects involving berries, fruit trees, and foraging.
Future dates to be arranged.
We probably start in June, depending on the building permit. I’m gathering names of people, and their availability and skill levels. (Support staff is good too – for instance cooking.) Email me here, and I’ll keep you posted. We expect coming and going of people, with enough stability to help it flow smoothly. Morning zazen is offered at 6 am, optional.
The project is opening up the main floor of the house, for added sun, more space, and an extra bedroom. The main point is to create a good south wall so we can attach a solar greenhouse and stop heating with fossil fuels. A second point is an additional nice bedroom for long-term guests or residents. Because the plan is still six residents.
June 17-22 is planned for a sesshin – an intensive meditation retreat in complete silence. This may be shortened or altered in some way if construction is still going on; advance registrations will make sure that it remains in full.
For all retreats: if interested, please either click above to register, or email for information.
Wednesday night study group, Sunday afternoon discussion group, and Monday morning zazen continue as usual.
I’ve had some lovely conversations about the world. Here are links to one talk, two four-way discussions, and one interview:
Dharma talk, Everything around me is my refuge
“Simple Sacred Solutions” is a series of dialogues from Green Yoga Project. Two interviews are posted each day May 1-7, and on their website afterward. Mine will be available Wednesday, May 5 (any time). Register here; you’ll receive an email with a link, to access the talks on the given day.
And if you are engaged in the struggle for justice and human rights; if you are embraced by soil and water and growing food; if you are deep in silent meditation; if you are disheartened by your own life or discouraged by the changes in the world; if you are filled with gratitude; if you are afraid; if you are angry – whoever you are and in whatever state, know that you are held.
If you would like us to chant on behalf of yourself or a loved one, someone in danger, sick, missing, in prison, passed over, or for a cause or a concern, please ask.
I wanted to post spring flowers and updates on the garden. But too much is happening here.
I was following the processes at Line 3, the not-yet-approved pipeline that is being built rapidly anyway, to take tar sands oil through Minnesota to a Wisconsin refinery for export. Indigenous-led resistance is meeting harsh police action, paid for by Enbridge. (It’s like a cash cow for the local police.) If you want to make one phone call, or do more, here’s the link for information. (The simplest action is a call to President Biden)
And I hosted some activists for a couple of weeks after their arrests, while they quarantined for the Covid that eventually two of them had. They were ultra-cautious about contagion, extremely respectful, volunteered some labor. I learned just a little about how much work it is to be arrested, and the lives of those who make it their primary calling. Sonja Birthisel, Johnny Sanchez (taking the photo), Leif Taranta, Cody Pajic, Julie Macuga, Darius Jordan (not in picture).
Remember George Floyd, killed May 25, 2020? The next day’s peaceful memorial march was met by police brutality (and right-wing violence) and a worldwide summer of protests followed, including a lot of property damage and continuing police brutality. Next week the jury on the Derek Chauvin trial (he killed George Floyd, in Minneapolis) will receive final instructions and produce a verdict. Officials prepared for the trial and protests by erecting barricades and calling in extra forces.
It never stops. Last Sunday in Brooklyn Center (a Minneapolis suburb) Daunte Wright was shot in what should have been a routine traffic stop. This four-minute video shows a peaceful and spiritual march two days later. Every day there were protests at the police station, and on Friday with hundreds of people.
The next morning, Louie Tran says on Facebook “to my white friends who still don’t get it”
“Can’t sleep because of what happened in BC last night.
Please make a phone call or several. I would think that out-of-state calls would have extra impact as they recognize it’s a national issue. It doesn’t take long, you’ll probably talk to a machine. Here:
So there we are. I’m remembering a long-ago spring that included tulips by the sidewalk and a nuclear power plant (Three-Mile Island) at risk of melting down – and what would we do to be safe? This spring feels the same. I’m not directly in danger, but this mentally ill society, this white supremacist society endangers all of us.
Be well, be at peace, and quietly consider your own contribution to the well-being of the planet.
You’re already doing something – acknowledge yourself for it,
and if you want to do more, please do.
As we weary of the pandemic and look forward to spring – forgive my rambling. And note the recording and the events at the bottom of the page.
A gunman has shot and killed ten people in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. Less than a week earlier a gunman shot and killed eight people in massage parlors in Atlanta. Now, the state of Georgia has passed a draconian voter suppression law, and yesterday arrested a Black legislator for knocking on a door so she could witness the governor’s photo op. In Washington DC The US Senate cannot organize itself to stop minority rule (the filibuster). The Voting Rights Act is moving strictly on partisan lines, because Republicans admit they can’t win an election honestly.
The State of Minnesota has seated a jury for the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was filmed killing George Floyd, which started enormous protests, some violence, and became the occasion for more violence by police against protesters and journalists. The State has invested enormous sums in policing, fencing.
Official violence continues against people resisting Line 3 in northern Minnesota; sheriff departments are raking in the cash as Enbridge makes the mandated payments for pipeline “protection.” Line 3 is in court again and there’s some hope of legal victory. At Thacker Pass, the protest against lithium mining enters its third month of calling environmentalists to account along with mining companies.
Geneen Marie Haugen writes “I am stunned each time another hideous event exposes human depravity or psychosis or indifference for the lives of others. Every time, I (perhaps foolishly) anticipate some kind of collective awakening. …My belly aches with longing to mend what has gone awry, if only I could identify it. I want to be able to say, ‘Here is a way.’
I’m reading a book called They Thought They Were Free: the Germans, 1933-45. The stories of ordinary individuals who joined the Nazi party are chilling; the way they manipulate truth and memory is uncomfortably familiar. But here is a comment from the author’s academic friend about his own choices. On taking the loyalty oath, “That day the world was lost, and it was I who lost it.” Although it had enabled him to hide fugitives and save lives, he said “If I had refused to take the oath in 1935, it would have meant that thousands and thousands like me, all over Germany, were refusing to take it. Their refusal would have heartened millions. Thus the regime would have been overthrown.” He speaks about not being ready, not having enough faith that he might make a difference, and so he took the easier path.
We know people who took the harder path. Daniel Ellsberg escaped life in prison (unlike Reality Winner, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and even Edward Snowden in exile). Others have paid a different kind of price: Peter Norman, Australian runner supporting Carlos and Smith’s 1968 Olympic protest, lost his career and more – depression, alcoholism, and painkiller addiction after an injury. In 2000 he had no regret for standing up. Hugh Thompson, after stopping his soldiers from participating in the My Lai massacre, “was denounced as a traitor, and spent much of his life suffering from depression, PTSD, and nightmares.” And young Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were executed by the Nazis. “Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go.”
What is appropriate action? What does each of us do, in a time when things are so ? And then how do we become the people who can take the risk? When I walked along the KXL route in 2013, there was no way to predict what the results would be – and it is still not possible to say what we contributed to the eventual protection of the land. But doing it made me alive. It was hard. Afterward it was hard to go back to ordinary life. Mountains and Waters Alliance, here on the farm and writing online, feels more mundane. But if I abandoned it, I would no longer feel alive.
Spring is in the air; amid the ruins of authorized violence and voter suppression, life renews. Line 3 protests with sacred ceremony mixed with arrests and legal battles. Buddhist Justice Reporter looks deeply at the Derrick Chauvin trial. Protect Thacker Pass asks hard questions and confronts the self-deception of the environmental movement. Part of the great upswelling on behalf of the earth and our humanity, Mountains and Waters Alliance asks us to become allies with forests, mountains, and rivers instead of trying to be gods.
It’s a frightening time. So always is labor and birth. Be alive.
The months of April through June will be a work-practice period at MWA; come for what time you can, join us in zazen and in work. Covid safety continues as a priority,including quarantining in place, limited numbers, etc. In May we do construction, the first step toward solarizing the house. Meditation retreats and work retreats follow through the year; online groups, classes, and zazen continue.
Take heart. Something is rising. We are part of it, we are alive.
In spite of Covid-19, we will offer some in-person options for this year. Things may change if the pandemic worsens. Meanwhile we have online events.
Spring Work/Practice Period is an extended time for meditation, dharma discussion, and work as practice, in the context of community and the natural world. We’d like to welcome two or three people for an extended time, with more later when the weather warms. You can arrive April 1 or later, and stay to late summer. Well, for the hardy March is an option; we have plants to start indoors and maple trees to tap. Please read the more detailed description here, and plan to talk with me before you actually come. Also take a look at the visitor information.
Self-quarantine on site for up to two weeks, depending on individual circumstances. That self-quarantine can be done mostly outdoors, or in your room, with meals and other activities organized in a safe way. Like the traditional Zen tangaryo (which consists of simply sitting meditation all day), it provides a chance to get settled in this place while not having a lot of obligations. After a few days we’ll likely be able to find some kinds of solo work for you.
Volunteers are also welcome during this time.
This includes a volunteer weekend April 16-20 (come for part or all). Schedules are still in flux with weather, there will be other weekend opportunities.
Please see the calendar for later events:
Even in this pandemic time, I hope several of you will be able to come.
In this time of fear, when so many people are literally refugees and when any one of us might join them. How do we find refuge, and how do we offer refuge?
Refuge means shelter from danger. It comes from “to flee,” “back,” and “a place for.” The danger is unspecified, just fleeing back to a place.
We will start by recognizing that we are all refugees in some way.
There are people who have been burned out of their homes, flooded out of their communities, or who are running from war, starvation, gang violence, and the rest and are turned away at borders of all kinds, or imprisoned, raped, separated from their children… the things done in the name of “protecting our own people” are cruel beyond imagining. The average American, in the richest large country in the world, is one paycheck or one medical disaster away from financial catastrophe, which I mean homelessness and hunger.
But we also seek refuge from trouble in our minds; fear and anger, confusion, not knowing what to do next, looking for someone to trust. Dealing with external danger goes better when we address our internal troubles.
You can’t take refuge in denial, but that’s what people try to do. Buddhism has been mistaken for a means of escape, and is often misunderstood as: “Calm down and you will be all right.” Or “Nothing is real, it’s all created by your mind.” Neither of those is Buddhism, even though calming down is always a good idea and thought has a powerful influence. Refuge is not escape.
Traditionally Buddhists take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
“Buddha” is shorthand for “being awake.” People think we take refuge in a person who is awake, but that’s just symbolism for being awake ourselves. That’s more than the politically-correct “woke” but they have a connection. “Dharma” has three meanings: the teaching, truth, and phenomena. It’s translated into Japanese as Ho, meaning law – the natural law of how things work. You can take refuge in things being as they are: simple enough, difficult enough. And “Sangha” means group, means community, generally referring to the community of beings who are on this path of awakening. Not the people we like, but the ones who will support each other when the need comes. Just as in a blizzard people all go and shovel out stuck cars, in a flood those with boats go rescue those without, in a power outage we gather in places that still have heat – sangha every day means commitment to help each other take refuge from our own mental illusions, from selfishness and anger and everything that ruins life. Like pebbles in a rock tumbler, we
are not necessarily comfortable in sangha, but it’s what we need.
I was sitting zazen this morning, and thoughts were wandering. Then I noticed, and looked at the thought of the moment. Looked at it with kindness. I didn’t try to fix it, I admitted it was there, a self-criticism, and I just sat with it for a while.
You can take refuge in the way things are. Take refuge in kindness. Take refuge in knowing you’re not alone.
That’s a start.
Next weekend I’m offering a one-day retreat on Refuge on Saturday, and a talk on Refuge Sunday morning. You can find both here: https://redclaysangha.org/. “Sunday morning service” takes you to the link for the talk. register for the retreat ($20) lower on the page “Retreat with Shodo Spring.”
The campground picture was a physical place of refuge during the Compassionate Earth Walk in 2013 – refuge from heat and thirst. We now have some photos and blog posts from that walk, here. The large picture is Eagle Springs Lodge, northern Nebraska, which offered walkers a much-needed refuge later.
The Unist’ot’en Camp picture shows the first building that hosted indigenous people defending the land to which they belong. http://unistoten.camp/
If you’re not already subscribed to the blog, know that we’ve fixed the glitch and you can sign up to receive posts through email.
Events will be posted on the website soon.
Yesterday armed white supremacists stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of electoral college votes.
Washington police, well skilled in crowd control, offered no advance resistance; things were allowed to escalate beyond control. After fact-checking: It may or may not be true that police opened barricades to let in the mob; one police posed for selfies with an invader.
Only one invader was killed, while fourteen police were wounded. Rather than arresting the invaders, tasing, teargassing, firehosing, or shooting them as they would with peaceful protesters of color, they gently pressured them to leave after hours of vandalism. Of course they didn’t want to create martyrs. They could have done much better. The Right is blaming the whole thing on Antifa.
And most of the worst public officials and politicians abandoned Trump at the last, along with several of his staff resigning. I expect the man will be removed, one way or another.
“Choose Democracy” calls it a failed coup attempt: the structures held. The fact that judges denied all of the efforts to overturn the vote by legal maneuvers, that the National Guard finally was called and that the process continued in Congress – they rank these as essential.
Van Jones says the question is whether this is an end or a beginning: the end of something bad, or the beginning of something worse. Our collective actions will decide that. Choose Democracy does not recommend public rallies at this time, while the supremacists are so volatile.
I found myself relieved when the police finally showed up. Learning from history: Hitler suspended civil liberties after the Reichstag Fire provided an excuse – and there’s some evidence that the Reichstag Fire was set or encouraged by Nazis. Let us not allow this to be our Reichstag Fire, in which we encourage Pence toward draconian measures which will later be used everywhere. (Civil liberties were never restored during the Nazi Regime.) We need to keep this in mind as we move forward.
Crisis is opportunity. Might this be a time of turning toward a humane society? As the inherent violence in the status quo is so very visible – coming from people who sincerely believe they are launching the next American Revolution – may we begin to dismantle its foundations in hate, in the illusion of being masters of the world, in juvenile insistence on getting what we want no matter what cost to others? (Seen: “Your health is not more important than my liberty” – seriously, about masks.) May we begin? And how?
I don’t know a lot. I’m sure of a few things: Arguing with neighbors and family will not help; presenting information will not help because they won’t believe it. Being human with those you already know might help. Being human and kind with all of those we are close to, with our families and friends, with co-workers for change, will surely help; look for what you can praise rather than what to criticize. Be the resourced one, not the panicked one. Take care of yourself with rest, meditation, physical care. Support your body with protein and vegetables, not sugar and alcohol. Ask for kindness from each other, especially when panic, rage, or distrust try to take over. And pray, meditate, and again. Whether you pray with tobacco, incense, holy water, movement, song, or just words, pray. We are not alone. The key mistake of the culture that once walked away from an authoritarian God-image was to choose itself as replacement god. We are not gods, and we don’t have to be. Every living thing supports us. Let us go home, return to our family among trees and grasses, mountains and streams, seek help from them.
We need to learn this. Pandemics and climate change are waiting in the wings, and will require even more of us. Find the still place deep within, and nourish it with all you have. Practice.
The year called 2020 will probably be remembered for a long time for its hardship. May our descendants know it also as a key point in the Great Turning. We don’t know yet.
We may recognize the feelings of William Butler Yeats when he wrote in 1919 after The Great War (WWI) ended, while his Ireland home was still in turmoil, while the future was unknown:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
It seems now, as 2021 begins, that the center is holding; yet there is still no certainty. I expect Biden and Harris to be sworn in and a new administration to begin the task of re-establishing a level of stability. But we can’t be sure about all those Americans who are waving guns, threatening or shooting people in the name of liberty, calling themselves militia – or sometimes police. We don’t know what’s happened to the mood of the country. And we don’t yet know whether the Senate will change hands, and whether the change of power will be peaceful. Not knowing.
We have both a vaccine and a new strain of the virus. Tired as we are of lockdowns and deaths, it’s not over. We don’t know when. Nor when another might arise, because industrial civilization continues to create the situations that give rise to these dangerous beings. Not knowing.
Meanwhile, racism is in the open. The insistence on destroying the planet for profit is revealed. And years of resistance costing lives and dollars begin to be rewarded in court, and by banks and investors dropping fossil fuel projects, and by mainstream news and the general public learning to say the words. It was hard but necessary. Much more not-knowing ahead.
Of course it’s hard. I’d like to be as naive as when I was a child, but the world is not secure. It never was, except in the minds of privileged people who didn’t know their lives were based on enslavement and death of others.
So my hope for a return from near-anarchy is balanced by certainty that the old “normal” is not good enough; that old ways of thinking will take us back to inequality, death, and climate change. That the Industrial Growth Society (Joanna Macy 2009) must end. Whatever it takes.
To those who lost loved ones, or health, or jobs, or small businesses, or their homes – I apologize for what may sound uncaring. We don’t know what comes next, or who will yet lose what. Our actions create the world. If we are willing to throw away a single life, those actions will lead back to what we are hoping to escape.
Everything has changed. An “Introduction to Zen” weekend retreat turned into an online class that still meets weekly. The “Gift of Fearlessness” group, originally a response to the pandemic, continues to meet, supporting each other as we face what we cannot know. We’ve had online zazen (now only Mondays) and two in-person retreats in this spacious place – “land care” and Zen sesshin. People are donating, and some volunteers have come in spite of the pandemic. Today we have several inches of snow, glittering in the sunlight. It’s been a good time for quiet, and for working on the book.
Plans for this coming year are necessarily uncertain. But here is a rough outline. It includes some things happening elsewhere, that I recommend and plan to attend.
Thursday, January 7, “The New Ecosattva Path” talk by David Loy. 5:30-7:30 Central Time, at Zen Center North Shore in Massachusetts: The link is on that page, and they request registration and donation.
January 10: online talk at Sanshin Zen Community, topic “Embrace and sustain all beings”. Zazen 8:10, talk 9:10 Central Time. Look here for the link.
February 20: one-day retreat with Red Clay Sangha in Atlanta – topic “Refuge.” Register here.
February 21: dharma talk with Red Clay Sangha in Atlanta. Sitting starts 8 am or after; talk begins 9:30 Central Time. Information and link is here.
Wednesday evenings 6:30-8 “Introduction to Zen” class, about 6-7 participants, studying Okumura’s Living by Vow. We’ll finish the book by spring, and then make a decision. (Ask to be added to the email list.)
Sunday evenings 4:30-5:45 “The Gift of Fearlessness” reading and discussing various offerings, related to current events. (Ask to be added to the email list.)
Third Sunday evening 6:00-8 Heart Sutra, advanced class, taught by Luca Valentino with assistance from Shodo. (by invitation only)
Maple sugaring – tapping trees and boiling sap – early spring (February – April, depending on weather)
Construction – late spring/summer – making the building more sustainable. There may be volunteer opportunities connected with this.
Fall work weekend, probably in October – harvest, land care, firewood, or as needed
Sewing retreat – probably in 2021 – for people preparing to receive the Buddhist precepts
April 16-20: land care retreat, or just work time – buckthorn management, part 1 – cutting
April-May (weather dependent): buckthorn management, part 2 – burning, with professional supervision
May 13-23: Shodo away studying – covid-dependent
June 18-22: sesshin (limited to 5 people, or online, covid-dependent)
July 16-20: Shodo will be on private retreat
August 13-16: land care retreat – specifics to be determined
September 17-21: sesshin (limited to 5 people, or online, covid-dependent)
November 11-22: Shodo away studying – covid-dependent
December 1-8: Rohatsu sesshin: Hope we can be indoors and sit together peacefully.
Not-knowing is most intimate. As we make our way through what we hope will be a public health recovery and a return to stable though still corporate governance , we are surfing on unknowable waves. Those of us who are not hungry or being shot at, it is ours to move carefully, with respect for those who are at great risk. Never in my life have I felt less sure of what will come next, except maybe that time when my bicycle went out of control going downhill.
This is what Zen master Dizang was addressing when he said “not-knowing is most intimate.” It’s a way of life, highly recommended. Yet, when forced into it, simply admitting it is so can help us make our way.
As I write, we are already in the longest night. Winter solstice officially happens this year at 4:03 am, Central Time, Monday, December 21.
We are also in a worldwide crisis, and a national crisis here in the United States, the likes of which have not been seen for a very long time. It’s not only the unbelievable actions of the President. Not only the pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of people and the impoverishment of millions. There is also an environmental crisis that is not going away, and climate change is galloping right along. The Biden election is supposed to be a return to normal, with a few improvements. To many of us, it’s doubtful whether we’ll ever return – or that we should. We need a new and different normal, for the benefit of all life on earth.
Some of us intend to find a way of life that belongs to the natural world instead of battling it. This will be a huge change in the ways that we live. Convenience can no longer be a priority. We, of course, mostly don’t know how to forage for food or any other activities of living without our massive industries. Yet people have lived this way before, and generally preferred it. And some of us are re-membering, re-learning, or learning new.
Just now, it also feels like something is moving on another level. Three examples in four weeks: “Federal land manager pulls plug on Utah tar sand lease” because a contractor in their own office had a conflict of interest – which they’d ignored for at least ten years. Alaska’s Pebble Mine was finally denied a permit by the Army Corps of Engineers. An offshore oil drilling project in the Arctic was stopped by the U.S. Court of Appeals. I begin to expect the end of Minnesota’s Line 3 project too, while dozens of people are freezing and praying to block it. (Here’s a link for Line 3 resistance.)
Solstice is always a time for making change. This beautiful essay by Sarah Sunshine Manning of the NDN Collective invites us to it as a blessing.
This year, there’s something extra beyond the annual tradition. This year, we’re invited to set intentions for the coming twenty years. The Saturn-Jupiter conjunction is here, will influence the whole day Monday, focused at 12:18 pm Central Time. scary times. Imagine creating the next twenty years.
Reflect on how the country, the world, the state, your local community and family, might be in 2040, if blessed by the full power of our love and intention, our joining with every conscious being – whether that be plants, animals, spirits, rivers, mountains – or one divine being of your own belief. Take some quiet time, whatever you can, and offer your prayer, your ceremony, your sacred fire, your sacred intention, and give your own heart to creating that way.
Then follow those intentions and prayers with actions. All of us. Together let us create the new world.