- Mountains And Waters
May 27, 2018
On Zen, religion, chanting, and wearing the robes
Six weeks ago I noticed that chanting the Dai Hi Shin Dharani is an action that reaches into the very structure of the universe. It DOES something. I started paying attention to this while chanting every morning. It began to feel like a gift, from me into the foundation of all being. I thought of this specifically about the Dai Hi Shin Dharani, long known as a magical chant to bring well-being, composed of ancient sounds that have no meaning in any modern language.
The Heart Sutra has a similar reputation, and I tried it out, chanting in Sino-Japanese with the thought that English words would distract my intention. It wasn’t so clear.
Then, yesterday, I read some words from Martin Prechtel, teacher of indigenous wisdom. He said that whenever you receive something from the gods, you must offer them something. Receiving something includes food, clothing, shelter – everything is received, and must be paid for. What humans have to offer is what we make ourselves. He particularly spoke of beauty, art, and song. And yesterday I went into the woods, forgetting my tobacco (which I offer instead of incense, for several reasons), and then wanted to make an offering. I remembered Martin’s words, and sang a song. I didn’t think, at that moment, of offering one of the Zen chants.
This morning I made sure I had offerings, the usual ones: flowers, the best water I’ve got (my only contribution is bringing it), and a candle flame. I did the usual morning service: three prostrations, the Heart Sutra in English, followed by its dedication to “every being and place,” and the Dai Hi Shin Dharani, with its long dedication to Buddhas, ancestors, spirits of many kinds, and then several lists of humans and nonhumans. I listened to the words and felt them as an offering. The English was a vehicle not an obstacle. My voice and meaning were directly a gift.
After chanting like this for over thirty years, finally I’m learning its meaning. And more. Religion, “to bind back,” means binding ourselves to what is sacred, to what is beyond cognitive understanding. Martin spoke of our offerings as payments to the gods. There are some things his people just don’t do because they’re too expensive – not materially but in terms of time, offerings, rituals – so they have no cars or cellphones. I intend to learn more about that sense of balance. Right now, it looks to me like this: Being in relationship involves giving and receiving. A relationship based on buying and selling, on exact exchange, is hollow – like most commercial transactions in the world where I live. A relationship based on unequal giving and receiving is an unequal relationship – appropriate perhaps for parent and child, but otherwise exploiting. A relationship with generous giving and joyful receiving, in both directions, is what we want. And that is the kind of relationship I want to have with the universe as a whole, and with all the people in it.Zazen also is an offering. I’ve said before that to sit zazen is to consciously participate in the great act of creating each other, all beings in the universe, that act which goes on with or without our knowledge. Now its quality as offering appears. I sit down, I offer myself, my whole self, to participate in the mutual co-creation – which is also my whole self.
AND – wearing the robe. Now I see more of why I wear the robe every morning for zazen and service. It acknowledges. It places this human body and mind into the sacred context, as one who offers. Remembering that the first time I wanted to wear the okesa was when I watched Katagiri Roshi bowing at the altar while we all chanted the names of the ancestors. That day, I could feel the energy flowing through his moving body toward the altar and up, out to the universe. That day, I wanted to take that place and let the energy flow through me.
That’s the difference between philosophy and religion. Relationship. Love. Gratitude. Offering. There is nothing but offering.
Last Monday I returned from 10 days of Zen – first, teaching in Columbus, Ohio, where my student Don Brewer lives and practices. He and Marge hosted me magnificently, and a total of perhaps 40 people came to the events – a climate change workshop and an all-day sit being among them. Between times, mostly I rested, and socialized with a few people. I don’t know why I was so tired. But this teaching – it requires something, and I’m not accustomed to it. I’d found myself unable to plan. Friday evening, I was full of anxiety – having to create the workshop as we went along, even though I’d written an outline. I heard it was good, and then relaxed a little. And then it became clear what to say on Sunday, and that was easier. I liked that talk, and I’d like to retrieve it.
I’d like to retrieve many of my talks, now that I’m managing to record them on my phone. The “learning new technology” thing is a barrier. I’ve learned lots of technology, and you always have to learn another one. So I try to get the recordings onto my laptop, hoping some day for the energy or for help to process and share them.
And it would really be better to write things as I go. That was over a week ago, and it’s faded. I’ll try harder.
From Columbus, Don drove me to Terre Haute, Indiana, where I visited my old friend in prison. He’s been on Death Row for years, has exhausted all his appeals, and keeps thinking he’ll “get a date” some time soon. His life hangs on national politics and what the President cares about – and what Congress is willing to do. He renewed his promise to let me know, so I can try to be there.
Then the treat: a 5-day teaching retreat, called Genzo-e, with my teacher Shohaku Okumura and friends Taigen Leighton and Byakuren Judith Ragir. Judith was one of the first people I knew in Zen, and is ten years ahead of me. I always admired her, but now with my own stability in practice I listened and heard the depth and power of her teaching. The text was “Gyo-butsu Igi,” a writing by ancestor Dogen, about practice-buddhas, dignified conduct or (different translation) awesome presence. I don’t know what to say, but hopefully I’ll write something in “study group” later.
I pitched my tent on the grass behind the dorm, and learned how to get there on time. In support of me, they didn’t burn incense while I was there. But the windows were closed most of the time – cold, heat, rain, or outside noise during lecture – and I had to wear my mask nearly all the time. The first day I tried to cheat, and had a very bad evening – so I kept the mask on after that unless the air was completely clear. I hadn’t thought I could tolerate wearing it for five days, but, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, I did, and the zazen was supportive and the talks were brilliant, exciting, and nourishing. And it’s lovely to just be a student, with no responsibilities other than to keep the schedule and harmonize with the other practitioners. I left happy – and wondering whether it’s realistic to return. But I will, in the same way, because my teacher plans to retire in five years. I envy him a bit: at 70, he has a whole life work behind him. At 70, I’m just beginning mine. Probably started at 65, when I led the Compassionate Earth Walk, a life-changing experience. But Mountains and Waters, still in its very early phases, is my life work. Whatever it turns out to be – two years ago I went on a retreat in the mountains with David Loy and Johann Robinson, and everything turned upside down. Last year I spoke with some ancient characters carved on a hillside, and things moved again. This summer I’m taking a longer retreat, in the mountains again, to allow things to turn again, allow myself to be moved.
I ran a Facebook fundraiser for Mountains and Waters Alliance (MWA). I thought about $2000 would really be enough to pay for building the website and maybe operating it for a year or so. But FB says ask for small amounts so people will feel good. I set a goal of $1000. Then FB says “offer matching funds” so I offered to match the first $500. The bummer – $500 actually was donated, FB tells me to produce on my pledge so I donate $500 – and then FB says I’ve met my goal! Grrrr. I donate money to MWA all the time, they’re not supposed to count my donation. So I wrote a note and one more person has donated… But the $950 in unsolicited donations earlier this year will probably take care of the website.
I hate asking people for money, or any kind of self-promotion. I know too many people raising money $5 at a time for food, for gas, for bail money for front-line activism – or because they’re being bombed in Gaza. I feel guilty, then consider it and know that I’m doing what I think is most useful – So I went back to work, as a psychotherapist, which is both well-paid and something I enjoy. Well, I do enjoy it, but the money isn’t coming in the way I wanted, and the work is expanding way beyond the allotted two days per week. Because I have to keep learning, and because there’s administrative work even though the clinic does the billing. So I’m tired a lot and trying to figure out ways to cut back. When successful, my total (including Social Security) will be over $20,000 a year – comfortable to live on, but not enough to move forward with MWA or upgrading the farm.
I’ll post just a note in “Study Group” because I promised weekly. I don’t have time to write a proper blog post. I feel just fine about prioritizing in-person human contacts, but this other stuff gets lost. Wishing I had a “social media” person. Oh well. Spring is here and I’ll be outdoors with friends shortly.
In a facebook conversation, I found a new expression of what this work is about. So often I get discouraged, disheartened. Something like this popped into my mind. And, since I’m trying to write a pitch for a fundraising campaign, I made words trying to express it.
Imagine every tree and mountain, bird and earthworm and mushroom, every river and every inch of earth engaged in a great act of giving life to each other, to everyone, all the time.
Imagine it’s really that way, and we’re the only ones refusing to be part of it.
The evidence is mounting up: this is the way the natural world works. Let’s join it.
Daydreaming about visiting Daniela Myozen at Furnace Mountain Zen Center. Such a long way, so much fossil fuels and I dislike driving. Daydreaming about walking or bicycling. Imagining a walking pilgrimage: leave home. Stop at Terre Haute and visit my friend in prison there. Walk to Sanshinji, along a road I’ve driven so often. Walk to Louisville to meet a new friend. Pilgrimage to Port Royal, honoring Wendell Berry, if he would accept a visitor. Walk to Furnace Mountain.
I thought then I’d walk to my grandchildren in Atlanta, but that adds almost 400 miles and I’ll be tired by then. I’ll get a ride to Atlanta. So the walk is 843 miles.
A lot of beautiful roads. I have walked 10 miles a day, but could work my way up to 20. – so it’s something over 42 days. Call it 2 months, with rest stops and all. Carrying a pack. Need a super-light tent – or finish making that bivy sack I started on the Compassionate Earth Walk in 2013. And need to be in shape. (*Update: I bought a super-light tent, under 3 pounds).
I would have to be really retired, and need to leave the farm in somebody’s care. I want to do it. I could start exercising now, start getting in shape. Walking. Biking. As much as possible.
A modest proposal: Since it takes 5 adults to raise an emotionally healthy human (said by some, makes sense to me) we could reduce population rather quickly by changing the way we do child-raising. Instead of one or two parents exhausted by their children (these days, including paid day care and the rest, and the endless shuttling to camps and lessons for those who can afford it), how about 5 couples have two children, raise them together, put their joy into them. Of course they will want to have a bigger family – a crowd for the children to grow with – each set of 10 adults/2 children could have a crowd, maybe a total of 50 adults/10 children or so, for the informal kinds of schooling, playing, ball games or gardens or walks in the wood….
Another advantage: you could have children without having to be married. Big advantage: HELP! And saving the planet is not to be ignored.
Having those kids at age 30 instead of age 20 is also helpful. Reduces the multiplier effect.
In one generation each billion could become 200 million. In the second generation that billion is 40 million; in the third generation it’s 8 million, and in the fourth generation we’re down to a livable population.
Of course it’s too slow for the actual pace of climate change. So what?
Let me add – this is for the wealthy countries, places where people can expect Social Security and other systems, not needing their children to support them in old age. Start here. The others will follow when that matter of old age support is handled.
I’m preparing to teach a class at the Northfield Buddhist Center. It’s an Introduction to Zen series, and this class is called “What’s it good for?” I actually didn’t know what I was going to say. I went looking in books. (Sure, the answer is there inside me. But it’s nice to have company, companions, and it’s nice to ask for help sometimes.)
First I found Sawaki Roshi (my Dharma great-grandfather) say “transform your life from a half-baked, incomplete way to a genuine way.” And some more.
Then in Living by Vow, by my own teacher, I found a bookmark that took me to his story of when he was physically unable to sit zazen. in the way he had been doing for years. He says “My previous practice had been an attempt to satisfy a need for status and benefit. I wanted to live a better life than ordinary people.” Unable to do it because of his physical condition, he became perplexed and depressed. He was stuck. Then, one day, he sat down on a cushion for no reason. “I didn’t sit because of the Buddha’s teaching. I didn’t need a reason to sit; I just sat. … Finally I felt free of my understanding…free to be myself and nothing more.”
I’m still sitting with the arrogance of youth and health. Still living, acting, practicing in that way – wouldn’t have noticed it. I won’t say that he was fortunate to have a back injury in his 20’s, and I always think that I am fortunate to be vigorous and healthy in my 60’s. But the arrogance! May I soon be free of the arrogance of youth and health.
Maribel Barajas Cortes, 25, a Green Party candidate in Mexico, was murdered. Since last fall, 60 candidates in Mexico have been murdered. https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Mexico-Green-Party-Candidate-Becomes-Latest-Victim-of-Pre-elections-Killings-20180412-0020.html
The United States launched missiles at Syria yesterday, supposedly about the chemical weapons blamed on Syria’s president. Britain and France also sent weapons. Russia threatens to destroy the aircraft carrier from which the missiles were sent. People in the U.S. are organizing demonstrations: SpringAction2018.org
A poll on my facebook page asks “Which would you rather die of? Climate change or World War III?”
Republicans in Congress are retiring in large numbers. Maybe they hope not to be there for the impeachment vote. Unauthorized missile attacks is said to be an impeachable offense.
It’s mid-April, snow is coming down, and friends in Nebraska and South Dakota are in blizzards, some with power out. Climate change is really here. How many cities and countries now face water shortages? Floods? Hunger?
And the condition of the nation, of the world, of civilization is being exposed, even as the corruption of the current U.S. administration is being exposed.
Thich Nhat Hanh, via Maia Duerr:
In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats can sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says. One such person can save the lives of many.
Hearing there are bombs in the air
I vow with all beings
To breathe them into my own body
And stop these madmen before it’s too late
There’s a temptation to cling as long as possible to the appearance of normalcy. But nothing is normal, unless lies, death, toxic food, rampant murder, extreme poverty with extreme wealth, and the destruction of the living world are what you call normal. I choose not to call them normal, but pathological. The veneer of civilization is coming undone. The brutality behind it already started appearing as refugees were refused everywhere, and with the violence at Standing Rock and in Gaza, and as the appearance of a safety net is destroyed in the U.S. – enough.
This note on what settler privilege means – yes, that includes me – and then some more good thoughts.
“Having settler privilege means that some combination of one’s economic security, U.S. citizenship, sense of relationship to the land, mental and physical health, cultural integrity, family values, career aspirations, and spiritual lives are not possible—literally!—without the territorial dispossession of Indigenous peoples.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbCar3aGadc&feature=youtu.be John Trudell on European tribes and what happened
How to forgive myself and my ancestors for becoming the colonizers – because we were the colonized. He describes how captured people first submitted their bodies, then submitted their minds and beliefs – and then all is lost.
American Jews are harshly criticizing Israel. Finally.
“Right to exist” is questioned. Well it should be. One nomadic pastoral people, Jews, millennia ago, decided to settle down on land occupied by another pastoral people, Palestinians whatever they called them then. I believe God told them to do it. They claimed ownership of the land.
Nobody owns the land.
This is the first and fundamental mistake.
Like Europeans entering the Americas, claiming it because the inhabitants knew better than to objectify and “own” it – it’s not exactly the same but worth mentioning. The Doctrine of Discovery is closer – Christians have the right to kill and dispossess everybody else… Jews, the Chosen People, have that right.
Like Europeans enclosing the commons, so a person could not live off the land as they had done for generations, – but here it’s by race, not only by class.
May this awakening continue. May American Jews remember what Judaism really means, and may they remember that we are wanderers on the face of the earth.
And the Keystone pipeline refuses to behave properly. I thought, “Is it possible that the earth herself is rising up?”
Trees talk to each other and support each other. Forester Suzanne Simard. I look forward to the day she gets the Nobel Prize, because she already deserves it. EVERYONE IS A SENTIENT BEING!
Patagonia is suing the Trump administration for undoing monument protection for several lands. There has never been a legal case on this before. I was just encouraged. And I’ll look into buying from Patagonia, the next time I actually buy new stuff.
This morning, chanting the Dai Hi Shin Dharani, I brought my mind back from wandering to give full attention to what I was doing. Making sounds that are meant to produce magical effects, which translate to words praising Avalokiteshvara, the great being of compassion.
Suddenly it became real. With full attention, it became clear that my chanting was addressing the very source of the universe, the locus of all causes and conditions. Suddenly I was certain that there is nothing else I need to do. I can’t tell you what that means, I need to find out.
Here are some groups – and approaches – that I think are effective.
Those are all environmental groups. I’ve chosen to focus on climate change even though I don’t ignore the rest. I always choose to work with the cause.
Ancient communities combined farming with wild food gathering https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/lets-go-wild-how-ancient-communities-resisted-new-farming-practices
David Abram – Alliance for Wild Ethics
I woke up this morning with the thought: “Is this the most useful thing I can be doing?” I spend a lot of time on the farm – taking care of it, thinking about it, managing people who work with me on it, finding volunteers, looking for money – my whole life revolves around it now. That question often arises.
This morning, there was an answer. It was very clear. The answer was “No.” The most useful thing I could be doing is teaching Zen.
I’m not going to make a lot of words around that right now. The answer came as it is. I will say that for me teaching Zen is the way to point directly to what matters, to the liberation of the spirit.
The question remains whether this farm is the most useful setting for my teaching of Zen. That question will take care of itself.
Strawberries started about a week ago, sweet and delicious. Rabbits found them a few days later. Yesterday we started to put up chicken wire, dug into the ground and along the bottom of the fence. Meanwhile the wild raspberries have started, and the peas.
In the past week, after 9 people were murdered by a young white man who pretended he was coming to pray with them, was it the 8th or the 9th southern Black church up into flames? Some of them were not found to be arson. How can this be? I ask. What world are we living in, where Black people are ready targets, where church burnings have resumed after a 50 year break, and – I will not list.
We’re still asking donations for the solar panels (which really means, for the whole endeavor), here: http://www.youcaring.com/mountains-and-waters-alliance-362647#goto-updates A tax-exempt option should arrive soon, and will be announced. I watch some of my friends organizing, traveling to the front lines wherever they are, and I think this venture is tame. But those friends are the ones who encourage me most. Mountains and Waters (the alliance, the farm, the Zen community) is a matter of building a space which is to be used – first for the opening of consciousness, aka the practice of Zen and all its relatives, second for learning and teaching a way to live in harmony with the planet, and finally for a refuge when refuge is needed. I have accepted responsibility for food and making shelter, hard as it is for me.
In the orchard, we had put up a roost for hawks and owls, inviting them to hunt the gophers – but so far only tiny birds have landed there. We have a couple years before the fruit trees are big enough to be interesting to the gophers. So mulching is the focus, protecting the baby trees from extremely vigorous weeds and grasses.
I’m reading Forever Free, a book on the Reconstruction era, during and after the U.S. Civil War. I’m struck by how lively and hopeful people were, by the sense of creativity and a new start, by Congress’s willingness to do things that would today be considered radical. That time it was President Andrew Johnson who stopped it. Last night, a film on Daniel Ellsberg, and I thought how today he would have been imprisoned – the illegal spying on him would be legal now, and he would be imprisoned or exiled like Manning or Snowden.
Nights are cold, days are warm and beautiful, and it rains often enough that the plants are vigorous. It’s a summer paradise.
Droughts are elsewhere, nearly the whole state of Alaska is burning as is much of Canada, California is running out of water while Texas floods, and island nations are preparing to relocate.
On last week’s volunteer day, two of us went into the woods and pulled out buckthorn (vastly satisfying to see the woods opening up) while one worked on mulching the orchard. But next time (July 25, and then August 15) we’ll need to focus on the tame areas – orchard, berries, garden – weeds, deer protection, rabbit fencing and ever more mulch. I handle it in two ways: T.R., working with me part time, has taken on more and more responsibility. And I just let go, again and again. The rain has been an incredible blessing.
This month’s retreat will be July 20-22. In place of the August retreat, I will spend some days on the Love Water Not Oil tour http://www.honorearth.org/love_water_not_oil in northern Minnesota. I’m hoping some people will come with me, making this act of solidarity and prayer the first official event of Mountains and Waters Alliance.
In order to support the farm until more people come to live here, I’ll be going back to work – private practice – in a way that hopefully will support the larger goal.
I’ve added a poster of the vow, the text of the brochure, for those who might like.
Aspiring to shorter posts….
Today it is warm outside, warm enough to just stand there and breathe and enjoy, and tonight it is still warm enough to stand outside and stare at the stars for a long time.
Everything is melting. Thus we have put up some barricades to prevent the mud from inundating the driveway and the neighbors. It will truly be a great thing when this insulation project is done and the earth back in its place.
Saturday I tapped some trees for sugaring. They were mostly box elder, a kind of maple, and a few black walnut. Today there is a little sap in the nearest bucket. I haven’t yet built the evaporator (from an old water heater tank) or set up any of that equipment, but there are still some days for that. The supplies are ordered, except I need to collect more buckets from bakeries.
I’m recovering from a car accident. This is the second time that I’ve been overwhelmingly busy and had an accident that, though primarily inconvenient, took time and made things even harder. The worst is over: I have a shop to fix the car, and a paid-for rental car; I’ve had an Ortho-Bionomy session which helped a lot, and am able to have more. And I’m cutting back on the amount of sugaring, to get my tasks within reason.
This evening I met with a Resilience group. We’ve shared learning about practical ways to deal with crisis, particularly focusing on possible climate events. Today one person mentioned Joanna Macy’s three responses to climate change: holding actions (also called direct action – trying to stop the destruction), creating alternative societies, and consciousness change. Everyone in the room is focused on one or both of the latter two; still there was much thoughtful discussion. While we talked, I thought about just how completely this is what the farm is about: offering an inspiring model of another way of life, AND deepening consciousness into the way we are simply part of all life. And I felt grateful to be part of a group that has such conversations.
Blessings to you all as we enter another spring in this time of change.
It’s a little warmer today. Sunny. The days seem very long – light by 6 am and still very light at 6 pm.
I just spent three days at the MOSES conference – Midwest Organic and Sustainable Educational Services – and four days before that in sitting meditation.
Something very restless has settled down. What’s strange is that I felt the settling after getting home from a very busy, interactive, noisy conference with over 3000 people. After the meditation retreat, I was still irritable. And I was starting to question the reality of my thoughts, to want to stop believing them. (Of course I know my thoughts are just thoughts, but I am often caught believing them anyway.) There was a little opening – and then I was thrown into the maelstrom of the conference, exciting and exhausting. Somehow, by the end of the conference I was at peace.
Several people are coming this spring, some thinking about living here now or later. This raises so many hopes – and hope is so powerful. I will do my best to maintain equanimity as we test each other out. It’s so much easier to join a community than to join one person and imagine what the community will be like. Yet that’s what we’re doing at this stage.
And there are little things. Research and decision-making about the water heater, and on photovoltaics, and on maple syrup equipment. Continuing to seek apprentices and a possible farm manager. Fundraising, brochures, and website just get to wait for a while. Now we have an appointment for the water heater, likelihood of some skilled farm help, and a barter for maple syrup equipment. I brought the seed-starting things into the house. It moves slowly, yet it moves. Soon we will actually be doing maple syrup, then planting the orchard, deer fences, foraging, living outdoors again.
The basic task is staying calm, allowing energy to come together at its own pace – while taking care of the day to day stuff. One of these days I will get that grassroots appeal out; one of these days I will contact the foundations that have been suggested. Of course you can always join iGive and let your purchases come here – they’ll give me $5 for everybody who joins and actually shops by March 31, and you can send a few dollars through Paypal – use VairochanaFarm@riseup.net to get to the right place. (Klutzy, I know. A few people have just up and sent me money for the farm, without being asked. I fantasize about asking on Facebook and having thousands of dollars show up. But I will do a real campaign, just as soon as all the fires are out. Probably before – that might be too long. The water heater will be $1354.
The photos are from mid-February but it still looks the same. I can’t imagine spring. But the movements of spring are here – people, energy, even possible markets for our nettles and mushrooms and syrup. And inside me spring is starting; I’m able to work again.
Thank you all!
It’s just like this today…
The water heater is indeed broken, and at 20+ years old it makes no sense to spend $400 fixing it. I had planned to install a solar hot water system anyway. But I was going to do that when it was convenient. So it looks like I’ll be taking sponge baths for a while. In principle this is fine with me; hot water is one of our biggest luxuries. In reality it’s a bit uncomfortable and inconvenient. I’ll be bumming showers and laundry when I can.
The questions are: Will the Weatherization Program be willing to help me with solar hot water instead of propane? (They’re supposed to be about sustainability.) If not, will I give in and let them install the evil fossil fuel appliance? And, either way, how long will it take them to get around to it?
And the other questions are: Where did I put that solar camp shower? Will my visitors get upset if I don’t have conventional hot water by the time they arrive?
A string of visitors are coming this spring, for visits of a day, a week, a month or more. I’m excited about that, and about them. Plenty of room for more. Also, I’m talking with various government people about conservation programs and other things, and happy to have help making plans. (There WILL be a group weekend of replacing buckthorn with friendly plants – stay tuned. Maybe April.)
I won’t bore with organizational discussions – seems to me I said enough about that last week. Or climate change information, even though it keeps coming. There’s a quote from Ram Dass: “We’re all just walking each other home.” I try to keep that in mind.
I cleaned the counters, and the mice seem to actually be gone. But I hesitate to trust it.
It’s snowing again. As it should, at this time of year. I went outside a little, but am too much indoors. And I’m noticing craving – I want a bath – this will be interesting. I did find the camp shower and have put it in the window.
Sometime in the past, I used to write. Now I just catch things that float by, that give life. Here is one from Rumi:
Sit, be still, and listen,
because you’re drunk and we’re at
the edge of the roof.
I did write recently, though, about thoughts: https://compassionateearth.wordpress.com/
Peace to you all.
It’s been a quiet period: information coming in, little going out, gestating. It’s included consulting with experts on development, organization, marketing – and waiting for construction of the chimney for the masonry stove.
The brief report is that we are going to restructure, so the farm and land activities are formally separated from the residential spiritual community. The farm has a new mission/vision statement, here. And although we need major fundraising to create the off-grid house and buildings, that will be postponed while we strengthen our people base. And we’re thinking about names, now that there are two entities. Could be Compassionate Earth Farm, or Vairochana Farm, or I don’t know what else.
Visitors (recent and near future) include possible apprentices, residents, and supporters. We have not yet settled on a farm manager.
We do have a nonprofit sponsor for the farm, so donations can be received here. We’ll be applying for conservation and farming grants, and will do the first plantings this spring.
And the water heater is not working. I had wanted to get a solar water heater working before this happened. I’m away, visiting grandchildren, and will decide what to do (repair, replacement, or transition) when I get back.
This is the season for planning. That includes conferences. Yesterday by phone I attended a gathering of the Savanna Institute, a research project on woody perennial polyculture agriculture. At the end of February is MOSES in La Crosse, the big organic farming conference; I’ll be there to learn and network.
You can help by:
There’s also the outside world: intensifying climate change, mass extinctions, and business as usual: The KXL pipeline, the many tar sands sites, fracking for gas and oil, disappearing indigenous women, Black men killed by police, Palestine…. if you pay attention instead of seeking blame, the heart just breaks. What are we becoming?
I think that climate change is making the violence and everything else worse. Every animal, including humans, becomes more violent and less rational under stress. Here is a glaciologist explaining that it’s too late to stop the loss of the West Antarctic ice shelf. There’s sea level rise. This talk, by scientist Jim White, spells out the severity of the situation, including the fact that changes can be very abrupt, and that we are already in a time of rapid climate change. A crisis denied still has an effect on everyone.
Joanna Macy identifies three basic responses to the environmental crisis: holding actions (marches, protests, civil disobedience, and more), creating alternatives (Transition movement etc), and consciousness change. We find our places, each of us.
Love to you all.
On the verge of entering Rohatsu sesshin – the annual, traditional seven-day retreat remembering Buddha’s enlightenment – I have a few thoughts to offer, and a poem.
Yesterday was beautiful and warm. Finally I had the energy to organize the office and to make space for a third bedroom. And then I walked outdoors, with only a light jacket.
Roy Dopson left this morning, after a ten day visit. It was lovely. We would sit together in the morning, and after dinner would simply find ourselves in the zendo again. His wish, for being here (my words): that it be a place for deep spiritual life, more than anything else. He will come back next fall, after working the fire season. In addition to being a firefighter, Roy is an Advaita teacher. His website is here, with some very interesting thoughts: http://www.onesteppath.com/
Our mutual “yes” provokes many thoughts and images about what will be happening here. I imagine practice periods of three months, five-day retreats, visiting teachers. The farm plan is in process, and the conversion of the house will begin very soon. The nature of the community, how it will welcome guests and short-term residents, all are forming – and will be discussed after I come out of the retreat. Right now it is time to sit, to go into the silence, to allow things to be as they are.
And these words from Walt Whitman speak so well to how it is in my heart these days.
“This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
give alms to everyone that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
or to any man or number of men—
go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families—
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem,
and have the richest fluency,
not only in its words,
but in the silent lines of its lips and face,
and between the lashes of your eyes,
and in every motion and joint of your body.”
–from Preface to “Leaves of Grass” (1855)