- The Farm
- The Alliance
A few months ago I started saying “This is what societal collapse looks like,” and I don’t see any reason to take that back. You can look at the list of symptoms if you need to be convinced, but otherwise don’t bother. The Supreme Court seems determined to disassemble every good thing that has happened in the past century or so.
I’m aware that I keep saying this. It continues to be true, and the emergency is escalating.
The basic understanding of Mountains and Waters Alliance is that we are not the only ones here, and we are not the only ones with agency. By “we” I mean humans, especially industrial humans, especially members of the American capitalist economy, including those of us who consider ourselves progressive, radical, or better than others in any way. Thus these proposals:
Yes, I admit to still dreaming of escaping climate disaster and political catastrophe. But I only propose work that will help us regardless of what happens in the so-called outside world.
There will be a date for this work, or a series of dates, but meanwhile go ahead. I’m looking for people to help, or to co-create. Email me.
Here’s a list of upcoming events. Please respond by email to anything that does not have a link.
I will post links and titles on the website as soon as I have them.
There will be some reports later about progress on the farm and buildings – moving closer to sustainability, and more comfortable for both guests and multiple residents.
Emailing is always a good way to start. It’s also fine to register for an event that has registration set up.
Love and respect,
And a poem to finish.
On April 10, 2022, I’m pleased to invite you to a dharma talk online at Hokyoji Zen Monastery. Hokyoji is dear to my heart from early practice and also a year of individual retreat in the early days. They are now a thriving community, and because of internet they’re able to invite speakers. I’ll be talking about the well-known lines from the Genjo Koan: “To study the Buddha Way is to study the self.”
Here is information and a link: https://mountainsandwatersalliance.org/event/dharma-talk-sunday-april-10-2022-hokyoji/
There are some other schedule changes, mostly shown on the website.
Changes and uncertainties are for two reasons: I’m nearing the end of writing the book, and the house is under construction.
The war between Russia and Ukraine is still going on. The stories are heartbreaking, People around the world are mobilizing in amazing ways. A few people are pointing out that most of us have been complacent about tragedies in other places in the world – perpetrated by the U.S. or our allies, or against Black and brown people. It’s overwhelming. As is the change in the weather, the likelihood of widespread hunger in the coming year or soon after, the level of polarization within the U.S., and a lot more. My personal Facebook page tracks a lot of these things, and hopeful responses, if you care to follow. Here, I try to avoid distractions and encourage wholehearted engagement in each one’s life.
And last night, after a week of rain, I stepped out the door to a clear night sky with a last-quarter moon shining brilliantly above. Just a breath.
for Mountains and Waters Alliance
Let’s be quiet now, for a little bit – a few hours, or a few days or months or maybe a whole year. Anyway, just now, a little while.
One of the gifts of Buddhism is an understanding that discomfort, inconvenience, and even pain are part of life – and that it’s possible to be at peace anyway.
The last few years of our shared life have seemed like one crisis after another, with little personal moments of sweetness mixed in. Here’s one of mine: In the first months of the pandemic, my youngest grandchild would get together with her best friend and spend the day playing together in a park a long walk away. Like my own childhood summers. The way childhood should be, in my mind.
I won’t list the hard things that have happened; we all know. We’re in the Age of Consequences. Things are falling apart. Even understanding they need to change, it’s uncomfortable to the luckiest of us, painful to most, deadly to some. We don’t know what’s next. Renewal, a way of being together full of life, harmony and spirituality and blessing? Dictators? Slow death by climate change? Don’t ask to know, just work toward the well-being of all life.
Inner peace does not come by positive thinking or by hope, though they may help us mobilize. We are called both to complete acceptance and to wholehearted engagement. (Meditation and prayer are forms of engagement, as are farming, civil disobedience, and so much more.)
With Ram Dass:
This year’s work has been focused mainly on writing the book. The subject was climate change and consciousness, but it grew to include everything. How did we become the people who insist on consuming the earth, at the expense of animals and plants, indigenous people, and our own grandchildren? That was in aid of the real question: “How do we become the kind of people who bless the earth instead of destroying it? That is not an individual inquiry; if the Kochs and Bezoses, the Enbridges and Peabody Coals and Nestles and Lithium Americas of the world continue to devour the earth, our personal actions will be like a teaspoon of salt in the ocean. Political/cultural/economic/spiritual change is needed. I’d like to think the book will help that movement.
I have a working title rather than a final one: Alliance: becoming the people who can bless the earth. The book is with the editor right now, then revisions, then finding a publisher.
There have been three long silent retreats, with two or three people each, as well as a land care retreat outdoors, a few workdays, and the online groups. The Zen group started early 2020 has settled into a steady community and my home base. The Gift of Fearlessness group is a creative space and also community; we’ll open it up after a bit of clarification. Monday morning zazen moves steadily along with two or three of us each week.
This has been the year of action for water protection/pipeline resistance at Line 3 in northern Minnesota. I’ve felt my absence keenly. In early spring I offered quarantine space to a group that had been doing active resistance and then needed a place to go. In summer Sawyer and I went to the Treaty People Gathering as part of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, and of course there was support with letters, calls, donations, and the like – but I wished I could go up to the action, and I couldn’t.
We’ll have four long silent retreats – March, June, September, December – and some kind of retreat or offering on the third weekend of the other months: land care retreats, Introduction to Zen, solo retreats. The online offerings will continue.
Visiting remains an option, and I’m still open to discussions about residence here. There’s also a possibility of Zen training periods here (3-6 months) in the future, coordinated with my teacher’s temple.
Construction is planned to renovate the house to create community living space, early spring this year.
We made a Covid policy for the farm, beginning January, linked here. It will change as needed. The main point is that people can feel safe coming here, so it’s a conservative policy.
Working on the book, I spent much time at the computer and not as much outside as I would like, but the richness of reading and research and the challenge of making words has been a joy. I’ve had medical difficulties, and am seeing a doctor and an acupuncturist in addition to my homeopath. Trying to upgrade a lifestyle I’d always thought was healthy. In 2022 I look forward to more time outdoors, more sitting meditation and formal Zen study, less news, less facebook, more social time, slowing down. From time to time I talk with someone who might move here and start community with me.
My children and their spouses are delightful adults, my grandchildren moving through their teens with grace.
This life is so precious and beautiful. I can’t believe my good fortune, to live where I can see the stars and listen to the birds, greet violets in spring and milkweed in summer, blazing colors in fall – and to have safe food and water and enough of them, warmth, shelter, physical safety, a body and mind that work well, and love. And a calling, a path, a work to do. That last would serve, if I lost the rest.
It’s donation day here in Minnesota, a little noisy, but we’re staying calm and quiet. This note is simply to ask that, as you consider where to give your support dollars, remember Mountains and Waters Alliance as a possibility.
During the pandemic, we’ve offered classes, groups, and sitting meditation online, had a few small retreats in person, and worked writing a book. Next year we expect to do more.
In the Buddhist world we speak of dana, giving, as a spiritual practice. Most of our activities are offered as gifts, or at-cost; we gratefully receive gifts of time, work, and money. Our next intentions for money are to add to guest space and to begin financial support for the teaching work.
Who we are:
With love and encouragement,
Shodo Spring, founder
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.
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.
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.
These are tumultuous times. We may think we have come through the storm. We may think the storm is just beginning as a certain man and his supporters resist the election results.
If neither of those happens, there is still this:
The Democratic Party is still committed to corporate profits and willing to destroy both our lives (especially BIPOC lives) and the whole planet in exchange. Or perhaps they are committed to losing – since they now push to abandon the very issues (Medicare for All) that won districts for their advocates. That is the beginning of a rant; I’ll refrain.
As I was moving mulch in the garden, this morning before the rain and cold arrive, I thought that these meditation verses might be relevant for our dealings with the political world and the transition. From Sawyer Hitchcock, who lived and worked here for two weeks.
For my European settler-colonist people, regardless of how long we’ve been here, I wish this specifically: together with all beings, may we return to our true home. Wherever that may be – but there is this: for as long as European settlers have been on this continent, we have collectively treated it as a colony to exploit rather than as a home to embrace. I think we treated Europe that way too, and – knowing something of Europe’s indigenous peoples – I wonder when that began and why it prevailed. So my wish means “May we recognize that our true home is on this earth, may we stop discounting it as a short interruption on the road to heaven, may we be willing to belong here, may we finally join the family of life.” And may we make amends.
As you can dear souls, Hold the Center and Be Peace. Whatever outcomes, there will be much work to be done, to either prevent more wreckage, or to dive into the wreck and retrieve the treasures and repair them.
That is where Undiminishable Love and Inextinguishable Light flow: to within one’s reach, to prevent further wreckage of matters dear; to dive and retrieve the treasures within your reach, and to help to mend those you bring up held close to your heart.
Just this tiny storycito. In letter to Corinthians, a small village of people long ago, was writ something that is usually translated as ‘we will all be changed,’ [by the upheaval].
But that’s not quite what it actually says in the original ancient language. First of all, that quote leaves out the salient words that preceded it. They are these:
‘Listen! I am telling you a mystery. We will not all fall asleep but we will all be changed.’
That is what the translation into English says. But/and here is what it actually says in the ancient words carefully considered:
‘Behold this, you, see this! I am showing you an initiation [musterion] that comes from standing in silence within your holy nature.’
[in other words, clear instruction is being given to us to shed the old and step into a new strong reality of strength and vision. It’s saying wake up! you are in the midst of an initiation; you will not be the same after this…stand in a centered holy silence –more precise instruction about how to live the holy way on a day to day basis ]
Furthermore it says, with attention to the actual meanings of the old words:
‘we will not all slumber, that is, decrease in power, seem as though dead [koimao]… Rather
‘moreover, we will in a whole way, make things different [as a result of being passed through initiation]’
Id like to offer these ancient instructions to you as the place to stand to hold the Center. Your Center, and the Center of the World Tree. You see how this fits or you, this standing in holy silence, each of you being a customized job.
Steady she goes. Easy does it.
We are together.
Blessings to you all in this time. Together with all beings, may we open the ground for new life.