- The Farm
- The Alliance
As spring approaches, the wish to share this space with people becomes stronger. So I’m writing about a bunch of possibilities and encouraging you to join me. Everything is at the farm except the ones identified as elsewhere.
I’ve just posted two new work days – March 16 and April 20 – with seasonal work projects. They’re scheduled for Saturdays because that works for most people, but I save both Friday and Sunday for work as well, for those who can’t do Saturday or who want more time out here. It’s always okay to sleep over, indoors or with a tent. Work days are usually the third weekend, but May will be the Land Care Retreat and June’s work weekend will be summer solstice.
The weather is perfect right now for sugaring, but we’ll wait for the weekend. It’s so wonderful to go out together, tap the trees and set things up, to accept this beautiful gift of the land. In April we’ll be actively out in the garden – with lots of possibilities, we’ll see what calls.
Potluck Sunday evenings – they’re not calendar listings, but we’re ready to expand the group again. March 17, April 21, May 19 – email me to get added to the group. This month we’re listening to a talk by Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass.
April 5-7, in Minneapolis, I’ll be attending Winyan Awanyankapi: Protecting the Lifegivers Conference. A remarkable group of speakers. Registration is here, should you care to attend. Indigenous led, free to indigenous people, supported by our fees. If anyone from a distance would like to attend, I can offer housing.
April 27 in Northfield – Earth Day – I’ll be spending the day at Northfield’s Earth Day celebration. I’ve offered to lead a workshop on Deep Adaptation (see last week’s blog post about that) and will let you know if that’s happening.
April 29 – Special guest – Peter Bane, my permaculture teacher and the author of The Permaculture Handbook, is spending the day here, and is willing to visit with a small group over dinner. Let me know if you want to be notified – we’ll be watching the size of this group closely.
May 17-19 – Land Care Retreat – I so look forward to sharing the land and the way it’s teaching me. Please register early; ask questions if you like. It’s priced to be inviting. The second land care retreat is August 9-11, with my teacher Shohaku Okumura Roshi as guest speaker.
June 12-17 – Just Sitting – a sesshin at Hokyoji in southern Minnesota. Registration is here. The fee covers lodging – real beds – and meals cooked for us – but does not include anything for the teachers. There will be an opportunity to make an additional donation. Hokyoji is a beautiful place; I lived there one year.
October 11-13 in Bloomington, Indiana – I’m leading a Women’s retreat at Sanshinji.
To see everything, check the calendar.
The March 10 Dharma talk at Clouds in Water was rescheduled due to a ridiculous winter storm and terrible roads. I’ll post the new date when we have it.
That’s all for now. May you be safe, healthy, and at peace – and all your family and community as well.
Dear Friends of Mountains and Waters,
This is a repeat of last week’s blog post, which seems to have disappeared.
Here’s an overview of what’s coming up, and at the end thoughts and a link to Bendell’s work on “Deep Adaptation.”
Sesshin (Zen meditation retreat): 3-day sesshin at the farm, March 22-24 , June 28-30, and the fourth weekend of most months. Registration is always essential. Local people are welcome to come and sit for a few hours, but I need to know so I can be prepared to open the door.
Land Care Retreat May 17-19: Explore the unique offering of Mountains and Waters. Detailed information and registration here. Please register early. If you would like to do work exchange in advance, look below.
Looking Ahead: (because these require advance planning)
June 12-17: five day silent retreat (sesshin) at Hokyoji (Eitzen, MN). More information here. Co-led by Shodo with other Zen teachers, in the tradition of Okumura-rosho.
August 9-11 Land Care Retreat includes a Dharma talk by my teacher, the respected Shohaku Okumura-roshi. Early registration is recommended. There will be a few spots for the Saturday evening talk alone.
October 10-13: Women’s Retreat at Sanshinji, Bloomington, Indiana, led by Shodo. Registration opens in April, here.
December 1-8: Rohatsu Sesshin, here at the farm, 7 days of just sitting with reality.
Farm and Volunteer News:
Potlucks: We’re still having potlucks on third Sundays at 5:30-8 pm, food followed by study and discussion. We’re enjoying the small group, and there’s space for more. If you want to join one, ask to be added to the emails.
Volunteer work days: These are a chance to spend time here, practice mindful work and/or meditation with us, and possibly do work exchange for a later retreat.
March 15-16-17: Basically it’s 9-5 Saturday March 16, but you can come early or stay the 17th, and join the potluck as well.
May 17-19: This is the Land Care Retreat.
June and after: not yet scheduled. Feel free to ask.
Volunteers are welcome other times as well; just get in touch and we can set something up.
Climate change has arrived, big time, right here. We still don’t have wildfires or floods. But the past month’s record snowfalls have gotten everybody’s attention: Several days of being unable to get to work, or of clients canceling because they can’t get in or because schools are closed. Two days of “car won’t start” because of the cold. This is a place I thought would be safe. Meanwhile, there is scientist Jem Bendall and his work on Deep Adaptation. I recommend listening or reading – both are here. My summary and response:
Bendall thinks that societal collapse is inevitable, catastrophe is probable, human extinction possible. This is more optimistic than some of the people I read, but I find it credible. We are clearly in the process of societal collapse: hatred of refugees, increasing violence and polarization, police killing unarmed people – and unspeakable acts, including separating children from their families with no plan to reunite them, being defended by people who think they are moral. This is not “bad people” – it is collapse. It is the beginning of The Age of Consequences, which is a term for the fact that we have been using up stored resources (coal, oil, soil) and not replenishing everything (factory farming). The bitter fights on both Left and Right are symptoms of collapse.
It is up to all of us to find a way to help each other while the society that raised us (well or badly, privileged or oppressed) crumbles – and to build what will replace it. I found Bendall profoundly optimistic. I recommend listening, especially to the last half hour – but really to the whole thing.
Blessings and love to you all,
Here are just a few notes from the middle of snow country, snow season.
I’ve updated the journal entry that remembers last summer’s travels. Since it took five months, I didn’t want to plop it in the middle of other things. The whole thing is here.
Last Sunday I gave a talk “Finding Home in the Vow” at Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center. I’ve been working with this theme for a while, including both retreats in Atlanta. But this talk is recorded, it will be posted on the website but meanwhile you can find it here. (Quality is good once you get past the first minute or two.) People seemed to like it a lot.
Next Dharma talk will be Sunday morning, March 10 at Clouds in Water, St. Paul.
If you’d like to join the potluck group, please contact me (Shodo) at firstname.lastname@example.org We meet Sunday evenings, eat, listen to an interesting talk, and discuss. The plan is a small-ish ongoing group, but you get to check it out first. (Feb 17 and March 17 are our next dates.)
Next sesshin at the farm: Feb 22-24 and March 22-24. Just sitting. And June 28-30, July 26-28, and so forth – on the calendar.
Land care retreat is moved to May 17-19. This is not just a work weekend, but a spiritual retreat focusing on opening ourselves to the beings of the land.
You’re very welcome to do work exchange instead of paying for the retreat. We don’t have scheduled work weekends yet – the weather is challenging – but please contact me if you’re interested. Say a word about your skills, or we can just chat. We’re hoping to do indoor renovation any time; there will be garden and farm work beginning in March with indoor seed starting and going throughout the year; firewood; and many other projects including online, website, and office help.
There is a possibility of a five-day sesshin June 12-17 at Hokyoji, the Zen country practice center near Houston, MN. It would be in my teacher’s style – just sitting – and led by three of four of us. I will post this when it is finalized.
The fall land care retreat may be moved to August to accommodate my teacher and some of my dharma sisters and brothers coming up from Sanshinji – I’ll announce when we know for sure.
We live in difficult times. Like last summer’s wildfires, the deep freeze and heavy snow are responding to climate change, which is a response to human disconnection from the natural world – including each other. There is so much to mourn, so many losses already happening and more apparently coming.
On the encouraging side, a judge somewhere in Australia said no to a coal mine, with climate change as one of the reasons. And on the discouraging side, Canada and British Columbia are flouting laws, treaties, and international law to push pipelines through unceded indigenous territory. More information here.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, the DNR wants a pipeline to happen, the Department of Commerce says it is not needed, and the new governor may be going back on his word to oppose pipelines. There have been demonstrations, and now there are phone calls – the decision will be made Monday. An answering machine will take your message. Be polite. Telephone: 651-201-3400, Toll Free: 800-657-3717 – Extensive background information here. This resistance is being led by indigenous people and supported by many.
There is no such thing as neutrality in a time of oppression. Silence gives consent. So I am speaking here, and invite you to join me.
Here are a few announcements and some thoughts.
February 1, 7 pm: Book reading at Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul. This is for the book Zen Teachings in Challenging Times. Shodo is one of four local authors who will be reading, and books will be offered for sale. Clouds in Water Zen Center is at 445 Farrington Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55103 USA, 651-222-6968, email@example.com
February 3, Dharma talk at Northfield Buddhist Center, 313½ Division St, Northfield. Come for 9:30 am sitting, talk begins at 10:15. http://northfieldmeditation.org/upcoming-events-2/
March 10, Dharma talk at Clouds in Water (address above). This link will help you figure out what time to arrive – though I suggest being in the zendo by 9 am, the talk will begin at 9:35.
Sesshin (Zen sitting retreat): 3-day sesshin at the farm, February 22-24, March 22-24, April 26-28. Most months have sesshin on the fourth weekend, but sometimes it’s replaced by something (Land Care Retreat, for instance). Registration is always essential. Local people are welcome to come and sit for a few hours, but I need to know so I can be prepared to open the door.
Land Care Retreat May 17-19: Detailed information and registration here. But – registration is required, limit ten people, there is a fee, you can arrange for work exchange in advance. Here are a few words about this: Our intention in this retreat is to open to the natural world around us, learning to be members rather than owners. The meditation and Dharma talk times help us to drop away preconceptions, calm down, and be more available to the real teachers – woods, water, soils, our own bodies, the human community. The afternoon work times are for hands-on practice of listening to the land and responding to it in detail – soils, plants, whatever is requested. That work might be farming or wilderness care; either will involve intimate engagement with the earth and its beings.
Potlucks: We’re still having potlucks on the third Sundays at 5:30-8 pm. They’re not posted here because we’re trying to create an lasting small group. If you want to join one, ask to be added to the emails.
Volunteer work days: There’s no schedule yet, but there will be. Meanwhile, you can let us know if interested in any of these projects – that will help us set dates. .
And many other possibilities. Feel free to offer what you have.
There is now formal membership, and it would be really great if people actually joined, look here for information. Also it would be great if people made a commitment to donate regularly, even a small amount. It eases the work and anxiety of asking. Makes it possible to plan.
There’s so much happening. I have probably spent hours following the matter of the Covington High School boys and Nathan Phillips. I’m now waiting to hear how the school responds to the invitation from Phillips and his people, for a healing ceremony. Otherwise – I’m out. Too much hate coming from too many directions.
But I want to write about the conversation we had at the potluck last night. We’re working with thoughtful speakers who combine spirituality and some kind of engagement with the world. This month was Mushim Patricia Ikeda. Next month Robin Kimmerer.
We found ourselves in a discussion of faith, and of tribes – with examples from the Renaissance Festival community of traveling artists and craftspeople, and people taking care of each other. We don’t know a sustainable example of tribe in this time, though. It’s the dream of what could happen here at the farm, or around the farm.
That’s all for now.
Blessings and love to you all,
As we enter the new year, as the sun begins to return in the northern hemisphere, as we do not know at all what will happen – I offer this poem, which was sent to me, as a wish for you.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
May you fall madly in love this year …
in love with someone who unhinges your tired trajectory,
in love with a spouse of several years who might be aching for lightning,
in love with demanding children and crazy relatives ..
in love with the particular pedigree of genius insanity that has perhaps claimed you in spite of your reluctance ..
and certainly in love with an animal, a cloud, a redwood, the wild ..
these at least once a day.
May you fall in love with this fragile jewel of a world,
with hard work, real learning, just causes, petitioning and prayers.
May you fall in love with wonder itself,
with the grand mystery,
with all that feeds you in order that you may live ..
and with the responsibility that that confers.
May you fall in love with heartbreak and seeing how it’s stitched into everything.
May you fall in love with the natural order of things and with tears, tenderness and humility.
May this be a magnificent year for you.
May you fall deeply, madly, hopelessly, inextinguishably in love.
© Poetess (Rachelle Lamb) – used by permission. https://www.rachellelamb.com, poetry at https://www.rachellelamb.com/mypoetry
Artwork: Jackie Morris (The House of Golden Dreams) – used by permission. http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/blog/house-golden-dreams/
Here are a few announcements and a report from the past year.
The potluck group has gotten big enough that it’s not posted any more, to keep the size reasonable. If you would like to come, please email Shodo directly and ask. We’re sharing food and studying together.
Zen practice events:
End of year report:
It’s been a year of quiet, with a month-long retreat in the middle. I started writing a report on that retreat, and never finished – will do that soon. It included a lot of conversations with rocks, some encounters with hail, cold water, dryness – and a vow to support pine trees around the world.
At the farm, I started with a housemate and now have two, not community members but good energy. I’m in conversation with three potential members, all over 50 and all seeming like good possibilities. I posted about living here at https://www.ic.org.
We did some work on the house, and now have two proper bedrooms on the ground floor, plus a “guest room” that needs completion, and guest space in the attic. Of course there was maintenance – sanding and oiling the deck, some painting, and so forth. There was serious tornado damage, mostly to trees rather than buildings, and repair work continues. We are doing much heating with firewood, but it will run out, so we’re also using propane. When the tornado damaged wood dries we’ll have several years worth of wood. In the forest area, many trees are down, and there’s a sense of much hard work and also openness to change. The meditation hut in the woods just might be a log cabin.
In the spring we grafted fruit trees, but not too many of the grafts took. And many trees were girdled during the very late spring snows. Next year we’ll see what’s alive, and graft again.
The Advisory Council met by phone every month except one; the Board met twice. We defined membership, discussed outreach and fundraising, and added a member to the Council.
The beautiful new website was created, with a few additions and modifications yet to go.
We applied for grants but did not get any; now one grant application is outstanding and another is in process. We didn’t do a fundraising campaign during this quiet time.
Action: In addition to the spiritual and ceremonial work, I’ve been meeting and talking with several environmental activist groups: a local group resisting Line 3 (northern Minnesota), Climate Disobedience Center (also direct action), and Community Rights Organizing work. Understanding why I felt the need to do this comes with Joanna Macy’s interpretation of the three parts of The Great Turning: protection (resistance to harm), building the new society (farm and community), and consciousness change (teaching Zen and all the MWA work). Theoretically, it’s fine for one person to focus on one part. But I feel better with some participation in all three.
Teaching and publications:
My essay “When the World is on Fire” appeared in Zen Teachings in Challenging Times by Temple Ground Press.
“Finding Home in the Vow” appeared in Boundless Vows, Endless Practice: Bodhisattva Vows in the 21st Century, by Dogen Institute – my teacher’s organization.
The book I edited, The Mountains and Waters Sutra: A Practitioner’s Guide to Dogen’s Sansuikyo by my teacher Shohaku Okumura was published by Wisdom Publications.
I gave a talk and retreat in Columbus OH, at Red Clay Sangha in Atlanta GA, and a talk at Clouds in Water in St. Paul MN).
Books for sale:
These are all the books that include my writings now.
If you would like to buy one or more books, please email me, and use Paypal or mail a check to Shodo Spring, 16922 Cabot Ave, Faribault, MN 55021. Add $3 for postage. I’ll mail them first class in recycled envelopes.
We’ve defined membership formally. It’s not on the website yet, so let me post it here.
Introductory Member: Sign up as a member below, AND, at least once a year do at least one of the following,
Engaged Member: Sign up as a member below, AND do all of the following:
At this point, there is no “below” for signing up. Please email me if you want to become a member.
Snow is falling, the sun is coming out occasionally, and it might reach 20F at the warmest point this afternoon. Winter comes, whether we like it or not.
Blessings and love to you all,
Years ago, a teacher at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, said to me “We each have to find our own way.” There, when entering monastic practice for the first time, we would first sit in silence for five days. This was called “clarifying the mind.” Now, seeing more clearly, I recognize that this means dropping ideas and letting the Great Way find us.
Some things are now clear enough that I can share them with you. It seems like a direction change, but it’s not.
The most important thing that I am doing is my practice, also known as my work. At this time that means to carry on the combination of zazen (sitting meditation: just sitting with the whole universe as we all create each other) and intimate relationship with all beings of the earth. Those are actually the same, but one looks like sitting still and the other like walking outdoors, making ceremony and offerings, visiting sacred places.
To make space for this, I am dropping some activities. Most of them involve efforts to get people to join me in my work. I’m going to the “attraction rather than promotion” model.
Here are two talks that I liked, from 2016.
“The whole world is the true human body.”
“A single hand held out freely.”
Loss has my attention today. I was out walking the land with a dear friend that has never been here before. I came back to learn that the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by two votes. If both Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin had voted “no”, we would be looking toward a less scary future.
Even then, it’s scary. The Amazon rainforest is no longer a carbon sink. https://e360.yale.edu/digest/study-finds-tropical-forests-are-no-longer-carbon-sinks. The Arctic is melting – https://physicsworld.com/a/arctic-thaw-imperils-climate-goals/. And hate, fear, partisanship rule the day in more countries than our own. 2400 children are now in that immigrant camp in Texas, and families are not being reunited. Within five or ten years we likely face a world far different from even the one we know now – let along the green and abundant world of my childhood.
My past week has mostly been about the tornado. My house was close to the path of the strongest of several tornadoes that came through Rice County. It missed the house and took down dozens of trees. I’m still shocked when I look at the fallen and twisted trees. But also now, with much clearing done, I’m looking forward to what might be possible. I have little trees looking for homes – they will tell me where to plant them.
I’d been planning for the land care retreat, just three weeks away, planning to work with some of Martín Prechtel’s teachings. I’d thought of making a sacred compost pile; Martín talks about composting as honoring death and decay. Now it’s more likely that we’ll work with wildness, making an offering to the wild beings (deer, gophers, quackgrass) that threaten the orchard, as we also nurture the trees and spaces that support them. The orchard is weak because of neglect, not the storm; its weakness is influenced by conventional agriculture, erratic weather (climate change), and all the rest – and it longs for human attention too.
The grief of that neglect, and the grief of climate change, of tornado losses, of everyone we’ve loved who has died, of creeping fascism in politics here and in so much of the world – we’ll allow our grief to nourish the orchard as we do weeding, mulching, planting, cutting. And wildness will be welcome in this time. Because the gardens will not be strong unless the wilderness is stronger, and our habit of trying to control it leads to an inevitable end. We’ll allow the grief of lost trees and loss of control, and move toward our natural place in the family of living beings. Which means receiving gifts and giving them, in the spirit of offering, giving back to the earth which gives us our lives.
I’ve been promising to write about my summer’s retreat, but that will wait for the moment. Life is moving, alive, growing. I will write about that later, and also about the conference two weeks ago that was so exciting.
I have one simple request, though. During a solo in the wilderness, I made a vow to support the pine trees of the world – trees that are being attacked by pine bark beetles and blister rust, that are going up in flames. The beetles attach when the trees are stressed by drought or fire. Their attacks make the trees more susceptible to wildfire, which both heats directly and adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. My vow was to strengthen the trees so they will not burn. At one moment, I could sense that the trees had already accomplished this; at another I knew they needed our help.
Please support your local pine trees. I can’t tell you how. Currently I’m offering chanting and prayers and healing energy; do whatever comes to you.
I’m joining a local group working on stopping Line 3, the tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota – defending our shared home and confronting the state government that I know best. While my strongest draw is toward the plants and earth, I am compelled to join with other human beings as well.
I recommend this article, which as I was reading about the Kavanaugh hearing reminded me of balance.
Howard Zinn in 2005: https://progressive.org/op-eds/howard-zinn-despair-supreme-court/.
“Our culture – the media, the educational system – tries to crowd out of our political consciousness everything except who will be elected President and who will be on the Supreme Court, as if these are the most important decisions we make. They are not. They deflect us from the most important job citizens have, which is to bring democracy alive by organizing, protesting, engaging in acts of civil disobedience that shake up the system.”
Bless you all. I hope you’re voting, this year of all years – please make sure you’re registered. Please love your humans and your earth-beings, and please be well and happy.
I spent a month on retreat; here are notes from the first few days. Below is simple stuff including event updates and encouragement to subscribe.
You should have already received notice on these events. If you haven’t, please check whether you are subscribed to updates. Go to home and scroll down. You might try checking all the boxes, then removing the ones that aren’t of interest.
October 7, Beth Goldring at Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center
October 14, Shodo speaks at Clouds in Water Zen Center
October 26-28, Land Care Retreat (fee, registration required)
Nov 30-Dec 8, Rohatsu sesshin (fee, registration required)
Work days on the farm– dates TBA
Probably Oct 20 or 21, and one day in November. These days are a chance to enjoy the outdoors and help with plants and land. I’m looking for some replies before setting dates. We provide food and snacks, and sometimes people go home with plants. If you tell me you’re interested, you can influence the schedule.
You might also earn a scholarship to a retreat – ask about this.
Potluck with extras – October 21, 5-8 pm – also third Sunday every month
After dinner we’ll either watch a short documentary or listen to a Dharma talk. Decision will be made together with those who RSVP first.
Long distance events in 2019:
January 5, Atlanta, all-day retreat at Red Clay Sangha, January 6, Dharma talk at Red Clay.
January 12 or 13, Atlanta, talk or retreat at Midtown Atlanta Zen.
October 11-13, Bloomington, IN, Women’s Retreat at Sanshin Zen Community.
Right Now: Easy support request:
You can raise $3 for us if you click this button by September 16. I wrote about this before – please do it! A single plane ticket probably gives us at least $5. Leave Amazon, support smaller merchants while supporting us. The Donation page has more information.
It’s good to be home. The sun is setting earlier. A new housemate will be doing some much-needed carpentry; I’ve sanded and oiled the deck and started to weed the garden. Raspberries are still coming. If people come for the work day, we can transplant raspberries to a better location (more accessible, less tangled). At the Land Care Retreat, I expect to offer some of the work from Martin Prechtel’s book, as well as my own explorations and Zen understandings.
And do look at the journal entry.
Love and respect,
Mountains and Waters Alliance has a new website! Please take a look around – it is now much easier to find the pictures, the people, the events – and you can subscribe to everything or just to your particular interests.
I’ll be adding more information in the next weeks and months – starting with stories and thoughts from my recent month-long retreat. Eventually, the resource page will be a referral library with web links, book recommendations, and more.
October 7, 9:30 am, in Northfield: My friend Beth Goldring gives the Dharma talk at Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center, 313 ½ S Division Street, Northfield, MN. Beth is retired after founding Brahmavihara Cambodia, which for many years provided chaplaincy services to AIDS and TB patients in Cambodia. She is a dharma heir of Gil Fronsdale, a lifelong activist, and one of my mentors.
October 14, 9 am, in St. Paul. I give the Dharma talk at Clouds in Water Zen Center, 445 Farrington Street, St. Paul. Meditation starts at 9 am, talk at 10:30.
October 26-28: Land Care Retreat: Spiritual Practice with the Natural World. At the farm.
November 30-December 8: Rohatsu sesshin, at the farm. (Simplified Zen meditation retreat, honoring when Buddha sat for 7 days and attained enlightenment.
We are with iGive instead of Amazon Smile – a higher donation and you are supporting a wide and healthy marketplace instead of a monopoly. Right now, you can send us $3 just by signing up with them. They put a button on your desktop, and you just do your shopping as always. Major airlines are included, which means that your travel can help us.
We won’t be using the blog any more – everything will be here. I’m excited about this site. Hope it serves you well.
Last week there was an onslaught of events that lead to feeling hopeless. I wrote a list, didn’t want to start with it, then knew it was necessary. Skip it if you need.
I don’t have an answer. So here is what I’m doing, day by day.
Imagine living in a culture in which there was enough for everyone. Enough safety. Enough food, of good quality. Enough access to the natural world. Enough love.
On Saturday I went into the streets about immigration, with a couple hundred people in Northfield. Not liking protests, I thought that sometimes you just have to visibly say no – and that this is such a time. I’m encouraged by the tenor of that conversation – people recognized there’s something bigger here – and by the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who showed up in the street. If Trump was testing the waters to see how far he could go, he didn’t get an “all clear.”
I’m encouraged by some other things too:
Martin Prechtel, in The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People as Plants: Keeping the Seeds Alive. His teacher, at dying, sent him to the United States to keep the sacred seeds alive. Finally he writes: “For ever after that, the seeds I was trying to keep viable were no longer “my” seeds of the Seeds of Tzutujil spirituality, but the seeds that every citizen of the Earth has somewhere tucked away inside themselves, or outside in their lives, or somewhere in the ground, or lurking around the family baggage, or hidden in their bodies. In dreams or inexplicable proclivities, but always somewhere they never look or know anything about. These seeds were the seeds of that very precious thing we all have that contains embryonic caches of possible understandings of how to live ritually and intactly with an indigenous mind, seeds that have been bequeathed to us all from our own more intactly earth-rooted ancestral origins from millennia previous.
… But, how can we find our seeds if they are hidden in a place we know nothing about, a place we cannot see or touch without the indigenous ancestral mind? The truth is, the seeds do not need to be found because they are already found. We are the ones who need to be found, for the seeds are wherever we go….We have been adrift for four thousand years, floating on people-centered rafts of provisional civilizations that have convinced themselves they are the real thing and the cutting edge of human evolution… the spirits…are effortlessly coursing right along with us….trying their best to get our attention and tow us home to our real selves…while we drift along figuring that the anxiety of civilizations’ never-ending feeling of emergency is normal.”
“figuring that the anxiety of civilizations’ never-ending feeling of emergency is normal.” If that makes no sense to you – if the whole quotation makes no sense – you are normal in this culture. But if it calls to you, whether clearly or faintly, that is the action of the spirits trying “to get our attention and tow us home to our real selves.”
It is our real selves that will find a way. Please listen deeply within for your real self. And please listen outside as well, to the you that is in other people, in lands, in animals, in plants – everything around you is also your Self.
We live in difficult times. It is harder to find the joy in life – and always more essential.
Still, life goes on. The plants don’t stop. I’m putting out an invitation for Saturday morning, July 7, 9-12 at the farm:
Temperature will be 70-77 degrees and sunny. RSVP for address, directions, and so I can expect you. Shodo.firstname.lastname@example.org. (“Maybe” is also helpful information.) Between Faribault and Northfield, MN.
The essential nature of life is offering. Some people, and some cultures, still know this. Modern Americans, not so much.
One of the first things that caught my attention in Zen practice was a meal chant which began, “Innumerable labors have brought us this food; we should know how it comes to us,” continued with “This food is for the Three Treasures”, for the four benefactors, and for all beings in the six worlds, and ended with “We eat this food with everyone. We eat to end all evil, to practice good, to save all sentient beings, and to accomplish the Buddha Way.”
I didn’t know anything about offering, but that chant included everything. And it told me I was in the right place, in a holy place, home. (The translation was changed decades ago, but these are the words that opened my heart.)
Martin Prechtel’s 2012 book The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The parallel lives of people as plants: keeping the seeds alive takes us into a world where the whole people know that way of offering, of responding to every single thing, every gift from the gods. He describes the offerings that must be made for something so simple as making a knife – the ore from the earth is just a beginning.
The American way of life sees everything around us as resources to be used for our own benefit. Martin refers to this way as hollow, stealing, empty, destructive – and observes that such a life results in destruction.
I wrote a little more here. And if you are nearby (southern Minnesota), I invite you to two occasions to study and practice the way of offering.
SUNDAY, JUNE 17, SUMMER SOLSTICE GATHERING
This happens in three parts; you may come to one or all, and friends are welcome. But please let me know…our address is 16922 Cabot Ave, Faribault, MN, and when you arrive you come to the house that looks like a barn (parking on the left).
WEDNESDAY EVENING, JUNE 20, “ZEN AS RELIGION”
This concludes the “Introduction to Zen” series, with a look at the chants and ceremonies, and a discussion of the classic question “Is Zen a religion? A philosophy? Or what?” (I promise there will not be an answer to the question.) We’ll particularly look at all of these things as the Zen style of making offerings.
And it concludes the Wednesday evening sittings. See below under Zen News.
We had a week-long volunteer, Celeste Pinheiro, who knows gardening and jumped right in. Thus we
have some photos of how the garden looks afterward. She’s also an artist, and started work on a logo for us.
Last week my housemate TR asked if I had some work, on behalf of a college student friend. Well, Harry Edstrom came Wednesday afternoon and kept coming back through Saturday. On Friday Cassidy Carlisle came with him, and on Saturday Essam Elkorgle joined them.
So we have lots of things planted, big areas mulched, strawberries moved, trees in protective cages, and three tiny Korean nut pines safely in the ground. We also have another guest room! Funny how that happened: it was raining on Friday, so I asked Harry and Cassidy to do a very small painting job in the guest room. They liked it. It kept raining. I really, really wanted to get that place cleaned up. So they kept painting, I kept moving furniture so they could keep painting, and we wound up turning the junk room into a very nice space (photos!). The next day, with Essam, we moved furniture to turn it into a bedroom. Today Laurel Carrington (Buddhist center friend) promised to bring a real bed! I know some visitors will be very happy.
The most fun thing, unless it was transforming the basement, was working with the hand-powered two-person saw. Here’s a picture of Cassidy and Harry cutting wood with it.
For a few years I’ve hosted a Zen group in Northfield, meeting two or three times a month, while carrying on a daily practice here at the farm (morning sitting and chanting, monthly retreats) and sometimes having Zen-practice visitors.
The Wednesday night group will end with the June 20 discussion. I’m hoping that people who want some form of Zen practice will contact me, and we’ll talk about what we want to do. Northfield has a very solid Buddhist presence, with sittings 6 days a week and monthly speakers, so nobody will be left hanging.
With the new guest room, the option of coming for retreats or longer practice opportunities is much improved. We also have a tent space in the nearby pines, created by Celeste.
We’re working on a better website, date some time this summer.
In mid-July I begin travels to visit some people, some of the mountains/waters members of the Alliance, and to attend a 2-week retreat at the Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center. The first week will be just meditation together in the mountains, with a solo time outdoors; the second half will include conversation with other serious environmental activists and meditators. I’m really looking forward to this.
I continue to offer psychotherapy services in Minneapolis, which is a lovely way to make a living and be able to support the Alliance. I am gradually shifting this work to an office in Northfield, which will be more convenient.
And that is all for now. Please be well and happy in every way.
We look forward to a summer solstice celebration, Sunday June 17, in the spirit of gratitude for the gifts of the earth and making an offering in return. More information.
You’re invited to a gardening day Saturday, June 2, in the spirit of offering, of loving the land, of befriending our plant and earth neighbors – we’ll be planting vegetables, mulching, moving some berry plants. You may take home some strawberry or raspberry plants. Lunch is provided if you RSVP. Come any time 10-5!
Journal: I’ve been thinking about chanting, what it is, what it means, and our whole relationship to the earth and beings around us. Read here.
News: This is brief; the more interesting things have gone to Journal and Study Group. But at the end of April I taught in Columbus, Ohio. There was a workshop on facing the coming challenges, and a day-long sitting focusing on basic Zen teachings. I look forward to returning. I spent five days studying with my teacher and two others, and came away feeling much nourished.
I’m continuing to work as a psychotherapist to support this work; now I see clients in Northfield and by “teletherapy.”
A week-long visitor, Celeste Pinhiero, is helping with the garden, camping in the pines, and bringing a wonderful energy, more land-based than I have ever been – and bringing in new flowers, tidying, sitting with me in the mornings. Susan Schoenberg visited for a day and hopes to return. T.R. McKenzie still lives here, works full time but we manage occasional fruitful conversations.
Plans for the summer include a month-long journey, centered around a two-week meditation and activism retreat in Colorado. Plus more time with the land, and continuing the deeper work of studying what it is I have to offer. Writing will not be happening so fast.
There are still spaces for short visits for practice, work, and Dharma conversation.
Please keep this work in your heart. And write if you wish.
Mountains and Waters Alliance newsletter: April 7, 2018
Please see new thoughts at “Journal”, which includes ramblings, responses to things in the news, links, and miscellaneous – unedited.
Neither will have notifications at this time. At the moment there are new writings in Journal.
A Thousand True Fans
This is an ask for money. It’s hard for me to do, but if I don’t ask you will never know.
The article was written for artists, who are famous for not having enough money. It proposed that rather than trying to make it big, an artist could survive with 1000 true fans – people who went to every concert or bought everything you produced. The idea was that such fans spend about one day’s income per year on your work. If that amount is $100, you have an excellent income.
My adaptation of it is like this: Instead of chasing foundation grants, which takes a lot of time and produces usually nothing, I’ve chosen to earn a living – which takes a lot of time and produces enough to live but not enough to move forward with the Alliance.
I’m inviting you to offer support to the Alliance, at whatever level would feel good to you. You can donate yearly, monthly, even daily. You can donate $5, $10, $100, $1000, any amount. Fees are small. There are over 200 subscribers to this blog; I don’t know many of you or even why you’re here. But if 20 people chose to donate one day’s income per year, and you averaged $36,500 income, I would have $2000, which would cover Internet fees, brochure printing, the accountant, and some more. If 200 people donated $20 per year, I would have $4000 and could actually move forward slowly. 200x$50 and I can go back to full time Alliance work – or we can pay our debts or something.
There are lots of other kinds of support (ask me, especially if you are good at internet stuff) but this is for people are short on time – perhaps for all those of you who send something every time I ask – would you consider making a commitment? Go here for more information or to make that donation. Here are some ways we would like to spend it:
Internet access, phone use, travel for meetings/teaching/study, printing brochures.
Growing food sustainably, restoring the land
Turning the farm into a gathering place; making it a place for residential practice
Repaying loans, beginning with the solar panel loan, then the loans from people, last loans from me.
So that’s it. I’m asking you for financial help if it works for you. The energy is growing, and I’m doing my best to give it what space I can.
Meanwhile at the farm – we have maple syrup and box elder syrup (this is less time-extravagant if we cook it inside on the propane stove; we are making vinegar from apples, pears, strawberries, pineapples, and pretty much anything that comes by, and drinking it for health and taste. “We” means me and T.R., a friend who is staying for several months. A different “we” is me and Perry, doing nursery plant stuff because he knows how to grow and also to sell. We’ll have more plants and hopefully some income. I’m trying to save my time for the deeper spiritual work, but the land tempts. We’re below freezing and snow-covered at the moment. Like lots of places. Climate change!
I hope you are all well.
April 15 MWA potluck day including work 2-4, ritual 5-6, potluck supper and gathering
April 21 FARM 12-3 grafting workshop with Sarah Claasen, registration required, fee, two spots left.
April 21 FARM all day work day (might go to Earth Day celebrations late afternoon, might keep grafting until dark)
April 18 ZEN 6:10 Intro to Zen “What’s it good for?” – Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center.
27-29 ZEN and MWA – Shodo is teaching in Columbus, OH. Friday evening workshop, Saturday morning sitting and discussion, Sunday all-day sitting with 2 pm talk. For more information contact Don Brewer.
May 2 ZEN no gathering
May 1-5: studying with my teacher in Bloomington, Indiana.
May 16 ZEN 6:10 Intro to Zen – “Spiritual community” – Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center.
May 18 FARM all day work day
May 19 MWA potluck day including work 2-4, ritual 5-6, potluck supper and gathering
May 25-28 MWA Land Care Retreat – includes meditation, work as practice, dharma talks and discussions, community building.
Silent retreats are held almost monthly. If you would like to come to one of these, please contact Shodo directly. An Intro to Zen retreat will be arranged when there are a few requests.
Midsummer: I will be traveling to Colorado and could arrange to be available in Colorado, northern New Mexico, and points along the way from Minnesota.
Late September: I will be in upstate New York and could arrange to be available.
October 26-28: Land care retreat – same as May
For Zen and farm events, see here.
We’ll begin with a few event announcements, then continue with guidance – this time, an introductory essay.
Retreats in Minnesota:
May 25-28: Land care retreat – includes meditation, work as practice, dharma talks and discussions, community building.
October 26-28: Land care retreat.
To be determined: Intro to Zen retreat – a full day at the farm, or a half day in Northfield.
Silent retreats are on the calendar, not shown here.
Travel & Teaching:
April 27-29: Teaching in Columbus, Ohio.
Midsummer: I will be traveling to Colorado and could arrange to be available in Colorado, northern New Mexico, and points along the way from Minnesota.
Late September: I will be in upstate New York and could arrange to be available.
For farm events including workshops, volunteer days, and potlucks, please see the calendar.
For local Zen teaching schedule, please see the same calendar.
We’ll begin with a few words on what Buddhist practice means, as a foundation for more later.
For me, Buddhist practice is about living as part of the earth, fully sustained and embraced in joy.
Usually we think of Buddhism as a philosophy – intellectual, disembodied – or a religion. “Religion” might actually fit, if we understand it correctly. It’s based on Latin words meaning “respect for the sacred” or “reconnecting with the gods,” and until the 1500’s religion was not separate from secular life – even in Europe.
Buddhism calls us back to the ancient or indigenous way of relating to the world and to the sacred. It asks us to let go of these ways of life and thought that have been trained into us from birth: humans as special, nature as resource, greed and hate as normal. In Buddhism, greed, hate, and the sense of separation are called the Three Poisons. They’re not natural at all, but it’s difficult to become free of them because of long training and the incessant harping of industrial civilization.
The way Life actually works is that each one of us is created by everything around us, past and present, and we in turn give life to everything else, present and future. We are a speck on the wave of Life, never lonely while in a way profoundly alone.
Knowing this is freedom. We can drop our burdens, whether those burdens are saving the planet or making a successful career. Life takes care of itself. Our job as individuals is to respond to the movement of Life in and around us. This requires dropping ingrained beliefs, which is why Buddhist practice can be arduous: before we can respond to Life we must be able to see/hear/feel it. Fortunately, even a glimpse is enlivening and energizing, and glimpses are common.
This way is joyful. Its hope is not the hope that something will change, but hope that embraces things as they are, joins with them enthusiastically, and responds in kind, with gratitude, creating resiliency without expectation.
This way is open to anyone who wants it.