“When you sit zazen, you place yourself on the ground of reality.” Shohaku Okumura Roshi.
These words from my teacher offer a radical perspective on what we do when we sit down on the cushion. It’s not about calming ourselves, controlling emotions, or reaching special states of consciousness. No, it’s about reality. It’s not necessarily about seeing or knowing reality, experiencing it directly. When we sit zazen, we place ourselves on the ground of reality. Reality itself is what holds us up. We abandon theories, ideologies, interpretations – we accept reality as the only support.
We might say we submit ourselves to reality. But we also allow it to hold us up.
In a time when everything is changing and nothing seems trustworthy, this seems like a wise choice. Allowing things to be just as they are – allowing reality to be as it is – could save us from a lot of dangerous choices.
I’ll also offer this as a way to take our zazen, our meditation practice, into our homes and into public life. Things are the way they are. This is where we can start. On this, we can stand.
Observing the world:
Here are a few recent news stories:
- Quiet news: sustainability scientist Jem Bendall has done a bit of study, written a paper on Deep Adaptation, and started an international movement to deal with reality – which he thinks includes societal collapse, probable catastrophe, and possible human extinction.
- Scary and horrifying: In New Zealand, a white supremacist shot and killed fifty people in two mosques. An individual stopped him from proceeding to a school. He is in custody, and he did not apologize. The national government plans immediate gun reform.
- Climate scary: Flooding in Nebraska and Iowa is devastating, record-breaking. Weather elsewhere is bizarre in myriad ways.
- People protecting the earth: In Ohio, the city of Toledo has passed a law granting human rights to Lake Erie, so that people can take legal action on behalf of that much-abused lake (my wild home for childhood and longer). In Minnesota, the White Earth band of Ojibwe has passed a regulation granting human rights to manoomin, wild rice, an important traditional food source now threatened by pipelines and mining. Both are part of a growing movement called Community Rights, consisting of taking back local power. Interesting how often farmers and workers find their own rights allying with the rights of the natural world.
On the one hand, it’s just under 20 years since mass shootings became part of our ordinary life. Climate disasters are increasingly common, yet government and public response is not addressing prevention. On the other hand, there’s more and more recognition that the world around us is not just objects for us to consume or exploit, but living and conscious beings with rights of their own – and that those rights are inextricably tied up with human survival. Life is intense. I’m grateful to be alive now.
The Study Group is being changed to the Study/Action group – only because I don’t find myself very interested in abstract “study” but rather learning things that will make us more effective.
Today’s note is a simple observation about the difference between thoughts and feelings. People often say “I feel that xxxxx.” That’s a clue to a thought disguised as a feeling. “I feel like you don’t love me.” No, I feel lonely and sad, and my analysis is that you don’t love me. It’s worthwhile to practice noticing when you’re having a feeling and when it’s a thought.
MWA News and Events:
We have a strong schedule of events coming up. I described them last week and won’t repeat. But please look at the Land Care Retreats. May 17-19 and August 9-11. This is the closest you will come to a brief immersion in the core work of Mountains and Waters Alliance.
Friends and Colleagues:
This is a space for news and events from groups we’re working with or just things we’d like you to know.
The potluck group listened to this talk by Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass. People have asked me to share it.
This is the new newsletter format, brief this time, planned to be monthly. Journal and Study/Action posts might still happen other times, and farm news as needed.
A note of thanks to those who have signed up for automatic donations. It makes an enormous difference. You can do this too, in any amount.