- Mountains And Waters
“what if our religion was each other,
if our practice was our life,
if prayer, our words.
what if the temple was the earth,
if forests were our church,
if holy water—the rivers, lakes, and oceans.
what if meditation was our relationships,
if the teacher was life,
if wisdom was self-knowledge,
if love was the center of our being.”
Isn’t that the dream? Every day, every moment, every person and tree and pebble known as holy, met fully in joyous intimacy – isn’t that the dream of how life might be?
We’re working our way there. Here are some bits of this work. Perhaps one of them will speak to you.
There is now a small group, meeting monthly over food. We listen to a thought-provoking talk or watch a film, with time for discussion afterward. It was a little awkward at first; gradually it’s growing deeper. After the last meeting, another member said to me “We could actually do the things talked about – become that community rather than talking about it.” I agreed. I believe we will. It will take patience and persistence. (We’ve been listening to Martin Prechtel, “Grief and Praise,” a talk on Youtube in three segments. We haven’t chosen the next one yet, and we will come back to this.)
This reminds me of something we did at Sanshin Zen Community. There’s a Zen tradition called the Precepts Ceremony, or the Full Moon Ceremony. At Sanshin we did it differently: there was chanting and reciting the precepts, then a short talk by the teacher and a sharing circle. Each of us said what precept we were working with now. It took over a year to move from formality to real sharing. I still remember the time when, after saying what I had planned to say, I broke down and confessed to killing hundreds of ants that had gotten into my bed. Reflecting on our own ethics and our own lives – this is a space for connecting.
As an individual, I give attention to the earth as temple and the forests as church. I spend time there, and make offerings. I speak with and listen to whatever earth beings call to me. In caring for the land at the farm, I attempt to remember that they are beings too. The invasive plants and animals especially – they are so much like me as a civilized human – taking their space even though it hurts others – that I struggle with how to restrain them. The kinds of restraint that came from my European ancestors are imprisonment from which I seek freedom. Do I do the same to others – even the not-human? Can they listen, can they change consciousness and learn to coexist? It seems highly doubtful, but as a colonizer dare I claim to be better than other colonizers? And yet, how can I not defend the native plants, not to mention those I planted for food?
So there is this thing I don’t know. I do my best to share it anyway, to make situations for others to meet the earth beings too. These are sometimes called “Land Care Retreat” and sometimes just farm workdays.
So I invite you to these actions – one or more of them:
Gather with other people to make a holy place and time, as we are doing with the potluck/study group. Choose a theme, and adjust it from time to time. Make a habit of it; commit.
Acknowledge the ones who are already with you – spouse, family, friends – honor them, worship the love between you, help it to grow. Just do this all the time.
Worship the forests, the earth, the waters. Do it formally, making an offering of some kind – an offering of words or song or poetry, of dance or movement, of something you made – and listen and accept their offering too. Make a habit of it.
Also do this with others. Be patient, and persist.
And that’s what I have to offer, as we turn toward 2019. Please practice community as religion, in every way.
“The sangha is the whole of the holy life.” (Said the Buddha to Ananda)