Core Practices to Support the Planet and Ourselves

Part of the “Showing up for the Planet” series

In this video teaching, Donald Rothberg draws on his long-time involvement with socially engaged Buddhism, including the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and the Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement (BASE) that explored social action and meditation in small-group settings in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1990-2005. Donald invites us to embrace a diverse menu of climate actions as meaningful and counsels us to engage with “what makes you come alive.”

This talk was excerpted from Showing Up for the Planet, a daylong program on August 22 hosted by Marin Sangha. Speakers in addition to Donald included Thanissara, James Baraz, Kritee Kanko, Teja Bell, Kristin Barker, and Eve Decker.

View the slide deck from the presentation.

Six Core Practices for Those Showing Up for the Planet

  1. Regular communion with the earth.
  2. Building community and a sense of connection, and practicing in this context.
  3. Being skillful with difficult emotions and thoughts related to the climate emergency.
  4. Cultivating empathy and compassion, and bringing the empathy across boundaries of country, race, age, class, and political views.
  5. Staying connected to one’s imagination.
  6. Finding one’s own form of committed action and staying with it.

Selected Quotes

We need practices which sustain our vision and our bodies, hearts and minds, and our communities.

Typically the difficult narratives are covering over unacknowledged or unprocessed pain. We need to get beneath the narratives.

I like to talk about empathy more as an intentional practice, than an innate capacity.

These are not just about finding personal balance or meaning. These practices create a new world.


Donald Rothberg, PhD, has practiced Insight Meditation since 1976, and has also received training in Tibetan Dzogchen, Mahamudra practice and the Hakomi approach to body-based psychotherapy. Formerly on the faculties of the University of Kentucky, Kenyon College, and Saybrook Graduate School, he currently writes and teaches classes, groups and retreats on meditation, daily life practice, spirituality and psychology, and socially engaged Buddhism. He is the author of The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World and the co-editor of Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with Leading Transpersonal Thinkers.

Giving Tuesday 2020

Ten thousand years of climate stability may be ending. Yet this world has always been an unstable place. One Earth Sangha is developing new programs for 2021 to support you in a path of growing wisdom, community, and action.

We are called to neither rise above nor fall apart. The Earth and the Dharma call us to go deep, hear their teachings, join with others, and then engage wherever and however we can. Together, we can develop inner stability as we actively respond to a world in need.

Every donation matters. Taking just one example, with your help, we have awarded more than $2500 in scholarships to support those without financial means to join the most recent version of the EcoSattva Training. Your ongoing support means we can build connections within our Dharma community, build strategies with interfaith and secular groups, and bring unique Buddhist perspectives to mobilization campaigns. Donations from members of our community mean we can continue to provide the steady flow of EcoDharma from leading teachers and activists in our networks to your inbox and social channels.

Our promise to you is to remain vigilant, ensuring that every dollar is carefully spent in service of our core mission. With your support, we can continue to enliven and extend the Dharma for the dignity, health, well-being, and ultimate awakening of all members of the living Earth community.

As we invest in current and new lines of work, on this Giving Tuesday, we invite you to support the work of One Earth Sangha.

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For a donation of $500 or more, we’re offering a special thank you gift. This banner with the slogan “Embody Fierce Compassion” is approximately 2’x3′, silk screened on linen. As these are made by hand, each is slightly different. To receive your banner, be sure to fill out this form so we know where to send your thank you gift!

Donations to One Earth Sangha are received and processed by our fiscal sponsor, GreenFaith. As GreenFaith is registered in the United States as a tax exempt, non-profit organization (tax ID #22-3452273), your donation is fully tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.

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We look forward to being in ever more engaged practice with you.

Unboxing Our Selves

The emotional toll of isolation, as people stay home and avoid others, has added to the shared pain of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the U.K. enters another lockdown, contributing writer Emma Palmer describes the “boxing in” she experienced during the first wave of the pandemic and two things that are helping her cope—communion with nature and dharma teachings on suffering, impermanence, and emptiness.

© Emma Palmer

Late this past summer I spent a welcome holiday in Shropshire, a land of crags, scarps, and valleys. The geology in this county is, apparently, more diverse than anywhere else of a comparable size in the world: 700 million years of earth history. These lands have given rise to rich mythology; the Long Mynd being compared to a dragon’s spine, the volcano-like Wrekin hill said to be created by a Welsh giant who didn’t like the people of nearby Shrewsbury.

Dukkha has been the flavour of so much of life since March. It’s even multi-layered, like the igneous on top of the red sandstone shaping those Shropshire Hills.

It is a liminal county in that it bridges the man-made border between England and Wales, much disputed over the centuries, as evidenced in the ruins of 32 castles dotted around Offa’s Dyke. Tranquil in the present-day, yet with a quiet tumultuousness of the Church Stretton and Pontesford-Linley fault lines beneath my feet and with tangible reminders of recently warring humans, it was a blissful place to spend a week. The Shropshire Hills aren’t the Rocky Mountains, nor the Alps, but, up close, the inclines are steep and the elements can be full of themselves – the night sky is bright and twinkling, ideal for star-gazing, now fairly rare in the UK.

It was a relief to have a week off, the first since Christmas. I felt extra fortunate to roam this ancient, mythical place with its ambiguous edges and borders, the land somehow defying human categorisation. In a time when life has changed so quickly, become so categorised, along with its clinical words (‘social distancing’, ‘shielding’, ‘self-isolating’, ‘lockdown’), the relief of following my feet felt profound. Coming from a locked down city, my shoulders dropped as I looked around and realised I was, for once, vastly outnumbered by elder deciduous trees and miles of shrubby hedgerow rather than humans.

© Emma Palmer

The week before holidays I’d been reflecting afresh on the three lakshanas, or ‘marks of existence’, one of my favourite Dharma teachings. Sitting and walking on the ancient rocks, those beloved teachings came to life, somehow made visible. Being perched on Shropshire rocks, which used to form the bottom of the ocean bordering present-day South America, reminds me of the first lakshana: anicca, the truth of impermanence, that nothing—absolutely nothing—is fixed or stable. Whether the changes are the bending and stretching of rock happening over millennia, or the four days it took to furlough all my colleagues in my family’s business at the beginning of lockdown, when I felt the shock of going from being part of a viable work community to sitting alone in a Marie-Celeste-like office. Thanks, anicca.

Then I pondered anatta, the second lakshana—the truth that because everything in the universe changes, so too do humans. Who is it, sitting here, typing, anyway? Who was it wondering at that mythical landscape without borders, in the last rays of the late summer sun? Who is she? I realise I have become a bit ‘boxed in’, a bit automaton at times, amplified perhaps by relating to far flung friends, family, clients via the square screen of my laptop. I was further boxing myself in following covid-19 measures, maybe too religiously, even occasionally forgetting to take a daily walk or touching the earth at our community garden because of a hard-to-pin-down fear of facing people, things—myself. In fairness, a shocking family separation in the early days of the pandemic meant that I have been supporting more, feeling protective—a go-to default in my psychic make-up. Go-betweener and protector, they are useful functions, but—note to self—dismantle rather than fortify the castles within, not unlike the ones I explored on those once contested borders.

The preoccupation with covid-19 reporting means that other news is lost. Rising temperatures in the Arctic have shrunk the ice covering the polar ocean to its second-lowest extent in four decades.

And finally, the third lakshana of dukkha, the truth that life is unsatisfactory—and made more unsatisfactory when I forget the first two lakshanas, acting as though I’m here forever and I’m fixed, definite and reliable. Oops. Dukkha has been the flavour of so much of life since March. It’s even multi-layered, like the igneous on top of the red sandstone shaping those Shropshire Hills. I find myself sometimes judgmentally tutting to myself, sometimes in weeping despair, wondering how on earth we will address the climate emergency. Really take in, to our heart of hearts, the devastation of the sixth extinction crisis so love and grief can continue to lead to action, at a time when we can’t resist stock-piling pasta and toilet roll. It’s not the whole story. In other moments I am bowled over by the ordinary acts of kindness and the strengthening of community in our street.

Dukkha has been highlighted during the pandemic. I remember the days during the ‘first wave’, enjoying the peace of our small garden with so little traffic on the roads and so much birdsong, before the peace was broken by a passing ambulance—we live equidistant from two emergency rooms. The dukkha of systematic inequality is highlighted in who is most detrimentally affected by COVID-19. Following government advice to ‘stay home and save lives’, more of us than ever were online and witnessed the murder of George Floyd—his untimely death touching those who mightn’t have otherwise been touched. Two weeks later here in Bristol the statue of Edward Colston—a wealthy slave trader—was, at long last, mobbed and chucked in the river in #BlackLivesMatter protests, reflecting the potency of our digitally connected and interconnected world.

© Emma Palmer

The spirit of those ancient Shropshire hills, those starry nights and the early autumn mist covering the valley’s floors, stay with me as I carry on ‘unboxing’, trying to stay open to everything that is changing. Where do we go as we un-lockdown, in this strange twilight of infection rates climbing, and the quiet dread of waiting for the death rates to climb, too? The preoccupation with covid-19 reporting means that other news is lost. Rising temperatures in the Arctic have shrunk the ice covering the polar ocean to its second-lowest extent in four decades. In a very not-in-the-moment way, I find myself drifting ahead, a year, three years, 10 years, 50 years from now. As we learn to live longer-term alongside covid-19—keen to multiply itself, as are we—what do I/we learn about how we relate to ourselves and others? Will the sudden life changes make me more flexible, more adaptable, or more fearful of surrendering me-making? Thinking of the Arctic, of George Floyd, so many others, how will we/I remember the importance of the lives of all that lives, human and other-than-human and more-than-human life, beyond the fallacy of me and mine, the illusion of separation and permanence? What am I learning about Dharma practice? How do I keep on engaging, keep on stepping down from my meditation cushion with each new breath?

As I re-engage with life in the four walls of a busy city, I find myself spontaneously bringing the elements to mind as I gather to sit. I’m not doing a full-blown version of the traditional Tibetan practice of recollecting the six elements as I have in the past, yet I find it helpful to bring each of the elements to mind: earth, water, fire, air, space, consciousness. I sense each one—its nature and textures—within and far beyond me, whether that’s imagining the solidity of the earthy ridge of Wenlock Edge, back in the Shropshire Hills, and then sensing the strength of my earthy bones, contrasting with their flesh covering. This earth, and water, and fire, and air, and space, and consciousness, it is not me, it is not mine. Recalling and reflecting on the elements I uncover a simple peace and a boundless love. Peace in the poignant knowledge of the fleetingness of life in this skin, and noticing that even 700 million year old rocks are still moving and shaping.


Emma Palmer is a relational body psychotherapist, ecopsychologist, supervisor and facilitator. She’s been a practising, registered therapist since 2003 and is based in Bristol, UK. Emma encountered Buddhism in 1995 and was ordained in the Triratna Buddhist Order from 2005-2016. She has since taken the precepts in the Soto Zen tradition and has led and/or supported retreats in the UK at Taraloka and Gaia House, Ecodharma in Spain, and is a long-distance supporter of the Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Center in Colorado. In 2012 Mantra Books published her first book, Meditating with Character, and she has since published numerous papers and three further books: Other than Mother, Bodywise and #MeToo: Counsellors and Psychotherapists Speak about Sexual Violence and Abuse. She’s felt extraordinarily appreciative of practice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

EcoDharma: Buddhist Teachings on the Precipice

In this video teaching, David Loy draws on his recent book EcoDharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis to offer a Buddhist perspective on responding to the climate emergency that can help us face issues of social and political divide and upheaval as well. All of these daunting challenges call for bodhisattvas, or ecosattvas, who have a “two-sided practice”—committed to inner transformation and thus able to maintain equanimity in the face of uncertainty, while also ready to engage in compassionate social action.

This recording is from a seminar hosted by the Network of Buddhist Organizations (UK).

Selected Quotes

Probably the most important teaching of Buddhism in relationship to our present situation—it’s what I would call the ecosattva path.

‘Sentient beings are numberless. I vow to save them all.’ Wow. We are vowing to fulfill an unfulfillable vow, is that weird or what? Since it can’t be fulfilled, what it’s calling for is a reorientation in our lives.

I hope whatever you do, you do it with community.

Hope and despair are dualities. I don’t think it’s hope and despair that motivate bodhisattvas. I think it’s something deeper.

We don’t know if what we do is important, but it seems very important for us to do it.

Our ecological efforts are our gift to the earth.


David Robert Loy is a professor, writer, and teacher in the Sanbo tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism. A student of Yamada Koun and Robert Aitken, he was authorized to teach in 1988 and leads retreats and workshops nationally and internationally. He is author of EcoDharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis and A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution, and Ethics in the Modern World, and he is co-editor of A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency. He is also director and vice-president of the Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center.

Applications Open: Buddhist Eco-Chaplaincy

Buddhist Eco-Chaplaincy

Date/Time
Date(s) – Jan 20, 2021 – Feb 23, 2022
All Day

Event Sponsor and Host
Sati Center for Buddhist Studies


with Gil Fronsdal, Susie Harrington, and Kirsten Rudestam

From the organizer:

Course Description:

This program offers basic Buddhist training in the wisdom and skill needed to be a Buddhist Environmental Chaplain, i.e., those who work to establish people in a healthy, compassionate, and mutually supportive relationship with the natural world. It will offer experience-based activities and contemplative practices that deepen individuals’ own relationships with the natural world, as well as provide them with skills to be spiritual caregivers, helping others (re)connect with nature and face contemporary environmental crises with wisdom and compassion.

Details and Logistics:

The BEC training program will run for one year and will include seven two-day online retreats and one seven-day residential retreat (California based location, circumstances permitting). Each course will include teachings, sessions of meditation, skills training, reflection, group work, community building and silent time in nature. In between courses, participants will be assigned readings, writings, and exercises, and have regular meetings with other participants. A key learning component of the program is for participants to create and engage in a personal project of their choosing that aligns with the goals of the program; this is putting into action the intention of the training and what is learned. In addition, white identified people will be asked to concurrently participate in a White Awake program. Offered by Gil Fronsdal, Susie Harrington and Kirsten Rudestam, the retreats will also feature guest teachers and facilitators skilled in specific areas of teaching and inquiry. Upon completion participants will receive certificate of completion in Buddhist Eco-chaplaincy Training from the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies.

Learn More

This event is hosted by Sati Center for Buddhist Studies.
For more information, see the event website here.


One Earth Sangha offers a global list of events that express a Buddhist / mindfulness response to ecological crises. We invite you to join or add events that develop and demonstrate our interdependence with all of life! Events that address multiple issues (e.g., racism, economic injustice and environmental health) are encouraged. You’re invited to list events from your local sangha, including earth-oriented day-longs, retreats and even regular sangha meetings. We also want you to share demonstration and direct action events. You, the members of our Sangha, are encouraged to submit events, whether they be from the Dharma community, other faith groups or secular, where you wish to gather other Buddhist / mindfulness practitioners to participate. To submit an event, please email us.

This growing list of events will always be available here and in the main menu under “Get Involved.”

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