Holding Space: Reflecting on the First Earth Care Week

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Meditation is about awareness of what is going on – not only within oneself, but all around you. Care for yourself first, then you can care for others. You have to learn how to help others while still practicing mindful breathing … Dwelling in the present moment is the only way to truly develop peace and transform our suffering, both in oneself and in the world.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Today is the last day of the first Earth Care Week, an event our community will recognize the first week of each October. We at One Earth Sangha have been delighted by the response. Emails to connect@1earthsangha.org kept us updating our schedule of events well into the week itself .  As a community, we can notice, appreciate, absorb and allow ourselves to be moved by this experience.  We can reflect together on what emerged and explore the implications for our practice and for wise and compassionate action.  We at One Earth Sangha, still so new and eager to learn, are excited about hosting this ongoing community conversation about what it means to express a Buddhist response to climate change.

Our list of events (likely incomplete!), included a diverse set of offerings across the US, Canada and the UK of dharma talks, day-longs, film screenings, children’s programming, nature walks, sustainability projects, peaceful demonstrations and direct care for natural environments.   Now as the week concludes, we invite everyone to take this moment to breathe in all that we experience.

Perhaps we opened up to sincere gratitude for the miracle of each life, including our very own, and the grand symphony of the biosphere.  We may have allowed ourselves to experience then the pain we feel for a world so imperiled by our collective actions. Our hearts may have broken or our anger flared at the injustice of climate change with the very real costs to those least responsible.  Some of the testimonials we’ve heard so far bear witness to the reality that climate change, the enormity and the gravity of the situation at hand, can be overwhelming.  At the same time, we may have noticed some new possibilities and learned more about humanity growing awareness and creativity kicking in, as Bill McKibben says, like an immune response just as the planet’s fever rises.  We might experience a re-connection to life in which caring directly for life changes us.  And, in contrast to the messages we receive about our powerlessness, we might hear the stories of the early abolitionists, Indian independence, civil rights or farm worker movements that reveal the possibilities of what we can do together.

As the initiatives of this week continue to unfold, and as the work we have done together continues to sink deeper, we can be encouraged and emboldened by essential dharma: we are all connected; our love, our attention, our actions, these truly matter. One way we can see ourselves in a larger, interconnected framework is to set the actions of our sanghas during Earth Care Week into the context of a larger, inter-faith movement underway. Interfaith Power and Light, Green Faith, and Interfaith Moral Action on Climate are examples of the way in which people of all walks of life are recognizing the moral and spiritual dimensions of our current environmental crisis. Truly this is a moment to rejoice in the larger response, take heart in the power of attentive presence, and experience, with great appreciation, our love for this precious jewel we call home.

Each pearl contains the reflection of every other pearl. Each pearl is contained within every other pearl. If you touch the net anywhere, it is felt everywhere.

– Bernie Glassman

Core to the mission of One Earth Sangha is to engage in conversation about how to work skillfully with our present situation.  We want to hear from you.  Even if your sangha didn’t explicitly observe Earth Care Week, please share with us your experiences in connecting with loving presence to the truth of climate change and, perhaps share your ideas for how we all might respond with wisdom and compassion.  What was hard, what was easy, what surprised you, what seems newly possible?

Please feel encouraged to share using the comment box below.  Let the dialogue be an occasion for mindfulness, welcoming with loving presence all that arises.  As always, we practice the path of wise speech, consistently respectful and truly welcoming of diverse opinions.

2 Comments on “Holding Space: Reflecting on the First Earth Care Week

  1. I attended Tara Brach’s Earth Care talk this past week and enjoyed getting to break out in groups with other attendees afterwards. The theme that emerged from sharing was we all felt hope rests in us coming together collectively to address these issues. Shifting from “what can I do” to “what can we do”. To share our love for the planet, our sadness and sense of overwhelm within the safety of sangha – where we feel accepted, non-judged, and held — I really felt the enormous potential and power in this. As we shared, I noticed my tight internal space surrounding the issues we and the planet face begin to soften. I am seeing hope, as well as a clearing – the beginning of a path toward a sustainable future for humanity. May we sustain our collective commitment to this, in service to all beings and this beautiful planet. Thank you!

  2. I was honored during these past few weeks to lead two different “Guided Walking Meditations” through two beautiful spaces – a state arboretum and experimental farm, and the botanical gardens of a regional museum.

    We did a metta “looking” meditation, appreciating all of life by spending some intimate time looking and being with; a Standing Tree meditation (where you look at a tree and are guided to experience yourself as a tree, experiencing what that tree is also experiencing); and an Elements meditation … feeling all of the elements – earth, air, fire, water – in your own body, knowing yourself as part of creation, not separate from the Earth but a breathing, moving part of it …

    My belief is that if we don’t touch the earth on a daily basis, in all different weather patterns … if we don’t allow ourselves re-member that we ARE the earth – that if it doesn’t survive, we won’t either – we won’t pay attention to how it is suffering, and how we and all other sentient beings are suffering as a result.

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