Wise action in the face of climate change can be an important and satisfying part of our practice. During the first week of October (1-7 October 2013), Earth Care Week will unfold. We invite you to join the global sangha in this annual expression of brave presence with the natural world in this time of great change. With support from One Earth Sangha, you can bring Earth Care Week to your own community and your daily practice.
At the recent International Vipassana Teachers’ meeting, the idea of “Earth-Care Week” was born. Each year, during the first week of October, Earth Care Week will bring teachers and members of the greater sangha together to both celebrate our natural world and address the major environmental issues of our time, including climate change. Through various events during Earth Care Week, the community will explore ways to bring care for our planet into our practice and engagement with the world. One Earth Sangha will contribute to Earth Care Week by hosting online conversations, sharing resources and engaging sangha members from all traditions to join the conversation. Already teachers and sanghas from other traditions have decided to join in this event. Everyone is welcome!
You can make Earth Care Week an authentic expression of your own and your community’s connection to our changing planet. We’re offering here some possible themes with ideas to get you going and we’re inviting you, our community, to add your own:
Care for the earth is deeply woven into Buddhist wisdom teachings. Consider exploring the relationship between various Buddhist traditions and care for the earth. What mindfulness practices can enhance our understanding of right relationship with the earth? How can Buddhist teachings and practices provide a compassionate container for all that arises within us? What is the support in Buddhist tradition for engaging on social issues in the public sphere?
- Idea: Offer and solicit Dharma talks on nature, caring for our natural world, and practicing with our responses to climate change.
- Idea: Explore Socially Engaged Buddhism with your sangha. Learn from sangha members and other sanghas what it means to manifest active compassion in the world.
- Idea: Offer an environmental film night or evening of poetry readings with discussion afterwards on a wise response to the climate crisis (and share your film ideas here!)
- Idea: Offer an all-night sitting in solidarity with the humans and other species suffering from climate disruption.
What is the significance of and what are strategies for living and working sustainability? What does mindful consumption look like as a practice? How can we support each other as individuals, spiritual communities, neighborhoods and businesses to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel-based energy and toward carbon-free power?
- Idea: Share commitments to and resources for personal energy audits.
- Idea: If your sangha manages one or more buildings, create a solar panel project as community practice.
Learning: Climate and Justice Education
What is the social impact of climate change and other environmental threats and how are they distributed across humanity? What are the local efforts to address environmental justice?
- Idea: Take some time as a community to learn about how climate change is and will continue to affect your community. Share what you learn with your sangha and notice what arises — both within you and the group. Brainstorm actions to prepare for the impacts of climate change in your own backyard.
- Idea: Reach out to a sangha in a nearby community with different demographics than your own. Exchange ideas about what climate disruption and suffering means to each. Listen to each other’s history and get to know common as well as different challenges.
- Idea: As a sangha, explore how climate change is already affecting communities all over the world. Look as well at the impact on the non-human world.
What wisdom can the various Buddhist lineages, faith traditions and secular movements bring to our understanding of the spiritual and moral dimensions of climate change? Can we join together on existing initiatives or create new ones that enable us to act on these shared understandings?
- Idea: Reach out to the “green groups” of local Buddhist sanghas or other faith traditions to create new relationships, learn from each other’s experience and support each other’s efforts.
- Idea: Create conversations with environmental justice groups. Add numbers to their events and support their leadership.
- Idea: Create or join local cooperatives that organize buying power of sustainable products and services.
Climate change is usually approached as a looming crisis. And from this vantage point, many people shutdown, unable to move further to action. Can we face this great challenge of our time as a joyful expression of our love of this life? Can we help our communities see the wonders of a better future as we move beyond dirty energy and into a safer world?
- Idea: Take a field trip to your local park or wilderness area. Reconnect with the natural world to which you are so intimately connected. Hold the feelings of joy and sorrow together as you cultivate energy and inspiration.
- Idea: Start a community Solar Coop, where individuals join together to take power into their own hands and build the clean energy world of tomorrow.
- Idea: Hold a community workshop based on Joanna Macy’s “Work That Reconnects” and support each other on the path to forgiveness and joy as part of the Great Turning.
Everyone is invited! Whatever it is that lights your heart and is your Dharma doorway into Earth-Care Week is welcome. Given that the week is just around the corner, there isn’t a lot of time to plan. So let this first year’s event be about planting seeds. Let this be a beginning for integrating environmental and social justice practices into your sangha throughout the year.
Last but not least, we invite you to share it all with the One Earth Sangha community. Inspire one another! Share what you’re planning, ideas and resources, strategies and how it’s all going. You can add to this post with a comment below, share a resource using our resources form or send us an email. Whatever works for you, please join the conversation on Earth Care Week here at One Earth Sangha.
Catherine McGee, a regular dharma teacher at Gaia House in the UK, offers an earth-dharma perspective on the first foundation of mindfulness and our larger body.
It is here we awaken: knowing body as body, knowing earth as earth.
“In this way she abides contemplating the body as a body internally, externally, and both internally and externally.”
– Satipatthana sutta: The Foundations of Mindfulness
Practicing the first foundation of mindfulness, knowing body internally and externally, we can come to know we are of this earth. When we sit and feel the solidity of our bones, the firmness of the flesh, the density and weightiness of our human presence, we can come to know what it is to sit ‘as earth sitting on earth’. This is part of knowing our basic elemental nature and something we share with everyone and everything. As we come more into body, we gain direct insight that our intimacy with earth is more primary than anything our mind can tell us. This intimacy is breath-takingly immediate; unmediated by anything. It is an undeniable aspect of being human. We are literally ‘in our element’ as embodied creatures. Whether we are happy about this or not is another story. But for now, this earthly body IS home base.
It takes a path of practice for many of us to heal the ways we have lost contact with our body and taken refuge in abstraction. Abstracting ourselves as separate leads to all kinds of dukkha: personal; national; global). When we see a thing as separate we come out of real relationship with it, whether it be our body, other bodies or the great body of this earth. Then we treat it in ways distorted by delusion.
We abstract into separation because it is not always easy to tolerate the sensitivity of our animal body, impinged upon by (6-fold) contact and comfortable only within a narrow range of temperatures and other conditions, and subject to insecurity, sickness and death.
Healing this separation, and coming into a wise relationship with body is imperative for waking up and responding to the reality of the times we live in. And through practice we can realize that this body is not a separate stand alone phenomena. That view is a mind made story.
Through the body we cultivate the stable presence of Samadhi, a ground from which to see deeply and not be unseated by our programming. With body as a firm basis we can begin to heal the duality of being lost in mind made worlds, and come into the profound and sensitive immediacy of the human realm. It is here, not someplace else, that we can sense directly that we are from the earth, the fertile material substance- the humus. This is where our humanness is grounded and where we have the choice to act with appropriate humility. And it is here in this body that we can make our insights real, live them through our actions of body speech and mind. We may have many realizations, but only through action do they become transformative.
And it is here, on this earth, that we take our place as human beings – these marvelous human animals that can respond and act: who can join hands, who can stand up for what is wholesome, who can speak up for those yet to be born, who can say ‘no’ when justice and respect for life is undermined. And it is us, through love and humility, who have the capacity to let go of physical comfort and convenience and psychological security, for the benefit of the whole. It is here, on this earth, not someplace else, that we awaken. Here and now, on this planet, in these conditions, amidst this instability. In this very body, however you define it- your body, our bodies, the vast body of this planet. The wider the definition, the more we expand and can live the ennobling life. Awakening and appropriate response, in this very body, in this very life.
What would it mean for you to live your life as if you really knew, in the depth of your heart and your cells, that you were not separate from this earth and all the earth’s beings?
The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh was asked what we need to do to save our world. “What we most need to do,” he replied, “is to hear within us the sound of the earth crying.”
Representing a diverse set of spiritual traditions, Spiritual Ecology is a spiritual response to our present ecological crisis. The physcical reality of climate change, the biodiversity reality of species loss, the ecological reality of a life systems under seage are not by accident; they are the effects of how we chose to live on this earth. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that
(These are) the bells of mindfulness,” calling us to be attentive, to wake up and listen. The earth needs our attention. It needs us to help heal its body, damaged by our exploitation, and also its soul, wounded by our desecration, our forgetfulness of its sacred nature. We need to act from a place of real awareness, attentive to the outer and inner need of the earth.
This collection of essays implores us to move through the barriers to this recognition and return, as a matter of spiritual and physical survival, to our natural reverence for life.
“There is hope if people will begin to awaken that spiritual part of themselves, that heartfelt knowledge that we are caretakers of this planet.”
— Brooke Medicine Eagle