The care of the earth is our most sacred and our most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope.
– Wendell Berry
With the start of Earth Care Week just a week away (Oct 1-7), it is shaping into an inspiring and exciting time at many sanghas. With so little notice (!), our community is nonetheless responding. Here are some highlights we’ve learned about that we just don’t want to keep to ourselves:
- Albuquerque Vipassana, Albuquerque New Mexico, USA
On Saturday, October 5th, Kathryn Turnipseed will be leading the first annual Earth Care Retreat in the Sandia Mountains just outside of Albuquerque.
- Against the Stream, Los Angeles, California, USA
The Dharma Punx at Against the Stream are joining with other Los Angeles Sanghas to offer teachings on our connection with the Earth and how we can take care of it.” Noah Levine will be teaching on Earth Care at the Santa Monica and Melrose evening classes. On October 5th, the community will host a movie night with an Earth care theme and, on the following Saturday, they will join with the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center in offering a daylong on “Mindfulness for the Earth: Deepening Personal and Ecological Awareness”
- BC Insight Meditation Society, Vancouver, BC, Canada
BC Insight is hosting a number of special events for Earth Care Week including an all-day public sitting and discussion led by Brian Dean Williams on “how we can respond compassionately and skillfully to global warming and the harm it is creating.” Adrianne Ross will offer a dharma talk and video with discussion (and food!). On Saturday of Earth Care Week, there will be a Sangha Walk in the beautiful Pacific Spirit Park and, on the following Saturday, the sangha will explore mindful bicycle riding in the natural environment as a variant of walking practice.
- Bodhi Tree Brighton, Brighton, East Sussex, UK
Kirsten Kratz and Hannah Gower will be hosting a “Touching Life” daylong for the Bodhi Tree Brighton sangha to “explore together the connections between our Dharma practice and our potential to allow our insights to touch life and to contribute to a more just and sustainable world. The day will include periods of silent practice as well as periods of guided inquiry, sharing and explorations inspired, among others, by the work of Joanna Macy.”
- Desert Dharma, Moab, Utah, USA
Susie Harrington and Sarah Heffron are co-facilitating an exploration of the connection between awakening our hearts and minds and the care of the Earth. Later in the week, a potluck features the video, “The Story of Stuff” after which the sangha will discuss “how we weave together our practice and our care of this good planet.”
- East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, California, USA
The EBMC Alphabet Sangha is recognizing Earth Care Week with a dharma talk by Joan Doyle “focusing on the interconnectedness of all beings and how our individual beliefs and actions are important.”
- Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, California, USA
IMC has a number of offerings for Earth Care Week. The lead teacher at IMC, Gil Fronsdal, will be focusing his talks on the connection between Buddhist Practice and caring for our natural world. For the full month of October, children’s programs will focus on caring for the environment. IMC members are encouraged to calculate their own carbon footprint as a practice in mindful consumption. The Center is also launching a fundraising drive for a solar water heater at the new Insight Retreat Center. Finally, on Sunday October 13th, there will be a community gathering to “learn and inspire each other in practical ways we can care for our planet and all life it houses.”
- Insight Meditation Community of Washington, Washington, DC, USA
Earth Care Week has inspired an impressive list of activities at IMCW beginning late September through the end of October. Tara Brach and at least 12 other teachers will focus their local sangha meetings on Earth Care. Mary VanDevanter will host a screening and discussion of “Economics of Happiness.” On October 27th, Trudy mitchell-gilkey and Ruth King will host a daylong on “Earth & Body, Doing No Harm: A daylong to explore our interdependence.” On the same day, Ellen Tynan and Jeff Foulkes will offer an “Autumn Walk and Meditation on Sugarloaf Mountain.”
- Mission Dharma, San Francisco, California, USA
Howard (“Howie”) Cohn and Mission Dharma will be focusing on Earth Care this week by offering dharma talks, encouraging individuals to inventory their impact on natural systems and “all around conciousness raising.
- Oxford Gaia House Sangha, Oxford, UK
The Oxford Sangha is holding an all day event on Saturday, October 5th to remedy a “neglected and abused” landscape by removing litter. With meditations and reflections, this will be an opportunity for mindful practice, taking direct responsibility for human impacts and “leaving the world as clean as, or cleaner than we found it.”
- Rhode Island Community of Mindfulness, Rhode Island, USA
Joanne Friday, a dharma teacher in the lineage of Tchich Nhat Hanh, is inviting all Rhode Island sanghas to practice care for the earth for the entire month of October by bringing “a focus on our relationship with the environment and offer actions to reduce consumption and protect and celebrate the earth.”
- Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, California, USA
Teachers Mark Coleman, Donald Rothberg, Julie Wester and Dana DePalma will offer dharma talks all week focusing on “practice, action and presence with the natural world in this time of great change.” Spirit Rock’s Earth Care Week schedule includes an offer to sangha members of tree saplings from the retreat center for members to plant in their own yards.
- Zen Center of Portland, Portand Oregon, USA
On Saturday, October 5th, the Zen Center of Portland’s Larry Christensen will lead a meditation and talk/discussion on “How to Love Your Mother Earth.”
- Aloka Vihara, San Francisco, California, USA
In our first update on Earth Care Week, we shared the full Earth Care Week schedule at Aloka Vihara. Highlights include a number of dharma talks, a “Walk to Feed the Hungry,” films and shared events with the Dhammadharini Bhikkhuni Sangha and the Karuna Buddhist Vihara.
When we touch the Earth, our home, with awareness we can open to joy, beauty,and belonging. This heartfelt connection can bring forth a sense of care and compassion for all of life. With awareness we can also let in the challenges to the Earth’s well-being: pervasive drought, extensive wildfires, and rapidly melting sea ice. These and other threats of climate change can be the ground for awakening.
from the description of Albuquerque Vipassana’s Earth Care Retreat
If your sangha is planning activities for Earth Care Week not mentioned here, please let us know! Just drop us an email at gro.a1574474942hgnas1574474942htrae15744749421@tce1574474942nnoc1574474942.
May these gatherings contribute to our deepening practice and our global awakening to care for each other and our home!
In observance of the first annual Earth Care Week, our dear friends at the Aloka Vihara community in San Francisco, California, USA have put together a beautiful itinerary, open to the public. Consistent with the spirit of cooperation we wanted to inspire, some of their events are coordinated with the Dhammadharini Bhikkhuni nuns sangha and Karuna Buddhist Vihara (Compassion Monastery). Their week also features a direct act of service and compassion with a Walk to Feed the Hungry.
You can read their detailed schedule here but here is a rough outline:
Oct 1, Opening Evening for Earth Care Week at the Vihara
- Video showing ‘Story of Stuff’ followed by tea with the commmunity
- Video showing ‘Happy’ followed by sharing & discussion
- Puja (expressions of honour, worship and devotional attention) & Individual Determinations & Protection Chanting for the Earth
Oct 3, At your home: A Day Without Electricity
- Remembering the Buddha’s last words: “Be a light unto yourself”, we will not use any lights or appliances (except fridge & freezer) for the whole day. An investigation of our dependency on electricity to illuminate the heart and mind – please join us for an electricity-free day in your own home if you can.
Oct 4, Lunar (New Moon) Observance at the Vihara with the Dhammadharini Bhikkhuni Sangha
- Meal with Dhammadharini Nuns Sangha followed by the Patimokkha Recitation and then tea
- Puja and Dhamma Sharing on Earth Care and Climate Change
Oct 5, Honoring Earth Care Week at Karuna Buddhist Vihara, Milbrae
- Tea with guests
- Puja (expressions of “honour, worship and devotional attention) & Panel Discussion
Oct 6, Buddhist Global Relief Walk in San Jose
Oct 7, Closing Evening for Earth Care Week at the vihara
- Sutta Discussion related to Climate Change (AN 7:66)
- Puja & Protection Chanting for the Earth
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?