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Only For Your Benefit, Honored One

The Dharma as Antidote to Climate Grief and Activist Burnout

This EcoDharma Exploration featuring Earth activist and Soto Zen practitioner Tim Ream took place on Sunday, August 21, 2022.
Find the recording below. We welcome your support for this program.

Our hearts, opened by practice, feel unprecedented suffering from the impacts of climate change on the wholeness of life. What is already lost, what is still being lost, lead to profound grief. The enormity of the global condition can make our attempts to respond feel meaningless. Staying engaged in a movement for change seems to become more difficult by the day.

Yet the practices and teachings of the ancients still offer helpful ways to respond. In this gathering, we will explore some of these teachings and practices, including a koan attributed to the great Chinese teacher Dongshan Lianjie.

Tim Ream is a long-time Earth activist and Soto Zen practitioner. He received lay ordination from Tenshin Reb Anderson in 1994 and has engaged since in repeated, intensive residential practice, mostly at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and Green Gulch Farm. Tim is an organizer, campaigner, writer, and environmental attorney. His activism ranges from direct action and civil disobedience like tree-sitting and road blockading to successful lawsuits to protect wolves and other species.

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Dongshan and a monk were washing their bowls after breakfast
and saw two cranes fighting over a frog.

The monk turned to his teacher and asked,
‘Why does it always come to that?’

Dongshan answered, ‘It is only for your benefit, Honored One.’

Journaling Prompts

  1. Describe an aspect of climate change or its impacts that you find most triggering, hardest to stay settled in the face of.
  2. Thinking about the last 24 hours, describe at least three things you are grateful for. These can be something as simple as a breath or a meal or as profound as an interaction with someone you deeply love.
  3. Now return to thinking about your triggering experience. Honor the pain it brings you by describing how it feels in your body.
  4. Describe one of your most profound nature experiences. You could recall an encounter with a plant or animal, a landscape, or a moment where you felt a deep connection with Earth.
  5. What is your expression of being truly hopeless without acting helpless, that is, while staying engaged?


More EcoDharma Explorations


Amid new levels of collective instability, how might we change our relationship to distress, anxiety and all of their relatives? Damchö Diana Finnegan and Kristin Barker co-lead this gathering on July 28 to ground our responses in a steady posture and open heart.


On Right Relations with Deniers, Delayers, and Destroyers

How might we relate to the "bad guys" as advocates and activists attempting to reduce suffering in the world at large? Kevin Gallagher led this gathering on June 23rd, in exploration of how we might relate, on behalf of both people and planet, to those who cause harm.


The Dynamic Balance of Yin and Yang, Emptiness and Action, Rest and Engagement, on the Path of Change-Making

What strength might we discover when we connect to often-overlooked virtues such as stillness, rest, and receptivity? On April 28, Deborah Eden Tull led this investigation into the sacred balance of light and dark within Nature and our own minds.