A Newsletter of Earth Holding Actions in the Plum Village Tradition.

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Touching the Earth Newsletter


SPRING 2017 - Issue 10

In This Issue: Editorial Team:
Nomi Green
Denisse Aguilar
Susan Poulos
Joy Lam
Kenley Neufeld
Elaine Anne Sparrow
Julia Riley

Contact Us:
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Deer Park Monastery
 
Dear Friends,

Springtime invites us to enjoy the longer days, the beautiful and fragrant flowers, the songs and sights of migrating birds, and the freshness and kindness we can generate with each breath, with each step, even in the midst of many challenges.

In this issue, Yamin Chehin shares her profound experience of practicing deep listening and loving speech with someone she encountered while on a healing, post-election hike. Jill McKay and Carrie Grabo describe the power and beauty of flowing as a river with numerous Sanghas in the Washington, DC, area at the Women’s March, and how walking was a sacrament of love for our Mother Earth. Nomi Green reflects on her practice of producing a moment of mindfulness even in difficult moments. And if you like cheese, you will love the Plant-Powered Earth Holders' recipes for vegan cheese and tips to help us eat in a way that expresses care for the planet, for our animal brothers and sisters, and for our health.

We are delighted to share these stories of love, compassion, and wisdom with you and hope that they water your seeds of happiness, stability, freshness, and courage.

With love and gratitude,
Your Touching the Earth Editorial Team
Earth Practice
Pachamama photo

Pachamama's* Voice
By Yamin Chehin

It was a cold morning, the air crisp, the mountain silent.  I felt heavy with emotions after the presidential election.  My head was chatty and my feet felt numb.  I decided to walk with a very alive question in my heart: What actions would best serve my Environmental advocacy?

I noticed how the more I hiked, the more Mother Nature’s both gentle and intense wisdom penetrated my body and my emotions, showing me free space inside awaiting to receive more breath, more calmness, more presence.

I climbed up a tree from where I could see a man and a woman sitting very still, looking into each other’s eyes.  Inspired by their quiet presence, my focus began to shift from random mind chatter to the rise and fall of my chest.  The more attention I devoted to my breathing, the more I felt arriving to the tree that held me, to the sound of birds around me, to the intense dryness in the air and to the two beings that kept looking into each other’s eyes in complete stillness.  The mind chatter gave way to curiosity: who would move first?  The light shifted, yet the figures would not move an inch.  After a while, I climbed down the tree, refreshed and smiling. As I walked away, I decided to turn my head towards the direction of woman-and-man-in-silent-dialogue to thank them and say a silent goodbye, but they were not there anymore.  They had literally disappeared! At first I felt confused, disoriented and then amused and thankful when I realized the magical ways in which Pachamama shares her Wisdom.  In changing perspective, I understood that the two figures I had perceived as human were actually shapes carved by the light on a felled tree.

I kept on walking towards the meadow, feeling Mother Earth with my entire body and inspired by the way in which the Spirit of the Forest had made itself visible through form.  A winding road took me to a cattle guard where I found this man looking down at the soil.

“Bobcat footprints”, he said by way of introduction.

“Yay!” I exclaimed, revealing my happy heart at the thought of these beautiful animals surviving both the intense drought and the loss of habitat in California.

He was wearing a cowboy hat which provided shade to a very white and wrinkled face over a fairly athletic body.

“You see that meadow?” he said, pointing at the flat behind me.  “That used to be a lake.  You can still see the marks of the water edge carved on the stones.  They dried up the lake when they built a dam up north.”

I felt the familiar pang in my heart when I heard the words “dry up” and “dam”, meaning manipulation of Mother Earth as if she were an inert “thing” to serve no one but humans.

“I am sorry”, I said, thinking of the dark times we would be facing very soon with Trump’s anti-environmental agenda.

“Well, it’s progress, you know.  It’s the right thing to do.  We need progress.  That is why I voted for Trump”.

The blow of his words caught me by surprise, but the roots of the trees pulled down my reactive answer while infusing my heart with the sap of curiosity and inclusion. I had the clear feeling that Mother Earth was listening through my ears, allowing me to take the witness seat.  My feet felt rooted in Earth while my spine grew ever so straight towards the sun.  I felt spacious, fresh and present. I was meditating!  

As much as I wanted to rebuke this veteran of war for what he had said, I found myself not only listening but understanding his story of disillusion and pain.  This understanding, I felt, was possible only because it was the Earth herself who was listening, through me.

Since that encounter I’ve had daily opportunities to practice “rooting in Earth."  My confession: At times, the powerful winds of injustice and political volatility have almost uprooted my steadfast commitment to let Mother Earth listen deeply through my body.  It takes only a deep, connected breath, a short visit to the ocean, or a tree hug, however, for me to remember that there is no separation between this human being called “Yamin” and every other species on Earth. It is this collective wisdom that allows me to find heart in the words I speak and compassion in the actions I take as an advocate for Nature.

“Thank you for fighting the war," I heard my voice say to the man.

“And thank you for fighting yours.  Keep at it," he said with a wink.

We walked across the cattle guard.

Still in opposite directions.

Still in disagreement.

AND…

Held by the same wondrous Mother Earth.

*Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother.

Yamin Chehin, Tranquil Awakening of the Heart, practices Oriental Medicine in Los Angeles and facilitates Council Circles in communities throughout Southern California.

Sangha Action
Women's March DC
By Jill McKay & Carrie Grabo

Many Sanghas in the Washington, DC, area, including Baltimore and Beyond Mindfulness Community, Boat of Compassion, Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax, Opening Heart Mindfulness Community, Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center, and Washington Mindfulness Community came together to coordinate our participation in the Women’s March. We were truly drops in the Sangha river from the beginning.

Our intention was to bring the energy of mindfulness to the Mall. In the weeks prior to the march we had felt some apprehension. The crowd would be large. Many Trump supporters would be in town. Would there be hostile protests against us?  How would law enforcement react?  Would it be unbearably cold? Our Dharma teachers, Anh-Huong and Thu Nguyen, encouraged us to embrace our fear along with our commitment to walk the Bodhisattva Path. The evening before the march, we gathered for meditation and sharing. Anh-Huong and Dharma teacher Joanne Friday spoke about building the energy of compassion for all who are afraid, angry, or feeling helpless in the face of recent events. Anh-Huong reminded us that we would be walking for the earth, the sky, the rocks, the fish, the birds, and all living beings.  She asked that we maintain Noble Silence during the day of the march to concentrate the energy of mindfulness and compassion.

Arriving on the day of the march was joyful, as friends from California, Oregon, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Connecticut, North Carolina, New York, the greater Washington area, and elsewhere gathered together. Smiles and hugs were in abundance, and the heartfelt energy of our beautiful tradition steadily grew.

Fortunately the weather was mild for January in DC, and we could dress to stay warm without difficulty. We were invited to wear a sunflower to identify ourselves in the crowd, and OI members were invited to wear their brown jackets. By the time we made our solid and peaceful steps towards the Mall, our group comprised no fewer than 200 members. Leading the walk was a beautiful banner inscribed with the words, “There is no Way to Peace. Peace is the Way.”

Before we began, Marisela Gomez led us in a centering meditation, then Anh-Huong reminded us that the Buddha is present in each mindful, peaceful step, and asked us to make each step for our dear Teacher, Thay. As the group was quite large and the crowd around us noisy, we used the “human megaphone” technique to convey the message. It was a beautiful reminder of Interbeing: those close could hear directly and share the insight with those of us who were more distant. We sang “I Have Arrived,” and Anh-Huong invited the bell to mark the start of our walk.

Walking behind the banner, we began our slow and silent steps towards the Mall, offering our practice to the Earth and to the crowd around us. Our silence allowed us to be fully present with each step as we breathed mindfully together, creating the space in which to recognize and hold our feelings. From moment to moment, each of us may have felt surges of excitement, hope, and a sense of belonging, but also perhaps anxiety or fear. At the same time, the concentrated energy and the feeling that our steps were the steps of the Buddha were profound. A Sangha friend holding a tall banner with a picture of Thay joined us. The banner became a beacon of solidity amidst the swirling crowd. Despite the raucous energy around us, the peace was palpable. Our walking was a sacrament of love for our Mother Earth and all who depend on her.

From time to time, we stopped. Anh-Huong invited the bell, and we breathed together before beginning our steps again. When we reached the Mall, we formed a circle and practiced sitting meditation. The crowd around us was noisy, but our circle was peaceful, concentrated, and quiet. After mindfully eating our lunch, we stood to make a large circle that became even larger as the crowd joined in. Our banner was slowly carried around the perimeter. To our surprise, members of the crowd joined, one by one, walking into the center of our circle with their own banners. We stood quietly holding their need for a safe space to be seen and heard.

By this time, it was apparent that there would be no actual marching. The crowd overwhelmed the space, and every street was blocked. We were encouraged to move in the direction of the White House. It was not easy, as movement was constrained by security barriers from the Inauguration. For a fleeting moment, the awareness that it would take only one person to panic and cause a stampede was deeply frightening, yet the noisy crowd remained joyful and supportive. By stepping and breathing as a Sangha, we were able to continue to hold any emotion that arose and maintain our concentration during the more chaotic moments.

We ended our walk by forming another circle, singing, and practicing silent hugging meditation. For all who participated, it was a profound lesson in taking refuge in the Three Jewels. Together we began the process of transforming the suffering in our own hearts, and we offered our practice to our Mother Earth and all who depend on her. As we made our way home, tired and suddenly foot-weary, we were filled with gratitude for the strength and depth of this beautiful practice.

Please see this slideshow of the Mindfulness Sanghas at the Women’s March.

Jill McKay (Rooted Pine of the Source) and Carrie Grabo (Joyful Abiding of the Source) practice with the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax in Northern Virginia.

Dharma Sharing

Producing a Moment of Happiness
By Nomi Green

 

“As activists we want to do something to help the world to suffer less. But we know that when we're not peaceful, when we don't have enough compassion in us, we can't do much to help the world.... Peace, love, and happiness must always begin here, with ourselves. There is suffering, fear, and anger inside of us, and when we take care of it, we are taking care of the world."

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

One could ask, “How is it possible to feel happy in a time like the one we are living in now, with catastrophic climate change, racial injustice, xenophobia, transphobia, and so many other needs calling for our attention?” I lived many years looking at the world in this way, feeling I could never do enough and feeling guilty for my good conditions. During Q-and-A at retreats, I have heard Thay asked questions such as this many times. It really is a burning question for those who care deeply about all beings.

Hearing the answer, as in the above quote, however, is not the same thing as realizing how to practice with these teachings in our daily lives. As Thay will also say, “This is not a declaration, it is a realization."

Many times I have heard Thay say, “A good practitioner can always produce a moment of happiness." When I would hear him say this, I would instantly conclude that I must not be a good practitioner, as I could not “always produce a moment of happiness." I started to ask myself, “Am I sure?” One day I tried it out. I started to ask myself during a moment of suffering, “Can I produce a moment of happiness now?” and was surprised that I could, merely by taking a breath and noticing the very moment I was in. Oh! Big light bulb over my head! This is what Thay has been teaching us all along. Over and over, during difficult moments, I would ask myself this question. “Can I produce a moment of happiness now?” Reading the news, I would ask myself this question. Listening to a friend's sorrow about the world, I would ask myself this question. When I felt my own despair for the people, animals, plants, and minerals that are suffering at this time, I would ask myself this question.

I began to see that I actually could produce a moment of happiness even in difficult moments if I remembered to turn my attention in the direction of happiness. The Second Mindfulness Training reminds us as well that we already have more than enough conditions for happiness. In my case today, looking out my window, I see the inspiring sight of tulips, fresh, alive and sturdy despite being covered by the snow. There are so many miracles of daily life. I have so many favorable conditions if I am able to stay right here in this very moment and notice them.  

With this realization, finally I am able to offer my freshness and stability to what is calling out for my attention. Thank you, Thay, for all you have offered us.
 

“Don’t think that you and the world are two separate things. When you breathe in mindfully and gently, when you feel the wonder of being alive, remember that you’re also doing this for the world. Practicing with that kind of insight, you will succeed in helping the world.”

Thich Nhat Hanh


Nomi Green, True Source of Virtue, is a co-founder of the Earth Holder Sangha and is enjoying the tulips. She practices with Desert Rain Sangha in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Plant-Powered Practice: Nourishing Compassion for Our Bodies, the Earth, and All Beings

Cheeze Please
How to feed your cheese-eating habit energy with plant-based, baby cow-friendly alternatives

You think you are craving cheese.  But, looking deeply, we see many things.  We consider the little calf who is being denied his food and destined for the veal market.  We see his mother, living a life sentence of separation, discomfort, then painful death.  Seeing this, you can wish for another path.  Yet, cheese-eating is one of the hardest habits for us to change when we try to be more plant-based.  The good news is there are many good resources for making alternative cheese.

The Homemade Vegan Pantry and Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner are excellent places to start.  Her method ranges from crazy simple to more complicated (with good results).  Many of these cheezes are cultured with rejuvelac.  These recipes are quite easy, and none of them take much time.  But steps are often spread out over a series of days, so they do take some planning.  

The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak is also an easy and delicious cookbook.  Also, it has great recipes for "cheesy" dishes that we know and crave.  Mac and cheeze, cheezy soups, etc.…all are in here!

Some of our Favorites Cheeze Recipes

Luckily, the many great cooks of our own Mindful Cooking have taken on this issue already.  You can access the cheese collection here :  http://mindfulcooking.org/browse?taxonomy_vocabulary_3_tid=294&title .

Many cheese alternative recipes call for cashews.  But there are even options to this!  If you want to avoid cashews, you can try the Minimalist Baker’s:

Parmesan Many Ways

One of the easiest and most satisfying cheezes is parmesan.  You can easily adapt any of these recipes to taste.

Pecan Parmesan

In a food processor, combine ½ cup toasted pecans, 1.5 teaspoons nutritional yeast, 1-3 teaspoons of olive oil, and a pinch of salt to taste. Pulse until it looks good, tasting as you go!   

Pine-nut Parmesan

In a food processor, combine 1 cup pine nuts (toasted if you want a deeper flavor), 1 cup nutritional yeast (or less depending on your taste), 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Pulse until it is the texture you like.  Add some olive oil and get another texture option. You can also add other flavorings if you like, such as rosemary or oregano.

Almond Parmesan

  • ½ cup almonds (blanched if you want a lighter color) or white sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1-2 teaspoons light or chickpea miso
  • Salt to taste
  1. Grind nuts almost to a fine powder.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until it’s the texture you like.

Vegan Parmesan "Cheeze"

This delicious topping may be used on pizza, pasta, salads, tacos, rice and beans, baked potato, or steamed veggies.


  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon salt, depending on desired saltiness; use the lower amount if you need to or want to reduce your sodium intake
  1.  Grind almonds in a blender or Vitamix. Stop before it starts to clump or get pasty.
  2. Add other ingredients and blend briefly, to mix.
Makes about 1 ½ cups. Prep time: 5-10 minutes   Recipe from the Alaska Vegan Society, at www.alaskaveg.org

Cheezy Sauce

This is great as a dip for chips, over taco salad, on tacos or burritos, over vegetables (such as steamed broccoli), and over baked potatoes.  You may also sauté veggies, pour cheesy sauce over the veggies, then serve the cheesy veggies over baked potatoes. The sauce may also be added to broccoli soup for broccoli-cheddar soup or put over macaroni for macaroni and cheese.  The sky is the limit!

  • 1/4 cup raw almonds or raw cashews (cashews are softer, so may work better in some blenders)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot  (If you want a thicker sauce, add up to 1 tablespoon more arrowroot or cornstarch.)
  • 1 teaspoon - 1 tablespoon lemon juice to taste.  (More makes it a sharper cheese flavor; less is a mild cheese flavor.)
  • (Optional - for color)  1/3 cup red bell pepper, approximately or 1 small jar pimentos
  • (Optional - blend 1 teaspoon canned jalapeños for a great nacho-style cheese)
  1.  Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. It will thicken to a nacho cheese consistency.
  3. Serve hot (left-over sauce may be stored in the refrigerator, then thinned with a little soy milk/almond milk/rice milk, stirred, and heated)
This tastes just as good without the red pepper or pimento, but if you want it to look convincingly orange, add the color. (Did you know that cheddar cheese is also orange because of added coloring?  The milk doesn’t come out of the cow orange!)

Makes 2 ½ cups. Prep Time: 8 minutes. Cook time: 8-10 minutes

Recipe from Alaska Vegan Society, www.alaskaveg.org.

Plant-Powered Earth Holders are members of the Earth Holder Sangha offering support to those who wish to explore a more plant-centered diet. This way of eating cares well for the planet, for our animal brothers and sisters, and for our health. If you would like to learn more about Plant-Powered Earth Holders, please email Aurora Leon.
Climate March Washington, DC, April 29

The People’s Climate March in Washington, DC, April 29, 2017

The People’s Climate Mobilization in Washington, DC on April 29 is unique opportunity to put the Dharma teachings into action. Practitioners in the Plum Village tradition will gather with other Buddhist and mindfulness practitioners, and members of numerous faith communities, in support of climate justice.  This event is part of a long-term mobilization of our communities to mindfully and energetically commit to the cause of environmental health and justice. Together we offer the gifts of mindfulness and the Dharma to heed urgent calls for climate action and the protection of our Mother Earth and all beings.

Practitioners in the Plum Village tradition, through the Earth Holder Sangha, are coordinating with One Earth Sangha to designate a meeting place before the march so that mindfulness practitioners can walk together, as a river.  We will be part of a Buddhist contingent within the Faith Communities section. Updates about the meeting place will be announced by the Earth Holder Sangha.

Editors of Touching the Earth newsletter are seeking stories about Climate March participants' practice before, during, and after the event. Please submit your stories and photos to newsletter@earthholdersangha.org by May 15.

Becoming a Member of the Earth Holder Sangha
Become a Member of the Earth Holder Sangha by taking the Six Earth Holder Pledges:
  1. I aspire and pledge to study, observe, and practice the Five or Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings
  2. I aspire and pledge to move in the direction of more simple and compassionate living by signing onto the Earth Peace Treaty and committing to transform three unwholesome habits
  3. I aspire and pledge to eat a plant-based diet at least one day per week
  4. I aspire and pledge to participate in at least one Earth Holder “Global Call to Action” per year
  5. I aspire and pledge to introduce at least one “Earth Holder Guideline” to my individual or local sangha practice
  6. I aspire and pledge to attend semi-annual Earth Holder Sangha conference calls and participate in sangha decision-making
Email George Hoguet (George.Hoguet@gmail.com), to make your pledges known and become a Member of the Earth Holder Sangha. Tell us of your personal commitment so we can welcome you and include you in future Sangha correspondence.
Share Your Story!
Readers of Touching the Earth would like to learn about how you and your sangha manifest earth holding and protecting. We welcome story submissions of 500-800 words and we especially welcome submissions from young people and from people of diverse backgrounds. Please send your writing—along with a photo illustrating your story and a two- to three-sentence biography—to newsletter@earthholdersangha.org. Thank you. 
Copyright © 2017 Earth Holding Initiative in Plum Village Tradition, All rights reserved.


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