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

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Winter 2015 Issue 3
In this Issue:
  • Welcome
  • Earth Practice: Love Letter to the Earth
  • Dharma Sharing: A Transformative Journey Aboard the People's Climate Train
  • Sangha Action: Animals as Teachers
  • Upcoming Events
Editorial Team:
Nomi Green
Brother Phap Ho
Joy Lam
Heather Lyn Mann
Contact Us:
Deer Park Monastery
2499 Melru Lane,
Escondido, CA 92026
Tel: (760)291-1003
Send us an email

Also Visit:
Earth Holding Here & Now
One Earth Sangha
Deer Park Monastery
As leaves unfurl from tips of seemingly lifeless twigs and birds freshen the sky with play and song, we come home to our love for Earth.  In this issue, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh reveals respect and reverence toward Earth—our original mother—is a path to enlightenment, Dharma Teacher Jo-ann Rosen experiences people and planet in a whole new way while riding a cross-country train, and Order of Interbeing member Lorri Houston takes action—with Sangha friends—to alleviate the suffering of Mother Earth’s animal children. Enjoy.
Touching the Earth
Editorial Team

Some inspiring guide posts on our adventure with the Earth Holding Initiative are:

  • to practice and act out of love, not fear

  • to have togetherness and inclusiveness at the base, not separation and discrimination

  • to be diligent and aimless in our efforts to support a collective awakening and healing

Earth Practice: Love Letter to the Earth

Here is an excerpt from Love Letter to the Earth, a book by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Earth is a Solid Place of Refuge

When we feel that we are fragile, not stable or solid, we can come back to ourselves and take refuge in the Earth. With each step we can feel her solidity beneath our feet. When we are truly in touch with the Earth, we can feel her supportive embrace and her stability. We use all our body and our mind to go back to the Earth and surrender ourselves to her. With each breath we release all our agitation, our fragility, and our suffering. Just being aware of her benevolent presence can already bring relief.The Buddha Shakyamuni knew how to take refuge in the Earth. On the verge of his enlightenment, he touched the Earth with his hand and asked the Earth to bear witness to his awakening. It is said that flowers sprang up in celebration at the very place where his hand touched the Earth, as a sign that the Earth confirmed the Buddha’s enlightenment. At that moment, the Buddha’s mind became so free and so clear that he saw millions of flowers everywhere smiling at him.

We can be like the Buddha, and in difficult moments touch the Earth as our witness. We can take refuge in the Earth as our original mother. We can say, “I touch the pure and refreshing Earth.” Whatever religion we follow, whatever race we belong to, whether we are Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, or Atheists, we can all see that Mother Earth is a great bodhisattva. Everyone can touch the Earth and recognize her infinite wonders, her virtues of wisdom, patience, and love. All of us are the children of this great bodhisattva.  

When we see Mother Earth as a bodhisattva, with all her many virtues, we will walk more gently on her, and treat her and all her children more gently. We will want to protect her and not harm her or any of the myriad forms of life she has given birth to. We will stop wreaking destruction and violence on Mother Earth. We will resolve the question of what we mistakenly call “the environmental problem.” The Earth is not just the environment. The Earth is us. Everything depends on whether we have this insight or not.           

If you are able to see the Earth for the bodhisattva she is, you will want to bow down and touch the Earth with reverence and respect. Then love and care will be born in your heart. This awakening is enlightenment. Don’t look for enlightenment elsewhere. This awakening, this enlightenment, will bring about a great transformation in you, and you’ll have more happiness, more love, and more understanding than from any other practice. Enlightenment, liberation, peace, and joy are not dreams for the future; they are a reality available to us in the present moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and human rights activist. In 1967 he was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thay, as he is known by his students, is author of more than one-hundred books. He lives at Plum Village, a meditation center in France, and travels worldwide, leading retreats on the art of mindful living.

Dharma Sharing: A Transformative Journey aboard the People’s Climate Train
 A Transformative Journey aboard the People’s Climate Train
Jo-ann Rosen, True River of Understanding

Last fall I glimpsed what Noah’s Ark may have been like when I rode the People’s Climate Train from California to New York. It was a bright sunny morning when David Nelson and I arrived at the Emeryville Amtrak Station. We stepped aboard to meet piles of pillows and blankets, bags of food, art supplies, musical instruments, media equipment and nearly two-hundred high-spirited pilgrims. I thought a comfy ride across the country with kindred spirits would be fun. I didn't have much in the way of lofty notions.

With rousing send-off of songs and speeches, we barrelled down the tracks at a few miles per hour. Our first dramatic backdrop appeared not ten minutes north of Emeryville when the train chugged through a canyon full of oil refinery tanks and equipment. It was the scene of the 2012 explosion and fire that compromised the health and safety of Richmond residents, and the 2013 protests in which hundreds of residents were arrested in non-violent action.  We made our way to the packed observation car where organizers of the Richmond protest spoke about the history and success of that effort.

During the three-and-a-half day journey, we had opportunity to attend fifty workshops on topics related to climate change: fracking, tar sands, indigenous resistance to the XL pipeline, uses of social media, the true price of carbon, transportation and mobility, leadership tools, non-violent communication, how to build inclusive movements, organic farming, health, faith, music, and even sign-making. Climate change touches everything; there are no irrelevant topics. 

Workshop leaders including Native- , Asian-, African-, Jewish- and European-Americans, elders, young people, filmmakers from Mexico and Europe, and reporters from the independent news program Democracy Now were as diverse as the topics. I participated in an Indigenous ritual from the Amazon led by a traveler from Venezuela, morning meditation led by two Theravedan Nuns, and more.

The Climate Train embodied a new paradigm, one of many people working together as an organism. It was a living experiment in inclusivity from the ten directions. The unifying theme was a deep caring and connection for Earth. The love was palpable. Having witnessed decades of protests—Vietnam, Diablo Canyon, Livermore, Dessert Storm and non-stop war—this felt radically different. The language was strong but positive, grief and loss were honored without vilifying an “enemy,” and people maintained a keen focus on moving strategically forward. 

The train did have its mundane challenges that drew us closer together. We ran out of water, conductors became perturbed, toilets malfunctioned, and sleeping was often difficult or impossible. But folks took care of each other. Tightly-packed train cars had to be transformed into workshop space and sleeping quarters. We shared bags and coolers of food, we worked together to solve problems, and at every opportunity we offered deep, personal sharing across age, color, ethnic, and gender lines. Participants set aside habits of hurt and defensiveness and listened intently. I glimpsed a creative and caring future where everything and everyone mattered.

By the time we disembarked at Penn Station, we were a large, extended family. The air was electric with possibility, charging a world respectful of life in all its diversity. We felt inspired to act with wisdom and urgency on behalf of the planet.

Join Jo-ann and others on the People’s Climate Train by watching this video created by David Nelson.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwH1iuEYyLQ 

Jo-ann Rosen is questioning why we write bios.  She asks: Is it because after knowing some facts we will consider her words in more depth or not. She is stymied to write the labels that limit not only your openness and imagination, but her own.

Sangha Action: Animals as Teachers
Animals as Teachers
Lorri Houston, True Tao Garden

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
- Emily Dickinson

For 25 years I immersed myself in animal cruelty.  I documented horrific animal suffering at slaughterhouses, factory farms, and stockyards. I saved as many lives as I could by starting the first shelters in the country for victims of food animal production.  I was devoted and worked tirelessly – and I worked in great despair and anger.

Searching without knowing I was searching, I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Anger and I took my first step on the path.  It would take another six years of practice, but finally my heart opened to the precious gifts our practice offers.  For me, the most precious of these was learning how to help a suffering being without being lost in the suffering.  I could help a fainting robin, or a chicken in a slaughterhouse, and feel only love and gratitude that I had the ability to make a difference for others.  

It was with the desire to help all suffering beings through loving speech and mindful actions that our Dharma Voices for Animals Sangha was born.  I met a wonderful woman on the path, Lynn Harmet, who also shared a deep commitment to protecting life, and she introduced me to another loving woman, Barb Whitney, at a Mindfulness Leadership conference.  We all aspired to help alleviate animal suffering through positive, loving, and mindful actions.  We also knew that this could be a challenging goal when aware of the enormous human-caused animal cruelty in the world.  We knew that to be mindful animal advocates we would need each other --- and our Sangha of three friends of animals began and continues to grow.

The Dharma Voices for Animals Madison, WI Chapter is a Sangha for Buddhist practitioners aspiring to practice loving kindness for all sentient beings.  We share insights and practice support, explore Buddhist teachings on our relationship with animals, and participate in engaged Buddhism actions to directly help animals.  Knowing that our diet choices have a direct impact on the environment and our planet, every Sangha gathering is love in action when we practice mindful eating with a vegan potluck.  We also engage as a Sangha in efforts to help animals by lobbying for animal protection laws at our state capitol, speaking and tabling at area festivals, and mucking barns at our regional sanctuary for farmed animals.  We are a part of and support the worldwide Dharma Voices for Animals Sangha, and we provide information on the joy of mindful vegan eating to area Sanghas of all traditions.  Buddhism teaches us that we create much happiness in ourselves and others when we take individual and collective action to ease suffering, and how wonderful it is to know we can do this every time we sit down to breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Buddhist of all traditions and diet choices are welcome.  You can find us on facebook at Dharma Voices for Animals Madison WI or email: dharmavoicesforanimals.madison@gmail.com.   
To connect with Buddhists worldwide working to help animals please visit DharmaVoicesforAnimals.org.

May all May All Beings Everywhere
Be Peaceful, Happy, and Free

At age 13, Lorri Houston started climbing over fences to give cows chin scratches, and she credits Wisconsin's cows as her first teachers on her path to compassion for all beings!  Lorri went on to start the first shelters in the country for farm animals – opening a total of three sanctuaries, including Farm Sanctuary and Animal Acres.  After her sanctuary work, Lorri became the first staff member of the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation, where she served our community for almost 3 years before moving back to her hometown of Madison, WI.
Upcoming Events

Mindful Advocacy: How to Step Into the River of Compassion Without Polluting the Water

During this five-day retreat, co-teachers Heather and Mary will guide professional and volunteer advocates and others seeking environmental and social justice through the Dharma door of anguish toward the realm of stability, ease, clear-sightedness, and transformation. Using storytelling as a tool for enlightenment and transmission, participants will examine habit energies, uproot notions of separation, reframe personal experience and circumstance, and discover practical ways to access the boundless and refreshing energy of natural wisdom and compassion.

The retreat is a blend of Noble Silence and Dharma sharing. We will practice mindful meditation as we sit, stand, walk, eat, and move—indoors and out as weather permits. Experienced and beginning practitioners are welcome. People of color and others from historically marginalized communities are especially encouraged to attend.

When: 17-24 June 2015
Where: North Carolina
More Info: https://www.southerndharma.org/retreat_mannaubry.shtml

To share your event, please email information to: newsletter@earthholdinghereandnow.org
Copyright © 2015 Earth Holding Initiative in Plum Village Tradition, All rights reserved.

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