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

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Spring 2016 Issue 6
In this Issue: Editorial Team:
Brother Phap Ho
Heather Lyn Mann
Joy Lam
Nomi Green

Contact Us:
Deer Park Monastery
2499 Melru Lane,
Escondido, CA 92026
Tel: (760) 291-1003
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Also Visit:
Earth Holding Here & Now
One Earth Sangha
Deer Park Monastery

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We need volunteers to help plan issues, solicit stories, assemble and edit text, and produce Touching the Earth Newsletter. If you love Earth, if you have relevant writing experience or a desire to learn, if you can donate two- to four-hours each month, please send a short note describing your interest and skills to earthholding@dpmail.net 

Dear Friends,

As our Earth Bodhisattva turns toward spring in the northern hemisphere, we are aware of the abundance of life in our plant communities.  What a generous gift the plants are to all of life, offering us oxygen, food, and nourishment for all of our senses.  This season our newsletter embraces the life of plants.  Our articles take us from the rainforests of Mexico, to the ones we call “weeds” that live in the woods, and finally what we put on our plates.  Each of our authors has fallen in love with our plant world, and we hope their words will inspire all of us to do the same.
Retreat Announcement!
We also want to share our excitement about the upcoming Earth Holder retreat that will be happening at Deer Park Monastery from April 28th to May 1st.  We aspire to engage with a diverse and abundant community in practicing together to nourish ourselves and engage in offering back to Gaia.  Please find a flyer with more information at the end of the newsletter.  We have scholarships available for People of Color, Wake Up practitioners as well as others  who may benefit. Here is the link to register: http://deerparkmonastery.org/join-a-retreat/

Embracing this engaged mindful moment together,  
Your 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

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 earthholding@dpmail.net Thank you. 

Earth Practice: Garlic Mustard as Practice

Garlic Mustard as Practice

Joyce Singh
“Don’t pick up the garbage,” the monk said in a calm, matter-of-fact way.

This was my first retreat with Thich Nhat Hahn and Plum Village. It was 2011 in the Rocky Mountains, Estes Park, Colorado. I was sitting in a circle of sangha, surrounded by a gorgeous mountain range, pines, and streams, listening to Brother Spirit. Did I hear him correctly?

”Don’t pick up the garbage.  Leave it where it is.”

I didn’t know much about mindfulness, but I believed I knew everything about keeping the environment clean.  I grew up in the era of Woodsy the Owl’s “Give a Hoot Don’t Pollute,” and the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign with a crying Native American overlooking the once majestic but now littered landscape of ancestors.  To me, picking up garbage was a civic duty I never a questioned.   I did not understand Brother Spirit’s advice, but it piqued my curiosity.

The next day I was again in the circle anticipating profound words of poetic wisdom. Brother Spirit asked, “Did you see the hummingbirds?” I had indeed noticed hummingbirds at the feeders of the ranger cabin and was mesmerized by the sound of their wings and their darting patterns.  It occurred to me I notice beauty willingly and joyfully.  I could spend hours observing beauty, but I struggle to look peacefully at garbage and think garbage should be removed at once.  Period.

At the end of the retreat, I returned home with my eyes opened, my steps slowed, and a tender child in my heart named “Practice.”  I began to experiment with walking mindfully in the woods behind my house. The woodland beauty was abundant. Birds flitted in the breeze. Oak and hickory stretched-to the sun. There was an amazing diversity of understory fungi and delicate short lived plants. I loved coming across patches of purple wild geranium, Dutchman’s britches, Jack-in-the-pulpit, May apples, Virginia water plant, bluebells, and columbine. Then, I saw it on the north end of the woods: garlic mustard.

This plant is widely considered the “garbage”of the Midwest woodland floor.  It is an “invasive” plant disturbing the natural ecology.  Pages and pages are written about how to destroy it because the plant is very damaging and resilient. 
That day, I made it my practice to observe the garlic mustard and develop a new relationship with it. Eventually, I calmly accepted both beauty and conflict in the woodland.  I began to understand the garlic mustard, the details of how it grows and where it grows.  I gained respect for this intelligent being.  The plant itself is neutral, neither good nor bad. 

This plant was transplanted here by European settlers because it was highly valued for its nutritional and medicinal values. The “problem” of garlic mustard is in the mind of the observer.

Garlic mustard must be removed from the woodland, but with mindfulness.  The best relationship I can have with garlic mustard is to appreciate its qualities. So, today, I eat it.  Students come in the spring to help with garlic mustard pulling.  I demonstrate the process of removing the plant slowly and mindfully.   I encourage volunteers to stop now and then, listen to the birds, and notice the beauty of the surroundings.  At noon, we break for lunch and prepare a fresh spring salad topped with sprigs of garlic mustard greens and a vegetable soup cooked with garlic mustard.*  We make the meal a celebration of deep gratitude and awareness.     
*Garlic mustard (alliaria petiolata) is a biennial in the Brassicaceae family; as with any wild plant, eat in small quantities with caution and awareness.

Removing this invasive plant gives room for the diverse native understory community of plants and fungi to thrive, a practice in nurturing the well being of the woodland sangha.

Joyce Singh, True Legendary Joy, lives in Iowa on a small homestead dedicated to restoring the native ecology.  She is very involved in building community, facilitates a sangha at her home as part of the Quad City Prairie River Sangha and teaches English as a Second Language to adults.
Sangha Action: Forest of Interbeing

Wake Up Projects: Forest of Interbeing

Edited by Brian Otto Kimmel

Wake Up International is a global movement of young people, Buddhists and non-Buddhists, who practice the art of mindful living for a healthier, sustainable and more just society. Following in the footsteps of teachers like Thay Thich Nhat Hanh and Sister Chan Khong who have contributed to global relief efforts since the founding of the Order of Interbeing and the School of Youth for Social Service in the 1960s, Wake Up Ambassadors and groups have sponsored numerous social projects to address world problems and water seeds of True Happiness and Peace. Together with the help of supporters worldwide, Wake Up has contributed to efforts that establish school meal programs in Vietnam; teach mindfulness and organize Wake Up Schools in North America; plant and cultivate Happy Farms in France; train and serve with Gross National Happiness in Bhutan, organize mindfulness in city squares such as London and New York City, and helped in mindfulness and reconciliation efforts in South Africa and the United States around race, injustice, and oppression. This is all in service to cultivating Sanghahood, what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “beloved community.”
The following is an excerpt from one of our project reports, the Forest of Interbeing, describing how the project manifested and the work we have been doing since.
What is Forest of Interbeing?
Forest of Interbeing is a project initiated by members of the Wake Up International movement. Aware of the damage we cause to the Earth through our lifestyle, we work to reduce our negative impact by carrying out concrete actions to help our planet and society to heal.
The Forest of Interbeing project restores and protects the rich and biodiverse land of the Los Tuxtlas region, in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Among other ecosystems, Los Tuxtlas, is home to the northernmost tropical rainforest in America. Unfortunately, the majority of this rainforest has been destroyed due to the expansion of cattle ranching.
By reforesting and protecting the remaining rainforest, we can have a real impact on the protection of our planet Earth. These efforts reduce CO² to ensure our descendants will enjoy a healthy Earth. In addition, we save the homes of many living beings and restore places of refuge for wildlife that has suffered deeply due to our unskillful ways we treat nature and ourselves. Although many of us live far away from Los Tuxtlas, the oxygen produced by the tropical forests is also the oxygen we breathe. Wherever we live, we truly inter-are with every tree.
History of the Project
The project, Forest of Interbeing, was initiated at the beginning of 2014, when Christoph Neger from Austria proposed to Wake Up International to carry out a project to regenerate and protect the Los Tuxtlas rainforest in Mexico, where he had conducted fieldwork for his Master’s thesis.
Together with Joana Chan and Brian Kimmel from the USA as well as Aurelia Ellett from Germany, a small initial group emerged which met regularly on Skype and began to shape the project. Forest Interbeing partnered with DEMATAC (Defenders of Wildlife of Los Tuxtlas), a non-governmental organization from the region. Our partnership helped us navigate bureaucratic issues and lent experience in working in environmental protection in the region. In 2015, DEMATAC was elected as representative of all NGOs active in the region for the Advising Council of the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve.
Little by little, people in the region started to get interested and incorporated themselves into the project. The first event was carried out on April 13, 2014, when 14 people helped collect seeds in the Adolfo Ruiz Cortines community, in the municipality of San Andrés Tuxtla. On June 15 of the same year, we planted our first 40 trees on the land of Mauricio Vázquez, close to Adolfo Ruiz Cortines. The same day, a video was recorded for a crowdfunding campaign on the platform Indiegogo. We rose over $5000 USD in less than one month from donors all over the world, many of them choosing to adopt trees by donating $50 or more. These adopted trees were planted on the land of Dr. Andrés López in the locality Maxacapan. The success of our first Indiegogo campaign enabled us to begin funding and working on numerous different projects.
In March 2015 we organized the first meditation and reforestation retreat together with Wake Up Mexico at the ecotourism center Yambigapan, in nearby San Andrés Tuxtla. The participants took part in the planting of 80 trees on the land of Nicolás Malaga. This experience resulted in the project Yoga por la Selva (Yoga for the Forest) and the creation of our own webpage. From August 2015 on, with the assistance of DEMATAC and INECOL (Institute of Ecology) we were able to obtain funding from the program PROCER (Program for Conservation of Endangered Species), and from the CONANP (National Commission of Protected Natural Areas). This funding was used to support conservation activities in the communities of Adolfo Ruiz Cortines and Chuniapan de Arriba in the municipality of San Andrés Tuxtla; the community Punta Puntillas in the municipality of Ángel R. Cabada; and the communities Adolfo López Mateos and Benito Juárez in the municipality of Catemaco.
Planting Trees at Schools and Saving Turtles
We support reforestation in areas belonging to schools in the Los Tuxtlas region, with the double objective of hands-on environmental education and beautifying school campuses. Reforestation on school grounds offers students and teachers more shade, fresh air and a barrier from city noise. Right now we are working in the Universidad del Golfo de México Norte, Campus San Andrés Tuxtla, the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de San Andrés Tuxtla, the Secundaria Salvador Díaz Mirón, Catemaco, and the Telesecundaria Cuauhtémoc in Chuniapan de Arriba.
In addition to our activities to protect the rainforest, we decided to also help another important project in the Los Tuxtlas region, the camp for protection of sea turtles in Punta Puntilla in the municipality Ángel R. Cabada. After the turtles lay their eggs on the shore, the people of Punta Puntillas comb 20 kilometers of beaches daily to collect the eggs and bring them to a safe place. This prevents them from being eaten by dogs, other animals or people. Finally, when the small sea turtles have hatched and are ready, they are liberated into the sea.
How To Stay In Touch With Us
For more information about Forest of Interbeing and to hear about ways you can help, please visit our website at http://www.wkupmx.org. The website is in Spanish, you can press a link under Selva del Interser for English language pages. You can also see photos and regular updates on projects by visiting and liking our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/forestofinterbeing/. Special thanks to the many donors who have supported this project, and the efforts of Lauren Peterson and Rogelio Moreno (True Ocean of Freshness) who have been instrumental in the continuation of this project through their efforts and support.

Brian Otto Kimmel (True Lotus Concentration) is a Graduate Student in Somatic Counseling Psychology at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, a musician, songwriter, and Somatic/Movement Educator. Ordained as a core member of the Order of Interbeing in 2006 at Plum Village, Brian has since traveled with the Plum Village community in tours to Vietnam, Indonesia, France, and across the United States and is active as an ambassador with the Wake Up International movement and Earth Holder's Sangha.
Wake Up International: Forest of Interbieng. Video link: https://vimeo.com/99379812
Dharma Sharing: My Long Road to Becoming Vegan

My Long Road to Becoming Vegan

Margaret O'Keefe
In 1994 I met a community of vegetarians in a yoga-practicing Ashram I attended in New York. To attain better health and wellbeing—people said-- I should cut meat from my diet.  So, I delegated meat to a corner of my plate and didn’t mix it with vegetables or pasta. Eventually, I lost interest in the meat and one day it no longer found a place on my plate at all.
Except, I still ate Duck, my favorite for special occasions. Duck meat is a delicacy of the Long Island region. Because I only ate it on special occasions, I never gave it much thought.  After all, I did not become a vegetarian for the sake of animals. I was solely in it for my own health and really considered it a choice each individual could make or not make.
One day while driving to work on the Long Island Expressway, I was in traffic next to a truck load of Ducks. I heard them crying and sensed their overwhelming fear.  My heart broke wide open when I realized they were on their way to be killed for me and my selfish desire to eat them because it filled my emotional not physical need.   Right then I realized for the first time how much unnecessary suffering I was causing and I stopped eating meat altogether.
I continued to eat dairy and eggs, however.  I was not a very good cook and dairy and cheese were quick and easy food and protein. I resisted looking deeply into the industry, because I knew would be horrified by how our food is obtained in this country and what is done to it. There would be no going back.
Last summer, two things happened simultaneously.  First, my husband, who is the cook in our marriage, came down with pneumonia. Second, I watched a series on the truth about cancer.  What I learned about the dairy industry and the ill effects of consuming animal products blew my mind. Right there I was determined to make the change.  I took over the job of cooking.
I had vegan cookbookswith  great recipes and tasty food.  It wasn’t that hard to change my consumption at home.  At restaurants, I asked waiters if they could eliminate the dairy and meat from dishes and if they could make me something else if there was nothing on the menu.  I have been pleasantly surprised to be served amazing dishes.
I realize now our eating perceptions are all in the mind.  We are raised to believe one thing and grow up with emotional attachments to our beliefs. We blindly follow what’s laid out before us. Only when we are next to a truck load of ducks crying or our beloved gets sick do we stop, look deeply, and make changes.
I hope everyone on the path finds courage to look deeply and make the changes necessary for their own health, animal’s wellbeing, and the Planets overall survival.
Margaret O'Keefe is a retired police officer from New York.She works as a volunteer to the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation at Deer Park. She is married to Ron Landsel. Her Dharma name is Compassionate Patience of the Heart, and practices with the Rising Tide Sangha in Oceanside CA.

Earth Holder Retreat @ Deer Park

Earth Holder Retreat
April 28- May 1, 2016
Deer Park Monastery, Escondido CA

This 4 Day Mindfulness Retreat will be lead by the Monastics of Deer Park and Order of Interbeing members of the Earth Holder Sangha

We welcome everyone with love and care for the Earth to participate in this mindfulness retreat, all who aspire to nurture and deepen our connection with the Earth, everyone who wants to learn about and embrace the suffering caused by Climate Injustice, all who want to be a participant in reducing our collective contribution to Climate Change, who want to contribute to a collective awakening in society in order to reduce suffering.

Our connection with ourselves, the earth and each together will be nourished and explored in daily sitting, walking and eating meditation sessions. We will also receive teachings to look into the suffering and transformation of suffering relating to Climate Change and Inequity. In sharing groups and workshops we will learn from each other's experience, including how to live more sustainably (internally and externally), how we can maintain our engagement and skillfully engage in activism. Together as a spiritual family we will enjoy the embrace of the mountains and chaparral.

To register for the retreat,
visit: http://deerparkmonastery.org/join-a-retreat/#ERTH

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