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

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Autumn 2015 Issue 4
In this Issue:
  • Welcome
  • Earth Practice: Peaceful Warriors of Awakening
  • Dharma Sharing: Right Effort in Response to Climate Change
  • Sangha Action: Building a Healthy Home for the Sisters of Deer Park
Editorial Team:
Brother Phap Ho
Heather Lyn Mann
John Freese
Joy Lam
Nomi Green

Contact Us:
Deer Park Monastery
2499 Melru Lane,
Escondido, CA 92026
Tel: (760) 291-1003
Share your story!

Also Visit:
Earth Holding Here & Now
One Earth Sangha
Deer Park Monastery
Dear Friends,
Our autumn newsletter takes us from Italy to Wall Street and back to Deer Park Monastery.  Each article gives insight into right action. Each article gives presence to the words of Lao Tzu, “Love the whole world as if it were your self; then you will truly care for all things”.   John Freese writes about his experience with confronting fear and using right effort during his participation in compassionate direct action on Wall Street in NYC.  Mary Gorman supports our monastic sisters in building a healthy new home, and Sister Mai Ngheim shares her thoughts on how we can bring our true presence and Thay’s teachings to events and conferences that we may attend.  Please enjoy these heartfelt offerings!

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: Peaceful Warriors of Awakening

Peaceful Warriors of Awakening

Sister Mai Nghiem
I read about an inter-faith event on Climate Change in Italy and about the UN's European Center for Peace and Development Youth Forum. I am so grateful that people put the time and the energy into organizing such events.  I also see that often, these conferences end with great aspirations and beautiful words, maybe the signature of some statement we all agree on. But we depart and things remain the same. Allow me to take this opportunity to share what's been in my heart for a while.

Thay's Love in Action is amazing.

I feel more and more our responsibility
To continue to walk Thay's insight, literally walk it.
To walk the 5 and 14 Mindfulness Trainings,
To walk  I have arrived, I am home,
To walk Go as a River
To walk  Interbeing.

How do we make these kinds of events opportunities to practice and share our insights and love, opportunities to build the Beloved Community?

How do we make them true revolutions: turning and going in the opposite direction?

If a group goes to such an event, let us go as a community with our basic practice of walking, breathing, sitting, eating, smiling as an offering; not to do or achieve anything but to impregnate the place and the people with our love, our peace, our stability, our freshness and our freedom. These are elements the world needs. Find creative ways for us to share them with others.

Here is part of a letter I wrote to Thay: 

"Dear Thay,

There is a great Revolution burning in my heart.

A thirst for this "ahsraya paravritti", transformation at the base, Great Revolution, is there, seemingly growing every day, growing slowly on me, in me, invading every cells of my body and mind. A joyful, curious and enthusiastic desire to find myself in my steps, to learn about myself through my breath, to let the voice inside that knows, sing about inter-being, non-self and the cosmic body.

My aspiration is to feel more and to think less,and to find ways to better take care of each other, to find ways to continue the Revolution in the Wake Up movement, so that as young people we can touch and show to the world the power of collective awakening as we all walk mindfully and peacefully on this Earth; so that we can show the world that the source of all suffering (catastrophes due to climate change, wars, daily stress, discrimination, broken families, addictions, depression, racism...)  is the illusionary feeling of separation, and that practicing together as a Sangha we can touch our true Home and our True Family in it.
There is a great revolution burning in my heart that is calling me to be more attentive to how I drink, how I eat, how I walk,  how I look at my brothers and sisters, how I rush to one thing to the other, how fears, tensions and desires squeeze my heart and intestines, preventing peace and freedom  to fully bloom, how I live with myself every day...

Dear Thay, a great Revolution of Tenderness is burning in my heart."

Sister Mai Nghiem ordained in 2002 in Plum Village at 18 years old. Moved to Deer Park last October. Enjoys walking in the mountains, swimming in the sea, talking to crows and coyotes and being in the Beloved Community  :)
Dharma Sharing: Right Effort in Response to Climate Change

Right Effort in Response to Climate Change

John Freese
During the Fall Equinox last year I went to New York and participated in the People’s Climate March.  The next day I went to the Flood Wall Street nonviolent direct action.  I joined over 1,000 people as we closed traffic on the corner of Broadway and Wall Street by sitting in the street.  The action pointed out the fact that the people who are making profits from the fossil fuel industry are some of the main people who are blocking the changes we need to make as a global community to decrease the suffering of climate change.   This was my first nonviolent direct action where it was possible to get arrested.  I was afraid to join but I felt like I had to because the situation is urgent and our political leaders are not responding quickly and substantially enough to the situation.  We need compassionate direct action to respond to the suffering.

As I understand it, the practice of Right Effort is a practice of cultivation.  If unwholesome mental formations are manifesting in my mind consciousness from my ground consciousness I should abandon them.  If unwholesome mental formations are not manifesting in my mind consciousness, I should not water their seeds in my ground consciousness and cause them to come up.  If wholesome mental formations are manifesting in my mind consciousness from my ground consciousness, I should support them and keep them up as long as possible.  If wholesome mental formations are not manifesting in my mind consciousness, I should water their seeds in my ground consciousness and cause them to come up.

Unwholesome mental formations are mental formations that are based on the three poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance.  If I act on them with my body, with my voice, or with my thinking, I may gain some temporary pleasure, release, or comfort, but in the long run I will be left more depleted and isolated, and I will cause suffering to others.  If, on the other hand, I act on wholesome mental formations such as generosity, compassion, and wisdom, I nourish a deep happiness within myself as well as in others. 

Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) sometimes compares the practice of Right Effort with farming.  He talks about the mind consciousness, the part of human that is aware of things and makes decisions, as being like a farmer.  And the ground consciousness, the place where the mental formations are stored as seeds and come out from when watered, as being like the soil.  I like to think of unwholesome mental formations as being like chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  If a farmer uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides he or she will be able to temporarily grow an increased amount of food from the soil.  But ultimately the soil will become unfertile, the food less nutritious, and the living beings and the environment more polluted.

Ultimately the farmer is not separate from the field he or she cultivates.  The Earth is his or her mother.  The farmer makes effort to plant the seeds and water them but it is the Earth herself who actually grows the plants.  The farmer makes effort to eat the food but it is his or body that does the digesting and releases solid and liquid matter back to the earth.  When we meditate we make an effort with our mind consciousness to recognize and embrace our mental formations with mindfulness, but it is the energy of mindfulness from our ground consciousness that does the actual transformation and healing.  Thay has taught us that the ground consciousness is the support for both the subject “me” and the object “what I experience.”  If we can let go of reacting to our experience with craving and aversion and trust our ground consciousness then we can awaken to our true nature of interbeing and let go of the notions of “me” and “the world,” and of  “birth” and “death.”  We can act with wisdom and compassion. 

In order to embrace and transform particularly dense unwholesome formations that block positive systemic change we can engage in compassionate direct actions such as blocking the Keystone XL pipeline or taking down the Confederate flag from a state capitol building.  Whatever action we engage in we can do it with right effort, with a motivation of love, with an intention to bring about deep healing and happiness.          

Dear Friends, this is part of John’s longer article on Right Effort and Climate Change.  Please read the full text here.

John Freese is a member of the Order of Interbeing.  He practices with the San Gabriel Valley Sangha in Los Angeles.  He is currently working on a PhD in spiritually integrative psychotherapy with a focus on integrating Buddhist practice with trauma therapy.
Sangha Action: Building a Healthy Home for the Sisters of Deer Park
Building a Healthy Home for the Sisters of Deer Park

Mary Gorman, True Ever Lasting Ocean

Green building makes sense! From design to finish, the new nunnery at Deer Park Monastery takes advantage of what the planet has to offer – without taking away from earth. These nunnery buildings benefit from passive solar design—taking advantage of the natural energy of the sun for heating and cooling. In winter, rays shine through windows onto concrete floors. The concrete absorbs the heat and releases it slowly throughout the evening. Plus, overhangs in just the right places protect the inside from summer sun and heavy shades block the rays when temperatures get too hot. Finally, evening breezes flow through windows placed opposite each other to naturally cool the building. Very little artificial heating and cooling is needed for the nuns to stay comfortable.

In addition, the nunnery buildings have great insulation. Walls are made from two-foot thick bales of straw—a wonderful insulator capable of maintaining inside temperatures at even levels.

To conserve water during California’s severe drought and beyond, the sisters divert rainwater and greywater— runoff from showers, laundry, and kitchen sinks—into holding tanks. The beautiful flowers, vegetables, and orchard around the nunnery thrive on this gently used, recycled water.

On a personal note, I am almost 70 and very happy to have this chance late in life to contribute to new ways of thinking and living. These buildings model how we can live in harmony with nature. People come from all over and see the sister’s home and learn it is possible to build differently. The nunnery is more than a residence. It’s a demonstration project.
Also, I believe it’s important for the sisters to have a comfortable place to live and practice. It is not right for them to suffer from cold and damp.

I compare innovations in green building with the construction of my 1950’s era house. I too collect used kitchen water from washing vegetables and rinsing things, but I find it hard to carry water through the yard to my plants. What’s more, my home lacks cross ventilation. It’s difficult to cool the house in the summer even when nights are pleasant. In winter, my heater consumes a lot of energy. But, my very tall stand of bamboo in the northwest corner of the yard protects my house from summer’s afternoon sun. In winter, leaves drop allowing the sun to shine inside bringing warmth until sunset.

Throughout the nunnery construction process, I felt humbled by the wisdom of the sangha and its collective decisions, the generosity of practitioners and non-practitioners, and the abilities of modern technology. This project has made me practice in ways I had never considered. It found it necessary to trust the sangha and let go of the outcome. Plus, I let go of many opinions and old ways of doing things.

Finally, working with the sisters gave me opportunity to know them better, to become friends, and to better understand the Vietnamese culture that is at the root of our tradition. I know this effort will foster kindness and compassion in the hearts of future visitors. I feel very grateful and lucky to be a small part of this project.
Mary Gorman joined the nunnery fund raising team in early 2014. She was ordained as a member of the Order of Interbeing in 2011 at Deer Park Monastery, and practices with the Organic Garden Sangha in Culver City, California.
Share Your Story
The editorial team is now accepting Touching the Earth submissions of approximately 500 words from practitioners in the Plum Village tradition.

Do you have an Earth Practice, Dharma Sharing, or Local Sangha Action that will inspire others? Please support our community efforts to care for our precious Bodhisattva Earth by sharing your experience. Don't forget photos and a two or three sentences biography will make you message resonate and jump off the page. Send text and photo to earthholding@dpmail.net Thank you. 
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