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

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Touching the Earth Newsletter

WINTER 2017 - Issue 9

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

Contact Us:
Deer Park Monastery
2499 Melru Lane,
Escondido, CA 92026
Tel: (760) 291-1003
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One Earth Sangha

Deer Park Monastery
Dear Friends,

Even in colder seasons, we find our lives warmed, blessed, and brightened by the love, compassion, and wisdom within us and around us.

In this issue, Rick SantAngelo describes how he and his family cultivate love for the Earth and express this love through home practices rooted in environmental awareness. Salvatore Caruso and Dianne Greenwald relate their experiences of practicing engaged Buddhism, standing with the Standing Rock tribe in North Dakota, and learning from the wisdom of the elders. Natalie Neal reflects on her encounter with nature during a writing workshop exercise at the September 2016 “heART of healing” retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery. And the Plant-Powered Earth Holders offer a vegan chickpea soup recipe and tips to help us eat in a way that cares well for the planet, for our animal brothers and sisters, and for our health.

We are very happy to share these loving, compassionate, and wise messages as the New Year dawns.

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

Environmental Mindfulness PracticeBeyond the Middle Way
By Rick SantAngelo

As environmentalists, we must be mindful of how we live and the impact we have on the planet. We blame others, but the truth is that we are also complicit in environmental degradation. We may not be able to correct many of the large environmental sins in our society, but we can contribute a lot on an individual basis, and if we look deeply, we might find that there is so much more each of us can do. The key here is to educate ourselves and to be mindful in our lifestyle choices. Our love for Mother Earth will motivate us, but for best results, environmental mindfulness should be at the center of our practice.

My family and I practice environmental awareness at home. We eat vegan, we compost 100 percent of our food waste, and we use the compost in our garden. We never use chemical pesticides or herbicides, we grow some of our own food, and we buy in bulk, reusing food containers. As a family of four, we put out one trash can a month and inspect it to see what we can eliminate next time. It is certainly more effort, but we even tear the labels off of tin cans in order to recycle the paper as well as the metal. When eating out, we bring along food containers for our leftovers. We drive an electric car, and we have replaced all our light bulbs with LEDs. Our lifestyle seems extreme to some, but we love Mother Earth and try to find every way to express our love and concern for her. Each of these actions is practice, and it brings us joy. We feel like we do our best, and we make a difference.

When we make big decisions that have long-term impacts, like building a house or buying a new car, we need to be especially mindful. When buying your next car, consider an electric vehicle. We own a Nissan Leaf, and it brings us great pleasure to know that we consume little or no fossil fuel for driving because we charge at night when 100 percent of our electricity is generated by hydro and wind (here in the US Pacific Northwest). We would love to have solar power, but we would have to sacrifice a dozen magnificent, 70-foot-tall fir trees that shade our home, so we invested in a community solar project.

When we shine the light of mindfulness on the way we live, we can find many small ways to reduce our footprint. Each effort may seem puny, but when you add up the hundreds of meals, tin cans, cans of trash, and lifestyle choices we make every day, we can actually make a great difference. This is where we must start—right here at home.

Thay tells us that we must fall in love with Mother Earth. In our family, environmental awareness is a byproduct of deep love for the Earth. We cultivate this love by sitting with our trees and visiting the breathtaking sites of the Pacific Northwest. If you love the Earth, this lifestyle is fulfilling. We are joyfully mindful of our environment, and we do our best to be sure we are considering the environment above nearly all other factors. Our home practices often elicit comments and present an opportunity to discuss what each of us can do to make a difference. This type of awareness requires diligence. It is a central part of our lives. You might say we practice environmentalism.

Once we’ve cleaned up our own houses, we can then help others discover their love for the Earth and help them on the path to reducing their environmental footprints. We believe the best way to do this is to inspire and educate rather than condemn.

Much of what I have written might seem extreme. It may even seem like fanaticism. Thay suggests we reduce our footprint—perhaps cut our meat consumption and driving in half—but I feel it is important in my own life to serve as a role model. I often ask myself if I am practicing the Middle Way or looking for an excuse to slough off. As with all the mindfulness trainings, we do what is reasonable. We need to be mindful of how others view us, so we never compare our efforts with others’ or criticize others for their decisions. However, I do feel that some of us are justified in going beyond the Middle Way when it comes to protecting our planet. Oh, by the way, have you been to an Order of Interbeing monastery? I think you will find that our environmental practices are very similar to theirs, and it does not appear to be extreme at all.

Rick SantAngelo, ordained Chân Tang Uyên / True Sangha Garden in October 2013 at Deer Park, is a retired IT engineer. He and his family live in forested acreage near Vancouver, Washington, where Rick leads the Our True Home Sangha.
Sangha Action

Water Is Life
By Salvatore Caruso and Dianne Greenwald

We have an eleven-year history with healing ceremonies around a little-known massacre that occurred in 1855 on Blue Creek in Nebraska, where Dianne grew up as a child. In 2005, her family contacted their Lakota descendants and invited them to do a ceremony for their ancestors.

Thus began a profound journey, which led to our early awareness of the actions at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

As the pipeline invaded, and other tribes came to stand with the Standing Rock tribe, we decided to go to North Dakota for nearly two weeks in September 2016 to support the water protectors.

Mni wiconi: water is life. This simple statement is a mantra that joins the three Standing Rock camps into one.

If you have been listening, you know about the dogs, the pepper spray, and the arrests. You might have heard about everything from fear in local ranchers to the awesome entrance of tribe after tribe arriving to support Standing Rock.

What is happening? It is organic, and spirit is birthing awareness daily. About the time you feel hope gushing, the reality of the situation hits home. Armored vehicles and police in riot gear surround peaceful protectors at the pipeline sites. Here in the very alive present time, the tribe is demonstrating a way to community care, a way of standing in love and prayer.

In the central area of the big camp, there is an unusual tipi made of several smaller tipis stretched out like an accordion. This is the elders’ gathering spot. Just beyond the entrance is the sacred fire, where each tribe is welcomed into camp. All day long, there is an open mic, where an elder may report the latest news, or experts on law and treaties may share, or a musician may sing from the heart. As evening approaches, drumming brings traditional dancing. Among the largely native crowd are twentysomethings, environmentalists, journalists, and elders.

We have witnessed the powerful roles of the elders in native society. The Standing Rock tribe did not know what was going to happen. As the numbers swelled, they must have had to pray and listen to feel what was happening and respond.

They created direct action principles, such as “We are peaceful and prayerful,” “Respect the locals,” and “No children in potentially dangerous situations.” Everyone entering the camp must abide by these guidelines. Absolutely no alcohol, drugs, or weapons of any kind are allowed.

The elders are very aware that not one negative incident will help. They are called upon to find a way to be in prayer and ceremony every hour of every day, and to ensure that everyone is trained in non-violent direct action.

We find ourselves asking how we can play the elder role and bring that dynamic into our world. We realize we need 100,000 Sacred Stone Camps. Our native wise ones are calling out to all of us: enough is enough.

In Peace Is Every Step, in a chapter titled “Mindfulness Must Be Engaged,” Thay writes: “When I was in Vietnam, so many of our villages were being bombed. Along with my monastic brothers and sisters, I had to decide what to do. Should we continue to practice in our monasteries, or should we leave the meditation halls in order to help the people who were suffering under the bombs? After careful reflection, we decided to do both.... We called it engaged Buddhism.”

We felt that leaving the cushion to support Standing Rock was engaged Buddhism as Thay describes it. We now have a new kind of seeing that can help us decide where and how to engage.

Our family is making sure we are not invested in supporters of oil. We are networking with Boulder, Colorado, locals who want to support the winter camp at Standing Rock, and we are raising funds and supplies for three native families who have given up their ordinary lives to live there.

The water protectors say that their prayers are for everyone. All of us need clean water. Where are the Sacred Stone Camps in our own backyards? It is time for engaged Buddhism in which each of us, as a bodhisattva, does our part to support humanity, the four-legged and winged ones, and our mother, the Earth.

Please check the links below for more information and ways to support.
Who Is Funding the Dakota Access 
Juice Media NoDAPL 
Tribal Renewable Energy 

Dianne Greenwald, True Precious Light, is a retired teacher who spent 25 years living and working in community development in Asia. Salvatore Caruso, True Precious Auspiciousness, had a career in marketing and spent many years facilitating consensus workshops and community development projects. They currently live in Boulder, Colorado, Lewellen, Nebraska, and Litibu, Mexico, where they support permaculture projects and local eco-dharma work.
Dharma Sharing

Encounter between the Trees and the Earth
By Natalie Neal

My journey to Blue Cliff Monastery took me eight or so hours of driving through the beautiful landscape from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Pine Bush, New York. The fall season was underway, and as I drove from west to east, the changing colors became more obvious. I felt grateful to drive through such a remarkable scenic route. This would not be my first visit to Blue Cliff, and the sweet memories of previous retreats accompanied me.

This retreat, in September 2016, was titled “the heART of healing: a mindful way to creative expression.” During a creative writing workshop at this retreat, I went outside to experiment with a writer’s block practice that was new to me. Being with nature was the purpose. I was to pick a random poem out of a stack of poetry books our dear Sister Ocean brought to the class. Sister Ocean asked that we read or sing aloud to the natural environment around us. She said: “Have fun with it. Fluctuate the sound of your words. Try using various tones of voice. Talk fast, talk slow, sing high, sing low. Pay no attention to the punctuation marks. You are free!”

Well, I must say I felt a little silly at first; however, my feelings quickly changed. I began with standing meditation. I put my poetry book down so my hands were free. Then I began my conscious breathing. I was aware of my body in my body. As I balanced and adjusted my stance, my eyes were sometimes closed and sometimes open. Staying there, I listened to the environment and felt the breeze of Indian summer. The leaves that were turning colors were also turning in the wind and sometimes turning toward me. That was my invitation to move around and let my body flow and dance a little. Smiling.

I opened the poetry book at random as I had been asked to do. Beginning to recite was awkward and surprising. My human voice seemed foreign in the woods. Because my voice could get enveloped by the silence around me, I adjusted my volume so the trees could hear me. I had a sense that I wanted to be heard, but remained sensitive to the sacred silence.

I decided to sing my poem out loud. Suddenly I found myself dancing and projecting my sounds to the environment around me. I was aware of the ground I was standing on, with the roots of plant life stretching out underneath the ground. They were attached to all I could see above ground.

The ground spoke to me. I felt its massive depth and began to cry. Stopped momentarily by my feelings, I looked up to the tall trees above. They looked down upon me, seemingly to embrace me. I breathed deeply.

Watching and seeing, I had an awareness of how much I had enjoyed being read to in the past, and how much I enjoyed reading to friends and family. Perhaps this was a thread of ancestry and storytelling and ministry to those in need.

When I looked at the branches and leaves of the trees, shards of light sparkled between the green leaves with their edges of yellow and brown. All of nature was effervescing into the crisp, pale blue sky as I waved my arms through the air, dancing.

Moved by nature’s embrace, I heard the faint leanings of “I want to hear more!”

Did that voice come from nature or deep inside of me? Is it perhaps the calling of nature to draw human beings closer to our own true nature? Nature is my sanctuary—something I cherish and want to protect because it is my refuge.

I look to nature as my deepest therapeutic source of devotion, stress relief, and gratitude. If we continue to overlook the effects of our environment and the gifts Mother Earth, Gaia, provides, we will be harming ourselves and future generations.

I breathed to the trees, “Carbon dioxide.”

The trees twinkled with delight. They breathed: “Oxygen. Here is my gift to you. Thank you for your gift of carbon dioxide.” Smiling.

Natalie Neal, Chan Bich Phong, True Blue Wind, has been practicing with the Laughing Rivers Sangha of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, since April 2005.
Plant-Powered Practice: Nourishing Compassion for Our Bodies, the Earth, and All Beings

Make Friends with Beans
Tips from the Plant-Powered Earth Holders 

For our first sharing, we offer some tips and a recipe for BEANS! From the bean, you can derive important nutrients for your health and feel satisfyingly full without overeating. Beans offer a great source of protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, calcium, and iron—plus, they are inexpensive.

Here are some tips for using and eating beans.     
  • If you are not used to digesting beans, it may be wise to make friends with them slowly. Buy a tub of tasty bean dip, and start with a spoonful a day, increasing gradually.     
  • To avoid unpleasant side effects with your beans, soak the beans for 8 hours in water, discard the soak water, and then cook in fresh water. Bring the beans to a boil and cook until they are soft. The cooking time depends on the bean. (Mung beans and lentils do not need to be prepared as above. They are good to boil immediately!)
Here is a delicious recipe we are confident will convert many into bean lovers.

Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup
Offered by the Really Beneficial Sangha
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (or less if you want a less rich, healthier soup)
1 large onion, medium dice
6-8 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
1 (14.5-oz) can chopped tomatoes
3 (15-oz) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1 quart vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (5-oz) package or bunch of baby spinach
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent; lower the heat if the onion starts to brown. Add the spices and sauté for a minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, and sugar. Season with a couple of pinches of salt and 10 grinds of fresh pepper. Stir well.
  • The chickpeas should be just covered with liquid. If the level is shy, add some water to cover them.
  • Bring to a simmer, and then turn the heat to low and gently simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Use a potato masher to mash up some of the chickpeas right in the pot. You can also put half in a blender and process if you like a smoother soup.
  • Stir in the spinach and let it heat through for a couple of minutes, until wilted.
  • Season again, to taste, with salt and pepper, and you’re ready to share!
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.
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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