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

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Winter 2015 Issue 2

In this Issue:
  • Welcome: Dharma talk by Sister Dieu Nghiem
  • Earth Practice: A Guided Meditation
  • Dharma Sharing: The Practice of Mindful Energy Consumption
  • Sangha Action: Measuring our Carbon Footprint

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


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


Touching the Earth

A Newsletter of Earth Holding Actions in the Plum Village Tradition 

We are so very happy you are joining us for this second issue of Touching the Earth. As you arrive in the here and now, please enjoy this transcription of a Dharma Talk by Sr. Dieu Nghiem (Sister True Wonder) given in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall on November 23, 2014.

You may have seen pictures of distant galaxies. They are beautiful; they are colorful, bright and shiny. In our own solar system we have our dear Mother Earth.  You may have seen a picture of Mother Earth taken from space. She is also very very beautiful. She is the only blue planet we have discovered so far. She has a blue sheen around her which is the atmosphere that protects us. I have a picture of her and I enjoy looking at it. Whenever I look at it I feel like spreading my arms to hold Mother Earth and hug her. Sometimes when I am out for a walk I actually lie down and with my cheek against her I hold her. I want to embrace the Earth because she holds us, nourishes us and heals us. She offers us shelter, she offers us food and medicine. The three essential things for our life; we call her Precious Jewel of the Cosmos. We have wounded her, but we can heal her. We can heal her by hugging a tree or spending some time with a bush, a flower, a bird, a rabbit or maybe a snake and sending her our love and gratitude.

Nowadays we speak a lot about our carbon footprint and we would like to do something about this. We could practice a no-car day once a week. In Plum Village, France we also practice this. In the Lower Hamlet, where I spent many years, Wednesday is our no-car day. One day one of our young novices came to me and said: “Dear Sister, I need to go and get something in town but as today is a no-car day I will go tomorrow”. I asked her: “That is wonderful, but how have you lessened your carbon footprint by going tomorrow instead of today? Would it not be better to see if anyone else needs to go to town one of these days and then to combine the trips?” As we live in a community, we do not need to take a car to go to work, therefore we try to combine our trips in order to lessen our carbon footprint.

Practicing walking meditation is a wonderful way of healing Mother Earth. We can heal her by our peace footprints, by walking on Earth in peace. With every step we take we caress Mother Earth offering her our peace, our love, our gratitude and Mother Earth will offer us her stability and her freedom. We can walk we arrive in every step. We can take our time to arrive in every step before taking the next step. It is a way of celebrating Mother Earth, of celebrating our being here; we arrive and come home to Mother Earth, come home to ourselves.

Sr Dieu Nghiem lived in Plum Village for the past 24 years. For 16 years she served Lower Hamlet as Sister Abbess. Sister Dieu Nghiem has Irish – Dutch ancestry. She currently resides at Deer Park Monastery.

Earth Practice: A Guided Meditation on the Climate Crisis

This summer, I was sitting quietly at the edge of a field and it suddenly hit me that all of my 40 years on this planet has been inadvertently contributing to climate change, just by being a part of this society. It was very sobering to reflect on all the items I had consumed from birth-- the food, water, electricity, heating, air conditioning, clothing, possessions, media, transportation, etc., and how so many of these things were produced, used and disposed of in ways harmful to the environment. I had never seen my role in this so personally and concretely before.

Yet in reading Active Hope, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, as well as other wonderful climate change books, I am also continuously struck by how much possibility for transformation there is for our species and our planet, at just such a moment of crisis. We do have the means in our hands to turn away from our course of destruction, and many people all over the world—including you, the reader!—are already manifesting just and sustainable ways of life with great courage and innovation.

Sister Jewel

A Guided Meditation on the Climate Crisis
Breathing in, I open to my feelings in response to the climate crisis.
Breathing out, I allow these feelings to be here, whatever they are.
IN: Opening to my feelings
OUT:  Allowing my feelings

Breathing in, I tenderly hold the suffering in me in response to the climate crisis.
Breathing out, I tenderly hold the collective suffering, including that of the earth.
IN: holding suffering in me
OUT: holding suffering of others

Breathing in, I am aware of the many animal and plant species now threatened
Breathing out, I am aware of the growing threat to human health and safety
IN: species threatened with extinction
OUT: humans also threatened

Breathing in, I look deeply to see how I have contributed to our global crisis
Breathing out, I see the individual and collective ignorance at the root of this
IN: my contribution to the crisis
OUT: ignorance at its root

Breathing in, I allow myself to feel the sorrow and regret for my own harm and the collective harm
Breathing out, I ask the Great Mother Earth and the Buddha in me for forgiveness and understanding
IN: Embracing my regret
OUT: forgiveness and understanding

Breathing in, I know I am also part of the solution and I can contribute to sustainability and social justice
Breathing out, I see the individual and collective awakening happening all over
IN: I can contribute to healing
OUT: collective awakening is happening

Breathing in, I open to what I truly, deeply long for in my own life and in the world
Breathing out, I commit to making concrete steps in my daily life to manifest this
IN: touching deep aspiration
OUT: concrete, daily steps to realize it

Sister Jewel (Chan Chau Nghiem) grew up in the US and Kenya,  in an intentional community that practiced simple living and engaged in village development projects worldwide. She remembers contests with the other children on who could use the least amount of water for bathing. She ordained as a nun in 1999 and after is currently living independently from the monastic community. She plans to spend the first half of 2015 teaching mindfulness courses at Schumacher College in the UK, an environmental college for graduate students.

Dharma Sharing: The Practice of Mindful Energy Consumption
The Practice of Mindful Energy Consumption

Joy Lam & Hans Rosenberger

We own and run a local solar energy company in Altadena, CA. We engineer, build, & finance both solar electric and thermal system from San Gabriel Valley to Santa Monica here in Southern California. While many of our customers are the smart environmentally-conscious kind who don’t just want to save money, but also save the planet by turning to green renewable energy, we are often surprised by how much energy they consume when we first visit their homes.


One of the common questions that we get from customers is how big of a system they should get. This question cannot be answered without first looking deeply on how much one consume. This is where we find Thay's teaching on mindful consumption is so powerful and helpful. In most cases, we find that even those who are conscious about environment and energy consumption (a.k.a potential solar clients) are not always aware of how much electricity and other energy they consume on a day-to-day basis.


Modern lifestyle brings us a lot of conveniences,  but if we look deeply, we can see that a lot of energy is used to make those conveniences available to us. For instance, in order to have hot water the moment we turn on the faucet, a recirculation pump need to continually pump hot water through the house, and the heater needs to continually reheat it in order to keep it hot.  This can double the amount of natural gas used to heat the house’s water.  There are electronic household appliances that are consuming energy constantly, such as the refrigerators and computers that are working all the time. There are also appliances that we don’t necessarily notice, but are constantly consuming energy, such as the cable box and the printer.  These conveniences can consume a large portion of the energy at home without us even being aware of it.


Awareness of our energy consumption is probably one of the best results that comes with a home solar system.  People become aware of their energy use because they are interested in how the solar is benefiting them.  This new energy awareness that is spurred by their new solar system makes them aware of their consumption too.  In many cases, the new-found energy awareness causes people to reduce their energy use. Even before putting on the solar panels on the roof, many of our customers already reduce the amount of energy they consume by finding sensible ways to be more efficient. On average, homeowners can reduce 10-40% energy consumption in all forms including electricity and gas.


It is only through awareness that we can truly understand how we are benefited from the energy that is generously shared by Father Sun, and appreciate the miracle of wonder of this renewable source of energy.  For most of our customers, solar energy makes the invisible visible (on the monitor that keep track of energy production, and the utility meter), and it empower you to better understand how you connect with your energy.


Having green renewable energy without a consciousness for reducing your use only brings limited results. Many system owner’s come to terms with their over-consumption when they find that even a large solar system will not provide for all of their use.  One of our customers was surprised at getting high electricity bills after her system was installed. She initially suspected a faulty meter or equipment. When we investigated the issue, we met her son who recently turned the garage into an entertainment center with room sized plasma TV, electronic games and air conditioner roaring full blast with the door not closed.  He thought that electricity was ‘free’ after installing solar.  Recently, one of our thermal heating customers asked us why the floor space heating does not work well when the windows were open. We have to kindly and gently explain to him that the system was not designed for use with windows open.  Changing your consuming mindset is as important as installing solar.


In America, we are spoiled by the abundance of energy. Cheap energy from coal and oil make renewable sources looks relatively expensive. Furthermore, this condition of abundance created a culture that lacks awareness of how we consume, which perpetuates a unfavorable situation for the next generation.  We need to understand how precious resources are, and how to avoid wasteful habits. A big question that each of us needs to come to terms with is how we balance our want of creature comforts as individuals with the cost that these comforts bring to the whole world in the form of environmental damage.  Our consuming is in the context of a crowded world with 9 billion other people consuming as well.  How can we view our actions in that context?  Change needs to start with us.


When Hans was young and growing up in an older house in the Northeast, he was very concerned with over-consumption of resources and worked to reduce consumption at home, sometimes to the discomfort of his family.  He successfully convinced his younger sister that by surrounding herself with stuffed animals and two blankets, she can survive wintertime temperatures, even with her room heater switched off. She obliged him for a while, but was not fooled by her older brother’s sweet talk for long. Changing one’s habit is tough, as we Zen practitioners know through our personal practices. Lasting change is only possible if we have full awareness of our behavior as it is, and knowing the consequences as it is. Lasting change is possible when insight arises, and when we have such awareness to see what we consume daily is interconnected with the well-being of Mother Earth.


Recently we drove our all electric vehicle from home to Deer Park Monastery for the first time since we got it few months ago. It took longer than we planned, as finding and charging stations along the way and waiting for the car to be charged added extra traveling time. However, while it seems to be extra hassle that we have to deal with, it also brings us joy to discover that there are increasing number of charging stations along the way between Altadena to Escondido that make the trip possible. Driving an all-electric car with limited range is a great mindfulness practice, as we are constantly reminded how much energy we are consuming each time we press the accelerator. It is just another example of how awareness of how much we consume, changes the way how we behave.


With these thoughts in mind, we would like to encourage you to view consumption in your own lives with new eyes:

  • Turn off and unplug unnecessary appliances.  How much energy consumption do I cause for simple convenience?

  • Change the light bulbs to efficient ones.  Shut off lights you are not using.

  • Avoid electric heater as much as possible.  Would I need heat if I altered my attire?

  • Close the doors and windows if you are heating or cooling a space, otherwise the effect is wasted.

  • Consider carefully the balance between energy use, comfort, and convenience.  Can I adapt myself to the environment rather than the environment to my wishes?


Dramatically reducing the energy inputs in our lives is possible by how we live, and consume. It is only through our everyday action that we can show our true love to Mother Earth.  Be the change you want to see in this world!


Joy Lam (True Palm Tree Garden) and Hans Rosenberger (Gentle Compassion of the Heart) live in Altadena CA in a house powered by solar thermal and solar electric, with three kitties, three chickens, many piles of compost and an organic vegetables garden. They practices with Sprouting Seeds Sangha in Pasadena and Tranquil Lotus Sangha (a POC & Alliance sangha) in Altadena. They own and operate Altadena Energy & Solar (www.altadenasolar.com) together, and also involve with the development of Arroyo Food Co-op (order.arroyofoodcoop.com), the second food cooperative in Los Angeles county.


Sangha Action: The Ground on Which We Stand
Last year, members of New Mexico’s Desert Rain Sangha took action to measure their carbon footprints—the amount of carbon each individual emits into the atmosphere given their fossil fuel consumption.  Using one of many online calculators, they discovered the number of Earths necessary to sustain life if people everywhere lived as they lived. After that, they measured the number of acres each person needed to support their lifestyle.

Michael Mandell has this to say about the process:  

We found that many of the questions were illuminating areas in our lives that could be changed to lower our carbon foot print. For example, the question, “What percent of your closet has clothes in it that you have not worn in the past year?” We found that we had plenty of clothes to recycle.
We also exchanged information on where to recycle all #1-7 plastic instead of just #1 and #2 with the city. The activity opened our eyes to see other new possibilities for recycling and reusing. For example, plastic bags are now being stuffed into plastic bottles and then are used as building blocks in construction. We found a local person who collects the plastic building blocks.

If you do have a high number for your carbon footprint, information should be given for offsetting that number into a carbon sink. Information about how to do that is offered on the web.

Want to learn more? Here from the Institute for Sustainable Energy at East Connecticut State University is the website guiding Desert Rain Sanghas inquiry. It is a gift to deepens awareness and connects the reader to a world of information. 

Michael Mandell (Blossoming Faith in the Source) practices with the desert rain sangha and has been practicing in our tradition since 2003

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