MWA Newsletter June 10: Offering

10 Jun

OFFERING

The essential nature of life is offering. Some people, and some cultures, still know this. Modern Americans, not so much.

One of the first things that caught my attention in Zen practice was a meal chant which began, “Innumerable labors have brought us this food; we should know how it comes to us,” continued with “This food is for the Three Treasures”, for the four benefactors, and for all beings in the six worlds, and ended with “We eat this food with everyone. We eat to end all evil, to practice good, to save all sentient beings, and to accomplish the Buddha Way.”

I didn’t know anything about offering, but that chant included everything. And it told me I was in the right place, in a holy place, home. (The translation was changed decades ago, but these are the words that opened my heart.)

Martin Prechtel’s 2012 book The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The parallel lives of people as plants: keeping the seeds alive takes us into a world where the whole people know that way of offering, of responding to every single thing, every gift from the gods. He describes the offerings that must be made for something so simple as making a knife – the ore from the earth is just a beginning.

The American way of life sees everything around us as resources to be used for our own benefit. Martin refers to this way as hollow, stealing, empty, destructive – and observes that such a life results in destruction.

I wrote a little more here. And if you are nearby (southern Minnesota), I invite you to two occasions to study and practice the way of offering.

SUNDAY, JUNE 17, SUMMER SOLSTICE GATHERING

This happens in three parts; you may come to one or all, and friends are welcome. But please let me know…our address is 16922 Cabot Ave, Faribault, MN, and when you arrive you come to the house that looks like a barn (parking on the left).

  • 2-4 pm: We will make an offering of physical work, restoring the forest while also making a path to the future meditation hut. This act of healing and nourishing is our offering to the land, and creating a sacred space opens a door to more offerings.
  • 5 pm is a ceremony offering human gifts to what is larger than human. In other words, we will make beauty. Please bring offerings of songs, poems, material objects, adorning yourself – whatever feels appropriate to you. We’ll gather in a safe, accessible place, dedicate the space with our words, and allow ourselves to enter the way of offering.
  • 6 pm (approximately) is a potluck supper. Please bring a dish to share. If you can’t bring something this time, please come anyway. And feel free to come even if you’re not feeling spiritual!

WEDNESDAY EVENING, JUNE 20, “ZEN AS RELIGION”

  • 5:30-6 pm – sitting meditation with the Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center, 313 ½ Division Street (but enter off Washington from the parking lots)
  • 6:10-8 pm – Talk and discussion:

This concludes the “Introduction to Zen” series, with a look at the chants and ceremonies, and a discussion of the classic question “Is Zen a religion? A philosophy? Or what?” (I promise there will not be an answer to the question.) We’ll particularly look at all of these things as the Zen style of making offerings.

And it concludes the Wednesday evening sittings. See below under Zen News.

FARM NEWS

We had a week-long volunteer, Celeste Pinheiro, who knows gardening and jumped right in. Thus we

have some photos of how the garden looks afterward. She’s also an artist, and started work on a logo for us.

Last week my housemate TR asked if I had some work, on behalf of a college student friend. Well, Harry Edstrom came Wednesday afternoon and kept coming back through Saturday. On Friday Cassidy Carlisle came with him, and on Saturday Essam Elkorgle joined them.

So we have lots of things planted, big areas mulched, strawberries moved, trees in protective cages, and three tiny Korean nut pines safely in the ground. We also have another guest room! Funny how that happened: it was raining on Friday, so I asked Harry and Cassidy to do a very small painting job in the guest room. They liked it. It kept raining. I really, really wanted to get that place cleaned up. So they kept painting, I kept moving furniture so they could keep painting, and we wound up turning the junk room into a very nice space (photos!). The next day, with Essam, we moved furniture to turn it into a bedroom. Today Laurel Carrington (Buddhist center friend) promised to bring a real bed! I know some visitors will be very happy.

The most fun thing, unless it was transforming the basement, was working with the hand-powered two-person saw. Here’s a picture of Cassidy and Harry cutting wood with it. IMG_20180609_145204022

ZEN NEWS

For a few years I’ve hosted a Zen group in Northfield, meeting two or three times a month, while carrying on a daily practice here at the farm (morning sitting and chanting, monthly retreats) and sometimes having Zen-practice visitors.

The Wednesday night group will end with the June 20 discussion. I’m hoping that people who want some form of Zen practice will contact me, and we’ll talk about what we want to do. Northfield has a very solid Buddhist presence, with sittings 6 days a week and monthly speakers, so nobody will be left hanging.

With the new guest room, the option of coming for retreats or longer practice opportunities is much improved. We also have a tent space in the nearby pines, created by Celeste.

ALLIANCE NEWS

We’re working on a better website, date some time this summer.

In mid-July I begin travels to visit some people, some of the mountains/waters members of the Alliance, and to attend a 2-week retreat at the Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center. The first week will be just meditation together in the mountains, with a solo time outdoors; the second half will include conversation with other serious environmental activists and meditators. I’m really looking forward to this.

PERSONAL NEWS

I continue to offer psychotherapy services in Minneapolis, which is a lovely way to make a living and be able to support the Alliance. I am gradually shifting this work to an office in Northfield, which will be more convenient.

And that is all for now. Please be well and happy in every way.

Love,

Shodo Spring

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