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THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT?

2 Jul

WE LIVE IN DIFFICULT TIMES. How shall we meet them?

Last week there was an onslaught of events that lead to feeling hopeless. I wrote a list, didn’t want to start with it, then knew it was necessary. Skip it if you need.

  • The End Of The World As We Know It” was the phrase used by the usually cautious NPR as they talked about the retirement of Justice Kennedy and the U.S. Supreme Court becoming a 6-3 conservative majority.
  • Also Thursday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved a Certificate of Need for Line 3, in disregard of the overwhelming public opinion, the unanimous opposition of the four tribes directly affected, and the Department of Commerce position that Minnesota does not need it.
    • Background: Line 3 is aging and should be taken out of service. Among those who support pipelines, there is debate about replacing it in place versus building a new route. Among those concerned about climate change, it is clear that we need to end fossil fuels. That topic was not allowed into the room. The main room was filled with high school students, paid $30/hour by Enbridge to arrive early, get tickets, and sit there wearing pro-pipeline shirts. I was there Wednesday for a short while.
  • The policy of separating small children from their families at the border was replaced by a policy of indefinite detention of those children with their families. The children already separated are being lost; families are often not reunited unless the adults agree to deportation – and, rumor has it, often not then.
    • Background: This is actually not new or unAmerican at all. Residential schools for decades tore children from the arms of their families, seeking to “kill the Indian, save the man.” Children died, or were irrevocably harmed. In slavery, children were routinely sold away from their parents. The Japanese internment camps imprisoned families together. We do not have a virtuous history. We have a history of genocide.
  • Turning immigrants into felons is new. Many of them are actually refugees, from countries destabilized by wars or economic policies of this government, but there is essentially no legal path for refugees now – according to numerous reports of people who tried to enter legally.
  • The Supreme Court approved Trump’s immigration ban, finding a way to pretend it wasn’t a Muslim ban. (The latest version included two extra countries that aren’t Muslim, and claimed to focus on screening procedures.)
  • The Supreme Court supported a lawsuit against “fair share” union payments.
    • In this practice, nonunion members are required to pay a fee reflecting the benefits they get because unions negotiate contracts – not including any lobbying. The claims made (that those fees supported union political work) are blatant lies.
    • The difference in average wages between anti-union and pro-union states is $6000/year.
    • Incidentally, the IWW never participated in those agreements.
  • Massive droughts are happening in food-raising parts of the country. In addition, as farmworkers are deported (or leave before deportation), there is nobody to harvest crops. We’ll be facing massive food shortages – for some of us that just means higher prices, for others it means hunger – and there’s no reason to think things will get better.
  • Black people are being shot by police so fast I can’t keep up. I think there were two last week, and one of the shooters is being charged with murder. As a white person from northern Europe, I try to imagine if my grandchildren were targets in that way – never knowing if they would come home.
  • The list of changes making their way through Congress is horrifying. Again, I can’t keep track. Attempts to destroy food stamps, Medicare, Social Security. Selling off national parks and lands to fossil fuel companies. Defunding and censoring science, particularly about climate change but also about guns, violence, health, and more. (I don’t have the heart to look up any more.)
  • Five people shot at the Capitol Gazette – just more violence.

WHAT MUST WE DO?

I don’t have an answer. So here is what I’m doing, day by day.

  • Working for money. I’m fortunate to have work I like, though I’d rather be a full-time Zen activist.
  • Being with the land, including gardening, working with nursery plants, and occasionally spending time on the hill or by the river. It’s nourishing and also a place for learning, watching the habits of my mind as I seek control over invasive plants and animals. Who is the invader? I keep forgetting.
  • Daily meditation and chanting, offering the energy of this person back into the universe. And receiving.
  • Ordinary life – the truck needs to be fixed, the berries picked, dishes washed, all the rest.
  • Relationships, taking care to be with friends, family, and others in a nourishing way. Resisting the slide into depression.
  • Following news, sometimes analysis, often too much, but enough to still be aware and to consider responses.
  • Tending the deeper thing, the matter of relationship with the life around me. There may come a time when I choose to be on the streets, or to risk arrest, or some other direct action. I do my best to be slow, centered, connected. Not well and not enough, but this is crucial.

Imagine living in a culture in which there was enough for everyone. Enough safety. Enough food, of good quality. Enough access to the natural world. Enough love.

On Saturday I went into the streets about immigration, with a couple hundred people in Northfield. Not liking protests, I thought that sometimes you just have to visibly say no – and that this is such a time. I’m encouraged by the tenor of that conversation – people recognized there’s something bigger here – and by the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who showed up in the street. If Trump was testing the waters to see how far he could go, he didn’t get an “all clear.”

I’m encouraged by some other things too:

  • States, cities, and churches suing over these practices and others.
  • The occasional court victory, such as the dismissal of cases against another 30 Standing Rock water protectors. However, if you don’t know about SLAPP suits, lawsuits brought for the purpose of chilling public participation, please read this for help understanding the nature of our society: https://anti-slapp.org/what-is-a-slapp/ Also consider that it’s considered a victory merely to be allowed to bring a suit, or to be allowed to present certain evidence, or to use a defense based on avoiding greater harm (such as climate change).
  • Individual humans are risking death, getting hurt, being uncomfortable, spending months away from whatever their ordinary life was, commuting hundreds of miles to court dates which then get rescheduled repeatedly, spending weeks and months in jail – to temporarily hold off a wave of repression and permanent environmental degradation. I’m reminded of the little Dutch boy putting his finger in the dike: so small, so personally expensive – may it succeed.
  • Cultural changes: In the water and land protection battles going on currently, it’s become standard practice for the indigenous groups to lead, for white-led groups to follow. As they/we should: White American culture is toxic.
  • The ranks of small, organic, permaculture, sustainable or regenerative farmers are growing and growing, and organizing. This is relevant to food security, and also a matter of the cultural change so needed. I exist within this network of small farmers, though not actually farming.
  • Religious organizations – conventional ones – are increasingly on the side of the oppressed, the the humans in need, the planet – Consider https://isaiahmn.org/ as one of many examples. They are remembering their origins. May it be so.

Martin Prechtel, in The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People as Plants: Keeping the Seeds Alive. His teacher, at dying, sent him to the United States to keep the sacred seeds alive. Finally he writes: “For ever after that, the seeds I was trying to keep viable were no longer “my” seeds of the Seeds of Tzutujil spirituality, but the seeds that every citizen of the Earth has somewhere tucked away inside themselves, or outside in their lives, or somewhere in the ground, or lurking around the family baggage, or hidden in their bodies. In dreams or inexplicable proclivities, but always somewhere they never look or know anything about. These seeds were the seeds of that very precious thing we all have that contains embryonic caches of possible understandings of how to live ritually and intactly with an indigenous mind, seeds that have been bequeathed to us all from our own more intactly earth-rooted ancestral origins from millennia previous.

But, how can we find our seeds if they are hidden in a place we know nothing about, a place we cannot see or touch without the indigenous ancestral mind? The truth is, the seeds do not need to be found because they are already found. We are the ones who need to be found, for the seeds are wherever we go….We have been adrift for four thousand years, floating on people-centered rafts of provisional civilizations that have convinced themselves they are the real thing and the cutting edge of human evolution… the spirits…are effortlessly coursing right along with us….trying their best to get our attention and tow us home to our real selves…while we drift along figuring that the anxiety of civilizations’ never-ending feeling of emergency is normal.”

figuring that the anxiety of civilizations’ never-ending feeling of emergency is normal.” If that makes no sense to you – if the whole quotation makes no sense – you are normal in this culture. But if it calls to you, whether clearly or faintly, that is the action of the spirits trying “to get our attention and tow us home to our real selves.”

It is our real selves that will find a way. Please listen deeply within for your real self. And please listen outside as well, to the you that is in other people, in lands, in animals, in plants – everything around you is also your Self.

We live in difficult times. It is harder to find the joy in life – and always more essential.

BERRY EVENT: Still, life goes on. The plants don’t stop. I’m putting out an invitation for Saturday morning, July 7, 9-12 at the farm:

  • We transplant lots of raspberry plants, and prune the ones that are left. We do this as friends of the berries, as spiritual practice.
  • You can take as many plants as you want: black, red, and gold raspberries, and/or strawberries.
  • Black raspberries are ripe and offered for your eating.

Temperature will be 70-77 degrees and sunny. RSVP for address, directions, and so I can expect you. Shodo.spring@gmail.com.  (“Maybe” is also helpful information.) Between Faribault and Northfield, MN.

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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

P.S. Study group entry – What do you love?

9 Apr

I just wanted to invite you to look at the new writing. These will be about once a week, and will not have notifications except through the monthly newsletter (until we get the new website).

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