Mni Wiconi – Water is Life! (report from Standing Rock)

14 Dec

Five days at Standing Rock were like five days in another world. I arrived after the first blizzard, survived the second and left before the third. Trying to find words: ordinary life seems unimportant – and lonely. I went because I had to be part of it. This is the most important thing happening in my lifetime. A friend said “Really? You lived through the Civil Rights era and women’s liberation.” I said, “Yes.” But why? There have been lots of pipelines before, and lots of battles.

Most Important:  This is the place where the forces of life stood up to the forces of death for profit. Death for profit: pipelines spill eventually, causing sickness and death nearby and downstream. Fossil fuels create climate change. It’s all about destroying life for profit, made from our addiction to temporary conveniences like cars. The forces of life: we can’t live without water.“Water is Life” or “Mni Wiconi” is the slogan. Also, this movement is in the hands of a people who live by the earth, who lived thousands of years in this place without ruining it, who honor and respect every living thing as relatives. Here they stand up for their way of life, resisting a culture that is exactly the opposite: natural things and living beings including people are seen as resources for exploitation for profit.

This is deeper than any of the other issues of my lifetime – even though the others bleed more vigorously. It is the battle between industrial civilization and the Earth herself. Camp was the place where people understood this – where the community understood it.

Morning Prayers:  Mornings, I woke (cold) to the voice of a singer. He sang for over an hour, without faltering. I crawled out of my sleeping bag into winter clothes and went to the sacred fire. There were lots of people. There was smudging, more than once, and prayers by leaders, and songs – most but not all by men. Chanting sometimes. Memory already fails me.

Then the Anishinaabe women took over. Copper vessels with sacred water came around, and we were given little white paper cups for the water. Drinking it heals you. Offer it to the river. Hundreds of us walking to the river, led by those women. Stopping sometimes, I assume for the four directions; you live with not knowing everything. Beautiful songs and chants, in English and Lakota. Then a stop, and “men come to the front.”

Walking again, when I approach the hill down to the river there are lines of men, holding out their hands so we don’t fall on the slippery rough steps. The first time I thought “I can do it myself.” After, I felt the gift of community. Men help women. (Later we took our turn in helping them walk down to the river.) The lines split in two, and each led to the river. One at a time we offered tobacco and said whatever prayers we had – then stepped away from the river and waited. When all were done, there were songs, prayers, and chanting. Mni Wiconi, Water Is Life, Agua Vita, every language that someone knew. Call and response. I only had sign language to offer, but a leader saw my offering and led the group, raising her hands high to be seen so we could all say “water – life” in American Sign Language.

It was a very long ceremony. I wrapped up as well as I could, and came away chilled. The men – most had bare faces, some bare heads, and more than imaginable, bare hands. The sacrifice! Learning something about sacrifice, heart opening. I looked into every face, looked into the eyes, grasped every hand as long as possible, taking them in. When hand were bare I cupped them, as long as I could, until it was time to move on. Just remembering, my heart opens again. The eyes, the hands, the community, the support. This is how we are together.

The thought came up: This is why I am here – to pray by the river in community.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday – Four times I was there. On Tuesday we were still in the blizzard, I could not bring myself out of the tent, and I hear that almost nobody made it to the sacred fire for prayers. On Wednesday I had gone up to the casino, to be ready for my ride.

Flag Road - hundreds of tribal flags from around the world

Flag Road: hundreds of tribal flags from around the world

Superb organization:  Although everything was confusing and difficult, the organization was magnificent. You just had to keep asking for help or directions, and accept not knowing everything. My first morning I went to the mandatory orientation, about 2 hours, and was informed and encouraged by three women of different backgrounds teaching us how to be here. The volunteer tent was a constant source of information and help. The medic tent, besides healing teas and hand warmers, offered conventional and herbal healing, counseling, and a warming tent – where I finally fled one day. I thought I would volunteer with the medics, but newcomers don’t do that – which completely makes sense. I did a few hours of useful work, but mostly just managed not to be a burden. I ate at two different kitchens, both with incredible food and generosity.

There were a lot of yurts, some donated or loaned, and construction crews were building more, and tipis with wood stoves. All the group spaces – kitchens, meeting tents, and the like – were warm sleeping spaces during the blizzard and after. During the blizzard, medics checked every tent and checked for needs – hypothermia, propane, whatever. 32 people were evacuated for hypothermia – none died, no permanent injuries. The emergency backup place was the casino, and the Cannonball Rec Center offered showers as well. A lot of people went to the casino in the cold; camp kitchens brought food and served meals up there. Without central organization, somehow things worked.

There were propane deliveries. When I asked for a second sleeping bag, they handed me one, and a stranger got me two little propane bottles on hearing our worries of running out. Handwarmers and hot tea were available everywhere. Hats, gloves, coats, and more – tents were full of warm clothing for anyone in need.

There were countless meetings and trainings: orientation, action meeting, action training, decolonization (in various configurations), women, and then emotional wellness meetings in the medic area. Not to mention task meetings that didn’t even make the public lists. Plans changed often.

Veterans and December 4:  Four thousand veterans gathered for a nonviolent action on Sunday, December 4. The energy was strong. They mobilized, built barracks and other spaces, set up a command post – without seeing much, I could sense their confidence and experience. In individual conversations, I repeatedly heard a strong commitment – this was just their duty in defense of their country. Many were indigenous, many not.

The faith leaders were there as well, I have no idea how many. And chaplains, housed in a church space and with their own mission. I was grateful to be living in camp even though those groups had warmth and hot water. There was a very long interfaith prayer service, with prayers or songs offered by every tribe and every denomination present. Then we were told to make a big prayer circle, surrounding the camp – while the veterans went to the bridge, the place where our people met the police.

But word came around that the Army Corps had rejected the permit and we had won. There was a lot of disbelief, concern this was a distraction to prevent anything interesting from happening with the veterans. The elders called the veterans back from the bridge; they returned Monday and stood guard while indigenous groups did ceremony – the opposite of their role in past wars. For some veterans, it was a healing of what they had done before. There was a forgiveness ceremony about that. And at the end, Tuesday, a long ceremony involving giving an eagle feather to each one of them.

They were expected to leave after four days, but some committed to staying until the drill pad is gone.

Culture:  As an elder, I was regularly pushed to the front of the food line, sat down and brought a plate of food. The time I tried to offer my fireside seat to the head cook who must have been exhausted, she refused, saying “You’ve been working all your life.” It makes me weep. I’m also in awe of the middle-aged and young people who go on and on, working long hours in the cold and then working more. Their stamina and their dedication. And I came to appreciate men – the whole time, the men showed up to do heavy lifting, work in the cold, use their skills as mechanics or carpenters or whatever – and then be last in the food line. There’s a dim memory of that from my early life, but nothing so physical. What must life be like when men take that responsibility WHILE cross-gender and Two-Spirit roles are also honored? What kind of home is this? Kindness!

a tiny part of the camp

a tiny part of the camp

My story, and Buddhists:  I came to be part of a Zen Peacemaker Order retreat. After a day of searching I found some of the people in it, and was offered a bed in an RV which I gladly accepted. (This might tell you what it’s like to be in a camp of 10,000 people.) By the time the leader came, I had made connection with Buddhist Mylo Burn, who was living in a large dome tent, hosting zazen three times a day, and sharing the space with Buddhist Peace Fellowship (gone now), small meetings, and several people who slept there. I moved into the dome tent. I also agreed to lead half-day retreats on two days, meaning I would miss community events but it was a joy to sit together. And a result was that my connection with the Zen Peacemaker group was minimal – and then they left December 5 before the blizzard. Then we were there in the tent, trying not to use up the propane in case there wouldn’t be any more deliveries.

On Sunday, when they were creating the giant circle of prayer, I got separated from the group. I went down to pray by the river, which I’d wanted to do again. When I was ready, I found the group and joined the circle. That was a wonderful mistake.

A few regrets: being there such a short time, and being confused so much. A regular volunteer job would have helped, and then I would have been of use as well. If I come back, I’ll stay longer and be better prepared. I don’t yet know whether my best work is here or there.

The sacred fire at Oceti Sakowin was put out Saturday afternoon, by order of the elders council. I learned that night, and was distraught. It felt like an abandonment of the thriving beautiful community where I lived for five days, and of the core of dedicated people who kept camp running through the blizzard, who checked every tent to see who needed help, who gave out hats, sleeping bags, blankets and propane with more than joy. They re-lit it a few days later, renamed the camp Oceti Oyate or The People’s Camp. Things are evolving.

I re-united with Jenny, who I came with; we helped take down the camper where she’d been staying (with help from men again), and then drove out through blowing snow and bad visibility, staying on the road and checking visually to make sure nobody was in the vehicles in the ditches. We got to her house at midnight, moved my things into my car, and I drove home, grateful that my driveway was clear. I turned up the heat and water heater and waited to take a very long hot bath – wanted for a week – before going to bed. Like everyone, I was sick for a few days – just a cold – and am still chilled a week later. Slowly returning to everyday life – with new responsibilities, details to be clarified, local allies to work with.

2016-12-04-10-22-34

Flag Road, across from the sacred fire

After:  We were told to evacuate. There were several meanings: First, children, elders, and others not able to handle the weather need to go, so the camp can continue. Second, we won so we can go home now. (This is not a common opinion.) Third, leave now and come back when needed again.

There’s a question what the “victory” of no permit actually means. Is it a real victory, or a distraction? On January 1 DAPL’s contracts become void – will this destroy the pipeline, or will new contracts be signed? Obama kept talking of a new route, which protects the tribe but not the climate or the river. DAPL insists on the present route, is continuing to drill, and says they will drill anyway in spite of fines. Whether weather might delay the drilling, we don’t know.

This is my newsletter for Mountains and Waters Alliance, and I end my own writing with my response to LaDonna Allard, who  asked, “What will history say about 2016 and North Dakota?”

Of many responses I share these: Wallace Chase: “They will say: This is where it started….the saving of humanity.” Margo L Kellar: “People got woke and will stay woke now. This is just the beginning.” My response: They will say that the people of the earth stood up to the industrial greed-machine, to the black snake. They will say that millions of people around the world came forward to help in every way they could. They will say that this was the beginning of the end of the greed-machine and the beginning of the return to harmony with the earth, with the spirits, with our own humanity. They will say that prayer and love were more powerful than violence. They will remember that indigenous people took the lead, made the sacrifices, and that others followed. Our great-grandchildren will thank us for this time.

I close with some words from indigenous people, our leaders in this time of healing and change.

First my friend Susana Dee, up north:People ask me what has changed in my lifetime of activism and I answer many things are worse but we now have allies. We didn’t for the very longest time.”

From Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney and a Congressional candidate, now actively involved in the camps: (Dec 10 after the fire was put out)

500-1000 people are still at what was formerly known as Oceti Sakowin Camp, even though this particular sacred fire has been extinguished today by those individuals who created it. Stay if you feel in your heart that freedom is here. We may never get this opportunity for another generation.
It’s time to move on and create a new ceremonial fire of strength. As Native Nations we are holding strong here. Sacred Stone Camp is 1000 strong and they are NOT leaving. Rosebud Camp is 300 strong, they are NOT leaving. We are not leaving. The fun, selfies & launching of your org’s brand is over. The warriors of all nations are here. Until the pipeline that’s in the ground is gone, until the Law Enforcement militarized blockade is gone, until DAPL is gone. Send a voice to Creation, relatives.”

From LaDonna Tamakawastewin Allard, here from the beginning and still leading:

When I first saw people coming in to stand against Dakota Access pipeline on the April 1st at Grand River Casino I was overwhelmed with thankfulness, the youth runners, women and children walkers, horse riders, Biker riders and the Seven Council fires. They came to stand with us and what is seen in July made me cry for days as the people of the world came to stand with us.

As we stood with people of the world I felt a healing of the land and then… we were attacked. I was shocked at the behavior of the state against peaceful people. The people still stood against the violence in prayer, song and dance. We stood with our many cultures united we stood is laughter and story telling, in the morning you can hear the songs across the camps.

As some people get ready to leave the camp because of the weather we know that they carry us in our hearts. I pray they carry the lesson of the camps to where ever they live. It is time to change the world thought. We can live with our earth in respect and honor by learning to stop fossil fuels and start using green energy. Let’s change the world by protecting the water everywhere.

Good evening everyone Chase group and Sacred Stone group spent the day gathering supplies for the camp from SRST [Standing Rock Sioux Tribe] building I found all our generators which make me happy so bring them down to camp. The solar panel and batteries were there too. So happy. I found the army tents too. Getting all these to the camp and give them out to people tomorrow.
Our lives have changed so much since April 1st. It has been eight months and 12 days since the camp opened.
I remember those who stood that first day was Joye Braun, Joseph White Eyes, Wiyaka Eagleman, Happy, Jocelyn Charger, Allen Flying By, Antoine American Horse, Alfred and Swans, Faith Spotted Eagle, Virgil Taken Alive, Prairie, Elizabeth from Cheyenne River and her daughter who carried the water to bless the ground and all the Oceti horse riders on that cold day. It was those who stayed that first cold week when everything started at Sacred Stone. I am honored by them who show us how to build a camp which was Joye Braun, Paula Antoine, Cheryl Angel, Wiyaka Eagleman, Joseph White Eyes, and Antoine American Horse and family.
These was no one that started this movement it was a coalition of people, there was the Chairman who informed the community of the Pipeline, there was a group in South Dakota Honorata Defender, Virgil Taken Alive, Jon Edwards, Dustin Thomspson, Josephine Thunder Shield, and other in their group just to name few, then there was the Wakpala group Bobby Jean Three Leggs, Waniya Locke, and many of the youth who stood up to run for the water. The horse riders, the bike rider, the walkers and runners. The movement for the water really started with the youth who first put the words out though video and live stream and Facebook, twitter, and other social media, as the chairman understood it was their words the world would hear. In my own opinion this movement was a collection of people who understood that we must make a stand we had all those who fought XL Pipeline to show us the way and help with advice, then so honored to have Honor The Earth people and Winona Laduke to support and help us, they did fund rising for us, then EIN who came in to help too both with grants and training, then Moccasins on the Ground Deb White Plume to help with training, Tanya Warriors Women, Jim Northrup, Bill from Portland, Wild Bill Left Hand and so many others who were on the ground before July, so many more names that were there but my point is this movement was by any people that everyone should be given credit.

This is a world movement so this includes every walk of life, it is not about which race, color or religious belief you are, it is about changing the world to save the water. Plain and simple stand up for water. We stand up for life.

Most of all everyone continue to put down tobacco for the water and prayer ceremonies for the water. Remember why we are here to stand up for the water, to stand up for our people, to stand up for the healing of the people.

Standing Rock, pipelines, water protectors

4 Oct

Supporting Land and Water Protectors Everywhere

I have just added a page with information on the movement to protect water and earth, everywhere. Focus right now is the Standing Rock Tribe and thousands of allies camped in North Dakota, protecting Missouri and Mississippi Rivers from the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is an amazing event with potentially profound impacts. Words fail me. I encourage you to follow the links, and take action if and how you are moved. Click above to go to the page

 

 

Embracing Reality

24 Sep

The deep vow is to free all beings: the first of Zen’s four vows.

The manifestation, in this particular body, is to become intimate with the un-freedom of my personal mind and of my culture, and working to release the internal while addressing the external. That is how the vow of the Mountains and Waters Alliance looks right now.

My writing “Right Action: The World is My Body” is a chapter in The Eightfold Path, edited by Jikyo Wolfer, published just now by Temple Ground Press. Re-reading what I wrote, I find my thoughts well expressed. The most difficult part was writing about political action, of course.

2016-08-01-14-57-51

These beings have promised to help.

If you buy this book, please get it from your local bookstore and not from Amazon. Or get your local public library to buy it. Your actions matter. Local bookstores matter. I am asking you to join me in avoiding businesses that use slave labor; Amazon is one of the big ones. (If you have no local bookstore, you can buy online from someone else.) This is a small step of independence that costs perhaps a few dollars, perhaps not, and supports a healthy economic community. If you don’t understand this, ask me and I’ll write more about it.

As the vow becomes stronger in my life (particularly as a result of the 10-day wilderness retreat in July, and life following), it becomes harder to carry on with ordinary life. I am determined to remove excess baggage and stay with the center.

Since returning home, I’ve been attempting to clarify that center and to make practical decisions. The most important activities include

  • studying, practicing, and teaching Zen,
  • undoing the cultural habits of civilization – which in this case means learning to listen and talk with trees, mountains, and other nonhuman beings;
  • supporting others who are undoing those cultural habits; at this time the key group is the growing resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (based in spiritual and cultural traditions that are rooted in human connection with the whole natural world); there are individuals and organizations around the world doing work of this kind.

In morning service, I offer blessings to individuals – sick or in need, but also those doing large projects – and to groups protecting and sustaining the earth, and to those teaching and leading the healing of spirit. The list is long. I send healing to the beings of earth itself. I include those who are disconnected and doing great harm, but rarely say names here because it feels like a judgment.

The other parts of the Alliance – creating a residential spiritual community, and a farm which grows food to be ready for when the collapse comes – seem less central. Thus I look at what I can release.

The land grounds me, heals me, and is my place of learning. Farming and caring for it takes more energy and focus than I have. I’m trying to protect the work already done (orchard etc), harvest crops planted this spring, and do the minimum needed. Also, I’m working to make it a space where more people can live, if those people appear. An extra bedroom is almost ready, and I’m being helped greatly by a Vipassana practitioner who is an excellent carpenter.

It would be easiest if some people came to live here with me, to practice with me, and to live with this vow. The invitation is out – and here I remind you of it. But I’m preparing for the backup plan: find my own financial support, take minimal care of the land, and plunge myself into the deep work – I’ve been saying hermit work, but it will include engagement – for as long as needed.

Coaching: The financial support plan is a coaching business focusing on wisdom, empowerment, and love. I’ve dropped my clinical social work license, but offer my services to individuals, couples, or groups, by phone, Skype, or in an office in Northfield, MN. There’s a set fee, and I can’t accept health insurance; everything else I do is for free or by donation. Information here. Feel free to make a referral.

The big world: In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Tribe is saying no to a pipeline that would invade sacred burial grounds (legally protected) and endanger the Missouri River (and all downstream). It feels to me like the encounter of the deep energies of our time: one based in community, connection with the land, and tradition; the other based in profit, denying responsibility, and willing to destroy both climate and waters for what is called “our way of life” – also known as self-indulgence at the expense of our own children and everyone else on the planet. If you don’t have access to reliable information, let me suggest Censored News, Democracy Now, or Yes Magazine.

I imagine going to Standing Rock to sit sesshin, in honor of all life. The practical details are overwhelming, and I may just get there for a weekend, do some labor, and get acquainted. Only because it seems so important – traveling is not generally part of my practice, but there are frequent carpools from near here.

If you would, join in the October 10 day of prayer and action. Divest from the banks that invest in pipelines, listed here. If I organize a prayer action, I will let you know. Local events will be on the website.

Meanwhile Black men are being killed by police at an incredible rate, white people are making a fuss about Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful and respectful protest, and one Black community has finally erupted into violence after intense provocation. That eruption is a victory for racism. I have only sadness to offer. There have been poems, heartbreaking. Here is one:

Leslé Honoré            July 14 · Chicago, IL ·

Backpacks

When black boys are born
We mothers kiss their faces
Twirl our fingers in their curls
Put them in carriers on our chest
Show them to the world
Our tiny black princes

And when they start school
As early as 3
We mothers
Place huge back packs on their backs
And we slowly fill them with bricks
Etched with tools
Tattooed with truths
Hoping to save them

Don’t talk back
Don’t get angry
Say yes ma’am
Say no sir
Don’t fight
Even if they hit you first
Especially if they are white
Do your best
Better than best
Be still
Worker hardest
BRICK

they get a little older
And we add more

Keep your hands out of your pockets
Don’t look them in the eye
Don’t challenge
Don’t put your manhood before your life
Just get home safe
Don’t walk alone
Don’t walk with too many boys
Don’t walk towards police
Don’t walk away from police
Don’t buy candy or ice tea
Don’t put your hood up
I’ll drive you
I’ll pick you up
You can’t be free
Don’t go wandering
Come home to me
BRICK

They get a little older
And we add more

Understand you are a threat
Standing still
Breathing
Your degrees are not a shield
Your job is not a shield
Your salary makes you a target
Your car makes you a target
Your nice house in a nice neighborhood
Makes you a target
Don’t put your ego before your safety
Don’t talk back
Don’t look them in the eye
Get home to your wife
Your son
BRICK

They weigh them down.
This knowing
Of having to carry the load
Of their blackness

the world hasn’t changed
The straps just dig deeper into their skin
Their backs ache
But their souls don’t break
Our beautiful black men

When you say to me
All lives matter
I simply ask
Will your son die with the world on his back
Mine will.

 

Very local: Finally some work is getting done on the house. The photos are not impressive unless you’ve been here – but here is the tiled floor, ready for the wood cookstove.

2016-09-24-12-51-03

With love,

Shodo

The time that is given us

22 Jul

The time that is given us:

Two nights ago I was lying under the moon, casually talking with Lynn about a question close to us both. What can be done, what can a person do, about the death-wish of our culture? Is there any way to stop the rushing toward the cliff of climate change – or the killings of innocent people, the revenge killings, the deaths of refugees, the escalating hate and blame and violence. 2016-07-17 21.31.52

It was good to have that conversation under the sky, not in a room or over the internet.

I’m two days away from the news, and about to spend another ten days on retreat, in company with people of shared values and with mountains, earth, grasses, butterflies, sky.

Two weeks ago I came back from checking the woods after a storm (fallen trees, no serious damage) to find people talking strangely on facebook – and finally checked the news and learned about the Dallas shootings. There have been more since. Death is in the air. I have not known what to say.

In the past, when I could, I paid respect to those killed as well as to ordinary deaths by placing names on the altar and chanting for them. I stopped. There are too many.

This appeared on Facebook:

I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” J.R.R. Tolkein

There have also been beautiful stories of reaching across barriers of race and politics. Heartfelt stories of what it’s like to be Black in America; I recommend this one: http://lithub.com/walking-while-black/

Perhaps I should be ready for violence in my own neighborhood – at the farm. (Last night Conor thought someone might have broken in to the basement. I don’t think so, but can’t know for sure. A flurry of calls and texts, and I simply have to let it go. If I don’t hear from him, things are okay.) Perhaps the mind of separation and violence will win in my own mind.

Hatred never ceases with hatred. By non-hate alone does it cease.” Buddha, The Dhammapada.

And I continue learning to listen to plants, rocks, valleys, clouds, asking them to help that flourishing of Life. As I walk or hike in these different landscapes (Colorado now), their voices are increasingly warm and strong. I make commitments to teach, hoping others will welcome what I am beginning to learn, replacing human hubris by equal companionship with other beings. As Buddhism has always taught.

Farm and Volunteer News

On our last volunteer day, we put up a raptor perch in the orchard.

Storms have taken down many trees, and coming projects will include a lot of cutting firewood, taking down vulnerable trees (to protect the driveway), and otherwise dealing with the storm.

The bridge, which was thought to belong to the neighbor, actually is part of our land. I finally hired a surveyor to settle it, and we own even more than I thought. We’ve enjoyed having easy access to the wild lands and the river.

Conor Millard, intern, is there while I travel, taking care of plants and things. Paul Carrington-May comes several hours per week to help with gardens, orchard, berries, mowing, or whatever we need. We sat zazen together morning and evening, while I was there, and will again after I return. We went to Faribault Farmer’s Market together,even though there’s not much produce right now.

Next volunteer times (besides whenever it works for you): August 12-14 (afternoons), and then look here.

And we are looking for a farm manager. Someone who wanted to be part of the residential community here would be great, but I’m happy to discuss any option. The manager would be sent to Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings training – because we need both the business part and the farming part.

Zen

Northfield group continues first, third, and fifth Wednesday each month, 6:30-8:30pm, at Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center in Division Street. In September we’ll start a new topic. Retreats and sesshins are posted in the last blog post and here.

MWA News

The solar panels are up and running. A small grant request is being considered, which would help us get a real website and seriously improved communications. An office manager (Juli Dupont) and bookkeeper are making their way through the maze of expenses and donations, creating workable Quickbooks files so it will be easier in the future. You may have noticed that we’ve increased our social networking.

And, at the core, I continue to be a student of the land and a student of Life, while giving more talks and meeting more people. In the middle of the (so-far) slow collapse of western civilization, there is warmth, humanity, intimacy, liveliness. May these flourish.

Asking Your Help

Volunteers are very welcome. In addition to farm and woodland volunteers, carpentry or chainsaw volunteers, there could be help with social networking, grantwriting, or other organizational matters.

Residence – the goal is 5-6 long-term residents living as a community, in accord with what’s been written here. Shorter stays of a week to several months are possible. Call or write me with any inquiries. I look forward to needing to create more sleeping spaces because we have people to live in them. We’ve got the plans already. We’re in conversation with a few people, but there’s still room.)

I’m looking for a farm manager – see above.

If you can make a donation, here are specific requests totalling $2080:

For doing the work – teaching or networking – these are bare-bones expenses:

  • $130 Gathering of the Guilds – Midwest Permaculture gathering just an hour away from us – ($65 each for me and Conor, for the weekend August 26-28). I’m presenting workshops there.
  • $275 Bearing Witness Retreat Genocide and Resilience of Native Peoples of Minnesota – November 17-19 (The cost supports native people to attend free. I would like to go to learn, support, and connect.)
  • up to $75 Women’s Spirituality Conference at Mankato October 22-23 – as a workshop presenter, I attend free but they do not pay for travel, lodging, or meals. My workshop is scheduled on two days, requiring an overnight, presumably camping.
  • To get the farm working as a business – training for me and a manager, $1600. LSP offers this 2-year training program regularly, but this is the first time it’s offered in Northfield. It would help us get on our feet financially. ($1400 early commitment plus estimated $200 gas over the 2 years.) There’s a chance that we’ll break even on the farm this year if we sell produce, but long term is very important for supporting our lives and work.

Also, if you are willing, think about an ongoing pledge, which would support:

  • Food for interns – about $200/month each. (Yes we eat from the land, but then we can’t sell it.)
  • Other expenses for interns (increased internet, travel, etc) and it sure would be nice to give a stipend to people who work so hard. Up to $200 each per month. Would make it possible to have more interns at one time, not just more work but more teaching and learning as well.
  • Part time office manager – currently about $1000/month, will decrease once the backlog is covered.
  • Farm manager – unknown, depends on skills and whether they need to pay for housing.

Currently I just borrow from my savings when money gets tight. There’s not yet a plan to repay that borrowing, but obviously it can’t continue too long. 

You can use this button to Donate , or see other options on the Contact page. Please feel free to designate your contribution for one of the above. Let me know whether you want it to be tax-deductible through our fiscal sponsor. Special thanks to the woman who has pledged $400/year, unasked, and to all the other past donors.

May our hearts be whole and joyful.

Shodo Spring

 

Strawberry meditation

25 Jun

Yesterday Conor and I spent the afternoon in the strawberry patch. We dug up plants and moved them to an open space (that Paul had weeded) in the next row. We dug up diseased plants (mites, I believe) and moved them to the sun garden – quarantined. We weeded, and we gathered pine needles to use as mulch. We stopped after doing one section fully; lots more to do next week.

What I noticed is that you can’t do these things in a hurry. You have to slow down and be gentle with the plants. When I let go of my hurry, it was easy and pleasant.

Today, Conor and Paul and I got compost and put it on almost all the potato plants: the newly planted, and the ones that are a foot tall and need to be covered. One pickup load, moved twice – in and out. We started in the cool of the morning, ended at 91 degrees – and then took naps in the cool house. Paul’s mother picked him up and told us there was a heat advisory out. I was unable to work; Conor cleaned the pantry where the last potatoes were either rooting or rotting. We talked about things to do when it’s too hot for outside – but the heat wave seems to be ending.

In the outside world, England has decided to leave the European Union, and people are warning of dire consequences. I’m not following too closely. Things are falling apart – the question is how fast. At the compost site there was a man who looked way too old to be shoveling compost, and somehow we got to talking. He had been a stockbroker, and now has a hobby farm, invests in physical things, and warns me to be cautious of the city people who will come looking for food when the time comes. He also pointed out my tires, which need more air and were dangerously unstable on the ride home.

News

There have been an unusual number of contacts from people interested in moving here. Some have appeared and disappeared, but others continue. So I’m looking at actually making more bedrooms in the wonderfully cool space downstairs.

We had the flower essence workshop, with four students, and it was good. Lined up with my intention to form relationships with the nonhumans. In my “lessons” with the land, I’ve started to think of how to related to the grasses, to the mosquitoes (they want full attention, was Friday’s message), to the buckthorn (I promised it a grove somewhere on the hills – but there are two magnificent trees right in the cleared area, and I don’t know what to do.) Talking and listening with each of the many plants requires a calmness that I don’t seem to have. But I continue. And continue to sit zazen every morning.

Going to Indiana for the Zen ceremonies was, on the one hand, wonderful, and was also what I did instead of sitting a three day retreat. Next month I actually go to a 10 day retreat in the mountains, where I don’t have to lead or cook or anything, and it looks like the deep rest that I need. We’ll be back on schedule in September.

After the buckthorn pulling, there’s open space in the woods that’s just lovely, a space for listening and creativity. Most of the trees we planted are doing well, a few seem to have died, and I don’t know what happens next. This fall we get more ostrich fern and other smaller plants; I brought spicebush from southern Indiana to potentially plant as an undergrowth shrub to replace honeysuckle and buckthorn. And mosquitoes have finally appeared – late June – mercifully!  There have been storms – almost tornadoes. The house is solid, and some of our elder trees have been hurt. I don’t yet know how to receive this damage.

More and more it makes sense to operate in this way: accept what’s offered. Instead of controlling what gets planted, I respond to what comes up. So the gift tiger lilies are alive and probably will bloom next year. Last year’s oregano and mints are flourishing, as are basil and lovage and several others. The many little maple trees have no destination yet, but undoubtedly will go somewhere in the woods. Letting go is happening.

My friends Rick and Beth came to learn flower essences, and are going to come Sundays to meet the herbs that live here, for herbal remedies. I just feel gratitude: what will make this work is people who have an independent interest in something here. I can be a learner and helper with them, instead of having to be in charge of everything.

The solar panels are up and will be turned on this Tuesday. I start paying back the loan at that point, but also start making extra electricity to sell to the power company.

I’ve written two small grant proposals, and bought domain names: Now you can search for MountainsandWatersAlliance as a .org or a .net, and for MountainsandWatersFarm.com, and they’ll all go to the blog which passes for a website. One of the grants is for help creating a real website. A volunteer offers to help write grants: extreme gratitude and relief.

Because although I’m capable of learning things, there are too many things to do for me actually to learn and do them all. Part time office manager Juli is taking care of the numbers that I had been simply neglecting, and also helping me get more online presence. I’m still in charge of farm and conservation matters, the house, volunteers (I’m falling down here), teaching, Zen teaching, and the general direction of it all.

And it’s time to check in with the Advisory Council about some of the steps forward. At two years, it seems like the hard survival part is done, and it’s possible to move forward into doing the work.

Coming Events

Well, here is the rest of the year, almost. As well as I know. December is not clear.

  • Saturday mornings are farmer’s market in Faribault, unless (like today) I have nothing to sell.
  • Volunteer weekends are posted here. Northfield Zen groups are in the same place.
  • July 3: I give a Dharma Talk at Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul.
  • August 20-21: retreat of some kind. To be determined.
  • August 22-24: sesshin (silent sitting)
  • September 18-23: sesshin (silent sitting)
  • October 14-19: Lee Lewis offers a 5-day sesshin here, “Land Ethics.”
  • October 22-23: I offer a workshop at the Women and Spirituality Conference in Mankato, “Becoming Part of the Earth Again.”
  • November 6: I give Dharma Talk at Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center, Northfield.

 

May you be happy. May you be at peace. May you know the joy of your own true nature.

Warmth and love,

Shodo

The mission – and some thoughts

7 Jun

Our work is to heal the mind of separation, the cause of our time’s unthinkable violence, and to ally with forces of nature to protect and restore the wholeness of life. Releasing human arrogance, with love and beyond conventional wisdom, we seek and follow guidance from those forces: land care, growing food, teaching, writing, retreats, and whatever is required. This is our intervention on climate catastrophe, while we prepare to offer hospice if needed.

Working on a grant application, some things clarified themselves. The first paragraph is above.

A key clarification is that the alliance with all beings is in fact the center. The land is a learning center, a place to begin that relationship, and a place to take in climate refugees if and when that happens. But the most important thing is changing our relationship with the rest of the planet – collectively. Thus, when asked “what if you don’t get the funding you need?” I answered that the shape of the work will change, but it will continue.

Please look here, for better language. Reading the first few paragraphs will be plenty for most people.

Since I last wrote,

  • three people sat a full three-day sesshin here. That’s a first. My friend Luca visited for three weeks, offered countless labors and gifts, and during sesshin took over timekeeping and bell ringing so I could just sit and give talks. (We shared cooking.)
  • we “finished” pulling buckthorn and earned a cost-sharing grant from the National Resource Conservation Service. It was supposed to cover half our costs, and did about that. I’d hoped all that volunteer work would actually bring income, but we finished it with paid labor, and I’m not sorry. We planted some trees, ferns, and so forth, and there’s more work to be done there, but it’s alive with wild plum, willow, oak, black cherry, and lots more.
  • The process of pulling and cutting all those trees has set me back. How can I claim to be listening to the forces of nature while warring on some of them. I have said, I’m on the side of balanced natural communities and removing the invaders – removing the plants that act like us, actually – but it still puts me at war. I’m gently considering communication with all the plants, not just the ones I like, and we will see where that goes. I committed to learning from all beings, to abandoning human superiority – and here I am.

There’s some traveling coming up in my life:

  • Tomorrow I visit my friend Setsurin McCarthy, who is walking across the continent. I meet up with her in Des Moines, the closest point. Unfortunately I don’t have time to walk a few days with her as I have hoped.
  • A week later I visit my teacher for ceremonies – he’s appointed a successor – and also visit my old friend in prison there.
  • In July I join a small group of people looking at the environmental crisis beyond what “the system” allows us to think and know. Wish us luck! And then a deep vacation: “Nature and Wilderness” retreat, Colorado mountains, activists and meditators together – looks like the rest I most need. (got a scholarship)

A Zen student arrives in June for a few months; I expect another shortly after he leaves in the fall – good news, not to be alone here. This is meant to be a place of community.

Teachings: I’ve updated the calendar, will just mention a few:

  • June 12, flower essence workshop here with Martin Bulgerin. I expect this to help me listen to the plants, as did April’s voice workshop with Myo-O Habermas-Scher.
  • July 3: I give a Dharma Talk at Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul.
  • October 14-19: Lee Lewis offers a 5-day sesshin here, “Land Ethics.”
  • October 22-23: I offer a workshop at the Women and Spirituality Conference in Mankato, “Becoming Part of the Earth Again.”
  • November 6: I give Dharma Talk at Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center, Northfield.

And I don’t even know what’s happening in today’s election.

Here are some pictures.

 

Thoughts. And a true date for the flower workshop

22 May

A few notes, just before going into sesshin:

Brahmavihara Cambodia:

I’m reading the financial report from my friend Beth Goldring, about her project working with AIDS and TB patients in Cambodia. She is retiring, and the question is whether the project can continue without her. Staff are doing wonderfully, she says, but they still need someone to replace her in raising funds. So probably the project will close.

Reading her reports always breaks my heart. I visited and volunteered with them for a month in 2014. Now she writes, about her year away in 2015, “I returned to find decisions skillfully made, accurate and honest reporting, and emotional strength. At the level of the staff’s actual work with patients, commitment, integrity and resilience, I could not have been more pleased.”

And “As always, the report is intended as an expression of my gratitude for the support that has enabled us to work over the past sixteen years. It is my devout hope that support will continue without me and that my wonderful staff can continue, in our small way, to be a compassionate presence in the face of our patients’ suffering.”

Beth writes, “the time when AIDS patients received comprehensive medical and social care seems to have passed. Brahmavihara Cambodia is not in a position to compensate for what has been lost.” Seven staff (most part-time, many with AIDS themselves) provide chaplaincy and other services. Operational expenses in 2015: $34,802 for both salaries and direct services.

I don’t know how to write about what is actually happening. People being evicted from the hospital when they can’t pay the daily fees. Poor people who can’t get a poor card which would pay. Caregivers (usually family) living in the hospital with the patient, sleeping on concrete floors. Doctors and nurses seeing TB patients with inadequate masks. (Our staff always had the proper masks.) People’s homes: I remember three people in one room with a beautiful Buddha statue, one hot plate, one light bulb, and somewhere outside must have been water and toilets. The mother dying there. A father and three children on an open tent platform, recovering there, the children playing and laughing. Of course we only see the poor people, but in the hospitals there are four beds in an open room with fans and wide windows, and sometimes another ten people all seeming to me like a kind of family, together facing illness and death. (We would sometimes do Reiki on the caregivers as well as the patients.)

This is a place of practicing with life and death – imminent, always present – and the work is to be present with people otherwise forgotten or ignored. It leaves me humble. Which is why I write about it. But then I cannot tell you, without also offering an opportunity if you wish to support. www.brahmaviharacambodia.org has Paypal for tax-deductible contributions. You can ask me for other ways of donating.

 

Here:

And here on the land, I am listening to birds, as the sun comes in the windows, and planning to plant some tomatoes before we begin sesshin. Imagining that working with the forests and the plants, I’m doing something about causes, about planetary healing. Actually only knowing that each of us must do what calls us.

So I announce that the Flower Essence Workshop has been rescheduled to Sunday, June 12, and this time we have four committed members so it will actually happen. And the whole point is returning to the earth, learning to listen and sit with the plants, in the way of zazen, receiving and giving life.

And there will be three of us at sesshin, where usually there is one. Some of our zazen will be walking or sitting outdoors – an experiment for me. I’ll write again later.

Warmly,

Shodo

%d bloggers like this: