Tag Archives: activism

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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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).

MWA April newsletter: A thousand true fans

7 Apr

Mountains and Waters Alliance newsletter: April 7, 2018

The newsletter will include an essay, upcoming events, and major future events. I’d like to highlight two events: April 27-29 weekend in Columbus, and Land care retreat May 25-28.

Please see new thoughts at “Journal”, which includes ramblings, responses to things in the news, links, and miscellaneous – unedited.

Study Group” will offer thoughts and support for living the conscious, engaged life as part of the family of life.

Neither will have notifications at this time. At the moment there are new writings in Journal.

A Thousand True Fans

This is an ask for money. It’s hard for me to do, but if I don’t ask you will never know.

The article was written for artists, who are famous for not having enough money. It proposed that rather than trying to make it big, an artist could survive with 1000 true fans – people who went to every concert or bought everything you produced. The idea was that such fans spend about one day’s income per year on your work. If that amount is $100, you have an excellent income.

My adaptation of it is like this: Instead of chasing foundation grants, which takes a lot of time and produces usually nothing, I’ve chosen to earn a living – which takes a lot of time and produces enough to live but not enough to move forward with the Alliance.

I’m inviting you to offer support to the Alliance, at whatever level would feel good to you. You can donate yearly, monthly, even daily. You can donate $5, $10, $100, $1000, any amount. Fees are small. There are over 200 subscribers to this blog; I don’t know many of you or even why you’re here. But if 20 people chose to donate one day’s income per year, and you averaged $36,500 income, I would have $2000, which would cover Internet fees, brochure printing, the accountant, and some more. If 200 people donated $20 per year, I would have $4000 and could actually move forward slowly. 200x$50 and I can go back to full time Alliance work – or we can pay our debts or something.

There are lots of other kinds of support (ask me, especially if you are good at internet stuff) but this is for people are short on time – perhaps for all those of you who send something every time I ask – would you consider making a commitment? Go here for more information or to make that donation. Here are some ways we would like to spend it:

  • Internet access, phone use, travel for meetings/teaching/study, printing brochures.

  • Growing food sustainably, restoring the land

  • Turning the farm into a gathering place; making it a place for residential practice

  • Repaying loans, beginning with the solar panel loan, then the loans from people, last loans from me.

So that’s it. I’m asking you for financial help if it works for you. The energy is growing, and I’m doing my best to give it what space I can.

Meanwhile at the farm – we have maple syrup and box elder syrup (this is less time-extravagant if we cook it inside on the propane stove; we are making vinegar from apples, pears, strawberries, pineapples, and pretty much anything that comes by, and drinking it for health and taste. “We” means me and T.R., a friend who is staying for several months. A different “we” is me and Perry, doing nursery plant stuff because he knows how to grow and also to sell. We’ll have more plants and hopefully some income. I’m trying to save my time for the deeper spiritual work, but the land tempts. We’re below freezing and snow-covered at the moment. Like lots of places. Climate change!

I hope you are all well.

Love,

Shodo

APRIL:

  • April 15 MWA potluck day including work 2-4, ritual 5-6, potluck supper and gathering

  • April 21 FARM 12-3 grafting workshop with Sarah Claasen, registration required, fee, two spots left.

  • April 21 FARM all day work day (might go to Earth Day celebrations late afternoon, might keep grafting until dark)

  • April 18 ZEN 6:10 Intro to Zen “What’s it good for?” – Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center.

  • 27-29 ZEN and MWA – Shodo is teaching in Columbus, OH. Friday evening workshop, Saturday morning sitting and discussion, Sunday all-day sitting with 2 pm talk. For more information contact Don Brewer.

MAY:

  • May 2 ZEN no gathering

  • May 1-5: studying with my teacher in Bloomington, Indiana.

  • May 16 ZEN 6:10 Intro to Zen – “Spiritual community” – Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center.

  • May 18 FARM all day work day

  • May 19 MWA potluck day including work 2-4, ritual 5-6, potluck supper and gathering

  • May 25-28 MWA Land Care Retreat includes meditation, work as practice, dharma talks and discussions, community building.

2018:

Silent retreats are held almost monthly. If you would like to come to one of these, please contact Shodo directly. An Intro to Zen retreat will be arranged when there are a few requests.

  • Midsummer: I will be traveling to Colorado and could arrange to be available in Colorado, northern New Mexico, and points along the way from Minnesota.

  • Late September: I will be in upstate New York and could arrange to be available.

  • October 26-28: Land care retreat – same as May

  • For Zen and farm events, see here.

Mountains and Waters Alliance newsletter: March 12, 2018

12 Mar

We’ll begin with a few event announcements, then continue with guidance – this time, an introductory essay.

Events

Retreats in Minnesota:

May 25-28: Land care retreat – includes meditation, work as practice, dharma talks and discussions, community building.

October 26-28: Land care retreat.

To be determined: Intro to Zen retreat – a full day at the farm, or a half day in Northfield.

Silent retreats are on the calendar, not shown here.

Travel & Teaching:

April 27-29: Teaching in Columbus, Ohio.

Midsummer: I will be traveling to Colorado and could arrange to be available in Colorado, northern New Mexico, and points along the way from Minnesota.

Late September: I will be in upstate New York and could arrange to be available.

For farm events including workshops, volunteer days, and potlucks, please see the calendar.

For local Zen teaching schedule, please see the same calendar.

Guidance

We’ll begin with a few words on what Buddhist practice means, as a foundation for more later.

For me, Buddhist practice is about living as part of the earth, fully sustained and embraced in joy.

Usually we think of Buddhism as a philosophy – intellectual, disembodied – or a religion. “Religion” might actually fit, if we understand it correctly. It’s based on Latin words meaning “respect for the sacred” or “reconnecting with the gods,” and until the 1500’s religion was not separate from secular life – even in Europe.

Buddhism calls us back to the ancient or indigenous way of relating to the world and to the sacred. It asks us to let go of these ways of life and thought that have been trained into us from birth: humans as special, nature as resource, greed and hate as normal. In Buddhism, greed, hate, and the sense of separation are called the Three Poisons. They’re not natural at all, but it’s difficult to become free of them because of long training and the incessant harping of industrial civilization.

The way Life actually works is that each one of us is created by everything around us, past and present, and we in turn give life to everything else, present and future. We are a speck on the wave of Life, never lonely while in a way profoundly alone.

Knowing this is freedom. We can drop our burdens, whether those burdens are saving the planet or making a successful career. Life takes care of itself. Our job as individuals is to respond to the movement of Life in and around us. This requires dropping ingrained beliefs, which is why Buddhist practice can be arduous: before we can respond to Life we must be able to see/hear/feel it. Fortunately, even a glimpse is enlivening and energizing, and glimpses are common.

This way is joyful. Its hope is not the hope that something will change, but hope that embraces things as they are, joins with them enthusiastically, and responds in kind, with gratitude, creating resiliency without expectation.

This way is open to anyone who wants it.

Mountains and Waters Alliance – commentary and our news

24 Feb

We live in difficult times. Words fail. 2018 has seen seven significant school shootings in 55 days. For the moment, I am chanting on behalf of Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, Alfonso Calderon, Sara Chadwick, founders of the Never Again movement. If you pray in any way, I invite you to join me in supporting these young leaders as they call us to take our children’s lives seriously.

We need to look deeply into the nature of our society. Why are we the only country on earth with this problem of mass shootings including children? It has something to do with our attitude toward guns, yet there’s more: 50 or 150 years ago guns were ordinary and mass shootings were unthinkable.

I’m looking at two long essays that describe how we got here. The first is a 2001 interview with Martin Prechtel, offering a completely different way of relating to the world. The second is notes on the concept of wetiko, described in Jack Forbes’ Columbus and Other Cannibals, and elaborated though not named in Kirkpatrick Sale’s The Conquest of Paradise. Both point to a profound dysfunction in society, and Prechtel makes it clear how this leads to destroying our own selves.

My question, and the business of the Alliance, is how we change this in ourselves and in the broader culture. For our own survival, it needs to change. I’m not yet ready to write, but will. Meanwhile, praying for the leaders, and doing my best to carry out the work that has called me, which faces and addresses the nature of our shared mind. Yes, it’s about climate change. It’s also about who we are.

Looking for those who are called to this same work

Everything I want to say is on this website page. Very briefly, if you feel like this work is your work, join this community for support in action, by becoming a member. If you would like to offer financial support there’s a discussion at the bottom of the page, and a link for single or repeat donations of any size. 

We’re quitting email lists in favor of blog posts. If you’re not already signed up, please go to the lower right corner of the page and “follow.” (If you can’t find it, email me and I’ll set you up.)

The blog will be more active, probably weekly. It will include events, essays, and teaching – guidance in ways to participate in this work. I’m gradually adding more information in other pages, and will announce when a new page is ready. Hoping to create a sort of library.

The 2018 schedule of events is coming soon, including farm retreats, Zen sesshins, potlucks and workdays – if you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come. If you’d like to spend time at the farm, please contact me. (A few items: next potluck is Sunday March 19, honoring the spring equinox; Intro to Zen class in Northfield, third Wednesdays at 6:10 pm through June; orchard grafting workshop Saturday morning April 14.)

And personal notes: we’re having winter storms, my car is snowed in, the house is comfortable, a second resident is in a try-out period, and my psychotherapy practice is going well.

Warmly and with thanks,

Shodo

Prayers

2 Jun

Every morning, after meditation and chanting, I offer additional healing energy to one person or topic. Today – the day after Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accords, I sent strength and healing to these:

Protect the earth from politicians and capitalists my choice; pick your own villains)

  • The Earth herself, and the beings of the earth (acknowledging that they have power)
  • Rising mass consciousness
  • Empowerment of the people, for good
  • Honest courts (addressing corruption in government, responding to climate change lawsuits, and much more)
  • Spiritual leaders (Pope Francis, Dalai Lama, and all of them – may they step up to the need)
  • World leaders being statesmen (and stateswomen? Language is problematic)
  • Responsible business leaders (imagine it)
  • Withering of the Deep State (the conspiracy-theorist name for what really runs this country)
  • Repentance of false Christians (and not to single them out…)
  • Repentance of all religious political extremists, including the sincerely deluded

That was the list that showed up in my mind this morning. Feel free to add or change.

The method I use for healing energy is like this: Create a powerful healing vortex (just imagine it). Strengthen each of the items on the list. Then strengthen the relationships between and among them – in twos, threes, and/or all together. You can feel when it’s done. Of course, use whatever form of prayer or healing energy makes sense to you.

I’d love to hear if you do it.

Warmly,

Shodo

Mountains and Waters Alliance newsletter: “The mind of war”

23 May

The mind of war

I noticed, suddenly, that I am at war with the way things are.

Last summer, I noticed being at war with buckthorn, grasses, and pocket gophers – beings of nature that act like civilized humans, taking all the space, destroying what gets in their way – and interfering with my food supply. This was a disturbing realization, and I’ve been studying it.

Now it’s clear that my war is bigger. I’m at war with the whole way things are, particularly the human world. I’ve made a noble cause of it, called “healing the mind of separation,” and “releasing human arrogance,” but truth is I really really want the civilization around me to change or perhaps self-destruct before it destroys life on earth.

Suddenly I saw my own war, saw how I am just like the system that shaped me – not free – and still part of the problem.

Actually, it’s a relief. As I wrote beautiful words about what the problem is and how we need to change, there was a little uneasiness. Now I know why. Something inside me had to move. I had to fall down, had to lose my hubris. So I’m glad to be present with this uncomfortable awareness.

So I write today from the middle of uncertainty and unraveling. If I waited for the answers to become clear, that would be waiting to return to hubris. But I can meet you here in the empty space; we’ll see what offers itself. Meanwhile, life continues.

Requests and practical things

Housesitter wanted June 11-July 1, while I’m at the Sakyadhita Conference. A little work, a wonderful space, and garden vegies or foraging. Otherwise, someone to do a little work (house plants and mowing) during that time – volunteer, barter, or paid.

Donations: If you would like to support my travel to Sakyadhita, anything will help. Seriously – from a $20 donation we get $19.12; from $5 we get $4.55. Here’s the link for donating, and much more information.

A ride to the plane (for Sakyadhita) June 11 morning, and back July 1 about 9 pm.

Residents and/or farm managers – Possibilities are still open. Please contact me if tempted.

Strawberry plants, raspberry plants, and various other things are available for purchase – or freely given to volunteers. Just ask.

 

Farming and volunteering.

These are dates for group volunteering. You can arrange to come at other times. PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU PLAN TO COME.

May 27-28 Planting garden, pulling buckthorn, maybe weeding. Take home healthy berry plants for your own garden.

June 10 A short day, 9-2 or so. More of the same.

July 8-9 We’ll start at 10 am with a 2-hour presentation on permaculture. Then get to work – after lunch.

July 17 & 26 A student group will be working here 9-5. Your company is welcome.

August 5-6 Early harvest? Stockade fence? More orchard work?

Sept 9-10 same as August.

Oct 14-15 Definitely harvest.

Nov 11-12 Late harvest and closing down for the season.

How it works:

  • You can arrive at 9 or 1 any day, stay for a half day, a whole day, or stick around for potluck, community time, even overnight. Any time except June 10.
  • Lunch is offered if you are here. Snacks and water during work time.
  • Potluck is flexible – there’s always pizza in the freezer, and the magic nettle soup – but your contributions are also welcome. Same for breakfast in the morning.
  • Community time could be: walks, woods and river time; foot rubs; music; making ice cream; Q&A on Zen, permaculture, world events, or whatever.
  • Sunday morning zazen is at 6 am, if you’d like to join. Ask for instruction if you need.

The projects named may change. If you have a particular skill or crave a particular kind of work (chain saw, building, digging, planting….) let me know. Ask if you need carpool help. There’s a serious possibility you might go home with berry starts, herbs, or something else, if you want. AND LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU PLAN TO COME.

Retreats and teaching activities

June: No retreats because I’m traveling.

July: retreat at the farm July 15-19 (ends at noon). Please note: when alone, I just sit zazen all day. When people join me, I can offer zazen instruction, introduction to Zen, dialogue, and mindful work opportunities.

August: retreat at the farm August 19-23.

September: retreat at the farm September 16-20

October: retreat at the farm, October 21-26.

November-December: to be arranged.

 

Teaching elsewhere

June 7, July 5 & 19, August 2, 16, & 30: The Northfield group will meet less formally during the summer, open to questions, discussion, and topics. We’ll still meet 6:25-8:30, with sitting meditation at beginning and end. Please bring your questions. Located at Northfield Buddhist Center, 313½ Division St, Northfield (park in rear).

June 24 or 25: At Sakyadhita International Conference of Buddhist Women, I’ll be offering a workshop. It’s in Hong Kong, so you probably don’t want to come.

Sept 1-4: I will offer at least one workshop at Gathering of the Guilds, a Midwest permaculture gathering held just three miles from here.

January 13, 2018: One-day retreat with Red Clay Sangha in Atlanta, Georgia.

January 14, 2018: Dharma talk, Red Clay Sangha.

I’ll post other scheduled talks on the calendar here. If your group would like to arrange a talk, workshop, or retreat, please get in touch.

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