Tag Archives: civilization

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 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.

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 – Winter Solstice greetings and report

21 Dec

2013-01-13 Cannon RiverAs the world changes, as despair threatens, the vision of Mountains and Waters Alliance is being deeply tested and clarified.

Climate change becomes increasingly obvious; violence, wars, and the war on the environment continue to escalate, and the incoming government is not a cause for encouragement. Refugees, wars, refusal of refugees, pictures of hurt and hungry children – these are our daily news. The human capacity to cause suffering is unavoidable. The arctic is sixty degrees above normal now; the summer saw unprecedented wildfires and droughts, and I was grateful to be in a place where climate change meant only fierce storms, fallen trees, raging rivers and floods, and ruined crops. The conflict between corporate greed and a culture based in the earth is playing itself out at Standing Rock, and still unfinished. In a small way I participated in that, first organizing prayer vigil support at home, then spending five days at the Standing Rock camps, joining in prayers and also sitting with other Buddhists. I expect to return when needed, and I do expect we will be needed again.

The plan of offering an example of community based in practice with the earth seems like it belongs to a gentler time, with slower change. The other side of the vision – allying with trees, mountains, and forces larger than human – becomes essential, and that is where most of my time has gone this 2016-08-01-14-57-51year. In July, a wilderness retreat with David Loy and Johann Robinson led to profoundly deepened understanding of communicating and allying with the nonhumans – especially mountains and alpine flowers. My following visit to the Black Hills was more of the same, and forging a conscious alliance. This is the work difficult to discuss, that gives Mountains and Waters Alliance its name. If there is any hope in this time, it lies in giving up the illusion that humans are separate, better, or in control, and in casting our lot with all sentient beings.

A brief report on activities:

The primary work has been learning and unlearning. Pulling out invasive plants, I see the mind of war inside myself. I’ve apprenticed myself to the land, to learn in body that which I’m called to teach about becoming part of the family of life. I seek another mind – parental mind or collegial mind – in my relationship with these difficult plants. In this, the land becomes a learning laboratory. This is what I intend to teach to others, but at this time I can only express it through Zen language.

In addition to this learning, daily sitting and retreats at the land, and the wilderness retreat mentioned above, I participated in a Bearing Witness retreat this fall with local Dakota leaders. My December retreat time went to Standing Rock, and was followed by lying in bed waiting for body and heart-mind to recover. It’s been a time of working underground, enriching the soil to be fruitful later. That deep work is still in process, changing me into someone who will be actually able to offer it fully.

On the farm, we’ve protected the orchard from deer and rodents, tended and harvested berries, continued woodland restoration, and repaired storm damage. The farm house now has wood heat and cooking, solar panels, additional space, and a year’s supply of firewood. The Advisory Council meets monthly, volunteers and other supporters have helped with many projects. Office organizing and accounting is improved, and appliction for tax status is on the to-do list. I’m looking for farmers to lease part of the land, and there are a couple of conversations in process.

I’ve taught and led retreats at the farm, had guest teachers, welcomed volunteers, and networked with other farmers as well as activists and Buddhists. I’ve also taught at Buddhist and other groups, and at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association. The sitting and study group in nearby Northfield has doubled in size. My essay “Right Action: The world is my body” was published in The Eightfold Path (ed. Jikyo Wolfer, Temple Ground Press 2016) And as mentioned, I’ve been involved in peaceful activism on environmental and indigenous issues.

I think a time will come when this farm is needed as a place of refuge and sanctuary. This, in addition to being a source of deep nourishment for the inner work, and a place for teaching, is a reason to keep it and cultivate it in spite of the expense.

The most important work has been nearly invisible. Thus I haven’t asked for money. Yet $1400 has come in unsolicited, much appreciated. For those who want to be quiet partners in this work, you are welcome to support it here. If you want to join in this practice, whether here, at your home or anywhere, please contact me.

Much warmth to you, as the dark of the year turns toward light again.

Love, Shodo – for Mountains and Waters Alliance

Here are two of the many writings that sustain me these days of difficulty. My own voice is still.

The Descent, by Thanissara. https://thanissaradharma.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-descent/

and this, from 1968:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.                         

Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things”

Buckthorn, Maple, and Land Care

25 Oct

2005-10-11 04.06.53Today’s volunteer day was about removing buckthorn, in the sunny 2005-10-11 04.14.35pleasant daylight following a heavy rain. A mass of shrubbery has now become a beautiful open space.  Looking at our feet, we find that there are a lot of sugar maples here – small, completely overwhelmed by the buckthorn, soon to grow in the open space. 2005-10-11 03.38.01

Donna and I joined Roy, who has been working on this during the past two weeks (since the last volunteer day) when he isn’t working on the culvert repair (photos 2005-10-11 04.05.21later).

We planted ferns (given by Jayne) to stabilize  the creek bank.2005-10-11 04.04.54

2005-10-11 04.04.40

Of course there are piles of buckthorn, which becomes wildlife habitat, erosion 2005-10-11 04.06.08protection, and possible source of wood for carving or fires.

This area is right near the bluffs at the big stream. We look forward to adding native plants and creating a pleasant sitting/walking outdoor area. It had literally been hidden under the buckthorn – a solid mass. There are still many similar areas to address, but probably it will be next spring when we have another buckthorn work day.

It feels good to be doing this land care, watching spaces open up, using our bodies in the last of the fall.  The strangeness of pulling up a species to let individual plants die – balanced with making space for others that were crowded out, restoring health and wholeness to the land, inviting myriads of species to live here instead of one. It does, sadly, remind one of human beings. Civilized humans are better in seeing the invasive behavior of others than seeing our own. Here, we aspire to stop being the one species that destroys all the rest, and to return to our place in the whole. Humans have lived this way in the past, for most of human history. Re-learning it is a key part of what Mountains and Waters means.

Blessings to you all. Visitors are welcome.

Shodo

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