Tag Archives: decolonization

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.

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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.

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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.

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With 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.

 

Nettles and singing flowers

20 May

Last Wednesday I took 6 half-pound batches of nettles to my local food coop, packaged in plastic boxes recycled from my daughter’s salad and greens buying. I included two recipes and promised more recipes online – so they’re posted now, under “Recipes.” I recommend the Swedish soup, but they’re all good. (I sell nettles! Next year fiddleheads. Morels, when I find them.)

The solar panels are up and waiting for the inspector. In India, people are dying from extreme heat. In Alberta, the wildfire rages on. Temperatures are changing. Electoral politics is tragic. The names on my altar, of people recently passed, includes both Blanche Hartman and Daniel Berrigan. The heroes and heroines of my youth are leaving, gradually, as I finally learn to be an adult.

PLANTS

2016-05-03 10.33.56This afternoon there was the thought of bringing over Jack-in-the-pulpit flowers to join the (hopeful) ginseng plants under my deck. I took a shovel and pails and found the place where the Jack-in-the-pulpits are growing in the path, just asking to be stepped on. With their permission, I dug up each one, plus a few violets and a little moss, and took them back to plant in the place where the ginseng seeds are completely invisible. After all was planted and watered, it just felt good. And I felt good – happy, after an afternoon of hassles trying to get both phone and internet to work at once. (I think it’s worked out, but am not sure yet. The explanation is not worth it.)

This morning was my weekly “lesson” with the plant communities at the East Gate. This time I went to the area where three men have been digging up buckthorn – paid by me, in hopes of being able to complete the “buckthorn contract” and get the county’s cost-sharing money. I also planted two small sugar maples, cut some honeysuckle and pollarded three black locust trees. (Pollarding is cutting them off at 5-6′ tall, so they keep producing small wood to use for burning, stakes, or whatnot. I’m happy I know this tree is excellent wood and not just a nuisance as some think.)

As I packed up the tools, I looked across the creek at some utterly beautiful large buckthorn bushes, and felt sad. There is too much killing, on my land and in my heart. I listened for the voice of the buckthorn. I wondered whether I could negotiate for it to occupy a particular area. Not the state land, where it is hated. But what about a circle on top of the hill – what about a sacred circle that also has room for honeysuckle, garlic mustard, reed canary grass and the whole host of unwanteds. And it seemed to me that the buckthorn sang in chorus, in joy. I imagined we might actually do something beautiful together, and then remembered Carly’s dream in which the buckthorn became a fence protecting an entire farm. (But my image was a smaller circle. We’ll see.)

I also imagine an entirely different relationship with the plants we harvest to eat, different from trying to destroy them; imagine they are willing to support us. So I’m checking out the wild parsnip, and studying garlic mustard, as I wait for strawberries to move from bloom to fruit. And, oh yes, some of us planted garlic and chives and strawberries under the orchard trees, and removed some of their tubes, and we begin to encourage a lively community in that area as well – wishing for more comfrey, some borage, some rhubarb, and whatever the usual plants are for the fruit tree guilds. All in time, in time. And, oh yes, a hundred million potatoes, half planted, because I didn’t eat them all last winter and now they sprout. Mints and catnip and lemon balm, bravely planted in the area where nothing will grow except weeds. Promising to harvest them, if they’ll grow.

The Jack-in-the pulpit is still in my mind. I think I should make a flower essence from it. When I walk through the woods or fields, it seems as if I can hear all the plants, like a community of different voices, together, and they ask me to slow down and listen more, and I am too busy. It’s a story, even though it feels more real every day. But we live in story, not in the Absolute, and this is a story that seems a good way to live. So I don’t say “true” or “false” but just let it be there.

PEOPLE

My old Zen friend Luca has been visiting for two weeks now. He’s fixed several things, sharpened tools, and finished the impossible job – removing the staples from some beautiful oak flooring that I recycled last year. And we talk Dharma, and I try to let my busy mind slow down so I can just be here for that conversation, that person. He’s brought a very interesting awareness to my groups of friends, activist groups, young people living in commitment. He asks questions, and gives respect, and it’s very interesting. Some of us looked at the moon and Jupiter through his telescopes on a dark clear night. I never know what will happen next. We’re halfway through our visit.

EVENTS

The flower essence workshop is being moved, because there are four people (including me) who definitely want to come and we can make that happen. I’ll announce the newcropped-2014-12-02-rohatsu.jpg date. Maybe others will come too. But this Sunday to Wednesday, we’ll sit sesshin in a new way. My usual is Antaiji-style: just sitting, no chanting or services or work, just face the wall. This will include Dharma conversation, a rest time, work practice, and an option for outdoor meditative practice as well as indoors on the cushion. There will be two or three of us – like a crowd, as usually I sit alone. It will be my rest time.

Both June and July retreats are canceled because I will be traveling; June, to my teacher’s temple for ceremonies and community; July, to a small “thinktank” and then a ten-day wilderness retreat which I hope will offer the rest and re-creation I need.

October sesshin will be led by Lee Lewis, with a focus on environment, and will include working with the plants as part of our zazen.

Love to you all. Good night.

Day-long workshop making flower essences – Saturday May 21 – and gentle meditation retreat May 22-25

12 May

We’re offering a workshop on making flower essences, followed by a four-day gentle meditation retreat, Sunday to Wednesday, as our closing for the 40-day intensive practice time called “Living with the Earth.”

For us, the point of the flower essence workshop is deepening our ability to connect with the land and nonhuman beings. For Martin, the teacher, flower essences are about deep and subtle healing. The meditation retreat, starting Sunday, will follow on that, including short meditative work periods with gardens and woods, earth-based outdoor meditation, and sitting meditation indoors.

We will continue to practice with the earth through summer, fall, and winter. Visitors and interns are still welcome.

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Day-long workshop on making flower essences.

Saturday May 21, 9:30-3:30, at Mountains and Waters Farm

As part of our commitment to connect more deeply with the natural world, we invite you to join us in this work which connects flowers and humans in a healing way.

Flower essences are highly effective and subtle remedies made from medicinal flowers for working with psycho-emotional problems in people’s lives. This beginning workshop, taught by flower essence consultant and maker Martin Bulgerin, is an opportunity to get acquainted with these powerful remedies, and to actually make an essence from a flower blooming here on the land.

The 6-hour workshop includes Martin’s two-session introduction to flower essences, plus actually making a remedy together.

  • Classroom work includes the concepts behind flower essences, how they are made and used.
  • Outdoor practicum involves choosing one type of flower blooming here on the land, meditating with it, and making an essence from it.
  • Indoor practicum covers using essences to work with people, including a demonstration of prescribing using pulse diagnosis.
  • No prior experience is presumed, but we will cover a lot of material in a short time. Although many herbalists and healers take this class, it’s fine to come just to begin learning to listen to the flowers.

Martin has been active in the area of natural healing for 26 years. He is locally recognized as a skilled expert in flower essence therapy, and has created his own line of essences. For more information see the website, www.BioPscInst.com/bpi/FERoot.html, or contact Martin at bunlion@bitstream.net.

Time: 9:30-3:30 (bring a lunch)

Location: near Faribault, about an hour south of Minneapolis, in a beautiful natural setting of meadows, bluffs, and woods, by the Cannon River. Directions will be given, including carpooling assistance.

Fee: $50, plus optional $5 materials fee if you would like a bottle of the essence we make. (If you need a scholarship, please ask.) Checks will be made out to Martin Bulgerin, and all money goes directly to him.

Class size is limited and registration is essential.

Please register through Mountains and Waters Alliance, shodo.spring@gmail.com, or 507-384-8541.

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The meditation retreat, Sunday-Wednesday, will include short meditative work periods with gardens and woods, earth-based outdoor meditation, and sitting meditation indoors.

 Come for all or part. To cover food and lodging expenses, we ask for $20/day or in-kind donations.

You’re encouraged to make a donation to the teacher as well.

Pre-registration is essential. For information or registration, contact shodo.spring@gmail.com or 507-384-8541.

Much warmth,

Shodo Spring

 

 

 

 

 

Just this, from birth to death

4 May

Just This2016-05-03 10.33.56

Last night I took a walk and scattered seeds in the forest. To walk through the woods is a blessing. Every time, I see more new plants, and want to know their names. I see where tiny buckthorn have come back, or larger ones were missed last time.

It seems like I hear them singing to me, and if I would slow down more I could really join in. There will be a note from a single wild plum tree, or a fern, or a chorus from a whole group of ferns. Sometimes I reply – but the reply is always a little off, I still carry too much noise. Perhaps, as I work in the woods every day, my voice will become clearer. Perhaps trying to imitate is not the point.

This way of being began after Myo-O’s voice workshop, where we spent time with the trees at the end. We’ll be doing it again, probably this fall, probably a whole retreat. But the other guest teacher, Martin Bulgerin, will teach us a different way of listening to plants, by making flower essences. That will be near the end of the 40-day intensive, and followed by a sesshin (meditation retreat). Some of my sesshin time will be in the woods. And that is my healing.

A few months ago I said that this “Living with the Earth” time (also known as “Earth-based Zen Practice”) would set the course for the Mountains and Waters Alliance – defined as “we ally ourselves with mountains, waters, and everything that lives” – getting it into our bodies and hearts. I hoped a core group would participate in this learning with me. 2016-05-02 16.18.582016-05-02 16.20.12

Working in the woods, I notice my preferences for plum over buckthorn, maple over box elder, hazelnut over honeysuckle, and anything over prickly ash. I say those preferences are about whether the plant cooperates with its neighbors, but have to admit that really there is a lot about human convenience. Do they scratch me? Do they give berries in return? I am still human-centered.

Patience is beginning to arise. Zen is full of stories of monks or nuns who spent 60 years living alone in the forest, and eventually students started to seek them out. Suddenly the question occurred: “Did any of them wonder why nobody noticed them? Maybe they were not noble and perfect, maybe they had their miserable days too.” Mostly, thus, I’m able to accept that my own learning and practice is the core. Others may come, or not, but I am finding my core teaching.

And because I have not taken the role of teacher here, I don’t know what others are thinking. I coordinate, solicit, publicize, and do heavy labor – and wonderful conversations happen, and the result is completely unknown. But sometimes a voice comes up in me, and it seems I have words worth saying.

From birth to death

I came back from that walk to learn that Trump had already been declared winner in Indiana. Soon I realized that Cruz had dropped out; it took longer to find that Sanders had won. Imagining Trump as president, I notice fear. Already people who speak a foreign language or can be mistaken for Muslims are being thrown off airplanes, refused entry to things, and sometimes beaten on the streets. Those of us working for change will, I think, be obligated to spend much more time interrupting such things, attending to the basic necessities in our own towns, keeping people alive.

And then I learned of the fire in Fort MacMurray, the evacuation of that whole town, and saw pictures of the place where I had been, 2012 and 2013, to walk with First Nations people in the Healing Walk. Climate change, yes, but how is it? And people are talking about karma, absurdly and cruelly, as if it were the individuals living and working there who were causing the devastation.

What will we become, when we have lost everything? Syrian refugees, Palestinian ordinary people – go back in time to Vietnamese boat people, further back to Tibetan people, whether they fled or stayed – now 70,000 people burned out in North America – what do you become when everything is gone except life and maybe family? Will we finally wake up? You see me searching for meaning. But as always, the people injured are not particularly the people who did the damage, no more than you or me.

There’s a phrase from a Zen story, “Just this, from birth to death.” It’s burned into my mind, but I can never find the story when I actually want to discuss it. Today it is in hiding, but in my mind. Not to do anything special, just be here. Like Daniel Berrigan: “Presente.”

Now – a few photos from last weekend, and some upcoming events briefly.

Playing in the Woods

the plan was to replace pulled-out buckthorn with native trees, 100 of them, and later to add small plants to keep the forest floor healthy. It was amazing to see all the many plants. Maybe they were hidden by buckthorn, honeysuckle, and grasses; maybe they actually multiplied in just one winter.

The Saturday groups (total 4 people plus me, in 2 shifts) pulled up buckthorn in a new area. I cut down tops of plants we will remove, which makes it easier to see what’s happening. We never got to planting the serviceberry, which were donated. Later.

On Sunday I was determined to have a day off. Two of us worked most of the day on the “island” next to the swamp. Nick moved stepping stones for crossing the creek, and half-built a walkway across the swamp to the island, so now it’s easier to get around. The place almost looks like a park now. I left tools and work projects to finish.

2016-05-01 15.56.51Monday I went alone to the island and planted a lot more trees – and found a lot more buckthorn to remove. (For the non-local: if you have buckthorn, you only have buckthorn.) Likewise, if you have bush honeysuckle, or reed canary grass, you have only them – and you either submit or fight. I refuse to use chemical poisons, but watching my mind in its preferences is a challenge. Anyway, its shape is beginning to show itself.

Tuesday I planted a few hundred seeds. Hope they survive. The bare ground under the trees is vulnerable to anything – and we don’t need more take-over plants. And, on the farm, Justin and I looked at the gardens and orchards, pulled a lot of weeds, and planted a lot of potatoes. Thursday we get a load of compost, and get ready for this weekend’s orchard/garden work.

Other news:

I said I couldn’t afford to hire people this year, but not hiring them was worse. A bunch of fabulous people have turned up. We have Juli, office manager, 15-16 hours a week, helping me get organized and also find volunteers and sell produce. (Besides the farmer’s market of course.) Justin, farm, 15-20 hours a week, and a natural. Paul, high school student, farm. Carpenters for a couple of projects. My money is worth more here than in the bank – though I can’t cut too close. Mentally I’m writing grant proposals, but don’t have time to really write them. Maybe another YouCaring, some time.

2016-04-29 12.28.18The solar panels are up, waiting for inspection, and then we see how fast Xcel turns them on.

In July I am traveling for two things: first, a “thinktank” about environmental activism that actually supports the environment rather than becoming part of the corporate structure. Second, a long retreat in the mountains, for activists and meditators, for which I received a full scholarship. I need it. In June I return to my teacher’s temple in Indiana, Sanshinji, for ceremonies and to help welcome his successor.

Events

For local people, Facebook page is now the best place to find up-to-date information. But I will keep the event page updated here too.

May 6-7: “Tending the Gardens” – mostly, we’ll work with moving supportive plants into the orchard, from the berry patch and elsewhere, and weed and tend both of them. The annual gardens take second place. For people who would like to stay overnight, you can make this a retreat and join us for morning meditation. Just working is fine too

Saturday, May 21: Flower essence workshop – about 5 hours, including a class on making flower essences, a talk and demonstration of prescribing an essence for someone, and – what’s special – actually making a remedy from one flower, which includes meditative time outside. There will be a fee, and there will be scholarships.

Martin Bulgerin, the teacher, has been practicing natural healing for decades, and is locally recognized for his work with flower essences. His website is here. More information later.

Saturday -Wednesday, May 21-25: closing retreat – Concluding our 40 days of living close to the earth, we will create a closing retreat that includes meditation (zazen), land care, celebration, and simple ceremony. You’re encouraged to start with the flower essence workshop.

There’s still volunteer work available most of the time, and we’re still looking for carpool connections from Twin Cities.

Future Guest Teachers

Dates are not set.

May or June: Luca Valentino, a Zen person with decades of experience teaching and doing cabinetmaking, will offer some kind of teaching.

Fall (?): Myo-O Habermas-Scher, Minneapolis Zen teacher and voice teacher, will offer a retreat involving work with voice, chanting with trees, and meditation.

Fall (?): Lee Lewis, a Minneapolis Zen teacher, will offer a 5-day sesshin (meditation retreat) here, with teaching relating to the environment and with some outdoor work, nature walks, or other connection with the land.

And that is all for now. Blessings to all of you. Please continue to support us and the whole earth with your prayers, meditations, and everything.

Shodo

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