Tag Archives: intimacy

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.

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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.

Buddhist women’s conference

30 Jul

Dear Friends,

The Sakyadhita Conference was over a month ago. Please forgive my silence. I’ve been sick, during and after the conference and also in a deep transition state. I will just write a little now.

The conference was an immersion in the varieties of Buddhist women – particularly the many kinds of nuns. Those of us in Japanese traditions, wearing black and having wide lifestyle choices, were very few. I made friends with a wide range of nuns who lived with full vows – celibacy, wearing robes all the time, living monastically, depending on gifts for food and shelter any day. Just one example: a woman from Australia, in the Tibetan lineage, who was raising money to support children in India – and wouldn’t think of taking any of the donations to support herself. She had lived at a homeless shelter, in a van, on a beach, and was currently on her mother’s couch. So she’s raising money to start a monastery so Western monastics in Australia will be able to live the full monastic life.

Meeting these women, it didn’t seem like the vows took anything from them at all – but liberated them to fully live out the Dharma, each in her own particular way. That’s probably an extreme oversimplification.

Just two women came to my workshop, titled “Asking all beings for help with climate change.” We had a lovely discussion, and after the conference was over we walked together to “the peak.” On our way up, Janet (a Hong Kong local) took us to a Buddha carved into the hillside – Amitabha. We spent an hour there, finding it difficult to leave.

At the top of the hill was an ordinary park, with a water fountain, exercise stations, grass, and a tree identification walk. Janet and Sophie returned, I continued – wanting to spend as much time as possible. My way has been to notice where I’m drawn, to have conversations with those, and to be present as fully as possible. What those conversations mean, I don’t know. I’ve said that humans are not the only conscious beings on the planet; this is how I try to work with that understanding.

I asked this tree to give fertility in my work. Thought she said yes, but I stopped again on the way back and she said let go, let go, let go; trying is the obstacle.

The tree with the great roots offered endurance.

The waterfall was full of light, life, youth. She did not give permission to share photos, except of this formation which seemed to me like the face of the spirit of the falls. I could have stayed forever.

Coming back down the hill, I went back toward the Buddha. This time I saw another figure in the rock wall: a carved dragon and phoenix. So I stopped for conversation. Something important happened here; I’m still trying to realize it. I asked if they had something to tell me; they said “We’ve been doing this forever.” (This is the dance of creation.) I asked if I could give them something, and they said no – they didn’t need a thing. And I asked if they would help me. The response felt like laughter: “You are just a speck on the waves of the universe. You are nothing.” I felt an incredible lightness, the weight of the world suddenly off my shoulders.

The Buddha was a little gentler, offering laughter. And – what is this?

I never thought I was singlehandedly trying to stop climate change, yet the words I’ve used about the Alliance have suggested that its purpose is to organize (beings of all kinds) for the healing of life on earth, including human consciousness. Suddenly I realized that I was engaged in trying to make things happen. Some of my friends immediately understood. Beth said that letting go makes one more effective.

So I got sick. It turns out it wasn’t just jet lag, it was shingles, and I’m just beginning to return to functioning while my body still hurts. During that time, I interviewed and got a position in a psychotherapy clinic – so I’ll be reactivating old skills, doing work I like, and spending about half my week doing that professional work. It feels like the right step at this time.

I’ll write a separate note about things happening on the farm, and a volunteer day this coming Saturday.

But next Sunday, August 6, I give a dharma talk at Clouds in Water Zen Center, in St. Paul. Here is information, if you’re in the area and would like to come. Look for “Sunday community service.” Address is at the bottom of the page.

Love,

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”

The Earth Spirit of This Place

2 Nov

The Earth Spirit of This Place:

Mornings here include 50 minutes of sitting meditation plus about 10 minutes of chanting in a standard Soto Zen service. Part of that service is a dedication of merit, based on a standard dedication with some particular tweaks. I’m copying part of that dedication here, for reasons which will hopefully become clear as we go along.

  • …to all dharma-protecting devas;
  • to the dharma-protecting saints;
  • to the protectors of the whole earth;*
  • to the earth spirit of this place,
  • and to the monastery-protecting spirits….
  • [for peace, harmony, donors, tranquility and sustenance for the monastic community],
  • [for deceased, sick, etc];
  • for all who have entered the ways of separation and do great harm, may they return to wholeness;*
  • to all teachers, leaders, and healers of every land and lineage; may they increase in wisdom, faith, and courage, trust in the support of all beings, and without hesitation offer the gifts of the dharma everywhere;*
  • to all who protect, sustain, replenish, and renew every kind of life, may their work flourish;*
  • to this temple and its members and benefactors;
  • to mountains, hills, valleys, plains, meadows, deserts, glaciers, oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, the whole earth and all who live upon it;*
  • to the myriad beings of the three worlds, and to all sentient beings,
  • may they equally perfect awakening.”                                   [*my words]

I’m pointing out here that it’s traditional to acknowledge the earth spirit of a place, and other spirits as well. I felt the need to name places on the earth, which might be forgotten even by those of us who recognize sentient beings including animals and plants, and to add some extra groups of humans in the dedication.

Mountains and Waters Alliance is based on this awareness of earth spirits, water spirits, tree spirits, and all of them. The Buddha acknowledged devas, tree spirits, and others, and we acknowledge them as well. The Alliance is humans vowing to support and sustain all these other beings, to join with them in protecting the earth, protecting everyone – and asks them to welcome us and work together. This is a time of crisis on the earth – the Sixth Great Extinction, time of climate change, time of violence for some, fear for some, difficulty for many. It is time for all of us to come together.

Yesterday I walked around the land with some friends who see nature spirits and feel what they call subtle energies. Today I walked again, alone, visiting some of the same, and felt aliveness and consciousness everywhere. (One might say I imputed consciousness, but one might also say others impute lack of it.) I am reminded of the time when I walked the land, on the last day of sesshin, and found myself asking for help from the trees, the hills, the birds, the mosquitoes, the earth and rocks, the water and air, all living things – and feeling a reply from them. That walk was the origin of Mountains and Waters Alliance. I could name the vow but not name any action.

Now I envision a step toward forming alliance with mountains, waters, and all beings:

We dedicate some time, next spring, to listening and connecting with the spirits of this place. This would include walks in the woods and by the river and creeks, under the pines. We might create shrines. We might create camping spaces and sleep on the earth. We would surely work in the woods, tending to the movement of water and erosion, bringing in beneficial species and removing invaders, while ourselves learning intimacy with these places, place spirits, beings. And we would tend to the orchard and berries and gardens in the spirit of communion rather than profit. We might live very much as community. Surely we would do formal meditation, traditional ceremony, as well as creating our own as we listen to the spirits of this place. We would invite teachers, teachers of plants and wilderness, of Dharma, of chanting and ceremony, of gardening, of subtle energies – and their teaching would enrich the community.

We do this some time after the bitter cold is gone and before the mosquitoes arrive. Some of us are here for the whole time, some come for weekends, some come as they can. We hold council from time to time, both as needed for the human community, and as called for to find alliance.

That thought, alliance, was once translated into the Dakota language as “We will hold you forever in our hearts.” From this, appropriate response can arise.

And…

I should mention the fundraiser is still going on, $2534 from our goal, donations of any size welcome. Work days November 14 and December 12. With volunteers welcome almost any time. Future work days, classes and retreats to be scheduled.

Blessings. Love.

Shodo

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