Tag Archives: nature spirits

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”

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April events and a few notes

4 Apr

Living with the Earth” 40-day intensive:

Guest Teacher events

2016-04-03 14.13.15

 

Sunday, April 17: Valley Sounds, Mountain Colors: a chanting workshop, 1-3 pm

  • with Rev. Myo-O Habermas-Scher, a voice teacher for decades – more info here. If you would like to come, please register now – or ask questions now.

Saturday, April 23 (Earth Day): A workshop on subtle energies

  • with Martin Bulgerin. After attending a class with him I knew I wanted him to share his work as part of the spring intensive.He may teach flower essences, or something else.  His website is here. If this sounds intriguing, you’re encouraged to contact us now. Details later.

Community life

You’re invited to join us for single events or a day, or ask about residential options for a weekend, a week, or longer. For residents, most days include morning and evening meditation, work, meals, and sharing of living tasks. There is space for a farm apprentice for this season.

On work days, meals are offered. For non-work events, we ask a donation.

Friday, April 15: Land care half day

  • Native trees arrive and planting begins as we restore damaged places

Saturday, April 16: A one-day retreat

  • opening the intensive with sitting and walking meditation, walking outdoors, council time, and private time.

Sunday, April 17

  • before and after the chanting workshop will be quiet times, a little work, not formal retreat

Monday-Wed, April 18-20: retreat

  • with sitting and walking meditation, shared meals, gentleness.

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.

Community work (land care and/or garden/orchard; backup carpentry work for rainy days)

  • Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays from April 21 to May 20

  • Email to get on the volunteer mailing list

  • We are looking for carpool support from the Twin Cities – it’s helpful for us to know who to contact when we have a request. (We have2015-05-02 13.37.43 some ongoing requests.)

Notes

Spring weather is coming and going. Volunteers keep turning up, not in crowds but delightful small groups.

Last Friday three college students came. We cooked sap from box elders, gathered sap from all the trees, and took out the taps to end the season. Today and tomorrow I’m still cooking sap. It’s an extravagant use of time, when I could be starting seeds indoors or prepping garden beds, but something in me needs to forage. And – yes! – we are now eating nettle soup and nettle pesto. I’ve been clearing the nettle spaces so I’ll be able to harvest more. If interested in buying nettles (with recipes) or nettle products, let me know.I can’t tell you how much energy they give!

Yesterday Martin and three friends came to walk the land and get acquainted with the energies. I learned, interestingly, that they think more like engineers than mystics. That way of thinking is in my background but it’s been a very long time.

Meanwhile, I’m committing myself to be a student of those energies, to let them teach me how to restore the land. It begins where we pulled up buckthorn, and what to plant there. Of course that oversimplifies the task. I’ve studied what I can, and look forward to getting directly involved – and learning to listen.

I was sick for two weeks – never sick enough to stay in bed (just one day) but mostly sick enough to be doing just the minimum. It’s good to finally be back to full functioning.

And the photovoltaic panels are halfway installed on the roof of the house. Pictures later.

The pace is slow, now. If I were certain what to do, it might be faster. Abandoning ideas of being master of the earth requires listening, which requires slowing down. I think that illness probably was about slowing down, something hard for me to do. I continue to be amazed at being able to live in this beautiful space, after a lifetime in cities. I am trusting the land to call in the people who belong here, in all the many ways of belonging. (And I’m as involved in the current political scene as anyone, but don’t want to bring that here.

I hope your spring is going well.

Warmly,

Shodo

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