Verses for Environmental Practice

spiders-web-2Waking up in the morning
I vow with all beings
to be ready for sparks of the Dharma
from flowers or children or birds.

Sitting alone in zazen
I vow with all beings
to remember I’m sitting together
with mountains, children, and bears.

Looking up at the sky
I vow with all beings
to remember this infinite ceiling
in every room of my life.

When I stroll around in the city
I vow with all beings
to notice how lichen and grasses
never give up in despair.

Watching a spider at work
I vow with all beings
to cherish the web of the universe:
touch one point and everything moves.

Preparing the garden for seeds
I vow with all beings
to nurture the soil to be fertile
each spring for the next 1000 years.

When people praise me for something
I vow with all beings
to return to my vegetable garden
and give credit where credit is due.

With tropical forests in danger
I vow with all beings
to raise hell with the people responsible
and slash my consumption of trees.

With resources scarcer and scarcer
I vow with all beings
to consider the law of proportion:
my have is another’s have-not.

Watching gardeners label their plants
I vow with all beings
to practice the old horticulture
and let plants identify me.

Hearing the crickets at night
I vow with all beings
to keep my practice as simple –
just over and over again.

Falling asleep at last
I vow with all beings
to enjoy the dark and the silence
and rest in the vast unknown.

By Robert Aitken. Published in Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism, ed. Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2000), 471-473.a

In Praise of the Earth

cairn

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth,
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

John O’Donohue

 

 

The Shambhala Warrior Mind-Training

by John Wigham/Akuppa

· Firmly establish your intention to live your life for the healing of the world. Be conscious of it, honour it, nurture it every day.

· Be fully present in our time. Find the courage to breathe in the suffering of the world. Allow peace and healing to breathe out through you in return.

· Do not meet power on its own terms. See through to its real nature – mind and heart made. Lead your response from that level.

· Simplify. Clear away the dead wood in your life. Look for the heartwood and give it the first call on your time, the best of your energy.

· Put down the leaden burden of saving the world alone. Join with others of like mind. Align yourself with the forces of resolution.

· Hold in a single vision, in the same thought, the transformation of yourself and the transformation of the world. Live your life around that edge, always keeping it in sight.

· As a bird flies on two wings, balance outer activity with inner sustenance.

· Following your heart, realise your gifts. Cultivate them with diligence to offer knowledge and skill to the world.

· Train in non-violence of body, speech and mind. With great patience to yourself, learn to make beautiful each action, word and thought.

· In the crucible of meditation, bring forth day by day into your own heart the treasury of compassion, wisdom and courage for which the world longs.

· Sit with hatred until you feel the fear beneath it. Sit with fear until you feel the compassion beneath that.

· Do not set your heart on particular results. Enjoy positive action for its own sake and rest confident that it will bear fruit.

· When you see violence, greed and narrow-mindedness in the fullness of its power, walk straight into the heart of it, remaining open to the sky and in touch with the earth.

· Staying open, staying grounded, remember that you are the inheritor of the strengths of thousands of generations of life.

· Staying open, staying grounded, recall that the thankful prayers of future generations are silently with you.

· Staying open, staying grounded, be confident in the magic and power that arise when people come together in a great cause.

· Staying open, staying grounded, know that the deep forces of Nature will emerge to the aid of those who defend the Earth.

· Staying open, staying grounded, have faith that the higher forces of wisdom and compassion will manifest through our actions for the healing of the world.

· When you see weapons of hate, disarm them with love.
When you see armies of greed, meet them in the spirit of sharing.
When you see fortresses of narrow-mindedness, breach them with truth.
When you find yourself enshrouded in dark clouds of dread, dispel them with fearlessness.
When forces of power seek to isolate us from each other, reach out with joy.

· In it all and through it all, holding to your intention, let go into the music of life. Dance!

warriorbravery

Painting by Miriam Davis

I am the black lace tree

velvet-2

I am the black lace tree
Fashioned to the shifting swathe of sky
Lifting your eyes to beauty

I am the steadfast girth
Of the wide gnarled trunk
Urging your body to lean

I am the swooping blackbird
Thrilled by the cool freeing air
Calling your heart to joy

I am the determined dog
Nose to the sensual ground
Dragging you to notice

I am the rose-pink clouds
Lightly glowing on the horizon
Holding your mind in presence

I am the graceful branch of pine
Displaying my fringe of soft green growth
Guiding you to breathe

As you breathe for me

Your anguished thoughts
Are mine too
And as you watch them
I will take them
And place them
For safe keeping
In the deep velvet purse
Of my wise old hills.

– Wendy Simpson

 

Hokusai says

hokusai

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive —
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.
– Roger Keyes

 

Moon

moon

Has the moon been up there
All these nights
And I never noticed?

A whole week with my nose
To the ground, to the grind.

And the beloved faithfully
Returning each evening
As the moon.

Where have I been?
Who has abandoned whom?

GREGORY ORR

Earthy mindfulness

More and more, I am finding a deepening love and concern for what is happening to our beautiful planet. The poet Reiner Maria Rilke (translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows) phrased it beautifully in his Book of Hours which has been on and off my bedside table for several years now:

Dear darkening ground,
you’ve endured so patiently the walls we’ve built,
perhaps you’ll give the cities one more hour

and grant the churches and cloisters two.
And those that labor—let their work
grip them another five hours, or seven,

before you become forest again, and water, and widening wilderness
in that hour of inconceivable terror
when you take back your name
from all things.

Just give me a little more time!

I want to love the things
as no one has thought to love them,
until they’re worthy of you and real.

And I continue to be very curious about how mindfulness can help in that quest to love the things as no one has thought to love them. It seems to me that a lot of the current climate crisis can be met by looking deeply, acting mindfully and lovingly. And so I find myself wondering… what is my place in the family of things, how am I connected to others? How can I contribute to a healthier thriving planet on a day-to-day basis? Where do my clothes come from, who has grown my food and where, what are the conditions of their lives and how is their environment treated, what resources are used to package my food and what happens to it after it has served its purpose? What are the lives of the animals like that are producing the eggs and milk I consume, and how is the animal agriculture that I’m supporting with my purchases contributing to climate change?

This topic occupies my bedside table at the moment: Stephanie Kaza’s Mindfully Green, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Love Letter to the Earth, Joanna Macy’s Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy.

I find I’m having to work hard at staying connected and balanced in the midst of the amount of suffering I see when looking more deeply at the interconnectedness of all things and therefore, my contribution to it. It’s easy to fall into overwhelm and then shrink away in apathy, distraction and numbness, or flip the other way into black and white fanaticism and deadly criticism of myself and others (and it’s not hard to see how harsh criticism then flips me back into apathy). It’s taking all my mindfulness and then some, to inch towards where it hurts – while also consciously directing my gaze to the deep gratitude and my love and sheer beauty of life.

I find Joanna Macy’s wise voice a continuous inspiration and encouragement. In a short video she talks about Embracing Suffering and ends with saying in such a definite and knowing way that “despair is the covering of our love for our world, and we crack it open by speaking it so that our love can act. So the key is not being afraid of our pain for the world. Not being afraid of the world’s suffering. And if you are not afraid of it… then nothing can stop you.”

And not only can nothing stop you, but it allows you to live as Hafiz described:

One regret, dear world,
That I am determined not to have
When I am lying on my deathbed
Is that I did not kiss you enough.

Indeed!
So may we all live in a way that allows our self, our fellow beings and this precious planet we call our home to be well and flourishing…

Darkening ground

darkeningDear darkening ground,
you’ve endured so patiently the walls we’ve built,
perhaps you’ll give the cities one more hour

and grant the churches and cloisters two.
And those that labor—let their work
grip them another five hours, or seven,

before you become forest again, and water, and widening wilderness
in that hour of inconceivable terror
when you take back your name
from all things.

Just give me a little more time!

I want to love the things
as no one has thought to love them,
until they’re worthy of you and real.

– Reiner Maria Rilke, translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Burrows

the same stream of life…

 

new leaves

The same stream of life that runs
through my veins night and day runs
through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy
through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and
breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle
of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world
of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages
dancing in my blood this moment.

—Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali, LXIX