home July 2015

I have arrived, I am home – Plum Village Seal of Practice

How can the practice of Arriving, Home, offer relief to the climate crisis and our collective suffering?

In our practice center you can always find calligraphies and signs with: “I have arrived. I am home.” and “Arrived, Home”. My practice and experience of this Seal of Plum Village practice is changing, it is dynamic, it’s a process and not a fixed destination.

Our basic practice is to stop and come back to the present moment through awareness of our breathing, our steps and bells of mindfulness. What are we stopping? First I stop running, my body and mind have an opportunity to reunite. When this happens I can discover if my mind and body is still rushing, if my way of thinking, speaking and acting is carrying me away. If this is the case I am not truly happy and at peace, I have not arrived. I might experience some joy and excitement of doing something or going somewhere, but there is no contentment. My thirst never gets clenched when I follow this way. For me a potential trap in the practice of arriving can be to go in the direction of nothingness or annihilation. This has been said to be an extreme and not the middle path we strive to thread. The middle path is also not simply letting my body and mind keep running, simply letting it go and allow fuel to be put into the furnace of constant doing. Stopping, includes to recognize and to calm. In this way relaxation and resting is possible. We neither fight the agitation in body and mind, nor do we let it take over our lives. Our kind awareness soothes the agitation and helps our body and mind to stabilize. The middle path and the practice of arriving, of stopping, enables us to be deeply in contact with our body, our mind, the sense impressions and the situation we are in. Without being present with the songs of the birds, it cannot bring us joy. Only when we recognize the loved ones in our life can they come truly alive and our love can be real. When we are open to the suffering of others and allowing our compassion to be touched will we be determined to live and act in a responsible way. Transformation becomes possible through the practice of arriving.

We can start to see how this simple practice of mindfulness offers a concrete and powerful antidote to the suffering of climate change, social injustice and exploitation. We can talk about the practice of arriving in terms of aimlessness. We do not put anything in front of us and try to pursue it. We recognize that in this present moment we have plenty of fortunate conditions. We can be happy and at peace, here and now. What are we pursuing? What is driving us? What are we pushed and pulled by? When I work on a project, I practice to make the act of writing an email, of compiling a to-do lists, of participating in a meeting, the fruit itself. It is not only a condition for a future goal. Yes, it is a practice and many of my habit energies, developed by ancestors, education and professional experience tends to take me in a different direction. Whenever I recognize that I am lost, I try to stop, and let myself come back to the middle way. Just as the GPS recalculates the route, without complaining or finding fault, after we have make some wrong turns, we can learn to offer ourselves and others that benefit and space.

When I reflect on the many implications and the suffering brought about by climate change, I can clearly see how an important cause is collective greed (always wanting more and bigger). As a community we are never satisfied and we destroy our bodies and the Earth. This mental state leads us to exploit the Earth and her manifestations (many times referred to as natural resources), through deforestation, extraction of metals and fossil fuels to mention a few. Levels of green house gases increase, natural habitats are destroyed, the earth, air and water is being polluted. Our consumption mentality is contributing to this and causes droughts, acidified oceans, melting ice sheets etc. If we were in love with the Earth we could not act in this way. If we knew that we are the Earth we would not act in this way. We need to recognize Earth as our home and humans, plants, animals and minerals as our friends and family to be able to stop the destruction.

bee and flower July 2015Our actions are causes for an effect and this effect in itself is the cause of another effect. To stop this process, we have to start with ourselves and help others do the same. To stop running is the way, to arrive is the way, to enjoy our home in the here and now. When we learn to live happily with less, we have more time and energy to invest in what we truly care about. When we are able to cultivate our joy and love we can continue to serve the world for a long time. When we are kind and clear minded we will be able to enjoy to work with others.

When I feel at home in my body, I become aware of the five rivers of body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness, which are always flowing. To be at home for me in this regard means to know what is happening in my body, without resisting it, but knowing that it’s changing every moment, becoming one with body and not staying as an external observer. The same is true for the other four of the five rivers or skandhas which makes us human. Our experience happens in the realms of sense organs, sense object and sense consciousness. Home is not limited to a special place or particular time. It is available all the time. When I am able to befriend what is going on in me and around me, I feel at home, in contact with, safe and cared for.

We might ask ourselves how can a collective change happen when we arrive at home. Do we have any desire to help others? In one of our chants we express that the only desire within us is ”the thirst for great understanding and the embodiment of love”. When we look to engage in relieving suffering we must ask ourselves, “am I at peace?”, with my own actions and life, with the suffering of the oppressed and the oppressor? To arrive home is to be at peace with ourselves and the conditions of the world. It does not mean that we give up and let things stay the same. We know that Earth is our home and we want to care for it. When we are in contact with life, care for life and at peace we receive the nourishment we need to contribute our service of relieving suffering. We are at home in our body, in our feelings, here on Earth, and love naturally arise, care can flow smoothly. The peace of stopping and arriving home will help us generate for ourselves the insight into the causes and effects of suffering. With this insight we will know what to do, how to do it and what to refrain from doing.

The practice of arriving, home includes the insight that there is no way to sustainability, but that sustainability is the way. There is no way to community, community building is the way.

This post was inspired by 5 hours on the mountains with the clouds, birds, rocks and many other wonders of life. Thank you Mother Earth for being there for me. I will live in a way that I learn to be here with and for you. Brother Protection