These past couple of weeks Deer Park have hosted our annual highlights: Family Retreat and Teen Camp. In play, song, meditation and sharing with children (90 or so) and teens (total 140 for the two events) they have an opportunity to be outside in the embrace of Mother Earth. A couple of days of Family Retreat had us baking, and the Ocean of Peace Hall became a cool haven for those needing to take a break from the elements offering of heat. Everything we do here at Deer Park is based in the insight of interbeing. We know that our breathing depends of the air, our lungs and numerous conditions. We practice as a spiritual family, knowing that we cannot be by our selves alone. This is strikingly clear during Family Retreat!
In deep ecology we recognize the intrinsic value of animal and plants. They do not have value because they produce fruit for humans, but simply by being there. In Buddhist teaching it is clear that there are no inanimate objects, consciousness is everywhere and everything is interconnected. During our Family Retreat the children had an opportunity to receive the Two Promises: 1) I vow to develop understanding, in order to live peacefully with people, animals, plants and minerals. 2) I vow to develop my compassion, in order to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. To see children 5 to 12 years old make the commitment to practice and learn about these promises is such a blessing.
The community asked if I would give one of the Dharma Talks to the children, and I felt the inspiration to build on the story of the Giving Tree. With 10 or so slides I shared about the Giving Earth. But instead of simply keep receiving the offerings, we encourage the children only to use what they really need and to give back to the Earth.
Like any relationship in order for it to be sustainable, we cannot just keep taking, thinking of our selves without asking us what we have to offer. I shared with them the most important thing I learned going to school (for 17 years), namely not to ask what I can get out of a job or a situation, but instead ask what I can offer and contribute with. My elementary school principal who taught me this was so present as I shared this with the children (and adults). In that moment I knew clearly that I am continuing my principal, she is alive in me and is continuing through some of these children. The joy of generosity is very tangible.
Our planet needs us to use less and give back more. Learning to come back to the present moment, slowing down, recognizing and embracing our emotions is necessary to be able to live in harmony. We do not have to be slaves to our impulses, the media and emotions of the majority. We can be very happy using less and offering more.
Thanks for reading – Brother Protection – enjoying learning about life