In early October I came back to Deer Park in the golden hills of southern California after 10 days or so in big cities in the northeast. I breathed out in a very deep way as I looked around. Nature: sky, sun, clouds, trees, birds, bushes, flowers, rocks and insects were present to me. All my sense impressions seemed to bring me back to my true home. Spending time practicing in big cities inspire me a lot, but I could recognize that I needed much more vigilance and discernment in where to put my attention, what sense impressions to take in. This is our beginning of looking into the Edible Food: Sense Impressions.
This is a sharing from Order of Interbeing member Heather Lyn Mann. You can read more about Heather’s experience on her blog.
“I am very fortunate in that I lived these past six years aboard a sailboat and learned how to navigate the surface of the water with Bodhisattva Great Atlantic Ocean. This watery world is a place Beat Generation poet Gary Snyder would call the “primary temple of wilderness.” In my practice I have come to know nature as a temple, earth herself as a Dharma talk. I have learned to hear her whispers and recognize myself as Earth Sailing.
Thich Nhat Hanh sent me on this path. He said dharma can be found in life; a flower is in itself a Dharma talk. In his Five Mindfulness Trainings, he first instructs disciples to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. Later, he says we are to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. This instruction to protect the lives of things animate and inanimate, to love and care for both sentient and non-sentient beings, makes me suspect the entirety of the cosmos embodies divine wisdom; it is possible to learn important things from the teachings of natural order.
My life at sea reveals this is true. My sense impressions of the sails of my boat teach me how thin cloth can stand tall to power a vessel; from this I learn that I can create powerful change through skillful means. The hull of my ship is like a monk; pushed and tugged in a mix of opposing forces, it models grace and peace in the chaos. Flying fish breaking the surface of waves, defy gravity, and leap great distances to show me how to transcend perceived boundaries.
In my experience, the first and perhaps most important step toward appreciating a loved one is spending unhurried time together. To hear Earth’s message, I give myself a regular diet of nature. But, it is not necessary to leave society and take a ship out to sea (although I highly recommend it!). I can experience inter-being with earth when walking outside, gardening, biking, sea-shell hunting, skiing, or even when sitting in the shade of a tree. I can see nature’s ways in the cracks of sidewalks or in veins of cheese. The wisdom of natural order is everywhere but up to me to stop, look, and understand.
When I do this, I come to know my place in the cosmos is not inferior, superior, or equal to the surrounding ecosystem. I am Earth herself. With this insight, as Buddhist Scholar Joanna Macy says, caring for the planet becomes an act of self-defense.”
The Fifth of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, Nourishment and Healing offers us great guidance in looking into how we consume, not only by eating, but will all our six senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind):
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.
Thanks for your own exploration and application of whatever speaks to you in your own life. Enjoy each step – it is a miracle!