Yesterday evening I watered some plants after sunset. The day had been hot, with +100 degree F temperature. The relief I sensed from the plants, some roses, some succulents as I offered them a brief shower and a gulp of waters was tangible. They felt the refreshing and rejuvenating energy of water, just as I do on a hot day like yesterday. In the afternoon we practised walking meditation through the chaparral, the sun still shining brightly, the dirt under our feet dusty and hot. Still several kinds of oaks stay green. Plants in the chaparral, all natives offer green leaves through the drought period. Their endurance and resourcefulness continues to amaze me. I use it as fuel to my own practice, to be creative and patient. Having said that, there are clearly challenges and limits of what the plants can bare. This year we have lost more trees, to drought and oak borers and even the native plants are under stress on days and periods like these.
As I sat down, enjoying the changing colors of the sky and the cooling breeze from the West, I looked at a White Sage plant close by. Following my breathing and looking closely at the sage plant I asked how it can handle the hot dry weather. I heard it answer: This is where all my ancestors have lived and grown. We have become accustomed to this climate for thousands of years. I asked another question: Aren’t you worried about the drought, it’s becoming hotter and dryer then you ancestors have been used to? After a couple of moments I heard: We continue to adjust and in worst case my leaves dry up, fall off and become one with Great Mother Earth. There is nothing to be afraid of. I stopped and touched much love and respect.
The practice of Going like a River, helps us not to evaporate and dry up on hot summers days. When I was a child in Sweden, I enjoyed looking at the window during a rain. Eventually a drop of rain would run into another drop or two and their momentum sliding down the window would multiply. This is what I experience when I entrust myself, the drop of water, a practitioner, into the body of the Sangha. Things can flow more smoothly with less effort. In 9 days a group of monastics from Deer Park will join our siblings from Plum Village and Magnolia Grove at Blue Cliff Monastery to start our US Tour. Whenever I dive into the larger body of water that a tour offers, worries, tiredness and sadness deep inside is washed away. The collective energy is a soothing shower, a refreshing gulp of water. As a practitioner we recognize the importance of practising with others, of Sangha building. Especially when we meet difficult situation, the support of a community can make all the difference.
Yesterday we raised an 800 lb bell onto a 8 foot high frame in our Circular Garden, without any machinery. The insight, cooperation and support of 10 people made it possible. I could not have done it on my own, or with just one good friend. We needed a community, the collective experience, listening and combination of ideas made it happen. This is the power of Going as a River. What I found very helpful in the process was to stop, breathe and listen to the input, knowing when to take a break and when to make a energetic move as one body. In the beginning I noticed some worry in my mind, which made me hold on to my idea of how to go ahead. I felt responsible for the project and not confident in how to manifest it. Once I started feeling the supportive energy of the group, participation and active collaboration, I could take a step back, breathe the worry out and entrust myself to the group. I continued to be an active participant of the group, but there was no leader, no boss.
In the spirit of moving as a River, I deeply appreciate seeing what people are doing to raise awareness and offer amazing examples in relating to the climate crisis. The momentum of feeling part of a movement, not isolated in freeze mode, offers us the possibility of change and transform. We can contribute to wake up to reality, as we help mitigate the suffering and consequences that our human behaviours are causing. Last week I had a meal at a vegan restaurant with some brothers and sisters and on the way out I saw a pamphlet, by Truth or Drought, explaining the impact of a vegan/plant based diet on the use of water. One piece of information in particular stood out for me. “By taking one meal a week with lentils instead of beef, a family of four can save the equivalent of 17 bathtubs full of water” Oxfam International. Growing up in Sweden I enjoyed hot baths in winter and a lot of meals with beef. Today I feel very happy to have vegan meals every day, I feel healthier, lighter and happier. I don’t take baths in a tub, but take showers. I try to make them shorter, maybe 3-5 minutes. Knowing and finding a way to act in my own life and contribute to collective awareness and action is a great reward in itself. I do not have to achieve anything grand or arrive at a destination to be happy, I am learning to be happy right now, and the learning continues, together as we Go as a River.
I feel very happy that the Earth Holding Sangha in the Plum Village tradition is forming and gaining energy. This blog will continue to be the home for this initiative and the participation of the Sangha body will continue to grow and develop.
How precious is water, a gift to us all, so precious and precarious, may I cherish water as I cherish my own life. Brother Protection