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Look Around

I'm getting tan. I know the birds around here- the Wren Tit, the Red-Winged Black Bird, Quail, Robins, Swanson's Thrush, Hawks, Owls, and the tiny Wax Wings all the way from the Amazon. My fingers are getting tough, too. No more bleeding from my share of planting 4,000 seedlings in the field. Hearing the coyotes at 3:30 am opens my ears to another realm. The 3 mile run up and down these rocky hills is not so hard, either. 

I love this place best- this gulch, this coast, these trees, this temple. 

Before us, natives lived here. They used to find arrow heads in the field. They're gone now, of course. 

And it's hotter this summer than usual. 80 degrees in the sun. 

And I've never seen a mountain lion here. 

And just one whale out in the sea in my 5 years of visiting here. 

And we've experienced water draw down. Our well is not deep enough anymore. The spring runs turbid, due to the mud it picks up on its flow here, due to dirt that is exposed from deforested mountain sides. 

We fight soil loss by composting and amending with minerals and peat moss and feather meal, all extracted amendments brought to us by petroleum. 

So how do I know that civilization is not redeemable?

Derrick Jensen urges us to look around: 

"Ninety percent of large fish in the oceans are gone. Salmon are collapsing. Passenger pigeons are gone. Eskimo curlews are gone. Ninety-eight percent of native forests gone, 99 percent of wetlands, 99 percent of native grasslands. What standards do you need?"

I sit in this temple and study dharma and work the land. Please don't let me forget the other truth. This is a dying planet. What does taking care of it look like? How does saving all being apply? How do we go forth, perceive old age, sickness and death, perceive no old age, sickness and death, and still take Bodhisattva action to fulfill our vow? 

Is living a lifestyle that does not kill the planet the same as not letting the planet die like this?


  1. You might like this guy, who has a website called The Natural Contemplative. He is a marine naturalist and contemplative who works with whales and the ecology of the planet and earth's life support systems. His writings are incredible! Here is the link:

  2. Last year one of the apprentices found an obsidian point in the fields. He was pretty irritated when I suggested it might not be his to keep, so I don't think it's widely known. But still - they're still out there.

    I've never figured out how to reconcile this difference: the planet as I know it and love it - these ecosystems, these species - is dying; the planet itself isn't dying at all, but simply responding to causes and conditions and will continue to do so long after we're gone. Geologically speaking, we're way more insignificant than is comfortable and we would have been gone soon in any case.

    This doesn't exonerate me from caring, or from taking care. Padmasambhava said, "My view is as vast as the sky, but my attention to the law of Karma is as fine as a grain of barley flour." The smallest actions matter. But it does alleviate the terror.

  3. This is what troubles me most of all things: how do we reconcile saving ourselves when we do little else but destroy all other life in our hungry wake? I think of losing my children and quake; I think of losing our planet as we know and love it and feel despair without a toehold. Where do we turn? Death is natural, change is inevitable, but I want to live and watch my children live even as our lives bleed a decimated planet of its last resources. *sigh* I apologize for such negative thinking- you struck a chord tonight.

  4. This is one of the fundamental questions, without wishing to sound cliche, of our era. Earlier generations of practitioners may have faced it regarding a piece of their world, a local ecosystem, but none at a global scale. I was once part of a group that was briefed annually on the litany of alarm signs by Lester Brown who founded Earthwatch Institute. Singularly depressing in aggregate and that was fifteen years ago. Rate of water use at twice the rate of replacement, etc. My conclusion after much contemplation is much like the barley seed above, while taking in (tonglen) as much of the awareness of the broad picture as we can healthfully stand (for our own mental and emotional stability) the only thing we can reasonably do is pick up our piece and do it as well as we can (what is in front of us). Carve out what you as an individual can reasonably handle, and at the same time attempt to embody the balance and fierce joy we seek to sow. I say this having failed at that last bit, I overextended and am experiencing a forced correction. But what brought me great hope over time is gathering with larger groups of people who have all taken on their piece, all willing to stand and receive heartending information about the big picture, and then breathe in, step back into their lives and work, and continue doing just their piece. Will it be enough? It is what we can do. Gassho.

  5. The minds that mingle here astound me. Console me. Challenge me. The conversations you begin linger in my mind...


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