Reverence for Life

By Lorna Doone

In my mindfulness practice with the Peaceful Heart Sangha (PHS) in Augusta, Maine, the opportunity arose in November of 2013 for me to practice protecting the deer population in the field near where I lived. The ten-acre field was surrounded by five acres of woods, and it offered a wonderful home for the deer population. During my first year living there, I witnessed a doe giving birth to her fawn. This gift filled my heart with so much joy. She immediately cleaned the little wobbly-legged fawn and nosed it toward the edge of the woods. It stumbled and fell a few times in its journey to the edge of the field, but she just nudged it to stand up. I felt very connected to these deer and the fawns that arrived in June. They became accustomed to seeing me out and about with Faith, my little cocker spaniel. I taught Faith not to bark at the deer when they were feeding in the field, and they learned to trust her as well.

In November, the open hunting season brought many hunters who would drive by and look out at the field. Faith would lie out on the deck and bark at hunters if they stopped. Her barking would discourage them and they would leave. On Thanksgiving Day, Faith was in the house with me when a hunter parked his vehicle in the driveway and knocked on my door. Opening the door, I invited him inside. He was very polite and said, “I see many deer in the field when I drive by, and I really could use the meat of a deer to feed my family this winter.” He continued to say that most of the land in the area is posted “No hunting,” and this was not posted. “Would you mind if I hunted here?” He asked.

I told him that I grew up in Maine, and that my father and brothers were hunters. I also told him that I belong to a meditation practice following the teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. I shared with him my reverence for life and my belief and that the  nner life force of a deer, or a tree, or a cloud or rain, is the same inner life force that is in you and in me. I told him that we are all interbeings connected to the cosmos. After sharing these things, I said I would honor his request to hunt on the property only for Thanksgiving Day, and that I understood his need for food for his family and would honor that need. He thanked me and left to put on his red hunting clothes and walk down into the woods. I felt sick inside and knew that I needed to do a walking meditation. I dressed in red and dressed Faith in her little red jacket, and together we set out for our walking meditation. Focusing on my breath, I stepped gently on Mother Earth while breathing in and out and repeating, “I have arrived. I am home.”

When I returned home, I saw the hunter’s truck still in the yard. He came out of the woods and said, “No deer.” He got into his vehicle and drove away.

The following day, the hunter once again knocked on my door, this time with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. I opened the door and invited him inside. He handed the bouquet of flowers to me. I thanked him and invited him to sit down. He shook his head and said, “I want to thank you for allowing me to hunt on your property yesterday. You are such a kind and gentle person. You are the first person to be that kind to me. I thought a lot about what you said, about interbeing. As I held my little dog last night, I thought of you and felt the dog’s heart beat, that life force in the dog, in myself, in the deer, and in you. I could NOT have killed a deer here on your property. It would not have been kind to you.”

He said he taps maple trees in the spring to make maple syrup, and since it doesn’t harm the trees, he will continue that practice. “But I’m not sure about hunting anymore,” he said.

This experience was a gift of practicing the Five Mindfulness Trainings along with the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. When I received the Five Mindfulness Trainings in August 2009, having felt and accepted the transmission from Thay, I knew that I would practice and study the trainings every day. Receiving the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings in August 2013 from Thay, I opened my heart wider for the transmission, saying, “Yes, I do,” and accepting them as a path of life. Thank you Thay, Dharma teacher Joanne Friday, and the PHS Maine members of the Order of Interbeing: Marty Soule, Peggy Smith, David Hughes, and Theodate Lawlor, for mentoring and supporting my aspirant process, and all other OI members.

Lorna A. Doone, True Precious Form, established a solid practice in a twelve-step program of twenty-three years of sobriety before joining Peaceful Heart Sangha. She sold her house in May 2014 to a hunter. After hearing Lorna’s story about the hunter who visited on Thanksgiving Day, the new owner promised to post the property with“No hunting” signs. He has kept his promise and is preserving the property as a wildlife refuge where deer and other animals are safe and free to roam.