#07 Autumn 1992

Dharma Talk: Protecting the Environment

By Thich Nhat Hanh

Many basic teachings in Buddhism can help us understand our interconnectedness with the environment. One of the deepest is the Prajnaparamita Vajracchedika Sutra (The Diamond that Cuts through Illusion). This sutra is a dialogue between the Venerable Subhuti and the Buddha. It begins with this question by Subhuti: "If daughters and sons of good families wish to give rise to the highest, most fulfilled, awakened mind, what should they rely on and what should they do to master their thinking?" This is the same as asking, "If I want to use my whole being to protect life, what methods and principles should I use?"

Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh

The Buddha answered him, "However many species of living beings there are—whether born from eggs, from the womb, from moisture, or spontaneously; whether they have form or do not have form; whether they have perceptions or do not have perceptions; or whether it cannot be said of them that they have perceptions or that they do not have percep­tions, we must lead all these beings to the ultimate nirvana so that they can be liberated. And when this innumerable, immeasurable, infinite number of beings has become liberated, we do not, in truth, think that a single being has been liberated. Why is this so? If, Subhuti, a bodhisattva holds on to the idea that a self, a person, a living being, or a life span exists, that person is not an authentic bodhisattva."

The Buddha's answer can be summarized as, "We have to do our best to help every living being cross the river of suffering. But after all beings have arrived at the shore of liberation, no being at all has been carried to the other shore. If you are still caught up in the idea of a self, a person, a living being, or a life span, you are not an authentic bodhisattva." Self, person, living being, and life span are the four notions that prevent us from seeing reality.

Life is one. We do not need to slice it into pieces and call this or that piece a self. What we call a self is actually made only of non-self elements. When we look at a flower, for example, we may think that it is different from "non-flower" things. But when we look more deeply, we see that everything else in the cosmos is in that flower. Without all of the non-flower elements—the sunshine, the clouds, the earth, minerals, heat, rivers, and consciousness—a flower cannot be. That is why the Buddha teaches that the self does not exist. What we call "self" is made only of non-self elements. Therefore, we have to throw away all distinctions between self and non-self.

Here is another example. You may think that you are not George Bush or Bill Clinton, but that is not correct. You are comprised entirely of "non-you" elements, among them the candidates for U.S. President. So you have to take good care of the Bush/Clinton elements in you. When you ask, "How can I stop being so angry at President Bush?" the first thing I will tell you is that Mr. Bush is you. Mr. Bush is a non-you element in you. The trees are also non-you elements. If you look deeply, you will see all of these non-you elements, and you will know that you have to take care of George Bush and the trees that are in you. We cannot say, "I am separate and unique. I am not responsible for any of these things." Instead, we must learn to say, "By taking good care of myself, I take care of you. And by taking good care of you, I take care of myself." How can anyone work to protect the environment without this kind of insight?

The second notion that prevents us from seeing reality as it is is the notion of a person, a human being. We usually discriminate between humans and non-humans, thinking that we are more important than other species. But since we humans are made of non-human elements, to protect ourselves we have to protect all of the non-human elements. There is no other way. If you think, "God created man in his own image and He created other things for man to use," you are already making the discrimination that man is more important than other things. When we see that humans have no self, we see that to take care of the environment (the non-human elements) is to take care of humanity. The best way to take good care of men and women so that they can be truly healthy and happy is to take care of the environment.

I know ecologists who are not happy with their partners.They work hard to improve the environment, partly to escape their family life. If someone is not happy within himself, how can he help the environment? That is why the Buddha teaches that to protect the non-human elements is to protect humans, and to protect humans is to protect non-human elements.

The third notion we have to break through is the notion of a living being. We think that we living beings are different from inanimate objects, but according to the principle of interbeing, living beings are comprised of non-living-being elements. When we look into ourselves, we see minerals and all other non-living-being elements. Why discriminate against what we call inanimate? To protect living beings, we must protect the stones, the soil, and the oceans. Before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, there were many beautiful stone benches in the parks. As the Japanese were rebuilding their city, they discovered that these stones were dead, so they carried them away and buried them. Then they brought in live stones. Do not think these things are not alive. They are alive. Atoms are always moving. Electrons move at nearly the speed of light. According to the teaching of Buddhism, these atoms and stones are consciousness itself. That is why discrimination by living beings against non-living beings should be discarded.

The last notion is that of a life span. We think that we have been alive since a certain point in time and that prior to that moment, our life did not exist. This distinction between life and non-life is not correct. Life is made of death, and death is made of life. We have to welcome death, because it makes life possible. The cells in our body are dying every day, but we don't organize funerals for them. The death of one cell allows for the birth of another. Life and death are two aspects of the same reality. We must learn to die peacefully so that others may live. This deep meditation brings forth non-fear, non-anger, and non-despair, the strengths we need for our work. With non-fear, even when we see that a problem is huge, we will not burn out. We will know how to make small, steady steps. If those who work to protect the environment contemplate these four notions, they will know how to be and how to act.

In another beautiful Buddhist text, The Avatamsaka ("Adorning the Buddha with Flowers") Sutra, the Buddha continues to elaborate his insights concerning our unity with our environment. In this sutra, the word "interpenetration" is introduced. Please meditate with me on the "Ten Penetra­tions."

The first is, "All worlds penetrate a single pore. A single pore penetrates all worlds." Look deeply at a flower. It may be tiny, but the sun, the clouds, and everything else in the cosmos penetrate it. Nuclear physicists say very much the same thing: one electron is made by all electrons; one electron is in all electrons.

The second penetration is, "All living beings penetrate one body. One body penetrates all living beings." When you kill a living being, you kill yourself and everyone else as well.

The third is, "Infinite time penetrates one second. One second penetrates infinite time." Ksana means the shortest period of time, actually much shorter than a second.

The fourth penetration is, "All Buddhist teachings pen­etrate one teaching. One teaching penetrates all Buddhist teachings." As a young monk, I had the opportunity to learn this important sentence: "Buddhism is made of non-Buddhist elements." So I always respect non-Buddhist elements. Whenever I study Christianity or Judaism, I find the Buddhist elements in them, and vice versa. All Buddhist teachings penetrate one teaching, and one teaching penetrates all Buddhist teachings. We are free.

The fifth penetration is, "Innumerable spheres enter one sphere. One sphere enters innumerable spheres." A sphere is geographical space. Innumerable spheres penetrate into one particular area. And one particular area enters into innumer­able spheres. It means that when you destroy one area, you destroy every area. When you save one area, you save all areas. One student asked me, "Thay, there are so many urgent problems, what should I do?" I said, "Take one thing and do it very deeply and carefully, and you will be doing everything at the same time."

The sixth penetration is, "All sense organs penetrate one organ. One organ penetrates all sense organs"—eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. To take care of one means to take care of many. To take care of your eyes means to take care of the eyes of innumerable living beings.

The seventh penetration is, "All sense organs penetrate non-sense organs. Non-sense organs penetrate all sense organs." Not only do non-sense organs penetrate sense organs, they also penetrate non-sense organs. There is no discrimination. Sense organs are made of non-sense-organ elements. That is why they penetrate non-sense organs. This helps us remember the teaching of the Diamond Sutra.

The eighth penetration is, "One perception penetrates all perceptions. All perceptions penetrate one perception." If your perception is not accurate, it will influence all other perceptions in yourself and others. Suppose a bus driver has an incorrect perception. We know what may happen. One perception penetrates all perceptions.

The ninth penetration is, "Every sound penetrates one sound. One sound penetrates every sound." This is a very deep teaching. We need to understand one sound or one word in order to understand all sounds and all words.

The tenth penetration is, "All times penetrate one time. One time penetrates all times"—past, present, and future. In one second, you can find the past, present, and future. In the past, you can see the present and the future. In the present, you can find the past and future. In the future, you can find the past and present. They "inter-contain" each other. Space contains time, time contains space. In the teaching of interpenetration, one determines the other, the other determines this one. Once we realize our nature of "interbeing," we will stop blaming and killing, because we will know that we "inter-are."

Interpenetration is an important Dharma door, but it still suggests that things that are outside of one another penetrate into each other. Interbeing is a step forward. You are already inside, so you don't have to enter it anymore. In contemporary nuclear physics, people talk about implicit order and explicit order. In the explicit order, things exist outside of each other—the table outside of the flower, the sunshine outside of the cypress tree. Another way of looking at things is to see that they are inside each other—the sunshine inside the cypress tree. Interbeing is the implicit order. To practice mindfulness and to look deeply into the nature of things is to discover the true nature of interbeing. You will find peace, and you will develop the strength that enables you to be in touch with everything. With this understanding, you can easily sustain the work of loving and caring for the Earth and for each other for a long time.

This essay is adapted from a talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh at the Retreat for Environmentalists in March 1991 in Malibu, California. These teachings were developed during the three-week June 1992 retreat at Plum Village on "Vipassana (Looking Deeply) in the Mahayana Tradition." Tapes of all of these lectures are available from Plum Village or Parallax Press. The teachings on the Diamond Sutra can also be found in Thay' s book, The Diamond that Cuts through Illusion (Parallax Press).

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To request permission to reprint this article, either online or in print, contact the Mindfulness Bell at editor@mindfulnessbell.org.

Poem: The Good News

The good newsthey do not print. The good news we do print. We have a special edition every moment that we need you to read. The good news is that you are alive and the linden tree is still there standing fInn in the harsh winter. The good news is that you have wonderful eyes to touch the blue sky. The good news is that your child is there before you, and your arms are available. Hugging is possible.

They print only what is wrong. Look at each of our special editions. We always offer the things that are not wrong. We want you to benefit from them and help protect them. The dandelion is there by the sidewalk, smiling its wondrous smile, singing the song of eternity. Lo! You have ears capable of hearing it. Bow your head. Listen to her. Leave behind your world of sorrow and preoccupation and get free. The latest good news is that you can do it.

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From the Editors

As we were preparing this issue of Mindfulness Bell, the world's leaders were in Rio to look deeply at the state of the Earth (although in the present political atmosphere, it was difficult for them to put the needs of all people, animals, plants, rivers, mountains, forests, and air above what they regard as their own "self'-interest), and the first international Council of the Tiep Hien Order, the Order of Interbeing, was held at Plum Village, in France. In this Mindfulness Bell, we offer a Buddhist approach to environmental issues, hoping to shed some light on this important policymaking debate. We begin with Thay's teachings on the environment and interbeing, and we complement these with details about the global crises, environmental education, the 1991 environmentalists' retreat, a rainforest joumey, and saving the world without burning out. Following our regular features on Daily Practice, Sangha News, Announcements, and Letters, we end with Thay's proposal for a new practice, the Peace Treaty. We hope you find this issue nurturing of the environment, your relationships, and yourself.

-Therese Fitzgerald, Arnie Kotler, Carole Melkonian

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First International Council of the Order of Interbeing

In the mid-1960s in Vietnam, six young members of the School of Youth for Social Service were ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh into the Order of Interbeing (Tiep Hien), expressing the willingness to bring Buddhism into the realm of social action during a period of war. Since then, 150 Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese lay practitioners and clergy from all over the world have been ordained into the Order's core community, and thousands more have chosen to practice as members of the extended community by practicing mindfulness with a local sangha and practicing and reciting the Fourteen Precepts. Nearly half the members of the core community gathered at Plum Village in late June for the first international Council of the Order of Interbeing. The first session was held on one of the last evenings of the "Vipassana in the Mahayana Tradition" retreat, and everyone attending the retreat was invited. Sister Annabel Laity spoke about the tradition of Council in Buddhism, Sister Phuong about the history and development of the Tiep Hien Order, Arnie Kotler about the precepts, and Judy Gilbert about the charter. Questions of what to be discussed during the two-day meeting were raised, and while some felt exhilarated by the process, others felt dizzied by this kind of discussion even before the end of such a deeply settling retreat with Thay.

At the first morning meeting, on June 29, Thay listened as we continued to discuss our resistances to becoming "organized," primarily concerns of losing the open-minded spirit that moved many of us to join the order. In the afternoon, we divided into groups, each focusing on a different topic: Charter, Practice, Communication, Action, Vision, and OWOW ("Other Ways of Working"). Reports by each committee were presented that evening. The process of working through our resistances and then discussing topics that were so important to us, in a mindful and loving way, began to create a cohesion that culminated in a kind of shared bliss by the meeting's end.

We began the second morning with a precepts' recitation ceremony. Then, after breakfast, we discussed the formation of a Council of Elders (to provide stability and wisdom), a Council of Young Persons (to make sure we are always open to the fresh ideas of the young generation), and an Executive Committee (to help carry out the work). Then we met in committees for a second time, trying to tie up loose ends and prepare resolutions for the full meeting. In the afternoon, we nominated, by consensus, members to fill the two councils and the executive committee, with the full encouragement and participation of Thay and Sister Phuong. These nominations will be presented by mail to members of the core community for their approval and will then be announced in Mindfulness Bell #8, along with the resolutions. Our time together ended with a lovely chai (Indian tea) meditation and a brief ceremony to commemorate loved ones who had passed away or were suffering. So much was accomplished in an atmosphere of mindfulness, care, and nurturing that the Council itself proved to many of us that intelligent organization and the practice of awareness can go very well together. A full report will appear in the next issue of the Mindfulness Bell.

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Environmental Interbeing

By Thich Nhat Hanh Although we human beings are animals, a part of nature, we single ourselves out from nature, thinking of other animals and living beings as "nature" and acting as if we are not a part of it. Then we ask ourselves, "How should we deal with nature?" The answer is we should deal with it the way we should deal with ourselves. We shouldn't harm ourselves, and we should not harm nature. In fact, to harm nature is to harm ourselves.

We humans think we are smart, but an orchid, for example, knows how to produce noble, symmetrical flowers, and a snail knows how to make a beautiful, well-proportioned shell. Compared with their knowledge, ours is not worth much at all. We should bow deeply before the orchid and the snail and join our palms reverently before the monarch butterfly and the magnolia tree. The feeling of respect for all species will help us recognize the noblest nature in ourselves.

If you are a mountain climber or someone who enjoys the countryside or the forest, you know that forests are our lungs outside of our bodies. Yet we have been acting in a way that has allowed two million square miles of land to be deforested, and we have also destroyed the air, the rivers, and parts of the ozone layer. We are imprisoned in our small selves, thinking only of some comfortable conditions for this small self, while we destroy our large self.

If we want to change the situation, we must begin by being our true selves. To be our true selves means we have to be the forest, be the river, and be the ozone layer. If we visualize ourselves as the forest, we will experience the hopes and fears of the trees. If we don't do this, the forests will die and we will lose our chance for peace. When we understand that we interare with the trees, we will know that it is up to us to make an effort to keep the trees alive. In the last twenty years, our automobiles and factories have created acid rain that has destroyed so many trees. Because we inter-are with the trees, we know that if they do not live, we too will disappear very soon.

An oak tree is an oak tree. That is all an oak tree needs to do. If an oak tree is less than an oak tree, we will all be in trouble. Therefore, we can say that the oak trees are preaching the Dhanna. In our former lives, we were rocks, clouds, and trees. We may have been an oak tree ourselves. This is not just Buddhist; it is scientific. We humans are a very young species - we appeared on the Earth only recently. We were plants, we were trees, and now we have become humans. We have to remember our past existences and be humble. We can learn the Dhanna from an oak tree. In fact, each pebble, each leaf, and each flower is preaching the Saddharma Pundarika Lotus Sutra.

When we look at green vegetables, we should know that it is the sun that is green and not just the vegetables. The green color in the leaves of the vegetables is due to the presence of the sun. Without the sun, no species of living being could survive. Leaves absorb sunlight as it reflects on their surfaces, and they retain the energy of the sun, extracting carbon from the atmosphere to manufacture nutritive matter for the plant. Without sun, water, air, and soil, there would be no vegetables. The vegetables are the coming-together of many conditions near and far.

Everything is in transformation. All life is impermanent. We are all children of the Earth, and, at some time, she will take us back to her again. We are continually arising from Mother Earth, being nurtured by her, and then returning to the Earth. Like us, plants are born, live for a while, and then return to the Earth. When they decompose, they fertilize our gardens. Living vegetables and decomposing vegetables are part of the same reality. Without one, the other cannot be. After six months, compost becomes fresh vegetables again. Plants and the Earth rely on each other. Whether the Earth is fresh, beautiful, and green, or arid and parched depends on the plants.


It also depends on us. Our way of walking on the Earth has a great influence on animals and plants. We have killed so many animals and plants and destroyed their environment. Many are now extinct. In turn, our environment is now hanning all of us. Polluted water and air are taking their toll. We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. Whether we can wake up or not depends on whether we can walk mindfully on our Mother Earth. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps.

In Heaven, the songs of the celestial birds teach us the ultimate reality. On Earth, too, the songs of the birds reveal to us our true nature. Birds' songs express joy, beauty, and purity, and evoke in us vitality and love. So many beings in the universe love us unconditionally. The trees, the water, and the air don't ask anything of us; they just love us. Even though we need this kind of love, we continue to destroy them. By destroying the animals, the air, and the trees, we are destroying ourselves. We must learn to practice unconditional love for all beings so that the animals, the air, and the trees can continue to be themselves.

Our ecology should be a deep ecology- not only deep, but universal. There is pollution in our consciousness. Television, films, and newspapers are forms of pollution for us and our children. They sow seeds of violence and anxiety in us and pollute our consciousness, just as we destroy our environment by fanning witb chemicals, clear-cutting tbe trees, and polluting tbe water. We need to protect the ecology of the Earth and the ecology of the mind, or this kind of violence and recklessness will spill over into even more areas of life.

If the Earth were your body, you would be able to feel many areas where she is suffering. Many people are aware of the world's suffering, and their hearts are filled with compassion. They know what needs to be done, and tbey engage in political, social, and environmental work to try to change tbings. But after a period of intense involvement, they become discouraged, because they lack the strength needed to sustain a life of action. Real strength is not in power, money, or weapons, but in deep, inner peace. The best way to take care of the environment is to take care of the environmentalist.

Our Earth, our green beautiful Earth is in danger, and all of us know it. We act as if our daily lives have nothing to do with the situation of the world, but if we can change our daily lives- the way we think, the way we speak, the way we act we can change the world.

These writings were gathered by Duncan Williams of Harvard Divinity School for his Master's Thesis on Buddhism and Ecology.

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An Interview with Thay

By Stanley Young During the Retreat for Environmentalists, a reporter from the Los Angeles Reader came to Camp Shalom and conducted this interview with Thay.

What is your message to environmental activists?

They must learn to take care of themselves. Activists need strength, especially spiritual strength. You can only share success or happiness when you have these tbings in yourself. So in order to take care of the environment, you have to take care of the environmentalist. Activists who want to protect the Eartb have to learn to protect themselves. This retreat is an opportunity for tbem to have the time to look deeply. Those of us who are wounded in the process of serving need to learn the art of healing ourselves-and to learn it from each other.

Why is the environment in the shape we now find it?

We have followed our desires. We have exploited the Earth, and we have not been mindful of what we have been doing. According to my tradition, we "inter-are" with the Earth. We and the Eartb are one, and hurting one is hurting the other. Forgetting one is forgetting tbe otber. The best way to take care of the Earth is to take care of your daily life.

We need education, not just by writing articles or preaching sermons, but educating by our own way of living. If the Earth is to be saved, it will be saved by our example, tbe way we drink, tbe way we eat, tbe way we consume. We can do it as individuals, but we must also do it as a community, a sangha, so that it will have a greater effect.

But doesn't environmental activism also mean fighting corporations in court, or opposing loggers who want to clearcut?

If you do tbese tbings as a means of educating people, tben they are helpful. That is, you do tbese tbings not to oppose someone out of your hatred, but as a means to show what damage is being done to the environment. But if you think that you are fighting an enemy- the businessmen, the politicians, whoever may be the exploiters of the resources of the Earth that attitude becomes a problem, because it can only promote hatred and division.

We have to understand the suffering of oppressed peoples, but that does not mean we have tbe right to annihilate the oppressors. Those who exploit and damage tbe Eartb also suffer, so we have to take actions tbat will help tbese people realize tbey are doing hann. They can learn from us.

What do we do with our anger?

Our task is to effectuate change. The peaceful way is nondualistic, not taking sometbing or someone as an enemy. It is to try to transform tbe whole situation, including yourself. Hatred and anger are energies, but they are more destructive than helpful. The only kind of energy tbat can be constructive is compassion. When you are motivated by hatred, you are blind. When you are motivated by compassion, loving kindness, you can see.

Doesn't compassion soften our actions?

Compassion leads to tbe strongest kind of action. Compassion goes together with understanding, because in my tradition love is the fruit of understanding. When you are motivated by love, you are able to do whatever is needed to reduce suffering and bring happiness. You can die, yet you don't suffer, because your strength is compassion and understanding.

In Vietnam during tbe war, some Buddhist monks burned themselves. That was a very courageous act, but many people didn't understand. They tbought it was an act of protest, but it was not. We were caught between tbe two warring parties, and we did not want to take sides. We only wanted to make our aspiration known, which was not to have a victory for anyone, but the survival of our people. We didn't have access to tbe same means as the warring parties- so we offered our bodies as a means of communication. If you don't have a deep understanding of tbe suffering of people, if you don't have strong compassion, you cannot take such an action. Please don't think that out of compassion you cannot have strong action. It is the opposite.

Reprinted with permission from the Los Angeles Reader, Friday, April 12, 1991, Volume 13, Number 26.

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The New Case

By Tyrone Cashman The world's political leaders, nation by nation, are waking up to the fact that while the old human/political/historical issues are still serious, there is a new issue. Till now, environmental problems have hovered on the edge of the consciousness of world leaders, pushed into the political arena, they felt, by scruffily-dressed, underemployed, and over-educated dreamers and troublemakers. Never has an environmental question been anything but a nuisance to a major political man or woman, a distraction from the "real issues": political, military, and economic power games.

But gradually it is becoming clear to a few world leaders that, while their attention has been on political, military, and economic power games, a menacing figure has slowly moved from the horizon (where it had looked like a harmless smudge) up to the edge of the political playground where it can be seen to be an angry giant capable of sweeping not only their games and their toys, but themselves, their children, and all their great, great grandchildren into oblivion. This giant is the combination of ozone depletion and global warming, coming as it does on the heels of a thousand previous assaults on natural ecosystems. For the first time the rhetoric that we could wipe out a great proportion of all life on Earth has become realistic.

A series of events:

1. In 1974, several American atmospheric scientists informed the U.S . government that the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) we use might hann the protective ozone layer. For four years, no response. Then very slow and minimal response.

2. In 1984-85, suddenly, without even the most pessimistic atmospheric scientists having guessed it, a huge hole in the ozone opened over the South Pole, exposing parts of South America, Australia, and New Zealand to high ultra-violet B (UV-B) radiation from the sun. Finally, a world meeting was called to ban CFCs on a rather slow timetable, by the year 2000. Many related chemicals that also cause ozone depletion were not even included in this phase-out.

3. Everyone was congratulating themselves that there had been a new thing, a world governmental response to an environmental problem. Today, due to high UV-B radiation under the ozone hole in Patagonia, there are stories of flocks of blind sheep led by blind shepherds.

4. In the intervening seven years, it was noted that the ozone layer had been depleted over the northern hemisphere by 4% to 8%. (An 8% depletion of ozone leads to 18% increase in UV -B radiation.)

5. Then, in the Fall of 1991, another jolt. Measurements over the Arctic showed that the potential for ozone-depletion in the northern hemisphere was much more severe than anyone had thought. Concentrations of ozone-depleting chemicals were so high that instead of a serious 4% to 8% depletion over Canada, Maine, Scandinavia, Scotland, and Russia, scientists estimated that ozone losses would be as high as 40% in the winter if certain weather patterns occurred. Concentrations of ozone depletors were so high that Michael Kurylo, NASA manager of upper-atmosphere research, said, "Everyone should be alarmed about this. It is far worse than we thought." This past year we were lucky. The weather did not produce the conditions necessary to produce an ozone hole. But the ozone-depleting chemicals remain in the atmosphere for decades. Next year or the year after, when conditions are right, we may be faced with a serious depletion in ozone over the northern latitudes during the winter and spring. In spring, plants are germinating and growing rapidly, and are especially vulnerable to damaging radiation. This is also the time when the vital oceanic phytoplankton, the single source of food for the entire aquatic food chain and the major carbon sink protecting us from global warming. is going through its reproductive bloom and is maximally sensitive to lethal UV-B radiation. The actual situation regarding depletion of the ozone layer is worse than the investigators' "worst case scenario."

mb7-TheNew Now let us add another global problem, the increase of global temperatures due to 100 years of heavy coal and oil use. We have been increasingly digging and pumping carbon compounds (coal and oil) out of the ground, where they do no one any harm. Then we vaporize them into carbon dioxide gas which traps the heat from yesterday's sunshine under a transparent blanket. Over time, this inevitably causes a buildup of heat. A warming of even a few degrees, occurring over the whole globe. can make an enormous difference. For example, the average temperature of the Earth at the coldest point during the last great ice age was only 4° to 8° F colder than the temperature today! That slight difference caused glaciers to cover nearly 1/3 of the Earth's landscape.

Several years ago, curious about the feel of an ice age, I decided to study the spot where I lived, a small house near downtown Minneapolis. The house is surrounded by tall trees, with balmy summers, squirrels, and bumper crops of grain that extend for 300 miles in every direction. I tried to imagine what that spot looked like 20,000 years ago at the peak of the last Ice Age (when the average temperature was roughly 5° F cooler than today). In a moment of daring, I imagined that the ice was maybe 100 feet deep on that spot. Later I studied the maps of the glaciers during the Ice Age, and I found that the ice had been one mile deep over that spot during the Ice Age.

James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia Hypothesis, says that the world warmed from Ice Age temperatures to balmy landscapes as carbon dioxide levels increased. Atmospheric carbon dioxide rose from 180 parts per million (ppm) during the Ice Age to 280 ppm just before the industrial revolution. Ten years from now, if we continue burning coal and oil, we will have put another 100 ppm of carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide equivalents into the air. As a result, climate scientists predict a 4° to 8° F average rise in temperature over the next years. We are creating a new Hot Age.

What will the Hot Age be like? We don't know for sure, but with computers we can estimate that a hotter global climate will show much hotter summers and drier soils in the centers of the continents. Weather everywhere is expected to be less predictable. This is likely to mean frequent droughts in the central parts of the continents: the American Breadbasket, the Russian agricultural heartland, and the major food-producing areas of China, India, and South America. Where droughts do not happen, unpredictable weather may well lead to frequent crop failures. One of the most certain impacts of warming is that the sea level will rise by at least two feet in the next 100 years, drowning low coastal cities, whole island nations, and the food-producing deltas of Egypt, Louisiana, and Bangladesh. During these same warming decades, the human population will be pushing its limits, perhaps doubling in size to ten billion. Thus. it seems that massive, unrelenting famine will take place on most of the world's continents.

Even a realistic optimist's scenario is not pretty. The pessimist's is bad beyond imagination. The human population could be reduced to a fraction of our present size, living on mountains along the new coastlines where the rains will still fall but the floods won't be so destructive. Ecosystems everywhere are likely to unravel, unable to adapt to the speed with which the Hot Age comes. As species most vulnerable to heat, drought, and blindness from UV-B radiation go extinct, the links that hold the natural systems together will give way.

With Tolstoy, we ask, "What then shall we do?" We have to work to reduce the world's carbon dioxide and CFC emissions. It's as simple as that. The technologies are ready, and the expense is not exorbitant. How this can be done is the subject of another essay.

Tyrone Cashman is a practicing Buddhist. an expert in alternative energy technologies. a philosopher. and a social activist who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Touching the Earth

By Wendy Johnson On the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama offered four reasons for us to be hopeful: the dedication to nonviolence in such violent times, the strength of the individual in the face of adversity, the arising of religious life, and an awakening to our connection with our environment.


The deepest response I know to what is happening to our world through our own carelessness, greed, and confusion is the response of Shakyamuni Buddha to Lord Mara 2,500 years ago. When asked by what right, at whose invitation, he was allowed to sit in meditation beneath the Tree of Awakening, the Buddha responded by extending his right hand and touching the Earth. This image of an awakened being sitting beneath an ancient shade tree and touching the Earth, calling on the Earth to be his witness, is an image of guidance and strength for our times. In some iconographic representations of the Earth-touching mudra, the Earth rises up to meet the Buddha in the form of a female Earth goddess. This image is vital because it illustrates the mutual connection between one who loves the Earth and the Earth herself.

We live in a unique time in world history. An area of tropical rainforest the size of a football field is destroyed every second. By the end of this century, an estimated one million plant and animal species will have become extinct. And we are witness to so much human suffering, as evidenced in the turmoil of south-central Los Angeles in early .May. Yet we also know that we have the ability to do something about the situation facing our world. Despite this, we act as if both the problems and our ability to address them are not real. These are times that call us to look deeply at what we are doing and to come into direct connection with our Earth, just as Shakyamuni Buddha did when he called upon the Earth to be his witness by touching the soil with his right hand and feeling the spirit of the Earth respond. Only by looking deeply and sustaining our gaze, even though this may be painful or difficult, can we discover our common work, how we can serve.

"Tum towards the world and try and articulate it, for that is what the ancients did as long as they were alive. Every excellent endeavor turns from within toward the world." These words, spoken by Goethe more than 100 years ago, are guideposts for action in our times. Every excellent endeavor turns from the self outward, since we are connected in every way. The study of ecology focuses on habitation, on the relationship of organisms. The Greek root of the word "ecology" is oikos, meaning home or dwelling. We are speaking of inhabiting our world, our neighborhood, our Earth, as our home. And this inhabitation is characterized by passionate, steady involvement in what we love. When I consider the work of taking care of our Earth and of each other, I feel that we are taking marriage vows: Know one another in every way. Love, honor, and protect one another. And take risks together in order to bring back into balance what has been disturbed. Here are some standards that arise when I consider the ecology of caring for our world:

1. Fall in love with the Earth, the land, the place you inhabit. Be corrected by affection. Be guided by connection. Look deeply, touch the Earth. In ancient Hebrew, Adama means soil or red Earth. Adama gives rise to the word for human being, man: "Adam." So the first human being could also be called, "son or daughter of the red Earth." In English this loving connection is found in the correspondence between "humus" (fertile Earth) and "human," and it is expressed in humility, or loving connection. Lest we get too human-centered, please remember that there are more microorganisms in half a cup of fertile Earth than human beings on the planet. These microorganisms create the soil that sustains our life.

2. Look deeply at where you live. Know your place in every way so that you understand how to act. Those of us living in urban areas can also commit our energy to connecting with where we live. Notice when the trees on your street bud out and burst into flower, when the birds arrive and depart, and when they sing and fall silent. Notice how the rain runs away after a storm. And notice how you feel when you slow down enough to pay this kind of attention. Some of the most inspiring grass-roots work is now being done by committed people in urban areas joining together to create community gardens- gardens for the homeless as in Santa Cruz, California; gardens for the blind, for the terminally ill, for people with AIDS; gardens for children; and gardens for the comfort and integration of diverse, cultural populations.

3. Use your imagination! Be a practical dreamer, one committed to never stepping into the same garden twice, and one committed to knowing your limits and boundaries. Then watch these boundaries change and be redefined by your effort. Liberty Hyde Bailey called on American agriculture at the birth of the twentieth century to "create a system which relies on thought, ingenuity, care, personal involvement, and technology." This means a direct application of mindfulness, infused with the spirit and dedication of imagination.

4. Learn from your children and teach them what you know. Together, create and build sangha. Every year the resident children of Green Gulch Farm Zen Center come together to make dry flower wreaths from the Green Gulch garden. They sell these wreaths and donate all their earnings to help support a poor family in Vietnam. Over the years a real connection has grown up between the Green Gulch children and the family they sponsor. This year the Zen Center children visited a shelter for the homeless and spent an evening teaching wreath-making to twenty children there. In the Eel River region of northern California, a citizen advisory council has been formed to consider a complex array of environmental issues: two high school students are very active members of the Board of Directors of this citizens' council. There are many more instances of young people engaging in our world, thoroughly and inventively, finding ways to make a difference. I hope that every healthy association of friends and people committed to engagement with our world will have active participation from younger children. In this way we form an ecology of consciousness. We can actually grow our awareness just as we grow a garden. In ancient Japan, a community of practitioners living together and studying the Dharma was called sorin, "a forest thicket." This is a wonderful image for the modem world where we must learn to live together in harmony and difference, like the distinct and interdependent trees of a forest thicket sangha.

5. Whenever possible. become downwardly mobile. Find your true pace. enjoy your life. When a piece of Earth grows tired and loses fertility, it is restored by fallowing, or letting it rest for a season. The word "sabbatical" comes from the respected practice of dropping usual responsibilities and taking time to develop your deeper interests. Sabbath is the day of rest, the lazy day around which the week revolves. So land that is fallowed is land that is allowed to be wild and uncultivated, land allowed to rest; for out of this rest period, great fertility results.

"You never know what is enough," said William Blake, "until you know what is more than enough." The pace of the modem world has shown us what is more than enough. Therefore, it is a vital and radical act to slow down. In order to look deeply at our world, to touch the Earth and to sustain our gaze, we must prepare ourselves by living in the present moment and by finding our true pace. Real sustainability depends on a healthy body and mind; therefore, in taking up the challenge of our times, be flexible and bold. A sense of humor helps a lot. So do good friends and the ability to be fallow when you need to. Let love for this world be your context, your food, your spiritual source. Directed by real love, even in the presence of great fear and pain, put out your hand and touch the Earth. Look deeply, sustain the gaze, and out of awakened mindfulness, take up the work you are called to do at this time.

Wendy Johnson is the head gardener at Green Gulch. near San Francisco. and a Dharma Teacher in the Tiep Hien Order.

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Environmental Identity

By Mitchell Thomashow As an educator, I work with adults who are studying to become environmental professionals, including those who have made this career decision at an early age and mid-career adults dramatically changing their professional and personal lives. Whatever the depth of awareness of this career decision, most aspiring environmentalists perceive themselves as choosing more than a profession- they are searching to link their personal identity to an environmental way of life. Their environmentalism is, in fact, intrinsic to their personal identity.

Through a variety of techniques, I try to instill in them the importance of self-reflection and clear attentiveness to their own environmental identity development, which includes their developmental relationship with nature. Such themes as wilderness experiences, relationships to other species, relationship to material life, and sense of place might be the stage through which an individual develops changing concepts of self and works out criticallifecycle decisions. Our relationship to nature is inextricably linked to cycles of ego development. During various stages of our life we conceive of nature differently. What is a secret space for a child becomes a sacred space for the adult. Mountains, landscapes, gardens, cities, our fields of experience are regarded differently depending on the lifecycle changes we confront. This is understood by educators, who observe the subtleties of environmental identity as they're manifested in children, adolescents, adults, seniors, etc. It is recognized by psychologists who describe the symbolic, unconscious function of environmental experiences.

I have developed a curriculum during which students seem to undergo a distinct sequence of emotional stages: (1) Affirmation and Support, (2) Anxiety, Despair, Blame, and Guilt, and (3) Meaning, Responsibility, and Action. We explore these through "environmental meditations" that use the natural environment, for example habitats, weather, or biogeography, as a bridge to meditative awareness. Students can do these alone or in a group, sitting, standing, walking, or lying down. Here is an example-a "yin-yang meditation." The students find a deep, dark, earthy, enclosed spot, and focus entirely on the elements of that place- wind, sound, smell, texture, moisture. Then they do the same in a prominent, exposed, skyview spot. It is important to let students know that these exercises are not threatening, since many people have no previous experience of meditation. Following meditation, observation, and hiking, the group reconvenes to discuss their experiences. I often ask them to consider how we can develop routines and rituals that can incorporate such meditative outdoor experiences into their environmental practice.

We also study resource transformation as another way of studying ourselves. I ask students to examine the ecological-economic pathway of every day commodities. Holding up a magic marker, for example, I give the students a sheet of blank newsprint on which to draw a diagram outlining everything they know about the production, distribution, and consumption of magic markers. Typically, their papers remain blank. They have virtually no knowledge about this commodity-how it is produced, whether its use entails environmental pollution, or whether it raises any other political issues such as the quality of the work environment, etc. Then we repeat the exercise using a piece of toast. Where does the bread come from? What about the toaster oven? I examine its style and consider its consumer accoutrements. I note that it is plugged into a complex network of wires and energy. I ask the students if they can trace the process by which bread becomes toast.

As a follow-up assignment, I ask them to consider a tool of the information age. After describing all the benefits and pleasures they derive from this tool, they are instructed to learn as much as they can about its production and derivation. In effect, they are asked to be mindful about the use of this tool. Where does it come from? Why do they use it? What purpose does it serve? What are the ramifications of its use?

In a world filled with promises of endless consumer wealth, we are perennially tempted with the fruits of material affluence. If our culture teaches us anything, it is how to use commodities as symbols of personal development. Merely flip through the advertisements in any magazine, even Sierra Magazine, where countless pages are filled with the goods of environmental consumerism. Here we find an environmental style, a stereotypical character who dresses in natural fabrics, enjoys rugged good looks, drives a Volvo, and adores compact binoculars and cameras.

Few of us are immune to the relentless pressure to define ourselves through our commodities. Whether through our clothes, our car, our computer, or even our wilderness equipment, we face a persistent struggle: how do we separate legitimate interests, joys, and curiosities from the traps of style, image, and consumer addiction? This question is fundamental to environmental identity. "Ultimately," we must ask ourselves, "how do we wish to live?"

We really cannot answer this question without direct knowledge of where things come from. Outside Magazine may help us choose the best mountain bike. It may even tell us about the ecological impact of these bikes. But it is unlikely to provide a taxonomy of the natural resource transformation process that yields the bicycle. In other words, we are infrequently exposed to the ground floor of material life, the economic and ecological basis of commodity production. In most cases, we just don't know where the products of our everyday lives come from .

Environmental identity is formed not only on the basis of our aesthetic and spiritual connection to the natural world, but also out of our understanding of the processes of natural resource transformation. Our participation in material production, our relationship to technology, and our awareness of environmental pollution all have cognitive, effective, and symbolic connotation. To describe a natural resource is to consider a potential. The eastern white pine may be a ship's mast, the floor of a house, an ornament, a shrine, or a weed. It depends on who you are, when and where you lived, and to what culture you belong.

We live in a world of families, children, and jobs, as well as countless accoutrements and necessities-automobiles, money, rent, mortgage, and appliances. We may dwell for hours in the texts of environmental philosophy only to return to the demands of our children. Environmental responsibility is something that happens all the time. From disposable diapers to global warming, our action is always needed, our mindfulness essential. Sometimes we succeed in living by our principles. Sometimes we fail, and can only remind ourselves to do better the next time.

Environmental identity is lodged in the real circumstances, events, and habitats of everyday life. The task for the educator is to present students with a process that enables them to integrate these experiences. "Sense of place" is a concept around which such integration occurs. Sense of place is the domestic basis of environmentalism and the source of our deepest connection to the natural world. I ask the students to describe (metaphorically or literally) both their formative environmental experiences and their ideals and wishes for the future. Through this process of self-reflection they come to understand their own sense of place, people, community, land, and species that form their networks of domesticity and exploration, the sources of their sustenance and struggle.

This exercise of developing a "sense of place map" allows students to create a geography of their environmental identity. Real places take on new meaning. They become good, wild, and sacred, as Gary Snyder describes. Students rediscover their sources of inspiration, their blocks to awareness, their totems. They review the patterns of their lives. They assert what is important for them, visually recreating many of their most meaningful experiences. In some cases, they recognize how difficult it is to establish meaningful community and how sense of place is so easily eroded, how sacred places become wounded. They recall special places from their past that no longer exist, although they still reside as internal sanctuaries, that offer them important stories and lessons. And they discover the links between personal development and natural places, out of which they formulate environmental identity.

The various distractions of everyday life--the conflicting impulses that drive our energy, the struggle of living in a culture that devalues nature-make it difficult and rare to discuss such seemingly impractical ideas as environmental identity. But such discourse is an opportunity to integrate theory and practice and gain a deeper awareness. I call this approach "mystical ecology" because it represents the use of the natural environment as a bridge to meditative awareness. "Mystical" connotes wonder, awe, and transcendence, and "ecology" connotes life, energy, and interconnectedness.

Mitchell Thomashow, Co-Chair of Environmental Studies at Antioch College/New England, attended Thay's 1991 retreat for environmentalists. A copy of a longer version of this article appeared in Trumpeter, Summer 1991.

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Going on Retreat

By Lois Barber In October 1990 I received a letter inviting me to a retreat for environmentalists, to be held in California in March 1991. Normally, in the rush of my busy day, such a letter would go into the pile "to be attended to later." But precisely because I was busy and feeling overwhelmed and overworked, this letter went right to my heart. It was from James Thornton, a Senior Attorney of the National Resources Defense Counsel. He said that most of us work too long and too hard with our nose too close to the grindstone. Caught up in an intense pace, fueled by the perceived urgency and dire seriousness of everything we do, we are always behind schedule and out of breath. Then he described this retreat as an opportunity to slow down, breathe, and get back in touch with the reasons we do environmental work- the love of beauty, joy, and all the wonders about being alive on this planet. The idea of devoting six days to silent meditation seemed improbable if not impossible for me. But James' description of Thich Nhat Hanh as a gentle teacher, guiding people in a simple meditation practice to help one be at peace within the environment of oneself and consequently more effective at bringing peace to the environment of the planet, convinced me. I decided to go.

The day the retreat began, my brother, pragmatic and skeptical, drove me from his home in Santa Barbara to the camp in Malibu. We turned in from the Coast Highway and drove five miles up a very twisty, narrow canyon road-the kind you don't take your eyes off for a split second. The landscape was strange to this New Englander who had just left snow on the ground. It was dry, with lots of sage and low-branching coast oaks covered with millions of waxy green leaves. Marty left me at Camp Shalom with a hug, saying "You can call anytime and I'll come get you if you need to bailout." I felt the strangeness of being in a new and different place and not knowing what I had gotten into.

The first night of the retreat, it poured- a blessing for the parched California earth. The thunder and the rain crashed down on the thin wooden roof of the cabin. The shallow creek turned up its volume as it danced by not far from my window. The drenching, racing water felt very close around me.

In the morning we had to make our way through and around large puddles to get to the meditation hall. I took a place in the last row, not wanting to disturb anyone if I couldn't sit still. Thich Nhat Hanh came in and the 200 participants began our morning practice. He had the quietest voice I had ever heard. The quietness came through even with the amplification of the microphone. He talked, we listened, and then he showed us what he meant and we would try it out. It was slow and gentle. He gave some practical suggestions, including telling us we could sit any way we felt comfortable, even on a chair. He said when people ask him why he sits on a cushion on the floor to meditate, he answers, "Because I like it." At this his face broke into a smile, a beautiful smile that over the week we would come to know well as punctuation marks in his talks. During the week he talked with us two to three hours every day, building each day on the lesson of the day before. In addition, there were times for questions and answers, or questions and questions. I realized that I had had a few preconceptions about meditation that were incorrect.

During the six days, we learned that meditation is a skill you learn and then apply to what you do in the rest of your life. Meditation is focusing your concentration on one thing--doing just one thing. First you become aware of the object, then you recognize it for what it is, then you become one with it. Thay taught us to meditate on our breath, "something you always have with you." "In/out; deep/slow; calm/ease; smile/release; present moment/wonderful moment." He said that gathas are helpful in keeping your concentration focused the way a handrail helps guide you across a slippery log bridge that spans a rushing creek.

We took silent, slow walks along the canyon trails. To practice the sitting or walking meditation is to practice being in the present moment, being at one with what you are doing. The idea is to be able to transfer this mindfulness to everything else you do. Always live in the fullness and wonder of the present moment. It is all we've got. Be there, enjoy it, love it. "Walk as if you are the happiest person on Earth," he said. "You can be the happiest person on Earth. All the riches of the world are there for you to have. Take them." This example from a man who felt the tragedy of the Vietnam War close up, who lived through it, who saw his country, friends, and loved ones destroyed. He showed us how to be at one with the joy of the present moment.

Thay explained that being mindful increases your appreciation of the beauty and wonder of the world-the flowers, the blue sky, the rain, someone's sparkling eyes, the miracle of your own eyes through which you see. These seeds of happiness and beauty become agents of transformation within you.

He emphasized that to be effective we must begin by taking care of ourselves. The theme of the week was a simple line that Thay said one morning, "To take care of the environment, you must take care of the environmentalist. Of course we need to focus on what is wrong in the world, but if we only do this we will be overcome and we will die. That is why we need to focus on what is not wrong. Rediscover what is not wrong and celebrate it. Nourish it, smile on it, contemplate the beauty of it, and it will nourish and heal you."

I was nourished throughout the week by Thay's teachings, by practicing conscious breathing, by the quiet walks in the chaparral canyon landscape, and by the discussion groups with other environmentalists. We spent most of the week in silence, but a few hours every afternoon and evening were set aside for talking. During two afternoon sessions my group discussed the need to make the environmental movement, and specifically our organizations and workplaces, more in tune with what we were learning. Several of us agreed to keep in touch and develop some plans to carry out these ideas.

The week ended with a joyous Passover Seder and then a walking meditation to greet the Easter sunrise. Just as we reached the crest of the hill, the full moon set over the ocean and the brilliant sun rose from behind the mountains in the east. We sang, acknowledged our individual and collective fears, anger, and grief, and we shared communion celebrating the birth and resurrection of the God within us all. As the sun rose, the hills around us lit up as did our spirits.

Lois Barber is founder and President of 20/20 Vision, a nationwide citizen lobbying organization. For information, contact 20/20 Vision. 30 Cottage Street. Amherst. MA 01002.

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Revisioning Our Work

By Thomas Urquhart Easter morning in the Malibu Hills. The full moon comes to rest on a distant ridge, then melts into the cliffs. We stand in a circle and watch the red peaks come alive in the first light, and the shadows retreat from the east down their flanks. The clear note of a bell sounds, and over the mountains behind us, the sun rises. For an instant, it is like squinting through a brass hole straight into infinity.

The sunrise service is the conclusion of a six-day meditation retreat with Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. Some 200 environmental activists had come together from all over the country, representing the movement in microcosm. They came to be healed, to share, and to look for new ways to protect our planet. Some were practicing Buddhists; others, like me, were absolute beginners. It was, by any standard, an extraordinary event and is likely to have made a lasting impression on all those who participated.

Interbeing and mindfulness could be the cornerstones for environmental practice. During the retreat, Thich Nhat Ranh taught us to approach these ideas through breathing meditation, sometimes sitting, sometimes walking. "Let the Earth nourish and refresh you. You only have to breathe in and breathe out to have the sun, the moon, the sky, the mountains; to have eyes to see, ears to hear, feet to climb." To hear these concepts so beautifully invoked, so simply expressed, was a transforming experience.

The week before, heavy rains had broken the drought in California, bringing the chaparral to life again. But they also caused landslides and washed away tons of soil from plots precariously developed on the steep slopes. This dichotomy reminded me that even as we were meditating on ways to heal the biosphere, my colleagues back home in Maine were participating in a conference on economy and ecology. Two gatherings looking in very different ways at the same question: How can we live on Earth? If only these two sides of the environmental dilemma-spiritual and material---could be brought into harmony.

At Maine Audubon, we pride ourselves on our rational, responsible approach to environmental issues. We analyze cause and effect. In our education programs, we layout the evidence for people to make their own choices; and in our advocacy we temper this by pointing out what the law requires and ensuring that our natural resources are basically protected. That is the approach we bring to discussions with business and industry. It is an approach that has been generally successful.

But the time has come to complement this approach with one that appeals directly to our spiritual needs. The experience in the Malibu Hills underscored for me the need to breathe new life into the environmental debate. I found myself wondering: if our conferences were preceded by meditation retreats, what might the harvest be? What would it take for such a conference to arrive at a common vision of a sustainable, (no, nurturing) future, one that brings spiritual and material well-being to the world?

Rational debate has allowed us to make great strides in bridging the gap that pits business against the environment. The business community readily concedes that groups like Maine Audubon have raised its consciousness of the need to protect natural resources. But our laws and institutions are still not meeting the scale of the challenge that our expectations have set for us. We drive more, we eat more, we throwaway more than 95% of the rest of the world. The challenge is simply that the rest of the world cannot live the way we do without destroying it. In the face of this fact, and a basic sense of fair play, arguments in favor of or against growth in Maine pale into insignificance.

lf we are to challenge the assumption that we can go on "pigging out" at the world's expense, tinkering around the edges is not going to be enough. Our democratic system is not proving decisive enough to deal with the magnitude of global environmental problems. The watered-down legislation it produces cannot meet the scale of the threat. What is needed is for us collectively to tighten our belts and check our consumer expectations. The strength and wisdom to do that, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, can only come from mindfulness: opening ourselves to the recognition of what our actions mean and do.

That would be a quantum leap in the environmental debate that would transcend taking sides pro- or anti-development. We may have gone as far as we can go regulating the way we do business. We are all in this together: we need a vehicle for recognizing that fact, one that will fire our imagination and resolve. It will have to be powerful enough to connect us individually, institutionally, and governmentally to the Earth. My experience before Easter gave me a glimpse of how we might achieve such a vision.

Thomas Urquhart, Executive Director of the Maine Audubon Society, originally wrote this article for Habitat: Journal of the M.A.S. (Vol. 8, No. 3, June 1991).

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The Heart of the Selva

By Joan Halifax The Selva Lacandona of Chiapas, Mexico, is the second largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. In the 1940s, it covered more than 13,000 square kilometers. Today 3,312 square kilometers are preserved. Called the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, its presence has a profound effect on many aspects of our lives, including the weather in North America.


In February of 1992, twenty-five of us from different cultures walked into the heart of the Lacandon rainforest. The morning before we left, we all sat in meditation on a high deck overlooking the forest and fields near the archaeological site of Palenque. We could see patches of old, dark-green forest canopy spotted with flowers. We could also see large ravaged areas where cattle now graze. From the small "forest islands" that float in the expanse of clearcut fields, a profusion of butterflies filled the air, and we could hear small troops of howler monkeys.

At the end of the sitting practice, one member of the group offered this reminder: "We have nowhere to go, nothing to do." Keeping this in mind, we sorted our food and equipment and reduced our personal gear. Then we began the long, dusty drive through vast deforested areas to Lacanja, a Lacandon settlement on the edge of the great forest island now protected by the Mexican government. Most of us had fallen into silence as we looked at the naked landscape through which we passed. The three deadly sins to the forest-cattle, chainsaws, and cars- have for decades been in full force in this area. I kept remembering: "Nowhere to go; nothing to do." As we traveled by car over rough roads through the desolation, I also remembered the Japanese expression: mono no aware, "the slender sadness" that arises when we remember that no matter how hard we try, life consumes life, suffering is engendered through our very existence. Traveling to our basecamp, we go by car. This too contributes to the destruction of the forest, as Pemex, the national petroleum company of Mexico, continues its invasion of the region.


Finally, we stepped under the forest canopy. "Going nowhere," we took many steps, each one demanding our total attention. The floor of a tropical forest is a wild mass of tangled roots, the shallow soil inviting the great old trees not to penetrate but to spread and seek nourishment from the Earth's surface. We walked on no trails, animal trails, hunting trails, and horse trails as we humbly followed our two Lacandon Indian friends in their natural habitat. We were defmitely out of our element. Walking required such complete attention that soon many of us fell into an absorbed if not desperate silence. The forest is a master teacher of mindful walking. One moment of wandering mind could mean a twisted ankle, a painful fall, a close and unwanted encounter with another species.

We swam in forest rivers, stood mute in clouds of butterflies, vividly scanned for snakes, and looked for signs of jaguar. Most of us never made peace with the insect population. In fact, as we stood in a circle before we left Lacanja and talked about our fears and concerns, insects were not mentioned. In the end, it was the tiny and powerful presence of biting insects that brought many of us to our knees (if not our ankles). Small things mean a lot in this forest world.

The forest also brought us to our senses. The day after we came out, most of us felt that we had been entered by the forest as we entered the forest. The forest was breathing us as we breathed it. As we made our way down the forest trails, the forest was making paths in us. Ten days later, as I met with friends and associates in New York City, I realized that I was still completely embedded in my sensory system. I felt wild and over awake, a house with all of its windows and doors wide open. Or to put it another way, I was at that moment adapting poorly to the ways of the city and civilization. Bringing the rainforest to the city in the form of milled mahogany is one thing. Bringing it in the atmosphere of the mind is something else again.

When we sat in council after our return from the Selva, we realized that more had transpired than we could have anticipated. On the side of "good works for other beings," the Lacandon Rainforest Protection Agency has now been created to be a bridge for researchers and students who want to enter the region. It is also raising funds for Ecosfera, an environmental research organization doing vital work in understanding and protecting the area.

In the heart of the Selva live Manuela and Pedro Sanchez and their large extended family. Over forty years ago, Pedro's father homesteaded the area. Now, Pedro and Manuela's seven sons, two of their daughters, and their offspring live and farm in what is now the center of a national park. Their domain is expanding and with the increase of the Sanchez family, the land they cultivate increases. The Mexican government wants them to leave. We explored another alternative with the Sanchez family. These Tzeltal men and women know the forest like they know their own hands. Since childhood, they have walked, explored, hunted, and farmed the area. They know the habitats and habits of the creatures. They know the location and usage of a vast number of plant species. They, like their Lacandon neighbors, are the true naturalists of the Selva. Our visit to their rancho was the flrst experiment on how their rancho can potentially become an educational and research center, their sons and daughters the hosts, naturalists and guides of the area. The Sanchez's life in the Selva may be preserved if they choose to work for the preservation of the forest.

We also worked for the reconciliation of the Sanchez family with their Lacandon neighbors, who are trying to protect their rights and hunting lands. When all of us enjoyed silence and prayer before shared meals, smoked the sacred pipe and entered the sweatlodge, sat in council (in four languages), or made our way collectively through the forest, it was clear that we wanted to live in a peaceful and caring way with each other. Our "experiment in community" was a new and unusual experience for our friends from the forest. And it was a model of a possibility for respectful communication, understanding, and compassion between cultures.

And for those of us who were shortly to travel north, as many questions came out of the journey as there were answers. On our second walking day, when I was alone on the trail, I stopped after an hour or so and stood still and silent in the wet green of old trees and young ferns. I felt for an instant that my whole body was covered with eyes. All of me wanted to see; wanted to know and understand. As I gazed into the forest, this simple question came to me. "What is seeing me that I am not seeing?" I was to carry this question throughout the many steps of the journey. I carry it still.

Joan Halifax is founder and director of the Upaya Foundation, Santa Fe, and a teacher in the Order of Interbeing.

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Overcoming Burnout

Discussion from Environmentalists' Retreat Randy Hayes (Director, Rainforest Action Network): I was working in the Southwest some years ago, fighting uranium mining on the reservations, and some of us were complaining about burnout In the midst of our complaining, one Sioux Indian looked over at us and said, "'Burnout' is just not in my language. This is a matter of life and death." The way he said it was truly inspirational, and since that time, I rarely use the word "burnout," except to explain why I don't use it. There is an ebb and a flow to all we do, and sometimes the work gets difficult. But when I realize what an honor it is to work on such serious life-and-death matters, energy springs forth in me to maintain the effort day after day, year after year, and decade after decade.

Peter Matthiessen (Writer and Zen monk): I understand what Randy is talking about. I know John Trudell, and I have worked with Indian people for a long time. I am also conscious of what Thay says: "Without peace within, it is difficult to work for peace in the world." One Rinzai teacher told me that working on social causes when you aren't enlightened is like the blind leading the blind. But it is difficult for me to just sit on a cushion while chaos is pounding at the door. Even though we are still rather blind, I think most of us must act. Camus said, "In the twentieth century, it is the obligation of the writer to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves." I think writers, Zen students, and everyone else should be engaged deeply.

Joan Halifax (Director, Upaya Foundation): While trying to save all beings, I really abuse myself, so I am always grateful to be reminded that my work is the practice of mindfulness. It's hard to remember to practice in the midst of serving. We see only one catastrophe after another. I love Thay's image of our planet as a small boat. "If just one person is sane and peaceful the possibility of survival is there." I think our job is to stabilize ourselves so that there can be some quotient of sanity in the world.

James Thornton (Director, Natural Resources Defense Council, Los Angeles office): I have been an NRDC lawyer for ten years now, doing hardcore litigation- and loving it. But about two years ago, I realized that even winning several dozen cases at a time was never going to solve the world's problems. During one Zen retreat, the subject of my meditation was "What would happen if there was a nuclear war?" In my meditation I saw that Gaia, the Earth as an entity, would continue even if life as I am interested in seeing it might end at some point. And I found that I was non-judgmental about that. I reached a place in which it became clear to me that there was no need for me to save the world, and that was a very big relief for me. Now each thing I work on is a little easier. I see that the entire planet does not depend on whether I win my next case. Whether I win or not, there may be a nuclear war. My feeling is not nihilistic. On the contrary, by removing the sense of having to save the world, a freedom has come that has endowed each action with more meaning and a little more freedom.

Peter Matthiesson: As long as we are caught up in the idea of achievement, we are bound to have burnout. Nonetheless, we must always struggle for the good because each little effort has its own reverberations and resonance all around the world. It isn't a question of burnout. We really have no choice.

Betsy Rose (Singer, Songwriter): During the Gulf War, I felt a sense of shame and defeat. I realized that no matter how many small victories we in the peace movement rack up, wars keep happening. We have no control over our leaders. Drawing on the wisdom of the practice of Twelve-Step Recovery, I saw that I was like the spouse or friend of an alcoholic trying to fix the problem, trying to get them to wake up, see the light, and get rid of their addiction. I saw President Bush as a weapons addict, and all this AI-Anon stuff started coming to me about how sometimes you have to let go and let them hit bottom.

I've spent years trying to tum the country in a different direction, but now I see that my job may be to midwife its downward spiral-to be there in a mindful way to ease the suffering if our country goes down as an empire. It may be for the greater good. Putting this different frame around the situation, I feel sad but a little lighter. I hate to say this, because it feels like heresy, but it has freed up some energy for me.

Audience: It is estimated that about 230 million years ago between 75-90% of all species on Earth became extinct. That is very liberating to realize, because it highlights that this issue of extinction and biodiversity isn't the planet's problem. The planet will take care of whatever we do to it. It is a human problem, a question of what kind of world we would like to see for our great, great grandchildren. It has been very helpful to me to look at the struggle we are engaged in in terms of practice. If we can quit being preoccupied with results, we have a lot more energy and are far more effective when we take action.

I had this come home to me a little more than a year ago in Florida. One of my favorite places on Earth is the Florida seagrass bed, and it was announced that a big commercial marina and resort community were going to be dredged right in the middle of it-the sort of things I thought we stopped twenty years ago. On the same day, George Bush was elected President, and in Florida we elected a U.S. Senator who is dreadful on environmental issues. I was really bummed out. All my nice theory about not being attached to the reward vanished in a cloud of steam. I couldn't sit in the Dharma room.

So I went up into a lonely pine forest, one of the native ecosystems in the Southeastern United States that has been nearly destroyed in the last century. I was sitting in this millions-of-years-old ecosystem, letting the steam flow out of my ears, and gradually it became obvious that this was not my problem. This, in fact, was a system that works in terms of millions of years, and the problems would be taken care of by the Earth in its own way, whether I won or lost the fight over the marina. I felt an enormous sense of relief. I came back, and it took a year, but we won that particular battle. Not only was there no marina, but we also set up a grassroots group in that community to monitor the bay and provide assurance against inroads like that in the future.

Lately I've been talking to civic groups, because I've always felt that environmentalists spend far too much time preaching to the already converted. We assume that every one knows what good endangered species are, and we don't even bother to discuss it with someone who doesn't really understand why a little bird should get in the way of the logging industry or why a sea turtle should interfere with shrimping. So I have been talking to people who aren't environmentalists, and at the end of each talk, someone always asks, "What can be done to really solve these things?" I talked to a group in a nursing home last week, and it seemed the best thing they could do was just share their memories. These were people who really remembered an ecosystem that most of us today have never heard of. Someone asked me how I keep going in the face of these overwhelming issues, and I said that I do it because it's fun.

Randy Hayes: Throughout this retreat, doing sitting and walking meditation, I've had a curiously familiar feeling. It feels great, like being in jail. The last five times I was in jail was for civil disobedience, like the time we blockaded the driveway at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. to prevent the limousines from bringing the world's finance ministers in to plan the annihilation of the planet. Once you know that you are going to sit there until they either stop or cart you off to jail, you can kind of relax, and it's very much like Buddhist meditation. When they put the handcuffs on you and stick you in the paddy wagon with a nice white wall to stare at as they're driving you, you've really got a single focus.

Nandini Katre: I am a scientist who is unemployed right now, and I've been practicing Buddhism for many years. I'd like to apply my science to environmental issues, but it's not clear to me how or where to do it. I have been doing fairly narrow, specialized research, but now my heart is in applying my skills to global and environmental issues. Does anyone have some suggestions?

Sister Phuong: Every time I have a problem like this, I see that no teacher can help me. I am my only teacher. In each of us, our consciousness is like a piece of land. We receive many seeds from previous generations-our grandparents, our parents-and also from society and our education. Our seeds are not the same as our teacher's. I am very close to Thay Nhat Hanh, but his land is different from mine, so, ultimately, he cannot advise me on what to do. He can only help me to be calm, peaceful, and relaxed, so I can see more clearly. The gatha, "in/out, deep/slow," may seem elementary, but in the most difficult situations, it has saved my life.

In Buddhist meditation, the first stage is to calm yourself. Breathing in, you become only your breath. Breathing out, you become calm. When you walk, you do it in a relaxing way. Then one day, when you have enough serenity, some clear and beautiful seed in you will sprout and show you the way. No one can do it for you. Continue to pmctice and one day you will find the best solution.

Virginia Coyle: One interpretation of, "Think globally, act locally," is to listen deeply to your own life story and to the voice within you that knows what work you need to do. I was on a women's retreat in a pristine wilderness area, when we encountered Minutemen missiles being launched from a nearby Air Force base. It turned out we were in the so-called "danger zone." We continued our retreat, and with no special effort, found ourselves engaged in a direct action.

Peter Matthiessen: Years ago in Honolulu, someone put up a huge billboard near the airport. One woman called the city hall and said, "This is an outrage. Why do we have to look at this blot on the horizon?" Then she called ten friends, and started a chain telephone call. Within 24 hours, the sign was down.

Audience: I recently learned about something called a "subrudder." A subrudder is a small rudder that is connected to a huge rudder that turns a ship the size of the Queen Mary. The huge rudder can't turn unless the subrudder turns first. We don' t have to tum the whole ship, we just have to tum the small rudder.

Audience: How do we say no to people whom we've already said yes to, to get some things off our plates so we have some kind of breather?

Joan Halifax: Just say no.

James Thornton: I always look for someone else to pass the matter on to. I've discovered that if you give the right description to a project, someone will be interested in helping you. Group enthusiasm really works. Saying no is harder.

Randy Hayes: I'm so bad at saying no when someone really needs something that I go out and raise funds in order to hire someone to do it. Maybe there is something functional about not being able to say no.

Audience: If it's true, as Betsy says, that our whole country is behaving in a dysfunctional way, then we also need to look at our environmental organizations. My son-in-law just quit his job for an environmental organization because the workaholism there made it impossible for him to stay well. We can't perpetuate that. We need to see if we are using the same models that are so obviously dysfunctional on the national and international levels. Our organization has made a commitment to do our best not to be addictive. It takes a lot of looking.

Audience: I had the pleasure of hearing Jeremy Rifkin talk last Saturday. He introduced the concept of sufficiency verses efficiency. We're always trying to figure out how to cram more things into the same amount of time under the guise of efficiency. But like a sprinter trying to sprint a mile, it is not sufficient to go the first 200 yards faster than anybody else if you are going to die on the next lap. So I'm starting to get the notion of sufficiency into my life.

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The War in Los Angeles

Sunday, May 3,1992 Yesterday, half a dozen people called to say they would not be coming to our Day of Mindfulness. They were going down to south-central Los Angeles to help with the cleanup. The rest of us practice meditation for one period and then pass around the talking stone. Each one of us speaks in turn. Each person speaks for all. There is so much hurt and anger, confusion and sadness. No single person can express it all. After everyone has spoken we agree that the only possible continuation for our Day of Mindfulness is to go out towards the center of the city until we find a way to help, to engage.

It is the first time I had been east from Venice since Wednesday-the day that the Rodney King verdict was announced. We drive south on Vermont Avenue. The charred remains are still smoking. Stores are boarded up. Sometimes you can't tell if they were boarded for their protection or if they have already been looted and burned. There are bumed buildings on almost every block, but since all this volunteer support arrived the streets are cleaner than they've ever been. A sign is painted across one of the boarded windows" Human Owned Por Favor." We continue south. The streets are choked with cars. People who never visit this part of the city have come to gape, others are looking for some way to lend a hand. Armed Marines have replaced the National Guard. Three of four stand at a Pioneer Chicken fast food outlet. It is the last intact building on the block. Around it stand the stark twisted remains of a mini-mall. In front, the forty-foot Pioneer Chicken covered wagon symbol still stands. I catch sight of another Marine watching from the roof. The image is unnerving, eerie, comical. A year ago these Marines were still in the Gulf. Symbolic figures of power continue to protect a symbolic way of life. Five fire-trucks go by, also manned by Marines. Sirens blaring and lights flashing. One of the drivers waves at the Marines on the street.

An African-American slowly and deliberately takes photographs. He has two cameras slung around his neck, and two expensive telephoto lenses. I make some ironic remark to the others in our van about how new his gear looks and where he might have acquired it. We mock the stereotyping we have been coaxed into by four days of television. But part of me believes that his cameras are the prize of a recent looting spree. With them he deliberately and methodically photographs the burned out mall, the marines, the fire-trucks. Another part of me considers that perhaps, after all, he's a journalist for the New York Times.

There's a long line of people outside the African American Unity Community Center, a converted church at the comer of 53rd Street. It turns out that the center needs people to sort huge piles of donated clothes and to bag the food that's coming in by the truck load. I spend the afternoon trying to fit clothes to people and people to clothes as they are filtered through a large room at the back of the center. Suddenly I feel lighter, joking with people who come through; Hispanics, Blacks, Whites, Asians. A truck pulls up and half a dozen Koreans from Orange County unload box after box of brand new designer clothes. I open the boxes and find a pair of pants large enough to fit the enormous man who has been hunting through piles of clothes trying to find something he can use. Then I find a sweater fancy enough to satisfy my new friend, seven years old and very fastidious. She has already acquired her first pair of high heel shoes. The sweater makes a perfect match. Others who come through are silent and sullen, shamed and confused by what is referred to already as "the war." Others are happy, playful. Many are delighted to see white faces and tell us so.

I realize that although countless lives have been shattered by the events of the last few days, for many people things have not changed much. When there is no hope to begin with how can things become worse? Burning your own neighborhood is a kind of collective suicide, burning the future because it promises nothing.

Is this "war" about race or is it about economics? Clearly it is about both. The two things are inseparable. The burning and looting has been an expression of a collective sorrow. People of all ethnic and economic backgrounds participated. It is a sorrow that cannot be expunged by access to the proverbial American dream, even if that delusion were possible. I fear for the children. I fear for what is to come. The issues of race and economics are so pressing that the more ominous issues of longer term population increase, environmental degradation, the gradual breakdown of infrastructures, are unseen or ignored. Economists on television, black and white, discuss the problems of inner-city America as though these other issues had no bearing on the situation.

Tuesday, May 5

At our center we have often discussed ways we might help, ways we might engage with the heartbeat of the city. There are half a dozen mainly Anglo-oriented Buddhist centers slightly west of downtown in what is referred to as Koreatown. For the most part the simple fact of their presence there is their main engagement with the local community. So how can we, over in Venice, a tiny multi-racial community in the middle of the white west-side middle-class enclave, expect to engage in any meaningful way?

My wife, Michele, and I are delivering food packages. We travel allover south-central L.A. I am happy to see parts of the city I have never even visited before. We are treated with indifference at some of our destinations, welcomed at others. There seems something vaguely awkward and incongruous about our participation in this massive attempt to give help to the victims. How many outsiders will still be in these areas in a month, in a year? How much can charity actually help?

I remember a man I met a few months ago who offered to clean the windows of my car in the parking lot of our local store. He was African-American, living on the streets. I told him that I had no cash. He asked me how I was going to pay in the store.

I said, "With a check."

"Then buy me a pack of cigarettes."

When I came out he was still cleaning the windows. I told him to take his time, that I was in no hurry.

He was surprised. "Well you must be the only one; you and me. Everyone's rushing around as though they meant to get some place."

He explained how he had once owned several houses. Things had been fine. But somehow the economy had taken its toll and now he had nothing. He seemed perfectly happy as he described his former troubles.

"You know," he said, "if people just paid attention to the sun. If people just remembered where they came from. Without the sun there'd be no life, but the sun just gives it all away for free."

He laughed. I gave him his pack of cigarettes.

A day or so ago in Santa Monica someone was overheard commenting on the way they felt about having to stay at home through the curfew, ''I'm so bored, I hate not being able to go out at night"

We drive through a predominantly middle class black neighborhood. I notice a large billboard showing a picture of Martin Luther King gazing skyward. In the sky floats the caption, "The fulfillment of the dream is in financial security."

In the evening, driving home on the Santa Monica freeway, I notice that the brush which grows under the freeway overpasses is being bulldozed clear. This is a place where many homeless people fmd shelter. Does someone actually imagine that the problems of the homeless can be addressed in this way? Does someone think that homeless people will magically disappear?

On Friday, all over the west side, shops were crowded. Is this our response? Riots and burning throughout the city while on the west side people go shopping? Baskets ftIled with crab meat and artichokes, fine wine, com chips for a long night in front of the TV?

I realize that perhaps our center in Venice is not so far away from those parts of the city that are deep in crisis after all.mb7-TheWar

Christopher Reed Venice, California

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Being Peace in the Balkans

I have been mesmerized. Through the Falklands and the Gulf, sitting in England in front of the TV set, the passive command center of those two wards, I protested this diet of media scrutiny. Nonetheless, I too became addicted to the news, with all its conditioning us to the notions of good and bad, stimulating our animosities, and providing a substitute for direct experience and action. In short, not doing-just viewing. During the Gulf War I wept to see pictures of bemused, piteous surrendering Iraqi troops and became physically sick at the sight of slaughtered civilians. Nevertheless, on hearing news of a cease-fire (later proved false), I felt cheated of the expected climax. It seems that peace and war exist side by side in all of us, and that we must make the choice to tum in the direction of peace.

My own choice to engage with the events in Yugoslavia was made after being wrenched from sleep by images of the carnage and speeches of 1914. I contacted the major British peace organizations to see how I could engage in this process but was saddened to discover the lack of any significant organized response to the first full-scale conflict in Europe since the Second World War. It seems that given the lack of any easily identifiable enemy, like the Bomb or Western intervention, the peace movement has a design fault-the pursuit of peace as an idea or an end, rather than something to practice and promote as away. The energy of the peace movement seems reactive, coming more from opposition and criticism than from understanding and reconciliation.

I finally linked up with the European Peace Caravan. Before I left in late September 1991, I was able to attend a 5-day mindfulness retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh in Devon, and the practice of "being peace" provided a solid foundation for me to embark on this journey through the Balkans.

Only one other Brit on the caravan, Jean Pike, a non-denominational renegade peacenik, a granny saint constituting with me, a grandad, a mature, calming presence up front on our bus. Across the aisle is Harky, a New Jersey Dutch Mennonite minister and former Martin Luther King worker. The journey will be stressful for all-the war situation and route security is constantly uncertain. The spokesperson warns us that various factions will try, metaphorically, to hijack the aims of the caravan.

We stop the first day in Opicina, a Slovenian community in Italy. Brief poetic local speech: "You bring water to the parched desert of minority rights." Our first lessons begin -- listen to different, tendentious voices, and understand where bridges can be built.

In Zagreb, impressive "civic" greeting. The caravan has, nonetheless, bypassed public awareness. We meet with religious leaders and talk of their role in a "defensive" war much equivocation. Harky and I assert spiritual responsibility as an uncompromising principle of nonviolent teaching. I proclaim the interbeing kingdom of God and Buddhaland in the present moment (where else?) and ring my mindfulness bell for silent contemplation. The Helsinki group representative reads an impressive Civil War Rights document, giving the church something new to chew on. One ecclesiastic surprises himself and us by saying, ''I'm a part of everyone and everyone is a part of me." The seed got watered.

Then, an interminable drive through the darkness. We lose part of the caravan. Delays, stress, and ill-temper follow. Jean and I point out that being here at all is an orchestrated miracle. We go in and out of Hungary, and into Vojvodina. The atmosphere in Subotica is affected by fear. The previous night, peace demonstrators lighting candles in the main square were beaten by police. I offer to remain and demonstrate with them- they decline. Repression has left strong marks here. Later, German Peter, Harky, and I go alone to the square to light symbolic candles. There is no interference to our lowrisk but highly symbolic act.

Nothing prepares us for the incredible welcome in Belgrade. We reach an imposing venue in the center for talks and a concert. Weare crowded by a throng of clapping, smiling, weeping people. A TV journalist offers the microphone: "What are you doing here?" "I'm part of these people." We are being mobbed and hugged. A lot of people wanting peace. I wonder if that is being reported on the evening news. Lots of talks and speeches. A nationalist politician is booed off the stage. I am unable to absorb more words, and sneak off to meditate. Later, have an interesting exchange with a women's group, and I am invited to teach meditation.

To Sarajevo through the mountains; enchanting little houses like in a child's drawing. How could there be war in a place so beautiful? The caravan participants, 500 strong, march through the streets of Sarajevo. I hear later that there is still no media coverage in the UK- we haven't shot anyone. Jean is capturing local women and hugging them into the march. We walk behind the Macedonia banner with Jan, a Dutch parliamentarian who now looks 20 years younger. With the aid of an interpreter, I make a public address to a large crowd gathered in front of the cathedral. "Here is where the first steps were taken into war in 1914. We now make our steps for peace by 'being peace. ", Amazed at the receptive and enthusiastic understanding of my message. Then, a most moving experience as a chain of human hands throughout the city link the various seats of worship. Everyone is hand in hand, smiling tears of joy and sadness- men and women, oid folk and children, different races and religions.

There are armed killers in Yugoslavia who weep in confusion at the distorted chain of events they are trapped in. They need a new way to replace old hatreds. Yugoslavia is merely a rehearsal for what can happen in a disintegrating Soviet Union and go on to engulf the world. We have to point out the interconnections and communicate the reality. There is no such thing as "someone else's war." This will require great patience and understanding; the ability to respond and appeal to what is best in humanity. We have to learn to practice peace as a way. That final night in Sarajevo, Jean pointed out a little miracle she had heard on the "chain of peace." The adults were chanting, "We want peace." The children were chanting, "We are peace."

I decide to remain for a few days to contact ordinary people outside of the rarified atmosphere of the group visit and deepen my contact with individuals I have met. After two days in Sarajevo, I managed to find a bus service chancing the route to Zagreb. The journey is interrupted by a succession of paramilitary, civil police, and self-appointed vigilante drunks playing at being border guards.

In Zagreb I am greeted by the sight of young boys selfconsciously sporting revolvers and automatic weapons. Whatever happens, the future will pay the price of this. Two hours later, guided through the blackout by young boys who explain to me that "the only good Serb is a dead Serb," I find the four-storey block of flats in Samobar where my wife's parents live. Two days later I kneel in front of the presidential palace in Zagreb with a young peace worker, Sandra, and place a rose with a note: "For the children who will die in a war."

I return to London. Sitting with my wife, I listen to reports that the Samobar barracks are under attack. We ring her parents and her father answers. He refuses to hide in the basement with his wife and neighbors. We can hear the bombs fall 100 meters away, and we persuade him to join his wife and lend her comfort.

The day after, the presidential palace is bombed, some say in retaliation for the attack on Samobar, some say it is a self-inflicted wound. The propaganda war, like the military one, is a nightmare of distortion and self-fulfilling myth. Its voice is very loud. At times it seems to overwhelm completely the voice of peace. The place where Sandra and I knelt to lay our flower, our seed of peace, is now a heap of rubble. The seed will need much watering.

John Bloss London, England

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Transforming Life and Death

I had a pretty uneventful early childhood. I grew up on a farm with loving parents. I quarreled a lot with my two brothers, and, when I was six, I had a little sister that I cherished a lot (and still do). However, when I turned nine or ten, I started feeling strange. Huge waves of sadness would come rushing over me,and I would start crying in the middle of whatever I was doing. I could not explain why. Next came this idea that lifewas too difficult and not so interesting anyway. I imagined death as a very peaceful place. So I decided to die. At first,since I was a young child, I tried to kill myself in very childishways: held my breath as long as I could, put my head underwater in a bucket, and whatnot. Then as I grew up, I becamemore sophisticated. I tried to hang myself with a curtain string.Then finally I got the idea of swallowing pills. That sent me to the hospital and my mom found out about my ill-being. She understood that only a drastic change would help me stay alive and she offered me a plane ticket to Africa. I had not thought of this possibility myself and I accepted gratefully. I started a life of travel that was to continue on and off for ten years. After that lapse of time, I became tired of traveling and found no interest in life again. I was seriously thinking of committing suicide once more, when I met the spiritual path. I was 24 then and quickly understood that killing myself was not the solution. Still, all my practice was tinged with this attraction to death.

Then one day I met a Chinese master. When he saw me he said, "Are you a ghost or a human being?"

"A human being."

"Who is trying to kill herself all the time then?"

I passed out on the spot. So intense was my fascination with death, he had been able to see it just by looking at me.

I have been practicing ever since, and five years ago I encountered Thay. During my first summer at Plum Village, I was interested in something Thay often repeats: "Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed." What about death then? Isn't it a place where everything stops and disappears? So I put my question to Thay in the bell as we do at Plum Village, and Thay gave a talk one morning addressing my question. I felt liberated, free from a life-long illusion. Life and death happen in every moment. Death does not mean an end, but rather a transformation elements breaking up and being reassembled in different shapes and beings, eternally old, eternally new. Continuation, like ocean, mist, clouds, rain, and rivers. Cessation exists but is not synonymous with death. Cessation can be in each breath. It is about stopping mental formations. It can be done here and now. When the church bell or the telephone rings, I stop, and in a way I die. No need to carry on the endless burden. Putting it down, I rest totally for a few seconds.

Realizing this truth and being able to practice cessation has transformed my life. The ghost in me has been defeated. I am becoming more of a human being every day thanks to this wonderful and compassionate Dharma master we call Thay.

Some people say Thay is great, but does not allow a real master-disciple relationship. I don't think it is true. If you allow him to see through you, if you drop your mask and try to inter-be, he becomes your personal teacher. He is part of me now, I hardly need to see him physically anymore. Our streams have met and he has colored my waters with more transparent greens and blues.

Metta Thenac, France

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On Equanimity

“More, more, more" is a familiar refrain in Western society--more production, more economic growth, and, presumably, more security and happiness. This message is incessantly driven home by the many forms of modem electronic and print advertising that are designed to induce us to crave. In contemporary urban life, these voices of desire are everywhere. To simply observe them and try to assess the force of their impact upon each of us is in itself an interesting form of meditation. The environmental movement in recent years has aptly demonstrated that "more" can often mean "more than we bargained for." We now sense that growth has its price, in terms of damage to the ecosystem and the suffering that will be faced by future generations as a result of our conduct. But we rarely assess the impact desire and craving have on our spiritual lives.

Buddhism provides many skillful means we can use to understand and respond to the present environmental crisis. One is the practice of equanimity--remaining calm in trying circumstances. In our age of inflamed desires, equanimity can serve as a "balm of clear water to pour on the roots of our afflictions," to use a verse from "The Ceremony for Beginning Anew." The importance of equanimity in Buddhist practice is suggested by its inclusion among the Seven Factors of Awakening and the Four Limitless Meditations:

1. Compassion, to remove suffering

2. Lovingkindness, to give joy

3. Joy, in the happiness and joy of others

4. Equanimity, with no calculation of gain or loss

The significance of equanimity is also very much in evidence in The Sutra on the Eight Realizations of the Great Beings. Three of the Eight Realizations directly address the subjects of desire and equanimity. Briefly stated, the Second Realization is "the awareness that more desire brings more suffering." The Third Realization is that "the human mind is always searching for possessions and never feels fulfilled. This causes impure actions to ever increase. Bodhisattvas, however, always remember the principal of having few desires. They live a simple life of peace in order to practice the way, and consider the realization of understanding as their only career." The Seventh Realization is that the five categories of desire--being wealthy, beautiful, ambitious, lazy, and finding pleasure in eating--lead to difficulties. In his commentary on the sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh observes:

"Knowing how to feel satisfied with few possessions destroys desire and greed. This means being content with material conditions that allow us to be healthy and strong enough to practice the Way. This is an effective way to cut through the net of passions and desires, attain a peaceful state of body and mind, have more time to help others, and be free to realize the highest goal: the development of concentration and understanding to attain realization. Knowing how to feel satisfied with few possessions helps us avoid becoming part of an economic system that exploits others, and it enables us to decrease our involvement in the pollution of the environment."

It could indeed be very helpful to cultivate equanimity in order to live wisely in our present age. We live in a time when mass culture is tirelessly attempting to convince us to do things regardless of the real consequences. If even a fraction of these messages plant seeds within us, we will do the most absurd things--buy things we don't need, work longer hours than is wise for us or our families, incur debt we can't hope to repay, and become so nervous in the process that we'll never be able to savor a moment of pleasure with our belongings, even if a few hours of "free" time were to present themselves.

Let us contemplate a life imbued with an appreciation for equanimity. If we can stop weighing, judging, attempting to measure profit and loss in terms of money, status, or pleasurable experiences ceaselessly in relation to our "Self'--aren't we "liberated" in a very tangible way? Could we at least attempt to stop, look, and find out? Ironically, we might be happier by living below our means and less self-centeredly. Those who choose to walk this path undoubtedly do less damage, with their footsteps, to our planet.

In his retreat with psychotherapists three years ago in Colorado, Thay demonstrated how deeply we can meditate upon equanimity. These insights can be developed into a profound understanding of our environmental crisis. He began with a description of the four mental formations that are characteristic of our sense of self. The fIrst is the belief that there is an entity called a "self' that can exist independently. The second is the belief in the permanence of the self, on the one hand, or nihilism, on the other. The third is self-inflation or arrogance--the sense that you are more important than anyone or anything around you. The fourth is self-addiction, where all your activities are designed to advance or serve the self. Then, Thay suggested, "The insight that you get from meditation is to transform these types of mental formations within yourself so that you realize that everyone is equal and each thing is made of every other thing. This is true equanimity." The meditation on equanimity, with its deep exploration of the human role in relationship to its surroundings, can make signifIcant contributions to the intelligent resolution of our current dilemma as a species.

Western thought is gradually achieving the same appreciation of the distinctly un-Western concept of equanimity. In his short story, entitled "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" Tolstoy tells a parable about a peasant named Pakhom, who aspired to own land. When a local noblewoman put her land up for sale, he borrowed from friends and family to acquire a small portion. He farmed well and discharged his debts, and "yet he was not happy."

So Pakhom became obsessed with acquiring more and better land, land which might somehow satisfy him. Yet the pattern repeated itself over and over. He would struggle to acquire more property, at the expense of his relationship with others, only to fInd each time that his new "allotment seemed to him altogether too small for his ambition"; and that the new farm "seemed to him rather narrow quarters." So when, one day, he learned about a far-away tribe known as the Bashkirs who were willing to sell vast tracts for very little money, he rushed off on the long journey. The Bashkir chief confIrmed with a broad smile that his tribe felt it had too much land and would sell it at one price, 1,000 rubles a day. Pakhom did not understand this rather peculiar price structure, so the chieftain explained with a laugh that for 1,000 rubles Pakhom could own all that he could "go round in a day" on foot. There was, however, a stipulation--"If you don't come back within the day to the place from which you started, your money is lost."

Pakhom was so excited he could not sleep the night before the contest. He worried that the chieftain was only playing with him, and that there could be no such bargain. At dawn the next day, he was relieved to fInd the chieftain and his friends above on a local hilltop, looking over a broad expanse  of virgin land. Pakhom deposited his 1000 rubles on the ground within the chieftain's hat, and was reminded to return before sunset or lose everything. Pakhom took little heed. Despite intense heat, he pushed and pushed himself. Each time he thought of turning back, the sight of a new meadow or grove of trees whetted his appetite. When the sun began to sink, he fInally turned back toward the chieftain. He was so tired he ached, but he would not stop and rest, out of fear that he would fall asleep. The sun was setting as he reached the base of the initial hilltop. He could see the Bashkirs waving to him, and the chieftain's foxskin cap on the ground, including the money in it. As the sun set, Pakhom "exerted his last energies" while watching the chieftain "laughing and holding his sides." Then he fell forward, reaching out his arms toward the cap. "Akh, brave lad!" the chieftain shouted. "You have got a good piece of land." Pakhom lay dead, and his servant dug a grave for him, just long enough--about seven feet--to bury him from head to foot.

Jack Lawlor Evanston, Illinois

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Mindful Medical Work

I have recently returned to working as a general medical practitioner. In doing so, I have benefItted from the teachings of Thay in the following ways: I do some form of walking meditation while going from one room to the other. My office has two doors leading to the room where I meet the patient. On my side of the door, I have taped a small drawing of a smiling face that reminds me to take three mindful breaths before going through the door, and maybe even to smile. This helps me be more aware of the attitude I have towards the patient, and I can be more present when I meet the patient. Trying to be aware of the Buddha-nature of each patient- whether she be a beautiful girl with a sore throat, or a chronic, foul-smelling alcoholic coming for the Xth time to have help detoxifying-is a great help in my daily work.

The working situation has also shown me that the doors of my heart are not as open as I might think. I am often more concerned with my own comfort and needs than with the needs of the patients and co-workers. In realizing this, I try to breathe and smile so as not to create a battlefield within myself.

Jorgen Hannibal Helsinge, Denmark

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Bong Bong

Several years ago, I was staying in a little cabin in the mountains, taking some time for a much-needed retreat. One morning I woke up and began the day in a rather upset and annoyed frame of mind. I went outside to brush my teeth, and when I came back, I hit my head on a heavy bell that for some reason was hung from the eaves of the cabin. Not too long after, when I went out to get some firewood, I hit my head on the same bell again. Now I was getting really annoyed. Why was that bell there anyway? My head was starting to really hurt, and I was mad. I tried to be more aware of it and I made it in and out several times before I hit my head on the bell a third time. Bong! I finally got the message. It was a bell of mindfulness. It was time for me to stop, sit down, breathe, and return to myself-face my anger and frustration directly and quit blaming others or taking it out on myself. I took the time I needed to look at what it was I was so upset about. Cyntha Jurs Santa Fe, New Mexico

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A Peaceful Sentinel

The instructions were clear: The sentinel at the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village acts to protect the silence of the zendo during meditation periods by asking people not to make noise nearby, not to walk on the gravel outside, and not to enter before the appropriate time. But I was not clear. Being my usual groggy morning self, I reverted to sixth grade traffic crossing police behavior, pointing and telling people what not to do. Several ignored me. I began to long for bright yellow crossing guard straps to show my official authority. The next person I approached even more directly, "You can't walk on the gravel. You can't go in the zendo yet." She stared fiercely at me, said, "Leave me alone," and strode in. Not only was I failing at my job, I was making people angry. Yet the next thought (and I cringe to reveal this) was a wish for a stick or a gun to back up my authority. Looking back, I'm stunned. At the time, it seemed a natural, somewhat humorous extension of the job. Luckily, my cross Dharma sister and I agreed to meet to talk about this. She explained that she reacted strongly because I had been so violent in my expression- no bow, no smile, strong orders- her first morning contact. I cried that I had hurt her, but in a way was glad this had happened. We were both learning new ways to be peace. She requested the meeting; I admitted my wrongdoing. I recommitted myself to the practice of mindfulness in all my activities, including that of sentinel-settling into my breath, bringing my full awareness to the scene, smiling, and bowing as I asked people to respect the silence. I still wasn't 100% successful at preserving the silence, but what a different feeling we all had about the process!

Kathy Schwerin Carson City, Nevada

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