community garden

A New Residential Lay Practice Community in Santa Barbara

By Betty van Nood A winding road, lined with orange, purple and yellow flowers, leads you to a quiet place graced with cypress, eucalyptus, oak and pine trees, along with numerous flowers and cactus. The song of birds and the sound of water cascading in the Maria Ignacio creek welcome you. You have arrived at Clear View, on Painted Cave Road, fifteen minutes from Santa Barbara, California

On May 25, 2001 the property was purchased to be the residence for the Clear View residential lay community, based on the five mindfulness trainings and the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh. The community is inspired by and grateful for the vision of Thay, informed by the example and practice of the monastic community, and supported by the energy of the Still Water Sangha of Santa Barbara. After more than two years of visioning, searching and meeting, Larry Ward, Peggy Rowe, Chris Dawkins and her two daughters (S iena and Chiara), Betty van Nood and Adrian Stier bought eleven acres with a house and a guest house. Barbara Casey and Robert Sorrell joined the community in Jul y.

As a branch of the Santa Barbara Mindfulness Community, we are in the process of continuing to clarify and formulate the principles and guidelines that will support our practice of mindful and joyful living together. Each family unit has some private space. Communall y, we will share the kitchen, dining area, living room, zendo and the beautiful land that borders the Los Padres National Forest.

We hope to create a place of refuge, not only for ourselves, but also for the sangha at large, as we practice together. We are now transforming some of the existing structures and will pursue building new structures, including: a community zendo, space for guests and living quarters for others who want to join the community. We hope to be ab le to host mindfulness days soon and to start the creation of a community garden to be enjoyed by all.


We are in the beginning stages of our community life. Soon we will have a Website on which we will share information about our activities and opportunities for participation as guests, residents, investors, friends and supporters. In the mean time, as we unpack boxes and organize the kitchen, the blooming mimosa tree and the morning bird songs remind us that the larger Sangha supports us all.

Belly van Nood, True Force of Peace, lives at the Clear View residential lay community in Santa Barbara.

Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Sangha

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Fatima in the Garden

by Rena Rubin mb37-Fatima

The New York City school where I teach seventh grade art has inherited a community garden a few blocks away. An unsolicited slice of community life is generously offered through the open windows of the apartment buildings cloistering that space. Ujima Garden existed in a state of abandoned neglect until our science and art departments became the custodian at the end of last summer. Though skeptical at first, my assignment was to have the students paint a mural on one of the walls adjoining the garden.

When we began going to the garden every art/science day, I spent most of my time observing my kids in this new environment. Predictably, the destructive ones threw rocks and broke a couple of gardening tools; some kids sat or stood as far away from nature as possible; but some, who I least expected, dug and planted with a passion.

The twins, Catrima and Fatima, were totally engaged in cultivating the soil for the vegetable plot. In other classes, their chronic attitude has established a somewhat contentious relationship between us. But watching them in the garden was an epiphanous experience, reminding me to suspend all judgment made in the context of a NYC public school classroom.

Fatima’s class was first period. As the students were turning soil in their designated area, an enormous earthworm was uncovered, followed immediately by earsplitting screams of shock, curiosity, and revulsion. As I saw one student reach down to scoop it up, I cringed, thinking the poor little guy doesn’t have a chance. I remembered stories I had heard in Dharamsala, about the Buddhist monks breaking ground for a new building: they would gently and painstakingly sift through the soil with their hands to remove all earthworms from harm’s way before the workmen began digging the foundation. Before I could intervene, the little creature was being passed around from student to student, until it ended up in Fatima’s hands, which extended to receive the earthworm as if it were a sacred offering.

There are moments one never forgets, and this was one for me. Fatima cradled this creature in her palms with such tenderness, compassion, and love, that she instantly became the most radiant being on the planet. I wasn’t sure who was more blessed –– Fatima, the earthworm, or me.

The next day I passed Fatima’s class, lined up in the hall. I stopped to tell her that I wished I’d brought my camera with me so I could have taken her picture holding the worm so gently—she looked absolutely beautiful! I was rewarded by a smile so large, it could transform the world.

Rena Rubin, Radiant Jewel of the Source, practices with the Brooklyn Sangha in New York. She is a musician, artist, and art teacher who says, “The students, hands down, have been my biggest teacher.”

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