All We Need is Love

“Falling in Love with the Earth” by Thich Nhat Hanh

This beautiful, bounteous, life-giving planet we call Earth has given birth to each one of us, and each one of us carries the Earth within every cell of our body.

We and the Earth are one

The Earth is our mother, nourishing and protecting us in every moment–giving us air to breathe, fresh water to drink, food to eat and healing herbs to cure us when we are sick. Every breath we inhale contains our planet’s nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and trace elements. When we breathe with mindfulness, we can experience our interbeing with the Earth’s delicate atmosphere, with all the plants, and even with the sun, whose light makes possible the miracle of photosynthesis. With every breath we can experience communion. With every breath we can savor the wonders of life.

We need to change our way of thinking and seeing things. We need to realise that the Earth is not just our environment. The Earth is not something outside of us. Breathing with mindfulness and contemplating your body, you realize that you are the Earth. You realize that your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth. Look around you–what you see is not your environment, it is you.

Great Mother Earth

Whatever nationality or culture we belong to, whatever religion we follow, whether we’re Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, or atheists, we can all see that the Earth is not inert matter. She is a great being, who has herself given birth to many other great beings–including buddhas and bodhisattvas, prophets and saints, sons and daughters of God and humankind. The Earth is a loving mother, nurturing and protecting all peoples and all species without discrimination.

When you realize the Earth is so much more than simply your environment, you’ll be moved to protect her in the same way as you would yourself. This is the kind of awareness, the kind of awakening that we need, and the future of the planet depends on whether we’re able to cultivate this insight or not. The Earth and all species on Earth are in real danger. Yet if we can develop a deep relationship with the Earth, we’ll have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change our way of life.

Falling in love

We can all experience a feeling of deep admiration and love when we see the great harmony, elegance and beauty of the Earth. A simple branch of cherry blossom, the shell of a snail or the wing of a bat – all bear witness to the Earth’s masterful creativity. Every advance in our scientific understanding deepens our admiration and love for this wondrous planet. When we can truly see and understand the Earth, love is born in our hearts. We feel connected. That is the meaning of love: to be at one.

Only when we’ve truly fallen back in love with the Earth will our actions spring from reverence and the insight of our interconnectedness. Yet many of us have become alienated from the Earth. We are lost, isolated and lonely. We work too hard, our lives are too busy, and we are restless and distracted, losing ourselves in consumption. But the Earth is always there for us, offering us everything we need for our nourishment and healing: the miraculous grain of corn, the refreshing stream, the fragrant forest, the majestic snow-capped mountain peak, and the joyful birdsong at dawn.

True Happiness is made of love

Many of us think we need more money, more power or more status before we can be happy. We’re so busy spending our lives chasing after money, power and status that we ignore all the conditions for happiness already available. At the same time, we lose ourselves in buying and consuming things we don’t need, putting a heavy strain on both our bodies and the planet. Yet much of what we drink, eat, watch, read or listen to, is toxic, polluting our bodies and minds with violence, anger, fear and despair.

As well as the carbon dioxide pollution of our physical environment, we can speak of the spiritual pollution of our human environment: the toxic and destructive atmosphere we’re creating with our way of consuming. We need to consume in such a way that truly sustains our peace and happiness. Only when we’re sustainable as humans will our civilization become sustainable. It is possible to be happy in the here and the now.

We don’t need to consume a lot to be happy; in fact we can live very simply. With mindfulness, any moment can become a happy moment. Savoring one simple breath, taking a moment to stop and contemplate the bright blue sky, or to fully enjoy the presence of a loved one, can be more than enough to make us happy. Each one of us needs to come back to reconnect with ourselves, with our loved ones and with the Earth. It’s not money, power or consuming that can make us happy, but having love and understanding in our heart.

The bread in your hand is the body of the cosmos

We need to consume in such a way that keeps our compassion alive. And yet many of us consume in a way that is very violent. Forests are cut down to raise cattle for beef, or to grow grain for liquor, while millions in the world are dying of starvation. Reducing the amount of meat we eat and alcohol we consume by 50% is a true act of love for ourselves, for the Earth and for one another. Eating with compassion can already help transform the situation our planet is facing, and restore balance to ourselves and the Earth.

Nothing is more important than brotherhood and sisterhood

There’s a revolution that needs to happen and it starts from inside each one of us. We need to wake up and fall in love with Earth. We’ve been homo sapiens for a long time. Now it’s time to become homo conscious. Our love and admiration for the Earth has the power to unite us and remove all boundaries, separation and discrimination. Centuries of individualism and competition have brought about tremendous destruction and alienation. We need to re-establish true communication–true communion–with ourselves, with the Earth, and with one another as children of the same mother. We need more than new technology to protect the planet. We need real community and co-operation.

All civilizations are impermanent and must come to an end one day. But if we continue on our current course, there’s no doubt that our civilization will be destroyed sooner than we think. The Earth may need millions of years to heal, to retrieve her balance and restore her beauty. She will be able to recover, but we humans and many other species will disappear, until the Earth can generate conditions to bring us forth again in new forms. Once we can accept the impermanence of our civilization with peace, we will be liberated from our fear. Only then will we have the strength, awakening and love we need to bring us together. Cherishing our precious Earth–falling in love with the Earth–is not an obligation. It is a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival.

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Refuge Chant

From “Chanting of the Heart: Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices” by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village

Incense perfumes the atmosphere.
A lotus blooms and the Buddha appears.
The world of suffering and discrimination
is filled with light of the rising sun.
As the dust of fear and anxiety settles,
with open heart, one-pointed mind,
I turn to the Three Jewels.
[BELL]

The fully enlightened one, beautifully seated, peaceful and smiling,
a living source of understanding and compassion,
to the Buddha I go for refuge.
[BELL]

The path of mindful living,
leading to healing, joy, and enlightenment, the way of peace
to the Dharma I go for refuge.
[BELL]

The loving and supportive community of practice,
realizing harmony, awareness, and liberation,
to the Sangha I go for refuge.
[BELL]

I am aware that the Three Gems are within my heart.
I vow to realize them,
practicing mindful breathing and smiling,
looking deeply into things.
I vow to understand living beings and their suffering,
to cultivate compassion and loving kindness,
to practice joy and equanimity.
[BELL]

I vow to offer joy to one person in the morning,
to help relieve the grief of one person in the afternoon,
living simply and sanely with few possessions,
keeping my body healthy.
I vow to let go of all worries and anxiety
in order to be light and free.
[BELL]

I am aware that I owe so much
to my parents, teachers, friends, and all beings.
I vow to be worthy of their trust, to practice wholeheartedly
so that understanding and compassion will flower,
helping living beings be free from their suffering.
May the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha
support my efforts.
[BELL, BELL]

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Winter of Listening

Excerpt from from On Being Blog “A New Life I Must Call My Own” by Parker J. Palmer

The Winter of Listening
by David Whyte

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,

what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.

All those years
forgetting
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
forgetting
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
difficulty
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
otherness.

Silence and winter
has led me to that
otherness.

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

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For or Against?

Excerpt from THE BHIKKHU AND THE BUTTERFLY:  A Conversation between  AJAHN PASANNO and JULIA BUTTERFLY HILL – Full Interview

JBH: My whole approach to the people I meet is to communicate the language of love, so I make it a point not to have conversations based on issues. I learned in the tree that “issues” are just symptoms of a disease.

IM: But Julia, how do you talk about the environmental crisis without talking about individual issues, without talking about the species die-offs, or the need to transform our oil-based economy? Where do you go?

JBH: In my organization, Circle of Life, every time we approach an issue or problem, we approach it from the place of the solution versus the place of the problem. We focus our intention and awareness on what it is we want: peace, love, justice.

When I climbed up in that tree I was new to activism, but I soon realized that we had become so good at defining what we were against that what we were against was beginning to define us. I saw the problem in meetings where activists were “clear-cutting” each other with their words and their anger. As people were talking, I could literally hear the chain saws in their words, cutting each other apart. I saw that the peace rallies had become antiwar rallies, places where I couldn’t even walk up close to the rally because of the way people were speaking through the megaphone; it sounded like they were dropping bombs.

This all became clear to me about halfway through my time in the tree, when I was experiencing a lot of pain and really felt like I was falling apart. That’s when I went deeper and realized I had climbed up in the tree not because I was angry at corporations and governments—although I was angry at them—but because I loved the forest and I loved the planet and I loved this sacred life that we’re all a part of. And so I began to approach all the issues from that place of love.

When we are committed to approaching issues from the perspective of what we want—rather than what everyone else is doing wrong—it’s important to look into our own daily practice to see all the ways we are out of integrity with the world we want to live in.

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Where’s my change?

“One Buddha is Not Enough” excerpt by Sister Gioi Nghiem

After I’d been a nun for about a year, my sister sent me a card with a joke inside; I think I must have been practicing too seriously!

A nun went into a bookstore and bought a book for $7. She gave the salesman $10, and when he didn’t give her any change, she asked, “Where is my change?” The salesman replied, “Oh, I thought change is from within.”

We tend to laugh at this, but in our daily life, things like this happen a lot. We expect a lot of changes to come from outside, but the change actually comes from within. It’s like Mahatma Gandhi said, “We are the change we want to see in the world.” So we can’t just expect and wait. We need to do something about it. We can nourish our happiness, and we can transform our suffering so that the change can come from within. And from that basis, we change the surroundings. Once we make change within ourselves, then we can affect our surroundings.

I’m still practicing with that. Sometimes in the community I see changes that I want made, but I forget to see that this change has to come from me. If I can’t change my view or drop my perception of things, then what I suffer from is not the conditions outside, but the expectations that I’m holding on to; it may be my own view of happiness that’s keeping me from being happy.

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Let It Go

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

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Happiness Depends on Nothing

Excerpt from Blog Post “Part I ‘Ezra Bayda on Happiness’” by Warren Lang – Full Post

Start†with†Happiness†Discourse

‘Happiness†seldom†alights†upon†the†desire†that†calls†for†it’…†Marcel Proust†

My understanding is that Proust was known for his hypersensitivity to pollen allergies, but more importantly, perhaps he is best known for his sensitivities and reflections on the passage of time.

Perhaps Proust could be corrected to say that ‘ Happiness never alights upon the desire that calls for it.” What strikes me about this passage is that his statement is another way of noticing that we are mistaken if we believe we can summon forth the conditions to bring about our happiness.

Ezra Bayda – The Authentic Life

Here is a portion of what Ezra Bayda says about happiness:

One behavior that always increases our suffering is our ‘expectation’ that we be happy; he calls this the ‘happiness problem’ saying the source of much suffering is that “we†firmly†believe†we†should†be†happy.” Then he uses the word ‘entitlement’… that really hit home, I know how quickly I go to anger and discomfort when things are not as I expected them to be… when things are as they are.

Let’s be reminded that whatever arises from moment to moment, whatever we judge to be good or bad, is fodder for realizing the way — as opportunities to see things as they are, and to see how ‘desire’ works in our mind’.

I woke up thinking about the time I sacrificed yesterday to try to implement a tech-based learning tool. I spent a lot of time castigating myself for the hours I worked on the task. After thinking I had ‘wasted’ precious time, I then realized that when I labeled time as ‘wasted’, and connected to the feeling of regret …†this reaction was akin to shooting the second arrow.

Had I been successful in making the time work to my desired outcome, I may have had a different reaction and attitude. But as it was, I felt unhappy, disappointed, exasperated—annoyed with the sense of having burned too much time. With further insight, I remembered Ezra Bayda’s reflection that I, as is conditioned, I have a sense of entitlement to having things ‘go my way’, of having things go as we plan them, or go ‘as we imagine they should go’. This is the unhealthy sense of entitlement to outcomes as we imagine them. This is part of the significance of Warren’s oft repeated phrase “weeds flourish despite our loathing, flowers fall in our grasping.” When weeds flourish despite our loathing, we feel ripped off. We think something is wrong. …. But really… things are as they are.

All of which reminds us that our real happiness can never depend on external conditions…conditions we don’t have any control over.

We’ve repeated this refrain from one of the Mindfulness trainings countless times: “Happiness†does†not†depend†on†external†conditions.” Happiness does not depend on controlling†outer conditions.

Too often, I have a felt sense of entitlement when living life amidst all its stressors and demands and suffering, that I am entitled to happiness now, well, at least after I do all that work, after I do something for you. After I do all this preparation for…preparing for whatever needs to be done. Maybe I expect a pay-back in happiness. … I expect things to be different than they are.

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