Eating Mindfully With The Sangha Of All Sentient Beings

[Editor’s note: This article by Lyn Fine is a summary of a Day of Mindfulness that took place on Sunday, December 7, 2014 sponsored by Mindful Peacebuilding. The facilitators were Dr. Jina Shah, M. D., John Salerno-White, Judy Seicho Fleischman.

Jina Shah, an international public health physician, was raised as a vegetarian with the nonviolent principles of the Jain religion. She practices with her root tradition and with the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.

John Salerno-White, a passionate supporter of Dharma Voices for Animals and Animal Place is a Dharma Teacher in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh. He facilitates three sanghas near his home in Vacaville, CA and leads retreats.

Judy Seicho Fleischman, a Zen priest and Board-Certified Chaplain, encourages mindful eating with live foods. She founded Loving Live reats and Judy practices with Mindful Peacebuilding, Berkeley Zen Center, EverydayZen Foundation, and Village Zendo.]

Eating Mindfully With The Sangha Of All Sentient Beings: An Exploration Of A Plant-Based/Vegan Diet To Care For Our Earth and Practice Compassion

In these challenging times, our Mindful Peacebuilding Sangha is contemplating “first do no harm” as a guiding principle. We seek ways to embody this principle in our individual and collective lives.

During our day of mindfulness today, we honored this season of the Buddha’s enlightenment by looking deeply into the practice of reverence for life and the training precept of non-killing, the practice of mindful consumption, and some of the causes and conditions of un-mindful consumption. Our day was grounded in the art of mindful living practices of the Plum Village community and the spiral stages of Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects: Coming From Gratitude, Honoring Our Pain for the World, Seeing with New Eyes, and Going Forth.

Beginning the day, we sat together in deep awareness of the current suffering, protests and demonstrations in communities around the USA, and made a collective commitment to continue finding ways to contribute Mindful Peacebuilding presence and response. (More about this in another email.) We recalled the memory of Pearl Harbor, Dec 7, 1941, and the subsequent internment of Americans of Japanese heritage and Japanese people living in the United States. And we sent blessings of love for Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who remains in stable condition at a hospital in Bordeaux after a brain hemorrhage last month. (updates at

Often during our day of mindfulness we sounded a breathing bell to support our capacity to stay present in the midst of strong feelings, to anchor ourselves before we spoke, and to pause to take in more fully what had just been said. We nourished connection and compassionate community with silent sitting meditation and full awareness of breathing;  giving attention to the body; eating mindfully in silence and as a community; and listening and speaking from the heart. We named questions that arise for us as we explore mindful eating practices for our times and this season: questions related to white privilege, economic privilege, and educational privilege; challenges related to physical and mental health; questions related to cultural traditions; questions about how to communicate effectively about this topic;  questions regarding the political and economic context as well as individual histories which influence our choices and assumptions about food consumption and production.

At the beginning of our vegan meal, we contemplated our food with gratitude. We shared a forgiveness chant in Sanskrit, and the Five Contemplations in Dutch and in English.  At the end of our meal, looking at our empty plates, we said aloud together: “My hunger is satisfied. I vow to live for the benefit of all beings.”  And after lunch, we felt the power of watching a video in community when we saw the DVD Cowspiracy.

[Editor’s note: here is the preview of the movie.]

After watching the 90 minute film, we reflected first in silence, then in pairs, then in the whole group, recalling a line or an image that stayed with us, feelings that arose, and possible action steps.  Among many other learnings, we heard that 51% of greenhouse gases can be accounted for by animal agriculture. This is substantially more than other causes. “Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks [and planes] in the world combined.”

As the day drew to a close, we enjoyed a rousing two verses of “Old McDonald Had A Farm” – including the quack-quack of ducks and the moo! moo! of cows. With deepened empathy, intention and commitment, we proposed individual and collective action steps for continuation and “going forth”  and agreed to 1) share vegan recipes; 2) take a field trip to Animal Place sanctuary; 3) do our best to manifest another such day in the next few months, perhaps cooking a vegan meal together.

Early in the day, we listened to parts of a letter addressed by Thich Nhat Hanh to his “Dear Spiritual Family”  at Blue Cliff Monastery seven years ago, Oct 12, 2007. We breathed deeply, and invite you to breathe deeply as you read, to take in fully what is being said, notice what arises for you, and with mindful communication share your perspectives and questions with others.

“Buddhist practitioners have practiced vegetarianism over the last 2000 years. We are vegetarian with the intention to nourish our compassion towards the animals. Now we also know that we eat vegetarian to protect the earth, preventing the greenhouse effect from causing her serious and irreversible damage. In the near future, when the greenhouse effect becomes severe, all species will suffer. Millions of people will die, and sea levels will rise and flood cities and land. Many life-threatening diseases will result, and all species will suffer the consequences. … Let us take care of our Mother Earth. Let us take care of all species, including our children and grandchildren. We only need to be vegetarian, and we can already save the earth. Being vegetarian here also means that we do not consume dairy and egg products, because they are products of the meat industry. If we stop consuming, they will stop producing. Only collective awakening can create enough determination for action.”



Connect with Meditation Practices

Connect with

Or enter your name and email address below.