For a Future to be Possible

The final session of the Earth Holder Retreat was on the theme of “For a Future to be Possible” on Sunday, May 1 at the Deer Park Monastery.

The panel discussion was led by Brother Phap Ho (Brother Protection) and included Kristin Barker (founder of One Earth Sangha), Jayna Gieber (director of “People of the Heart“) and myself.

After an introduction by Brother Phap Ho and a song sung by one of our Mexican sangha brothers called The Road is Made by Walking from a poem by Antonio Machado (see also, We Make the Path by Walking It.)

Hearing the translation recited by our brother gave me chills as I remember how often I had heard the phrase said by dharma teacher Lyn Fine during my aspirant training in the Order of Interbeing (OI), and calmed my nerves a bit because I was to be the next speaker.

Brother Phap Ho talked about Thay‘s teaching that we should fall in love with the earth and that we are the earth, we are made of the earth.

He spoke about coming from love rather than fear and develop our sense of community so that we can become more whole and content and to be the change that we want to see in the world.

As the bell sounded before my talk, I looked out at the more than 150 sangha members and realized that in my nervousness, I had forgotten to wear my brown OI robe.


Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall, Deer Park Monastery – Photo Jerome Freedman

When I confessed my mistake, everyone laughed and this put me at ease.

The essence of my talk was on how to use “mind stories” to visualize a world in which people live happily in a resource based economy in peace and harmony (based on the work of Jacques Fresco).

This idea was illustrated by Micah’s radical remission from terminal kidney cancer in 1976 and how “mind stories” played a pivotal role.

The next speaker was Jayna Gieber and I was really touched when she talked about inviting a crowd of 5,000 at a mass climate rally to take a minute to breathe together with the bell.

She is an Earth Holder, OI member and seasoned activist trained by Al Gore and Joanna Macy.

Jayna has accomplished a lot in the way of organizing people in the Pacific Northwest area and recognizes that change comes from grassroots movements that include diversity and people of color.

Kristin then spoke about how we needed to look into the causes and conditions of climate change and turn towards the suffering that we are facing as a global community.

She said that happiness was not getting the next shiny object, but in connecting with people and feeling a sense of belonging, being valued, and understood; thus you are not alone and your actions matter.

She quoted part of what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1967:

We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

 Phap Ho then took over to summarize the whole Earth Holder Retreat and some lessons he learned from nature.

He reported that Thay said in 2006 in Deer Park, “We have to consume less.”

The insights that I brought home with me from the event were many and wonderful.

We have to approach climate change from the point of view that we are the earth, not just part of it.

We are made of the same substances as earth and we sprung forth from the development of all life on this planet before and including humans.

Our cells are made of the same elements as the fish in the oceans, the birds in the sky, the insects on the ground and all the various types of plant life around us.

Thus we are not separate from earth and we are not separate from the causes and conditions that cause climate change or the joy and suffering of all sentient beings.

We have to “fall in love with Mother Earth, as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says and approach our activities with respect to climate change from this perspective, not blaming or criticizing anyone and not being attached to any results that we may achieve.

We must be the beautiful change we want to see in the world.

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