A World of Sangha

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Dear Still Water Friends,

Are we separate from nature? One with nature? Is the term "nature" even useful? This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, Kristin Barker will explore with us how our notions of nature have consequences for how we live and for the healing of our earth.

Kristin Barker is the director and co-founder of One Earth Sangha, a global organization expressing a Buddhist response to climate change. She holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University and has worked at several Washington area environmental organizations. A brief overview of her presentation is below.

I notice breath

As if never before

Curious to sensation

Feel this movement of air

Gentle waves under moonlight

In and out

How is it that we think our selves separate from the Earth and the web of life? What does this misunderstanding cost ourselves and our world? As the Dharma teaches, misunderstanding the nature of reality generates suffering. Are the ecological crises around us not just “effects” that human society “causes,” but a message, a chance to collectively awaken to exquisite understanding?

Those of us in the dominant Western culture have been trained to see ourselves as not just separate from but superior to “nature.” Just as Buddhism understands that the concept of “self” is a psychological construct with no final substance, so we can understand the concept of “nature” as a social construct, one that has no basis other than the meaning we give it. Indeed, many indigenous cultures, those societies in deep relationship with place, have no translation for the word “nature” for it presumes a separation that does not exist. Our own modern science concurs with the discovery that the vast majority of the human genome is shared with beings we perceive to be nothing like us. Combined with our mental acuity, this confusion of limited identity has enabled us to wreak havoc on the biosphere, the fundamental systems of life.

Climate change and other ecological crises are offering us this gift of understanding. In making “other” of the world, we surrender our belonging, our fundamental membership in the web of life. By embracing our membership, our priorities will naturally transform into those that support the thriving of all life, not just our individual narrow interests. With the gift of understanding received, we come home to a vast and yet intimate relationship with all beings in a very grounded way. As activist, scholar and EcoSattva Joanna Macy describes, we come back to life. This is the path of the EcoSattva, dedicating our lives to the healing of life itself.

You are invited to join us for this special evening.

"Tree Breathing," a poem by Kristin, is below.

Many resources on Dharma and climate, including information on the on-going EcoSattva training program, are available on The One Earth Sangha web site.

A few spaces are still available for Intimacy with Life, The Still Water Practice Retreat at Charter Hall Retreat Center, Perryville, Maryland, which begins this Friday, October 9 and ends on Sunday, October 11. If you would like to practice with us, please register very soon.

Also, Guardrails on the Path: A Five Mindfulness Trainings Study Group has just been posted on the Still Water MPC website, The study group will meet on five Wednesday evenings between October 28th and December 9 and is open to all who are interested, whether they have taken the training or not. Guardrails on the Path may be of special interest to those who are considering taking the trainings as part of our regional Five Mindfulness Trainings transmission ceremony on January 2nd, 2016.

Many blessings,

Mitchell Ratner

Tree Breathing

By Kristin Barker

I notice breath

As if never before

Curious to sensation

Feel this movement of air

Gentle waves under moonlight

In and out.

I see in my minds eye

The flow into my lungs

To the smallest branches

This precious cargo of oxygen is delivered

And then the Letting Go

In and out.

Two nearby trees

Twins standing close

They breath with me

My lungs inside out

Giving what I receive

Receiving what I give.

This is no metaphor.

We are partners in easy survival,

In and out.

If I am fortunate,

I incorporate this earth 3 times a day

And I am "Earth Incorporated."

If I am healthy,

Once a day

I give back

And am thus dissolved,

In and out.

Forests of lungs,

Rivers of blood,

Storms of sensation,

Sky of mind,

These bodies were all hatched

In the garden of a mothers womb.

They thrive interconnected

With the larger body.

All return to soil,

Reclaimed by fungus,

In and out.

Rapturous Joy,

Profound Sorrow,

Deep Peace,

Easy Listening,

Each tiny moment and place

Is without measure.

This One Life and I,

We are intertwined,


And intimate,

In and out.