by Brother Phap Dung
As we approach our next retreat on “Sustainability, Mindfulness and Community Life” at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism (EIAB) in Germany from March 31st to April 3rd, we invite you to read the article below by Daniel Dermitzel, one of the founders of the Plum Village Happy Farm. He shares his thoughts on how we can help heal our planet and bring balance back into our lives and the lives of countless other living beings.
Many of us can see that the causes for the climate imbalance are not just industrial, economic, political, or even social. We are facing a crisis which is, at its roots, a crisis of the spirit: a crisis in the way we have viewed our world in the last century.
We have divided ourselves and nature, discriminating between humans and other beings and the entire planet. We have mistakenly looked with our dualistic eye at the environment and nature as something for us to exploit. We have failed to see our true nature of inter-being; the delicate web that weaves us all together as one living organism called Earth.
We got it wrong, in the last century more than ever, when we glorified individualism and un-checked freedom, and when we pursued competition and development, no matter the cost. In this pursuit for success, we destroyed our relationship and respect for our planet, seeing her as merely a source of profit and gain.
The bell of mindfulness sounded loud and clear for the twenty-first time in Paris during the COP21 Climate Change Conference. Now, slowly, we are all beginning to hear the earth’s cry, and beginning to shift our view about our place on the planet.
We are hopeful and pray that our world leaders return to their nations with a strong commitment to implementation. We must continue to keep our awareness alive and pressure our leaders to be responsible and not to let the sound of the bell wane into silence and complacency.
This time around, we do not need to wait for our leaders to take action. We can empower ourselves to make conscious efforts in our own daily lives to curtail our habits that are harmful for the environment and for people and other beings in vulnerable parts of our planet. Many successful campaigns have arisen to divest our money into sustainable corporations, organisations and away from fossil fuel industries. We are consuming more conscientiously, eating less or no meat and dairy products, and driving unnecessarily.
This is the hope and endeavour of our community here on the Happy Farm, bringing our environmental work, organic farming, and spiritual training all together as one practice and one expression of our love for the earth.
We invite you to visit us and share your practice and insights throughout this important year for the climate. “Nourishing our Togetherness, Protecting our Planet” is Plum Village’s celebration phrase for the Lunar New Year, expressing our aspiration for the year 2016.
Please join us in Germany in March if you can, where the Happy Farmers will explore these and other related topics and reflect how the mindfulness practice, organic farming, and community living can play a role in reducing our impact on the climate.
Please contact the EIAB or Plum Village for more information about this and other Plum Village retreats. There will also be a Wake Up EARTH retreat on sustainable community living for young people in from 5th-12th August as well, so stay in touch!
With gratitude from the Happy Farmers and a Happy Earth
Our Earth, Our Self
by Happy Farmer Daniel Dermitzel
As we enter the first days of spring here in Plum Village in south-west France, we’d like to share with you the story of a small project called The Happy Farm.
This small organic vegetable farm, which has only been in existence for three years, grew some €33,000 of fresh organic produce for the monastic and lay community this last season.
In addition to producing food, Happy Farm offers a year-long training program in mindful organic agriculture and diverse community living. It also offers retreats on mindfulness and sustainability, and provides tours and educational activities for kids and adults throughout the year.
This story is our reflection on how climate, our food, our community, and our personal healing are all inextricably linked. It is our story of love as an impact to the balance.
With industrial food production making up a significant share of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we believe that small-scale organic farming can be an important answer to climate change, as it promotes soil health and carbon sequestration and generally uses fewer energy-intensive inputs (such as fuel and synthetic fertilizers).
But a deeper story is unfolding at the Happy Farm —a story about people falling back in love with each other and with Mother Earth. As people of all walks of life come together and joyfully sink their hands back into the soil – some of them for the first time in many years – they experience a nourishing, heartfelt connection with their brothers and sisters, deepen their understanding of the entire web of life and offer their true presence to Mother Earth. Working the soil in this manner is a bit like caressing the earth and being caressed by her in return.
During their mindful work on the Happy Farm, the interns, volunteers and children are held tenderly by Mother Earth just as they are with all their joys and pains. Without discrimination, Mother Earth welcomes us back, perhaps wondering what took us so long. And so we experience a renewed love for Mother Earth, a renewed connection. We can now experience that the earth is not something outside of us but that she is in us and that we are a part of her. This is not a transformation of the head, but of the heart. It takes root slowly, almost without notice, unfailingly.
Having a renewed love relationship with Mother Earth, we can now see more easily that our energy-intensive life-style and our high levels of consumption are not producing lasting happiness but do great harm by contributing to GHG emissions and other problems. We gradually let go of our habit to consume and begin to experience a deeper nourishment that comes from communion with Mother Earth and experiencing our community of brothers and sisters and all beings. We begin to feel less lonely and a deep appreciation arises for simply being alive.
We are hopeful that a new generation of small-scale farmers – many of whom are growing food in cities – will be inspired to turn their work into a mindfulness practice, to turn their farms into places where the harvest is not limited to food but includes spiritual transformation and healing as well, where entire communities can begin to rekindle their love and understanding for Mother Earth not as separate entity but as us ourself.
Upcoming Happy Farm Retreats:
March 31 – April 3, 2016: “Sustainability, Mindfulness and Community Life” (at the EIAB, Waldbroel, Germany)
August 5-12, 2016: “We Are the Earth”: a retreat for young people (at Plum Village, France)