Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Message - "The Art of Mindful Living"

Instead of composing another rambling rant, like last year's Earth Day message (, I'd like to publish this passage from the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh's amazing book, Peace Is Every Step.  He says it so much better than I can. This is the entire short chapter titled The Art of Mindful Living.

"Nature is our mother. Because we live cut off from her, we get sick. Some of us live in boxes called apartments, very high above the ground. Around us are only cement, metal, and hard things like that. Our fingers do not have a chance to touch the soil; we don’t grow lettuce anymore. Because we are so distant from our Mother Earth, we become sick. That is why we need to go out from time to time and be in nature. It is very important. We and our children should be in touch again with Mother Earth. In many cities, we cannot see trees—the color green is entirely absent from our view.

One day, I imagined a city where there was only one tree left. The tree was still beautiful, but very much alone, surrounded by buildings, in the middle of the city. Many people were getting sick, and most doctors did not know how to deal with the illness. But one very good doctor knew the causes of the sickness and gave this prescription to each patient. “Every day, take the bus to the center of the city to look at the tree. As you approach it, practice breathing in and out, and when you get there, hug the tree, breathing in and out for fifteen minutes, while you look at the tree, so green, and smell its bark, so fragrant. If you do that, in a few weeks, you will feel much better.”

The people began to feel better, but very soon there were so many people rushing to the tree that they stood in line for miles and miles. You know that people of our time do not have much patience, so standing three or four hours to wait to hug the tree was too much and they rebelled. They organized demonstrations in order to make a new law that each person could only hug the tree for five minutes, but of course that reduced the time for healing. And soon, the time was reduced to one minute, and the chance to be healed by our mother was lost. We could be in that situation very soon if we are not mindful. We must practice awareness of each thing we do if we want to save our Mother Earth, and ourselves and our children as well. For example, when we look into our garbage, we can see lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and flowers. When we throw a banana peel into the garbage, we are aware that it is a banana peel that we are throwing out and that it will be transformed into a flower or a vegetable very soon. That is exactly the practice of meditation.

When we throw a plastic bag into the garbage, we know that it is different than a banana peel. It will take a long time to become a flower… That awareness alone helps us protect the Earth, make peace, and take care of life in the present moment and in the future. This is an act of peace, a basic kind of peace action.

When we throw a plastic disposable diaper into the garbage, we know that it takes even longer for it to become a flower, four hundred years or longer. Knowing that using these kinds of diapers is not in the direction of peace, we look for other ways to take care of our baby. Practicing breathing and contemplating our body, feelings, mind, and objects of mind, we practice peace in the present moment. This is living mindfully.

Nuclear waste is the worst kind of garbage.  It takes about 250,000 years to become flowers.  Forty of the fifty of the United States is already polluted by nuclear waste.  We are making the Earth an impossible place to live for ourselves and for many generations of children.  If we live in our present moment mindfully, we will know what to do and what not to do, and we will try to do things in the direction of peace."


Frank Zweegers said...

Lovely post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, Vern. If only we could be hearing this all the time and start it as part of our education.

Anderson said...

One way of helping cleaning and making green our mother nature is through correct segregation of our garbage. Proper disposal starts in our home in order to make this world a better place.. Thanks for this information..