August’s Learning Resources
August Theme: Our Human Nature
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that as human beings we are part of the natural world, intricately connected to all forms of life and to the planet itself.
📚Suggested Resources and Activities:
- To Discuss: In what ways do you experience a connection to nature? What are your most memorable experiences of “retreating” into nature and how did they make you feel? What can nature teach us about interconnectedness and impermanence? How can feeling our connection to nature help us to reduce suffering?
To Read: Joanna Macy on the Great Awakening the Planet Needs
by Melvin Mcleod And Joanna Macy (lionsroar.com)
- To Watch: The River is Me (The Atlantic YouTube Channel)
- To Listen: Jane Goodall: What It Means to Be Human (On Being with Krista Tippett, onbeing.org)
- Namchak Blog: The Four Boundless Qualities
- Lama Tsomo’s recommended book of the month: The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible by Charles Eisenstein. From Lama Tsomo: “In this book, big thinker Charles Eisenstein invites us back into harmonious and joyful relationship with the natural world—our natural home.”
✨Monthly Learning Circle Spotlight:
This month we introduce you to Mike “Three-Speed” Brown, a member of the Joyful Presence Learning Circle. He lives in the Charlotte, NC area and spends too little time backpacking in the Carolinas and Virginia. He shares this:
The mountains are calling? Really?
As I stand at the bottom of the third or fourth PUD (Pointless Up and Down) of the day I feel the mountains are taunting me, not calling.
Yet that’s where I go, whether carrying 30 pounds on my back or reclined in the dentist chair trying to replace the whine of the drill with the silence of the forest.
That’s me you see, the “older guy” plodding along, stopping every few minutes to catch my breath or to watch an ant struggle across the path carrying some improbably large load.
My progress is erratic (hence my trail name “Three-Speed”) and I move to the synchronicity of my chakras in tune with Mother Earth. I am taken by the simplicity and complexity of the things I see – the intricate patterns of a flower, the curious glance of the doe, the seemingly never-ending rows of green mountain tops that suddenly appear at a break in the trees. A rest stop provided by nature, as if to say “Look at this!”
I am a piece of this ecosystem, enjoying its beauty and challenges, keenly aware of my responsibility to LNT (Leave No Trace). I proceed with an open mind and soft tread, life-long student, perhaps pocketing a small rock — detritus to some, a treasure to me.
And so I proceed, holding the hard woods and tiniest flowers close to my heart, to share their energy and wistfully promise to protect them and to return soon, either in body or spirit.
ONE COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
Framing for Discussion (2 min):
Depending on our lens, one might feel it’s our duty to protect the earth and its inhabitants, while others may view it only as a resource. Tonight, let’s contemplate these concepts and how we view the world around us.
Activity- Watch Video (17 min):
- Now we are going to watch a 17-minute video together, entitled “The River is Me.” Feel free to have your journal handy if you want to take any notes about anything that stands out to you from this video. We will have time afterward to journal and then discuss in breakout rooms of at least two people.
- This video is about the 700 year battle of the indigenous Maori people to have the Whanganui River recognized as a spiritual living entity with many of the same rights as an individual. The video highlights the pathway leading up to the moment in 2017 when the New Zealand government granted the Whanganui River “Personhood” as well as some similar struggles faced by tribes right here on American Soil.
- Click HERE to watch video.
Journaling and Discussion (20 min):
Take a few moments for your Circle members to individually reflect/journal about any or all of the following questions. After you finish journaling, you are welcome to move into smaller break-out rooms with your Circle (about 10-15 minutes) and then rejoin to have a full group discussion.
- Reflect on your personal connection to nature. How does your sense of “self” expand (or not expand) out into the natural world?
- “The larger idea is that all of nature in some way or another gets spoken for.” How do you feel about granting rights of personhood to elements of nature (rivers, trees, land, etc.)?
- In this video, they mention how it’s hard to define what the river actually is due to its interconnected essence. From your perspective, what do you believe constitutes a river or any other entity in the natural world?
- What is the greatest take-away you are carrying forward from this video?
Meditation (25 min):
- Extended Round Robin Practice- Wood Wide Web (22 minutes)
- After this practice is finished, invite sharing amongst your Circle members.
- How was that practice for you? Did you have any insights you would like to share? Anything in connection with our theme of Our Human Nature?
Closing and Dedication of the Merit (1 min):
Through this merit, may all beings awaken and be happy. May all beings everywhere benefit and thrive from these practices. May all beings everywhere experience connection, peace, and protection.
Modern life brings unprecedented stressors, from personal challenges to global ones like climate change. Shamata helps us expand our mental awareness of the causes of stress, allowing us to cultivate a greater sense of calm in our lives and find the joy that is always available.
Practicing Inclusion + Nonviolent Communication
Examining race and identity, empathetic connection with others, what is life really like for others. Drawing from How to Be An Anti-Racist, we’ll take a closer look at the practice of Loving Kindness. Treating people of all backgrounds and identities with fairness and respect is an ongoing journey for most of us, including our team at Namchak. We share our experience with the practice of non-violent communications, which teaches us how to listen deeply to our own needs as well as those of others, helping us connect to our innate compassion.
Our personal practice isn’t just for ourselves, but for the benefit of others too. We dive into the meaning of work, consider our gifts, and examine work as an environment to practice being in community and contributing to the greater good.
There is no going it alone. We live our lives with others, part of interconnected communities, known as “Sangha” in Tibetan Buddhist practice. We explore the ways we can cultivate awareness within ourselves and grow as we engage with those around us, ultimately living happier and more meaningful lives and contributing to the same for others.