I’m sitting on the deck, looking across the Salish Sea at the sunset. Pinks, blues, purples, and yellows paint the sky above the mountains of Vancouver Island, while two Willow Flycatchers call back and forth in stereo. Many of us are getting ready to sleep, but for Racoon and Bear, it’s time to get to work.
From the deserts of the Joshua Tree desert, to the jungles and beaches of Costa Rica, to the lush temperate rainforests here in my home on the unceded territories of the Shíshálh indigenous peoples, nature has played an ongoing and crucial role in my Buddhist practice. And in my commitment to protect wild places.
When we’re in wild places, many of us who have grown up in western cultures have the sense that we’re *in* nature. But as we get more intimate with nature, and especially if we apply our dharma practice in these places, we get an embodied sense that we *are* nature.
And nature has a lot to teach us. Animals, trees, and rivers are completely themselves. Being in wild places, we get strongly connected with the Buddha’s insights on suffering, impermanence, and not-self. So much Natural Wisdom to explore and absorb.
The Buddha awakened under a tree. And he and his followers appear to have practiced outside.
2000 years later, many of us of course live in cities. I lived in cities my whole life until recently. And accessing wild places is an issue – especially if it requires burning fossil fuels to get to them. And if racial and economic barriers are in the way. I’m becoming more aware of the white privilege involved in my ability to access these places. And I want to do my best to make these kinds of experiences more accessible for diverse people, and also sustainable for the places that we visit together.
I love teaching outside. If you’re interested, you can read an article about “Rewilding the World “ that I wrote for an ecological journal here . I wrote this while traveling to teach a meditation retreat this past January in a jungle, with my colleague Melissa Berry Appleton. We will continue to offer retreats in natural locations, when it’s safe to do so.
I hope to practice with you sometime in these places.