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  • Skribentens bildPake Daigen Hall

Falling in love with a tree - Bearing Witness to our old relatives

Uppdaterat: 23 feb.

-by Pake Daigen Hall


We can hear the world’s cry. Our way of life threatens many lifeforms on Earth, the extinction of different species goes faster than ever, we fill up the oceans with plastics and chemicals and fishing fleets are sweeping them empty of life, we are killing of the forests by industrial plantations and cutting them down way to early and not letting the trees grow old, our emissions continue to grow notwithstanding our knowledge, the science and our agreements - fueling the climate change.


In the Zen Peacemaker tradition we are asked to practice with the Three Tenets; Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. The world, we ourselves, our children, our ancestors, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, the trees and the mycelium, Mother Earth herself needs our practice. The task may be daunting, and seems impossible. It reminds me of a story from the Jataka Tales, where a fire starts in the forest and all the animals are running away from the fire and the smoke. All except one, all except this little bird, who instead flies to a lake and dips the wings and fills the beak with water. Then the bird flies back and forth between the lake and the fire, shaking its wings and spitting out the water from the beak on the fire. After some time some of the other animals tries to stop the little bird and asks why it continues, since the efforts seem pointless. The bird replies: Because I can.


One way to let go into Not-Knowing is to do meditation on the cushion, at the Zendo. Another is to go to places that takes you out of your ordinary way of knowing. As the Zen Peacemakers have done in Auschwitz-Birkenau and other places. Often we choose places of suffering for many reasons, but it can also be done with places of joy and beauty. As the 2nd Tent says, Bearing Witness to the joy and suffering of the world.


For many years now, even before I started to practice with the Zen Peacemakers, I have taken people out in nature to do meditation. In my former Zen tradition it was very Zendo orientated, and I wanted to bring the Zen practice out of the monastic setting. Even if we were lay practitioners mostly, it was molded after a monastic practice with all the bells, the striking of the Han, the bows, special robes and so on. To then also bring the formal Zen practice out among the trees and the birds roaming the sky and the grass under our feet to be One with Mother Earth felt like a very direct way to me. Now we do it in our Zen. Circles here in Sweden.





The last time we met here at my home in the woods of Southern Sweden, I fell in love. After some formal meditation, Council Circle, cooking and eating together, we went for a meditation walk in the forest. When we had walked for some time in silence, sometimes slowly on a endless floor of damp moss that carried our feet, the little stream making turning water sounds and feeling the loneliness of the spill crow’s cry, we stopped. I asked everyone to really listen to one of their old relatives, the trees. To find a tree and to bear witness to this tree, to listen with their whole body-mind to this tree. And we all did in this part of the forest where old beech trees stood and held the world in their arms. We found a tree and hugged it, listened to it, felt it. For around 15 minutes or so we were Bearing Witness to this tree. We became One with these relatives of ours.



The effect on the group was quite noticeable when we shared about the experience afterwards. Some talked about the longing to be out in nature more, some about the stunning silence in the woods, some the deep rest in the trees presence, and some about the cry of the tree for how Mother Earth is doing.

We can also hear the world’s joy and suffering by bearing witness to the worlds beauty, like in the forests, like in meditating with the wild. And that too awakens our compassionate hearts.


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