10 Years And Counting…

Eleven years have past since 9/11. I had not been down to the site for almost that many. Last week I took my children, Max, 25, and Catherine, 21, for our first visit to the memorial, ground zero. I cried. The memorial – the footprints of the Towers – are are now enormous square pools, waterfalls falling into blackness. It is an experience like no other I have ever had. My memory nudges me to circumnambulate the pool. I read some names. It is dusk, and a light humid summer drizzle makes the night ever more sorrowful. Trees, swamp oaks, grass, water, pavement. People of many nations wander and wander around. There is not much to see, but much to feel… It has been 11 years.

Last year the Sakyong asked us to respond to The Letter of the Morning Sun requesting each of us to think about what we were inspired to do for society in the next ten years, how much had to happen, and how critical they are in establishing Shambhala Society. Ten years is not much time. More than a year has passed since the message was sent…and where are we?

In the eleven years that marched by, from September 11, 2001, a grand plaza has been envisioned and built. True, it’s not complete, but the vision and hearts of many are now planted down on Vesey Street and Broadway. A lot can be done in 10 years, even when people disagree about what it should look like, and how the names should be grouped, and security – it is like going thru an airport to enter the memorial.

My response to The Sakyong’s letter was to involve myself in The GreenFaith Fellowship to educate myself about the environment as a religious leader. I have attended two retreats, monthly webinars, and done more writing then I knew I was capable of. My leadership project, the final product of my 18 month fellowship, is slowly taking form. I had wanted to piggyback on the writing and work of The Touching the Earth Working Group (Shambhala’s working group on the environment). No such luck. It has not gotten off the ground, so to speak.  Our mandala at the top is stretched thin, and we can’t count on it to blaze all the new trails for us. At least I can’t; my leadership project is to start this September.

Ultimately, if this society is to be as great and good as our dear Sakyongs envisioned, it requires us to  find the first footholds and handholds as we scale this new terrain… We have been given the opportunity to make the map, and discover on our own this new territory – in this case, how to be Sustainable. What does an enlightened dharma center serve for tea? Where does the garbage go? Where does it buy the toilet paper? Will we have air conditioning? Where is the furniture manufactured? How do people arrive there? Do we need to be on a floor that requires elevators? Is the stove gas or electric? Where do we compost? How do we think about all this? And on and on, with gentleness and toughness… and a smile.

In ten years we can make a gesture to be very vigilant, bringing our view into action. We don’t have to rush, but we need to be methodical and not wait for someone to tell us what to do because that may or may not happen. As René Dubos said , “Think globally, act locally.” Each of our centers can do that, if there is someone who is curious and interested in green things. See what happens.

Here in NY we are starting with monthly green Sunday Brunch Potlucks, to build community and find the greenbeans amongst us… plus we will have fun eating and making friends, a key aspect of Shambhala Sustainabiltity… The potlucks will be held on September 16, October 7, November 18, and December 16, from 12:30 to 2pm.

Don’t wait, start local. Enjoy the peaches and corn of summer. It will soon be autumn.

Irene Woodard has been a student of the Shambhala Buddhist teachings
for 28 years. In her life outside the center, she is a florist and the mother of two teenagers.