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Right Speech: A 2016 Election Practice Invitation

Right Speech: A 2016 Election Practice Invitation


Excerpts from Good Citizens, Thich Nhat Hanh

“We must learn to speak out so that the voice of the Buddha, the voice of Jesus, the voice of Mohammad and all our spiritual ancestors can be heard in this dangerous and pivotal moment in history…. We have the tools. We have the path. We have the ability—with practice—to have the insight.

“Imagine the president of the United States being surrounded by many advisers from industry and the military. He’s a politician. Is the Sangha strong enough and present enough to help support him so that he can remain himself? We should do something to show him and our other politicians that the Sangha is there, supporting him [or her].”

I invite you to engage in the very real issues facing our country this election season by participating in this Election Practice Invitation.

Below you will find unaltered excerpts from the Republican and Democratic published party platforms, excerpts pertaining to the use and stewardship of Mother Earth.  This Election Practice Invitation challenges you to 1) take as the subject of your meditation the similarities and differences in the party platforms as they pertain to ecological awareness and stewardship, and 2) write a loving statement to share with other concerned citizens your insight, compassion, and equanimity.

This Practice Invitation is rooted in Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching on right speech and love letter writing.  He encourages us to take care of our anger, cultivate calm and kindness, reflect on wrong perceptions, and aspire for reconciliation, peace and mutual well-being. In this practice, we aim to speak truthful words that do not cause division, but we clearly lift our voice against oppression and injustice.

You needn’t write a whole letter to take this challenge, only a sentence or two. You may want to water the flower of understanding in another, express your insights, speak to the ethics of daily living (consider the Five Mindfulness Trainings), share your personal stories, respectfully request a candidate or political party take a specific action, or express a particular gratitude.

I offer this Election Practice Invitation to help us find our voice as continuations of our spiritual ancestors. This practice will help us articulate the understanding and wisdom in our hearts (during this time of conflict and consequence) and communicate more skillfully with fellow concerned citizens.

Contemplate the Republican and Democratic Party Platform excerpts I faithfully cut and pasted into the table below and share your offering of a love letter (250 words or less) as a comment to this post. I hope that soon, a collection of miniature love letters will grow, messages that will be helpful in deepening our understanding and finding our voice.

With a healing aspiration,

Heather Lyn Mann, True Lotus Peace

PS. You can also check out the published political platforms of other parties, including: the Green Party, the Independent Party  and the Libertarian Party.


2016 Republican Party Platform 2016 Democratic Party Platform
PERCEPTIONS. The central fact of any sensible environmental policy is that, year by year, the environment is improving. The impacts of climate change will also disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities, tribal nations, and Alaska

Native villages—all of which suffer the worst losses during extreme weather and have the fewest resources to prepare. Simply put, this is environmental racism.

UNDERSTANDING. Even if no additional controls are added, air pollution will continue to decline for the next several decades due to technological turnover of aging equipment. The best science tells us that without ambitious, immediate action across our economy to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, all of these impacts will be far worse in the future.
CLIMATE CHANGE. Climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue. This is the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it. Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.
JOBS.  Keeping energy in the earth will keep jobs out of reach of those who need them most. Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs.
FEDERAL REGULATORY AUTHORITY We propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation from the federal bureaucracy to the states and to transform the EPA into an independent bipartisan commission…. We will likewise forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide, something never envisioned when Congress passed the Clean Air Act. Democrats are committed to closing the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing
INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS. We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement Democrats share a deep commitment to tackling the climate challenge….and meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement,
UNITED NATIONS. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution. Its unreliability is reflected in its intolerance toward scientists and others who dissent from its orthodoxy…. We demand an immediate halt to U.S. funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
MEETING FUTURE ENERGY NEEDS… coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource. We are committed to getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, with half a billion solar panels installed within four years and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country.
DRILLNG… we support the opening of public lands and the outer continental shelf to exploration and responsible production We oppose drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast…. Democrats will work to expand the amount of renewable energy production on federal lands and waters
KEYSTONE PIPELINE. The Keystone Pipeline has become a symbol of everything wrong with the current Administration’s ideological approach…. We intend to finish that pipeline and others as part of our commitment to North American energy security. We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
COLLABORATION. The environment is too important to be left to radical environmentalists… Their approach is based on shoddy science, scare tactics, and centralized command-and-control regulation. Democrats believe in the conservation and collaborative stewardship of our shared natural heritage


Listen Up! The True Sounds of Relationship

Listen Up! The True Sounds of Relationship

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In his Five Mindfulness Trainings, Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to commit ourselves to cultivating loving speech and “compassionate listening.” I like that phrase, compassionate listening. I like it so much I took it as the topic of meditation the other day, asking myself what exactly is compassionate listening.  Here’s the insight that arose.

Compassionate listening is a practice of letting go of self, quieting our mind, and taking in the communication of another not just with ears but with all of our senses. This stands in contrast to the typical listening we do when we pay attention only enough to know when to insert our thoughts, validate our ideas, and prove ourselves as the most competent, witty, determined, prepared, intelligent (or whatever our psyche needs in the moment). One could argue the usual way we listen to one another is aggressive because it’s not about relationship at all; it’s about asserting self.

The  not-so-funny thing is when our minds are preoccupied with the business of strengthening self-image, our doubts and insecurities are filters keeping us from taking in the message’s entirety. They clog sensory receivers and we actually fail to absorb a good deal of the communication directed our way. Operating with partial information, we—of course—risk responding inappropriately.

In compassionate listening, we let go of our preoccupation with self and train ourselves to simply be present with another. The din of anxiety quiets and we better absorb the true sounds of relationship. We come to trust ourselves because–in our experience–when the time comes for us to speak or do we are fully informed and the right response for the moment naturally comes to us.

People who listen compassionately are comfortable with silence. They know the communication continues through wordlessness because they are experiencing a relationship that transcends words.

Once, I entered a post-op recovery room to find my husband alone and in a chemical sleep after surgery. Immediately, I was overwhelmed by miles of wire, an antiseptic stink, and the shrill bleeping machines of modern medicine. Alarm shook me because my man was trapped and vulnerable in its midst. I went to his side, wrapped his shoulders in my arms and rested my forehead on his temple, our faces close. My notions of self and distance evaporated. Quite naturally, our breathing synchronized. Standing in this posture opened me to compassionate, full-body listening and in a few moments I came to know with confidence he was quite well and comfortable. Compassionate listening communicated beyond words and even beyond consciousness. I heard deeply the message he was offering.

I suspect you may be like many readers and think yourself a pretty good listener. Perhaps in youth you were preoccupied with doubt or insecurity, but now you’re mature and mellow, right? Well, consider this: another great hindrance to listening is thinking. Our reasoning mind is in the habit of incessantly judging and evaluating: yes—I agree with that; oh, that can’t be true; pishaw—no one can claim that for sure. If you’re like me, we have been taught and highly rewarded for our reasoning over the years. But, our inner monologue of weighing and measuring what we’re listening to can be noisy enough to obscure communication’s flow. Worse, we could be preoccupied with thinking about how to change the situation being described. Compassionate listening challenges us to silence our internal chatter so a deep understanding of reality can flower before we form solutions or conclusions.

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Here’s a trick that helps me. If I am determined to listen with compassion even though my mind is full of chatter and my body is itching to take action, I put most of my attention on listening to what another is saying and pin a small amount of awareness (10 to 20%) on my breathing. This limited and emotionally neutral distraction is enough to get me to settle down, come into relationship, and fully digest the message headed my way. This listening technique was especially appreciated years ago by staff that sometimes needed my input even though I was absorbed in my own work.

I find myself these days compassionately listening to messages from the most unlikely places. I can practice compassionate listening with humans and non-humans alike; just ask my cat or dog if they feel deeply heard by me. I listen also to non-living beings: the wisdom of a mountain, the joy of a forest, the meaning of an ocean wave. Calm and open in meditation, my ancestor’s hopes and dreams echo in my body and guide my path. When I pay attention, the aspirations of future generations resonate clearly in my consciousness.

For all these reasons, compassionate listening to and beyond words is a source of insight. The practice allows me to hear the true sounds of a whole host of relationships. It cultivates in me an unflappable knowing and self-confidence in home-grown wisdom. Simply put, when I listen deeply and compassionately, I know better how to be and what to do.

I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store last week and the clerk appeared to be having a very bad day. Her body was slumped; her movements weary. No one was speaking to her and she seemed caught in heavy thoughts. Rather than distracting myself with tabloid headlines as I waited my turn, I listened to her. Compassion opened, but I had no idea what I might say to make her situation better.

“Are you going to be able to leave here soon?” The words fell from my lips when the woman picked up my jar of salad dressing. She looked up in surprise.

“I’ve got less than an hour, yeah.” She brightened an inch.

“I hope you’re going to do something special for yourself tonight.”

“Actually,” she said, smiling, “I’m going to sit on my patio and put my feet up.”

“Oh good—you’ll get to enjoy the incredible day outside!”

Our conversation continued for a few more minutes and when I left with my groceries the woman was energized and already chatting with the next customer.

#EcoMindfulnessDose Now On Twitter

#EcoMindfulnessDose Now On Twitter

Savannah, GA
Savannah, GA

Join me in becoming Ecologically Mindful as part of your spiritual practice and stay current on what’s happening “in here” and “out there.”

Tonight begins a series of daily Twitter posts @HeatherLynMann under the tag‪ #‎EcoMindfulnessDose‬. At 6:35 pm Eastern each evening, I plan to offer an article, poem, video, or blog entry and encourage readers to explore it mindfully–breathing in pain, breathing out compassion. Tweets will link you to the latest and most respected climate news reports, art, science, and Dharma teachings.

Check it out starting tonight!
If you like #EcoMindfulnessDose, please share it in your social circles!

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Caring for Earth Together: A Video

Caring for Earth Together: A Video

Earth Holder Sangha Building explores the nuts and bolts of caring for Earth in community. It’s loaded with great ideas for enhancing communication and cooperation so spiritual groups can be more effective in protecting and healing our precious planet.

This panel discussion was part of the Earth Holder Retreat at Deer Park Monastery, April 28 – May 1, 2016.

A special thanks to filmmaker David Nelson for recording and sharing this conversation.

Earth Holder’s Mindful Advocacy: A Panel Discussion

Earth Holder’s Mindful Advocacy: A Panel Discussion

The Meditation Hall at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA awaits Earth Holders during the first-ever Plum Village Earth Holder Retreat, April 2016
The Meditation Hall at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA awaits Mindful Advocates during the first-ever Plum Village Earth Holder Retreat, April 2016

The first-ever Earth Holder Retreat in the Plum Village Tradition was held April 28-May 1 at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA. I was on the organizing committee. I also served as a panelist in a conversation about Mindful Advocacy. Check out the YouTube video below to hear the presentation.

Mindful Advocacy is a topic dear to my heart. As the long-time director of a conservation not-for-profit, I spent my early years as a traditional advocate. I rushed, got angry, and argued my case. During my later years, after I had discovered Mindfulness practice, I behaved more like a Mindful Advocate. I practiced fierce compassion, cultivated inner and outer sustainability, and listened more than I spoke. It took time for me to develop a new way to be and I talk about that transformation in the video. But today, my approach to advocacy is completely transformed.

During the talk, you’ll hear me describe  “advocates” as people

  • who have had their hearts broken, and
  • who want to ease the suffering they witnessed.

By this definition, anyone righting a wrong on behalf of themselves, a child, a family, a community, or Earth is an advocate. Also–by this definition–advocates have an emotional trigger–something that riles us deeply and sets us into motion. So, we advocates are wise to recognize the strong emotion at the root of our action. It is an emotion that needs tending. I talk about the need and process of self-care.

And of course, the “mindful” part of Mindful Advocacy is found in spiritual practice. To me, the practical lessons of the ancient teachings passed down through the generations are great gift to advocates.

In this presentation you will hear lots of ideas about how to apply spiritual practice to advocacy. Something I offer is a list of advocacy actions I am unwilling to take (because the actions lay outside the  boundaries of practice). Also, I reveal the list of Mindful Advocacy actions I do take every day to bring peace and healing to the world and stay happy as I do it.


Announcing the Earth Holder Newsletter

Announcing the Earth Holder Newsletter

Touching the Earth–an Earth Holder Newsletter


Here is a link to the Autumn issue of Touching the Earth–an Earth Holder Newsletter in the Plum Village Tradition. It is an offering to help each of us awaken to:

  • our spiritual connection with the planet
  • the experience of mindfulness practice and transformation, and
  • effective actions flowering from community and collaboration.

Click here to read and subscribe.

Consider also submitting your 500 word story of Earth practice and sangha action to Touching the Earth. You’ll find a submission link on the Earth Holder newsletter page.

Announcing the New Earth Holder Sangha

Announcing the New Earth Holder Sangha


The Plum Village Community formed the Earth Holder Sangha to care for our precious planet
The Plum Village Community formed the Earth Holder Sangha to care for our precious planet

I am pleased to announce the establishment of the Earth Holder Sangha in the Plum Village tradition. This initiative, developed by more than 25 lay and monastic Order of Interbeing members over the last eight months, is launching first in North America during the Miracle of Mindfulness Tour.  The Founding Sangha Document can be viewed here .

In 1970, Thay, Sister Chan Khong and their friend Alfred Hassler organized the largest environmental meeting ever held. 2200 scientists met in Menton, in Southern France, to address the interlocking issues of war, poverty, overpopulation and environmental destruction. Thay was asked to offer the conference theme, and he chose Dai Dong, The Great Togetherness.  The Menton Message , a declaration coming out of that conference, was eventually signed by 5000 scientists and government leaders. Our Earth Holder Sangha is helping to continue and further realize Thay’s and Sister Chan Khong’s 1970 vision, with our mission of:  Awakening a Great Togetherness to Bring Transformation and Healing to Earth. 

EHS logo green - brown

To learn more or to contribute, visit  our Newsletter & Blog, our Facebook Page and our Twitter Account.  All three, of course, are just getting active, so you’ll be helping build momentum by adding your voice.

Hope to see you all on the Miracle of Mindfulness Tour. I will be attending all three English-speaking retreats beginning with the event at Blue Cliff Monastery next week.


Heather Lyn Mann, True Lotus Peace

CTC Coordinator for the Earth Holder Sangha

Walking Meditation: The Practice of Stopping

Walking Meditation: The Practice of Stopping

Walking meditation can be short or long in duration, depending upon the amount of time available. This exercise supports the practice of indoor or outdoor walking meditation for either individuals or groups. It is offered in three parts: opening remarks, middle contemplations, and concluding words. When practicing alone, read the words slowly and silently to yourself. When practicing in a group, one person should read the offering aloud in a clear and relaxed way.  The community should walk in the same direction (in a circle if indoors) like many cells of one body. Sounding a bell at the start and end of each section of text can help the group move as a whole.

Walking Meditation

Opening Remarks


Change agents are very busy people and problems in the world can consume us. We almost always think about the causes and circumstances of suffering. We analyze power structures sustaining the unwholesome status quo and make and revise plans to redirect resources to achieve fairness and sustainability. Then, we measure our success, revise strategies, and go at it again. The work is enormous and without end.

To care for ourselves as Mindful Advocates, we learn to bring an end to unconscious habits of busy-ness, thinking too much, analyzing, planning and measuring. We develop ways to interrupt old ways of being and embody peace to create balance. We water lasting seeds of happiness in ourselves and others by nourishing hearts and minds with beauty and love that can only be accessed in the here and now. Mostly, we learn to stop and to simply be.

Anyone can do it.

We can teach ourselves to interrupt habitual thinking and stop planning by practicing walking meditation. As we walk, we take slow and relaxed steps leading to nowhere special. With every step we simply arrive to the present moment. Our lips smile. We let go of thoughts of productivity and craving for results to welcome ease. We don’t analyze the quality of our walking, measure if we are the best walkers, or plan to walk to a particular destination. We stop our racing minds and walk in happy awareness of the perfection of this moment just as it is.

To keep your mind from running its familiar course, pay attention to the sensations of your steps on Earth. Relax your posture. Place your arms in a neutral position. As you breathe in, feel the pressure of your weight as you step onto your right foot. As you breathe out, feel the weight shift as you step onto your left foot. Pay attention to the workings of your feet as you move: the contributions of your foot’s arch and toes. Notice how the muscles of your legs fire and release to maintain balance as you journey.

Walking meditation is not a waste of time; it is the essence of life. The quality of your life depends upon the quality of mindfulness in each step. If you worry about the past or get caught in fears about the future, you miss the safety, beauty, and joy that envelops you completely in this moment. Live each step; here is your life.

Let us walk together.


Middle Contemplations


Please answer these questions in silence. What are you experiencing in this moment? Are you struggling with any aspect of mindful walking? Is there tension in your body? Do you feel ease? Or do you feel a combination of both tension and ease? Do habit energies arise in your consciousness: busy-ness, thinking too much, analyzing, planning, and measuring? Do you feel sad, angry, joyful, or a neutral emotion? What are you learning in this moment from the miracle of walking on earth?

When you are mindful of your steps, habit energies—like measuring and analyzing past actions or thinking about and planning for the future—fall away. Instead, you develop awareness of the reality of now—the sensations of walking on Earth. In this way, you taste your true nature. You are not the small self you thought you were: a creature of habit responding to the world’s stimuli. You are the being who can notice and interrupt automatic responses and in their place choose to react in kinder, more generous, and healing ways. Becoming skillful at stopping the habit of reactivity to the world and choosing a peaceful way of being in the world uncovers a source of profound nourishment, happiness, and power.

Let us continue the practice of stopping our habit energies as we walk together in peace. With each step ask yourself, am I stopping?


Concluding Words


When we stop running and learn to walk in mindful awareness, taking in what is happening in the present moment, we restore peace and well-being in ourselves. But it doesn’t end there; our transformation heals others and Earth herself. We live our life in relationship with the whole, there is no separation. Watering seeds of peace and awareness in ourselves is in fact a radical act of cultivating peace and awareness in the world. This is not poetry. This is the magnitude of every peaceful step we take. Everything matters. Nothing is lost.

Practice walking meditation throughout your day with each step. Put a light smile on your lips and walk as an enlightened being—someone dwelling in the here and now—as you move to the copy machine, the podium for a presentation, through the door of a difficult meeting, or simply to the bathroom. If you find you are caught in thinking, analyzing, planning, or measuring, be kind to yourself. Say “hello” to the habit energy like an old friend, and chose instead to be peace.


Earth Holding in the Plum Village Tradition

Earth Holding in the Plum Village Tradition




I serve on the editorial committee of a new online offering that I think you will enjoy–

Touching the Earth: A Newsletter of Earth Holding Actions in the Plum Village Tradition

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Every on of us can do something to protect and care for our planet. We have to live in such a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren. Our own life has to be our message.”

In Touching the Earth, lay and monastic students of Nhat Hanh’s share earth meditation practices, personal stories, and Sangha initiatives designed to wake us to our inter-relationship to Earth and inspire skillful action. The newsletter is orchestrated by Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA.

Click here to read Touching the Earth’s second edition. Enjoy!

Mother Earth’s Valentine Metta Meditation

Mother Earth’s Valentine Metta Meditation


It’s Valentine’s Season and time to express love to our beloveds. Let’s not forget about someone most special–Mother Earth—because she is the giver of life and sustainer of everything we know and hold dear. We can make a gift to her, in celebration of the holiday, and deliver it through mindful Metta Meditation.

Let our expression of love transcend sentimentality and idiocy and come from a place of awareness of our deep union—an intimate and profound understanding of Interbeing. Only with this insight can we embrace Mother Earth’s suffering as the mirror to our individual and societal pain.

As you sit calmly in mindful contemplation, offer these words in silence to Mother Earth and her children.

May I wake to Earth’s energy as my heat.

May I wake to Earth’s ocean as my tears.

May I wake to Earth’s wind as my breath.

May I wake to Earth’s landscape as my body.

May my heat open prairie seeds.

May my tears fill rain clouds.

May my breath give flight to Frigate Birds.

May my body be an island of refuge.


 May you wake to Earth’s energy as your heat.

May you wake to Earth’s ocean as your tears.

May you wake to Earth’s wind as your breath.

May you wake to Earth’s landscape as your body.

May your heat open prairie seeds.

May your tears fill rain clouds.

May your breath give flight to Frigate Birds.

May your body be an island of refuge.


 May Mother Earth depend on our heat for her energy.

May Mother Earth depend on our tears for her ocean.

May Mother Earth depend on our breath for her wind.

May Mother Earth depend on our body for her landscape .

May Mother Earth open prairie seeds.

May Mother Earth fill rain clouds.

May Mother Earth give flight to Frigate Birds.

May Mother Earth have islands of refuge.


Beloved Mother, wake us—your children—to suffering we cause.

Beloved Mother, help us help all beings recover from carbon dioxide overdose.

Beloved Mother, continue nourishing life as it evolves and arrives each day.

Beloved Mother, be happy and free on your journey through space.