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First Things First: Caring for the Land

by Erica Harrold, Director of Communications & Technology


For years our sangha has been working to realize a long-held vision of building a permanent Community Meditation Hall to serve practitioners of all walks of life. While we need to raise an additional $2.3 million dollars, we do expect to start building this phase of our campus which includes the light-filled Hall, centralized administration support offices and the residential staff and teacher village.

Plans for the building were carefully constructed with the ecology of the place in mind. In addition to the green design and sustainable building practices intrinsic to the project, there are efforts to care for riparian (river banks, streambed) areas, restore wetlands, and mitigate any harm to our fellow four-legged, scaled, feathered and furred beings. We are also planning to construct a solar array on the hillside above the future dining hall site.  Each step of the way, we are consciously working to care for the place we love and share with other beings.

The staff has initiated practices and rituals to honor the land which has served as a refuge and support for us for a quarter century. In one example, Rachel Levy, our Land Steward, has initiated dialogues with elders native to the local tribes in the San Geronimo Valley to learn more about the land. Observation, deep listening and careful respect are practices she employs and encourages all to cultivate in order to be in “right relationship” with our environs. We also created an altar for the land in early 2013. Constructed by our residential caretaker and skilled stonemason, Tim Andres, the stonewall structure serves as a place of contemplation and connection to the earth for teachers and staff.

More recently in the area mapped for construction, we choose to remove scrub brush and move larger oaks and madrones to another part of the campus. Knowing that our bird friends may be tempted to nest in the construction area this spring, we wanted to avoid harming or disturbing their nests. Moving the trees at this time, just before the rainy season, would also mean the trees would suffer less with the relocation.

In addition, we have been hanging folded origami paper cranes on the trees that were moved. A traditional practice in Japan, Senbazuru entailed folding 1,000 cranes as a way to grant a wish or recover from illness. Much like the intention of prayer flags, it is also a way to offer one’s wish for peace, healing and gratitude. By using environmentally-friendly paper and hemp thread that will dissolve, our collective blessings for the trees and the land will be released over time.

We are working diligently to navigate both the needs of the land with the building of these vital and important new structures at Spirit Rock. Our hope is that our humility, reverence and interdependence with this precious ecosystem will help us to make wise decisions.  As always, our intention is non-harming. Through our practice and the Dharma, an ethos of caretaking (from those who work in the office to those who directly steward the grounds) will permeate our work.

We hope to see you at Spirit Rock as this communal effort for a new Community Meditation Hall is realized. Thank you for all that you have done to make this vision possible. May the teachings of compassion and wisdom continue to transform our lives and our collective world.

 A view of the land altar.      Moving mature trees to a new location.
Origami cranes hanging from the relocated tree.     Folding cranes together.

Spirit Rock News & Insights


© 2014 Spirit Rock - An Insight Meditation Center
PO Box 169 • Woodacre, CA • 94973