To download the latest PNW GreenFriends newsletter, click on the photo.
I spend a significant amount of my time each month working with a team of people to create the monthly Pacific Northwest GreenFriends online newsletter. We published our 79th issue today! What began in September 2011 as a several page Microsoft WORD document has turned into a beautiful newsletter filled with interesting articles and photos. Sometimes, I think we should call the publication a magazine rather than a newsletter.
GreenFriends is a global grassroots environmental movement which promotes environmental awareness and local participation in conservation efforts throughout the world. GreenFriends is one of the projects of Embracing the World, a not-for-profit international collective of charities founded by internationally known spiritual and humanitarian leader, Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma)
It is my experience that readers who live outside of the Pacific Northwest also find the newsletter interesting and valuable so starting with this February 2018 issue I’m going to post them on my blog.
Devotees in the Pacific Northwest decided to celebrate Amma’s birthday this year by planting trees. Our goal was to plant 64 trees over a 7 week period but we far exceeded that number. More than 100 people participated in the project and our final count was 309 trees!
The December issue of our PNW GreenFriends newsletter was devoted to sharing stories and photos from the tree planting. Since Amma did not come to North America this fall, some of us decided to create a booklet from the newsletter and give Amma a copy when we were in Amritapuri.
This week there were fourteen devotees in Amritapuri who had participated in the project either by planting trees or by helping with the organization. Tirtha, who came up with the idea of tree planting for Amma’s birthay, was one of those people. I was so glad she was here.
We planned to present Amma the booklet on Thursday December 21st. Finding a time when all of us would be available was quite a feat. We settled on 8 p.m.
The first bump in the road came when darshan was changed from the big auditorium to the small temple. The temple stage is very tiny so there would be no way for us to all be in front of Amma at the same time. The second challenge occurred when Western devotees were asked to come for darshan starting at 2:00 p.m. There was no reasonable way to get all of our people together at that time but we did decide to move the presentation from 8 to 7 and trust that the darshan program wouldn’t end before then.
Tirtha and I needed to find everyone to let them know of the time change. Within five minutes of the decision, almost all of the people involved walked in front of me; I didn’t have to look for any of them. Tirtha found two of the Victoria devotees soon thereafter. There was only one more person to locate. I knew he was doing seva (volunteer work) until 6:30 but I didn’t know what kind of seva it was and I didn’t know what building he was living in. The offices were closed by then so I didn’t know what to do. He was someone who had a lot of desire to participate in this presentation, so I became increasingly frantic about finding him.
Lakshmi, a long time Amritapuri resident who also helps organize and run the darshan line, had agreed to translate for us once we reached Amma. When I saw her in front of the temple in my frantic state, she said, “Karuna, Go with the Flow.” I knew she was right and I also knew that my seeing almost all of the people in the first five minutes was a good example of the flow that happens when something is meant to be.
I believe that letting go is not permission to be passive and assume everything will work out without any effort on my part. I knew, though, that I had put in plenty of effort. Instead of continuing with my frantic search, I decided to go to my room and take a cold shower even though it was 6:45. After a quick shower, I looked at my email. In that moment, a new email arrived. It was from the devotee I had been looking for, saying he was heading to the temple. I was so glad I had decided to trust the flow and had taken the shower. That helped me cool off as well as calm down. And what a good example it was of the benefits of “Going with the Flow.”
By 7:15 everyone had arrived, and we joined the darshan line. It moved much faster than I had expected. Lakshmi had suggested that since we couldn’t come in front of Amma as a group, we should go one after another. I would hand her the booklet and then each person in the group that followed would say “I planted trees” to Amma. Lakshmi even told them how to say those words in Malayalam.
Before long, I was in front of Amma. She looked through the booklet and was clearly happy. Then I was in her arms, my favorite place to be! Afterwards, I sat in an area where I could see each member of our group receive their hug.
I loved how our presentation had turned out and also appreciated the reminder of the importance of “going with the flow.”
For many years, Amma has been encouraging us to plant trees as a way of healing the Earth. This year, devotees in the Pacific Northwest decided to honor Amma’s 64th birthday by planting trees. We asked everyone to let us know how many trees they would plant and to complete the planting by November 5th. We were hoping at least 64 trees would be pledged. At the time I am writing this post, the pledge count is up to 211!
Seattle Parks Department gave us 37 trees to plant in our Greenbelt site. That work party was held last Sunday, October 22nd. Thirty-two GreenFriends members participated. Many of them had never seen the site before and others hadn’t been there for a long time. I enjoyed seeing and hearing their reactions to the work we’ve done over the last year.
The work party began with an orientation to the site…
and then Pujarini Meera conducted a series of rituals asking Mother Earth for permission to plant the trees and to nurture and protect them after they are planted. I thought it was a beautiful ceremony. (Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)
After the rituals were over, Ananya and I gave planting instructions…
and then came the fun of planting the trees.
Amma’s birthday project will be over on November 5, but our work in the restoring this Greenbelt site will, of course, continue. We will finish preparing nine planting areas at a work party on November 11 and then will plant 360 shrubs in those areas on November 15!
A few days before I left for India last year, I found out my friend Prakash was going to be taking the same flight I was on. Six weeks later, I discovered he would be on my return flight as well. That might seem like no big deal, but the reality is I had purchased my tickets for the November 28 to January 11 flights in August, and Prakash’s tickets were booked at the last minute due to family emergencies. He had planned to return to the U.S. after Christmas. As my departure date approached, I had no idea he was still in India. (And he did not know my itinerary.) To make it even stranger, we had ended up on the same flight earlier in the year. There is NO way all of these shared flights could have been chance.
Two weeks ago, I experienced some other synchronicities. I will give you two pieces of backstory before I share those. 1) The Challenge for Growth prompt for that week had been “I Unplug.” I had made the commitment to unplug my computer, phone, television and radio between 9 a.m. and noon each day. 2) I was arranging to place an ad for our local GreenFriends group and had decided to take Tree Planting and Habitat Restoration off of the ad temporarily, since our group hadn’t engaged in that particular activity for more than a year.
On Saturday, February 20, I chose to walk the Cheasty loop (a circular path that starts and ends near my house) during my unplugged time. When I came back from the walk, I would arrange for the changes in the ad. I hadn’t taken that walk for at least two years, because, for a variety of reasons, I hadn’t had the stamina I needed to do it. That day though, I felt full of energy!
About five minutes into my walk, I looked ahead of me and saw a canopied booth. There was a sign on it that read “Cheasty.org.” When I reached the booth, I talked to the people who were standing there. I learned they were a local group who are working to clear out the invasive plants in the Cheasty Greenspace. Once they remove the blackberries, ivy and other invasive species, they plant trees in the new space. The group was in the middle of a work party at that time.
I couldn’t see anything from the road, so one of the leaders, Joel, guided me to the work area.
Joel said they had work parties in this area the third Saturday of every month. He said they also held work parties on the first weekend of each month, in an area a few blocks south of the one where we were standing. When I told him about our local GreenFriends group, he said he would love to have us join their work parties.
After saying goodbye, I continued my walk. I passed an area where Seattle city workers were converting wood into wood chips. A lot of those chips are used by the Cheasty.org group.
Not far from there, I saw the place where the Cheasty group had been working for much longer. As you look at the pictures, keep in mind that all of these fields were covered with blackberry vines not long ago. The area had completely transformed since the last time I walked this loop.
I continued on, picking up litter as I walked. When I arrived back at my house, I discovered I had been gone for two hours! It was not lost on me that this experience would not have happened if I had not been participating in the “I Unplug” challenge. And I chose to unplug on the same day and at the same time that the Cheasty.org group was working in the area I was walking. In addition, all of this had occurred shortly after I had made the decision to remove Tree Planting and Habitat Restoration from the ad. Needless to say, I left it in.
I LOVE SYNCHRONICITY!