By Bar Zecharya on
This is a happy moment.
I find myself practicing this mantra often. Here at Pardesa, a practice center founded nearly three years ago in the Apennine Mountains of northern Italy, every few minutes a train passes, not too close and not too far, just enough for its gentle swoosh to invite us to stop our thinking, speaking, and activity for three breaths. The train is our mindfulness bell. Three breaths to let go, three breaths to soften, three breaths to touch the beauty in and around us. This is a happy moment, and we have enough conditions for happiness.
The dual aspiration of Pardesa is to practice care for the mind and care for the Earth, and investigate the connection between the two. I look around and see the beautiful countryside, the nature reserve nearby, our permaculture food forest, vegetable garden, experiments in regenerative agriculture, and the hundreds of trees and bushes that have been donated and planted by those who have come here to practice. We have all come for the same purpose: to learn from and be inspired by Mother Earth, to put Thầy’s teachings into practice, and to create conditions for others to do the same.
Combining Dharma with care for the Earth has been as natural as it has been joyful. Retreats and Days of Mindfulness always include time to get our hands dirty: planting trees, composting our kitchen scraps with help from our bodhisattva worms, and even enjoying the panorama from our composting toilet.… And when Pardesa hosts courses in permaculture and regenerative agriculture, they are retreats too, with morning and evening meditation, mindful eating, sharing, words from Thầy, and noble silence at night. Our most common readings are from Love Letter to the Earth, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, and Be Free Where You Are. Sometimes new friends come to Pardesa because of the attention we place on ecology and care for the Earth, and thanks to the practice of mindfulness that they discover, they are able to touch joy and suffering and discover a new world of healing.
At the moment Pardesa is not a residential community but a place where people know they can come and find an atmosphere of mindfulness and connection with the Earth. From hosting Deep Time Walks (four-and-a-half-kilometer walks where we trace with our footsteps the history of the Earth, the evolution of life, and the climate) to retreats on The Five Mindfulness Trainings, from weekend retreats on the joy of simplicity to a twelve-day permaculture design course, and with the presence of friends of all ages and experiences in the Dharma, there is always a reason to stop for a moment, allow the body and mind to relax, and feel the joy of simply being alive and a part of this Earth.
Dear Thầy, I can’t imagine a more fulfilling way to live, and I know that Thầy is here, watching the blooming of the flowers and the softening of our hearts. I know that Mother Earth is also sharing her happiness at the healing that is taking place.
In gratitude to parents, teachers, friends, and all beings,
October 11, 2021
More information on Pardesa, retreats, and how to contribute can be found at www.pardesa.org.