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A Peace Treaty with the Earth

A new series of earth-touching meditations

A few inspired monastics, including Brother Pháp Dung, Sister Lăng Nghiêm, and I, approached Thầy in 2007 as he embarked on a US tour from the newly opened Blue Cliff Monastery. We hoped Thầy would institute a worldwide ecological initiative across all of our centers. The initiative we had in mind was based on what we were developing at Deer Park Monastery; it included solar panels for our electrical needs, the practice of a no-car day once a week, and cars altered to run on used vegetable oil. Thầy, as Zen master and teacher, took our intentions even further and declared: “What we need is a peace treaty with the Earth.” That night, I drafted the first version of the Earth Peace Treaty Commitment Sheet based on our collective aspirations. The current version of this treaty, recently updated, is reprinted in this Mindfulness Bell issue. In the years following its inception, thousands of people committed to the actions suggested by the Earth Peace Treaty; many sent a copy of their pledge to us at Deer Park Monastery.

When I returned to Deer Park during the pandemic in August of 2020, one such recently completed pledge was in my mailbox. I took it as a reminder from Thầy to continue my own commitment of shepherding the Earth Peace Treaty movement. In the following summer of 2021, the community offered me two weeks to write and sleep in a hammock amongst the Engelmann Oaks in the wild of Deer Park’s hidden mountain. There, I composed the first draft of the contemplation below—a more integrated path that flows from the Earth Peace Treaty commitment sheet and is based on the Eightfold Path. This draft expresses my own insights and practice of reconciliation with Mother Earth.

In the lead-up to COP26 in the fall of 2021, Sister Lực Nghiêm asked Thầy Pháp Dung and I to draft a statement to our international community. Our statement included a revision of the contemplation I created while on writing retreat in Deer Park. Further helpful insights and edits were contributed by Sister Thệ Nghiêm, Sister Hiến Nghiêm, Sister Đẳng Nghiêm, Hisae Matsuda, Heather Weightman, John Bell, Felipe Viveros, Aaron Solomon, and many others. Ánh Hương and Thư Nguyễn contributed a decisive shift in the tone, and together we created a contemplation that now stands as a practice of touching the earth: an intimate conversation with Mother Earth. After the initial group of fifty people read the text and gave input, I let it sit for a while in the crucible of my own practice. With this issue of The Mindfulness Bell, we offer it to a wider public. Any shortcomings or hidden dualisms are due to my own still-growing understanding of the Dharma and Thầy's teachings.

I hope it contributes to your own path of making peace with the Earth.
Touching the earth practice, Vesak in Plum Village 2023; photo by Đức trú courtesy of monastic Sangha 

Touching the Earth to Guide Our Engagement with Climate and Social Justice

Note: “We/us” can be used in place of “I/me” where appropriate. The contemplations can be practiced as a whole, or individually in a series of shorter sessions. You may also like to read the contemplations as inspiration for reflection and intention-setting.

The First Contemplation

Mother Earth, I open myself to your joy and your pain. Recognizing that we inter-are, I see that my views and actions affect your well-being and suffering, and the well-being of myself and all other beings.1

[Bell: You may like to bow deeply, or practice a prostration while the contemplation is read]

Breathing with mindfulness, I am in touch with the insight that I am not separate from you, Mother Earth, or from all beings; your well-being and mine are connected. When I cling to and act on views based in ignorance, craving, fear, and aversion, I contribute to corporate and governmental policies and systems that have harmed others, degraded the environment, and brought our climate into crisis. With compassion, I bear witness to the sacrifice zones2, melting permafrost, rising sea levels, extreme temperatures, and wildfires, as well as to the steep decline and extinction of species. I recognize that these events arise from generations of neglect and violence that stem from wrong views about our collective relationship with you, Mother Earth.

Knowing that suffering and happiness inter-are, I draw strength from your great equanimity. As I see and meet these challenges, I aspire to train myself not to fall into despair, escapism, or paralysis, but instead to cultivate loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity toward my body, feelings, and others. Through the concrete practice of nonviolence, I am determined to find ways to change the situation, both in my own life and in society.

Touching the earth, I am aware that I am part of a larger planetary body, and I share limited resources with countless others. I see clearly that when I live more simply and share with others, I already have enough conditions for happiness and can better support equitable living conditions for everyone.

[Bell & Stand Up]

The Second Contemplation

Mother Earth, I see that my thoughts influence my actions and have real effects on the world. I aspire to give rise to loving thoughts toward myself and all beings.

[Bell & Touch the Earth]

Mother Earth, I witness your great capacity to hold and embrace all beings as your children. When I can connect with this same quality of inclusiveness in me, I am able to embrace the current climate emergency without falling into judgment, anger, grief, or despair. As I reflect on those doing harm and worsening the situation, I practice sending them loving thoughts and recognize they are not my enemy. The roots of harmful actions are wrong perceptions and misunderstanding. Letting go of my tendency to think of others as separate from me, I feel compassion arise toward all of us for our collective situation.

Looking deeply, I am aware that my lifestyle and my community’s lifestyle also contribute to ecological suffering. I am determined to develop and maintain bodhicitta, the mind of love, to give me strength to embrace and transform my habitual ways of thinking and acting and to support others on the path of awakening and healing. I know that cultivating inclusiveness and bodhicitta will help me transform challenging situations and act to bring about a positive, regenerative future for all of us.

[Bell & Stand Up]

Monastic tour, Freiberg, Germany, May 2023; photo by Thien Khai courtesy of monastic Sangha

The Third Contemplation

Mother Earth, I am inspired by your capacity to receive my unskillful words and strong emotions with compassion and solidity.

[Bell & Touch the Earth]

I realize my words can create division and despair in others if I am not mindful. When I practice loving speech, I can water positive seeds instead, like hope and compassion. When I practice deep listening, I gain more clarity and understanding about myself and others. I know deep listening and loving speech help me skillfully engage in constructive dialogue about the climate crisis in ways that move the heart. In the past, I have spoken out of anger or fear and caused others to turn away or react defensively and angrily. Now, when I am called to speak in support of climate action or to address perspectives conflicting with my own, I will practice speaking in a way that inspires others to engage positively. I realize true dialogue can only occur when both parties are willing to be fully present with each other.

When the energies of anger, impatience, and despair come up in me, I will practice mindful breathing and walking to calm myself. When I reestablish my capacity to listen deeply to myself and the other person, I will transform those energies into understanding and compassion. Only when I communicate in this spirit might the other person receive my words with openness. I will learn to communicate in ways that inspire individuals, corporations, and institutions to recognize the harmful effects of their actions, to give up the culture of consumption, to transform our dependence on fossil fuels, and to support regenerative economies that honor and protect you and all your children.

[Bell & Stand Up]

The Fourth Contemplation

Mother Earth, so much has been done to hurt you. I bear witness to this pain, and wish to begin anew now that I see clearly how my actions and those of so many of us have harmed you, bringing about a dangerous and uncertain imbalance for all life.

[Bell & Touch the Earth]

I see that the pollution and disruption of communities and ecosystems and the destruction of biodiversity stems from destructive and exploitative patterns of consumption—including the burning of fossil fuels—that have brought much harm and suffering to you, Mother Earth, and to all of us. Deep in my heart, I earnestly wish to reduce harm and engender healing. I know nonviolent direct action can bring real social change. I realize that to practice true nonviolent action, I first must learn how to deal peacefully with my own suffering. That is why I touch the earth now, letting go of my fears, anxieties, and anger, so I may cultivate the clarity, compassion, and courage to act wisely.

Like the Earth Holder Bodhisattva, Dharanimdhara, who supports, preserves, and protects the air, water, soil, and all beings without exception, I am committed to practice the way of Earth holding for the safety and well-being of all beings and environments—especially those most impacted by ecological degradation. Upholding reverence for life, I am determined not to engage in the destruction of life and life systems and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. I see the profound interrelationship between social, racial, and environmental justice. I am moved to act to bring an end to the inequitable distribution of natural resources and discriminatory policies that continue to harm your children and destabilize communities around the world.

I can no longer close my eyes to the industrial food system, which contributes directly to greenhouse gas emissions, the suffering of living beings, soil depletion, the massive draining of aquifers, and the destruction of biodiversity. Aware of these harms, I see that it is not difficult to reduce my consumption of harmful industrial products or to abstain from them completely. I am inspired by the many Indigenous cultures all over the Earth and seek to honor their wisdom and knowledge for living more simply and harmoniously with you, Mother Earth.

I see that we are your stewards, Mother Earth, and with this insight comes great responsibility to act for your well-being and for future generations. I know the best way to care for the future is to practice dwelling happily and mindfully in the present moment, unattached to the fruits of my actions. In this way, I am able to work with ease and joy, fully present and fully appreciating the conditions around me. When a community of Earth holders embodies this spirit, that community can impact society and produce social change. In the present moment, I am committed to protecting those most harshly impacted by the climate crisis by supporting direct, local actions. I am motivated to help communities, corporations, and governments look deeply into their past, present, and future impacts so they may change their ways, adopting new low-carbon policies, renewable energies, and sustainable resource use. Reverence for the lives of all future generations moves me to live lightly on the Earth using present-moment sources of energy, including sunlight.

[Bell & Stand Up]

Monastic tour, Darmstadt, Germany, May 2023; photo by Thien Khai courtesy of monastic Sangha

The Fifth Contemplation

Mother Earth, I know you are truly there for me and that I can trust you. So that I may regain your trust and be truly there for you, I am learning how to live and consume in a way that preserves my health, that of other beings, and future generations.

[Bell & Touch the Earth]

Just as inflammation indicates imbalance or illness in my own body, climate and ecological disruption indicates imbalance in your body, Mother Earth. I deeply wish to reduce this inflammation. Now I see that doing so requires me to make meaningful changes in how I make a living. I know that the desire for wealth, power, fame, and sensual pleasures can blind me to how my livelihood may contribute to releasing toxins into my own body and into our atmosphere, soil, and rivers. This inspires me to choose a vocation that does not exploit other people or you, Mother Earth.

I know that many human cultures have fallen into the habit of stealing from and oppressing others, exploiting the land and each other for labor, and using violent means to extract natural resources so we may consume them in excess. With compassion in my heart, I am determined to live and consume in a way that transforms the habit of exploitation and preserves my own health, as well as the health of other living beings, future generations, and you, Mother Earth, by adopting a way of life that is fulfilling, creative, and in harmony with nature. In that way, I may be present for loved ones and support our most vulnerable communities.

[Bell & Stand Up]

The Sixth Contemplation

Mother Earth, I admire your enduring capacity for regeneration as you diligently transform decaying matter into new life. I see that I too have this capacity, and that I can find more skillful ways to handle my difficult emotions. I will not neglect them or let them spread like a wildfire in my consciousness, but will learn how to embrace, honor, and transform them into insight and wise action.

[Bell & Touch the Earth]

When I look deeply into the climate crisis, I see that emotions like anger, fear, greed, and despair have led to violence and harm toward one another and to the desecration of our environment. This strongly motivates me to take care of my emotions, to recognize, accept, embrace, and look deeply into them as soon as they arise. Shining the light of mindfulness on my emotions, I help them transform so I may have more calm, clarity, and insight. I will learn to cultivate appropriate attention and be more vigilant about what I am consuming through my senses, including news, social media, and conversations. In this way I can understand clearly what is fueling my emotions and whether it is beneficial or harmful.

Your capacity for regeneration reminds me that conditions for happiness are already available in the present moment. I will train myself with mindful breathing and walking to keep this awareness alive. I will use my mindful steps to invite positive emotions like compassion, understanding, and love to come up and thrive in my consciousness for longer periods of time. I know there are pathways of healing in community that will allow me to transform the roots of painful emotions that belong primarily to my past and my ancestors’ past. Immersion in nature, enough rest, and community living all help to contribute to my own mental solidity, peace, and joy, keeping my engagement with Earth-holding sustainable.

 [Bell & Stand Up]

Sister Chân Đức, Vesak 2023; photo courtesy of monastic Sangha

The Seventh Contemplation

Mother Earth, your deep love penetrates all of us, your children. Thanks to this love I have learned how to shine the light of mindfulness on the pain in our collective consciousness to bring about healing and transformation in myself and in the world.

[Bell & Touch the Earth]

I know now that the climate and ecological crisis, including the mass extinction of species, results from our individual and collective ignorance about the full effects of our actions. Mindfulness allows us to be fully present, alert, fearless, and free to see how our choices have real effects on you, Mother Earth—on the climate and on people, animals, plants, and minerals. In this way, I see clearly what to do and what not to do. I commit to cultivating the energy of mindfulness in my daily life by remembering to stop, come back to my breathing, and become aware of what is going on within me and around me in the present moment. I see it is a joy to be alive.  I will practice to nourish myself with the wonders of the present moment so I have more energy to act for change and to help myself and my community heal the collective wounds at the root of the climate and ecological crisis. Mindful that all states, governments, and institutions are of the nature to form and to collapse, I will continually do my best to address real social and ecological injustice by building resilient and regenerative communities. Doing this, I plant seeds that will sprout into new cultures and societies.

 [Bell & Stand Up]

The Eighth Contemplation

Mother Earth, your capacity to endure fills me with genuine awe and respect. With the energy of concentration, I open myself to the experience of oneness with you and touch the unconditioned.

[Bell & Touch the Earth]

I know my mind is often dispersed and unable to come back to and focus on what is really going on in the present moment. I easily get attached to concepts, images, sounds, words, points of view, emotions, and other sense impressions. Unifying my body and mind right now through mindfulness of breathing, I let go of these perceptions and conditioned phenomena and see that my mind has the capacity to become stable, calm, and free. There is nowhere to go, and nothing to do: just the experience of the breath and the body in this present moment. From here, noble action is possible.

The Buddha taught the Three Doors of Liberation as themes of meditation to help us become free from our concepts and notions and to maintain that freedom. I see that the Three Doors help me act in the world with joy and happiness without getting trapped by devastating emotions like despair.

Practicing the concentration on emptiness, I let go of the view that this body is me, mine, or myself; that this culture, society, or civilization is me, mine, or myself; or that the human species is me, mine, or myself. In this body is the entire cosmos—stardust, water, wind, atoms, and quarks—yet it is empty of one thing: a separate self. All is action and process, cause and effect. This is the wondrous nature of interbeing; everything is intimately connected. With this realization, I am filled with joy and clarity. For so long I have clung to the perception that I am a separate self. This perception cuts me off from others, leaving me alone and isolated from you, Mother Earth, and I get caught in the belief that when this body dies, everything ends. Now I see that these are mere notions; even as I grasp them they slip through my fingers, change, and disappear. Touching emptiness, I touch the fullness of all things, everywhere. I can remain stable in the face of losing everything I hold dear: those I love and care for; the institutions, businesses, states, and governments that support and sustain me; even the extinction of humankind and countless species. I learn to touch the ultimate dimension—nirvana—in this present moment and receive the gift of nonfear: bright, beautiful, and open. I see that you and I, Mother Earth, have not ever been separate in this dance of birth and death spanning billions of years. Sorrow, despair, and fear can no longer overwhelm and paralyze me. I can act with love and compassion unburdened by fear.

Practicing the concentration on signlessness, I am no longer caught by appearances. This body, these feelings, these perceptions, these mental formations and consciousness are flowing streams3; I stop grasping at sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, or thoughts—experiencing events in the world but not getting caught by the sign or appearance of those events. Seeing this frees me to touch the love that pervades the millions of people who have contributed and are continuing to contribute to transforming the situation of the climate crisis in unacknowledged ways. Touching this fills me with determination to help, to serve, and to act wherever I am, with the scope and capacity available to me.

Practicing the concentration on aimlessness, I do not let myself be carried away by the emotions and desires of the majority, or by expectations of what must happen in the future. I no longer look for happiness outside of myself, or at some point in the future, but dwell happily in the present moment, knowing the future is forged right here in this moment. This way I naturally manifest a deep aspiration to help without expectation of result. I am able to access the deep stores of energy transmitted to me by my blood, spiritual, and land ancestors who worked tirelessly in the spirit of service and love for the sake of your well-being, Mother Earth, and to transform situations of social injustice. With this energy, there is no limit to what is possible, and I can continue to work for the liberation of all beings, in whatever form they may take in the future.

[Bell & Stand Up]

Brother Pháp Lưu; photo courtesy of Evermind Media. 
Together we know that a future of human flourishing on this beautiful blue planet—a jewel of the cosmos—is possible, but it is neither simple nor easy, and it is not a given. Changing our way of living for a future to be possible is the great challenge of our time. During the darkest moments of the war in Vietnam, Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh reminded his student activists in the School of Youth for Social Service that everything is impermanent. Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Thích Nhất Hạnh inspired his students to never give up hope, to never give up their dreams and efforts to build a more positive future. Buddhist practice empowers us to walk this path of compassion, freedom, and responsibility.
Love Letter to the Earth cover

Recordings of the contemplation are available on the Plum Village app and their YouTube channel to support your own practice of touching the earth.

For a more in-depth and expansive contemplation on Mother Earth, and for the inspiration and source for many of the practices presented here in condensed form, please consult the book Love Letter to the Earth, by Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh. For an ethical way of living that informs and is integrated into all of these contemplations, please consider reading and putting into practice The Five Mindfulness Trainings. For further teachings by Thích Nhất Hạnh on the climate crisis, read Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet.

To find out what you can do to engage as a practitioner and Earth holder, we have an updated version of the Earth Peace Treaty Commitment Sheet.

People around the world are connecting and practicing together through the Earth Holder Community. Find out more at

The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion Cover - Thich Nhat Hanh

1 “Because the practice of nonattachment as it is taught in the sutra can liberate us completely from wrong views, the happiness that results from this practice is far greater than any kind of happiness. Virtuous acts still based on the ground of self, person, living being, and life span may bring some happiness, but compared to the happiness of true liberation, it is still quite small. When a person is absolutely free from wrong views, his or her actions will greatly benefit the world.” Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Diamond that Cuts Through Illusion.

2 “A sacrifice zone or sacrifice area (often termed a national sacrifice zone or national sacrifice area) is a geographic area that has been permanently impaired by heavy environmental alterations or economic disinvestment, often through locally unwanted land use.” Wikipedia. Accessed July 11.

3 “23rd Tenet: We can talk of a person as a continuous and ever-changing stream of five aggregates. This stream is always flowing. It is in connection with and interchanges with other streams of phenomena. We cannot speak of a person as an unchanging and permanent separate self.” Thích Nhất Hạnh, Plum Village Looks at Vulture Peak.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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