By Mick McEvoy on
Spring arrives yet again in Plum Village, France, and at the Happy Farm. I am fortunate to spend most of my day outdoors communing with the natural world. This new season brings a sense of awakening, of possibility, a time to reset intentions and to return to my true volition. This spring we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Happy Farm in Upper Hamlet. This winter was a time for me to rest and reflect, and to explore deep reorientation. I asked myself the following questions: Why am I living in Plum Village? Why do I continue to show up to manage the Happy Farm project? What do I contribute? Why is it important? Do I enjoy it?
Thankfully, I found the answers to my questions. I see clearly that choosing to be here at this time for our planet, and at this time of my life, offers a daily richness. I receive from the community, and in reciprocity I wholeheartedly offer my gifts and skills in service to the world. This experience takes place within our collective lived experiences of the triple emergencies: the climate emergency, the ecological/biodiversity emergency, and the social emergency. The climate and the ecological emergencies need no explanations, but Thây shared that as a human family we are also in the midst of a social emergency. He taught us that loneliness is the ill-being of our time. Through Thây’s teachings I have connected to my deepest volition. Thây taught that the medicine needed to help heal humanity’s suffering within this social emergency is to reconnect our human family with the reality of interbeing: to recognize that we ourselves are the Earth which carries us. We all are of, from, and belonging to the natural world. We have Gaian bodies, we have cosmic bodies. Awakening to this reality and remembering our true nature can heal us. My volition is to connect people to their true nature by taking them outdoors and reconnecting them with the natural world and with themselves. This teaching and this medicine have deeply supported my own healing. It is medicine I take daily to stay well, healthy, and happy.
My responsibilities are to care for a beautiful organic farm. This means more than just caring for plants, or even caring for the soil they grow in or the ecology they're a part of. Perhaps most importantly, it also means caring for the people who make up the Happy Farm project. For me it is so clear: it is not about the carrots—it is about collective awakening. Spending time outdoors with our farm volunteers and community members cultivating soil and nourishing organic food is for me a skilful way to reconnect humans with their true nature. They are of the Earth.
In recent years I have also taken on the responsibility of leading a large rewilding project in Upper Hamlet. My passion overflows when I get the opportunity to accompany people out onto these wild lands. In these moments, healing can be immediate. Witnessing the healing, regeneration, and transformation as this land rewilds itself and returns to its own true nature can (with a little guidance and support) lead to one’s own healing, regeneration, and transformation. As Thây teaches us, “we are the Earth that carries us.” Last September in Plum Village, with the support of the Upper Hamlet Community, I was fortunate to be able to offer a two-week retreat on mindfulness, deep ecology, and nature connection. I hope we can offer more opportunities like this in the future. As Thây teaches, we should “go home to nature and let nature heal you.”
My own decision to be here in Plum Village, and to offer what I can at this time, is political. Brother Thây Pháp Dung has described the Plum Village global community as a community of resistance. The cultures of consumerism and capitalism are causing such sickness. The system in place for most humans in the world can be ruthless, often leading to exhaustion and burnout. I choose to opt out. I choose to go against the stream. I choose to be part of a regenerative culture. In Plum Village and on the Happy Farm we are co-creating a culture of regeneration, healing, and transformation. On the farm this can be seen by how we relate to the land. We use the term “agroecology” for our type of project. In our agriculture together we care deeply for the ecology of the soil and the land we farm on. Food production is no more important than caring for the more-than-human beings we share the farmland with. We try to create an agriculture of vitality, well-being, and regeneration for all beings involved. For the human family of farmers we also aim to create a regenerative family culture. We live, practice, and work together. We take time to go deep into the Plum Village practices of Dharma sharing, Beginning Anew, and Shining Light together—all ways to share our true feelings, reconcile after disagreements, and express appreciation to one other. We cook, eat, and play together.
I especially wish to offer what I can to the younger generations who are inheriting the escalating impacts of this triple emergency. I see clearly that when these younger folk join us in the Plum Village community and spend time on the farm and in the natural world, together we can create opportunities to heal and to build resilience in the face of a crisis. Mindfulness training, food production skills, community living experience, and nature connection are direct ways to build individual and collective resiliency.
My heart of bodhichitta is charged up and my volition becomes crystal clear when I see our younger generations receiving Thây’s teachings on interbeing and living their own direct experience of that teaching. When these young friends can touch the reality of nonself, understanding, and nonfear, then I also feel fully resourced and able to support more and more people. My work and experiences in Plum Village have shown me that our human family, as Thây teaches, “now we have a path, we have nothing to fear.”
My question Why choose to do this in Plum Village? now has an answer. I choose to be here not because of Buddhism or even our monastic community, but because I believe Plum Village is one of the most non-dogmatic spiritual communities that exists. This essence is beautifully summed up in the first three of The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings: Openness, Nonattachment to Views, and Freedom of Thought. With this revolutionary essence, I feel able to be myself in community and to offer what I can to be of service to the world. Plum Village is a light in this world; people are making their way here to connect. There are so many wisdom traditions offering medicine for the ill-being of our time. Plum Village is one source of such medicine.
The world is on fire. We can help. That is why I choose to be part of this beloved community.