By Daniel Dermitzel, posted February 24, 2018
In just a short month we will be opening the second season of a start-up community garden in East Berlin which I have the privilege of facilitating and co-developing. The garden, called Gutsgarten Hellersdorf, is located on the grounds of what was once an East German agricultural cooperative, now at the center of a rapidly transforming high-density urban neighborhood. With the help of many participants from Berlin Hellersdorf and across the city, the new garden is turning into an amazing space for exploring sustainability, human connection, and civic engagement. Through various gardening, educational and art activities, we aim to create a platform for healing, mutual learning and collobarative neighborhood design. My gratitude goes to all who are working to make this project so rich and rewarding.
The Gutsgarten is on the web at www.guthellersdorf.net and on Facebook at Gutsgarten Hellersdorf. Both sites are presently only available in German but even if you don't read German, you may want to stop by to see some wonderful pictures of our project.
Posted February 24, 2018
Posted December 22, 2017
Posted November 21, 2017
We just completed a small retreat on the subject of Deep Sustainability and Mindfulness at the new Lebensgut Retreat Center in Pommritz, Germany, a couple hours outside of Berlin. The four-day residential retreat was facilited by Daniel Dermitzel and Tobias Grimm, both students of Thich Nhat Hanh and experienced mindfulness practitioners. The retreat included daily meditations, presentations, circle sharings as well as working meditations in the large Lebensgut field garden, where we mindfully and joyfully harvested rich quantities of Jerusalem Artichokes (Topinambur). Thank you, Mother Earth, for this amazing late-season gift!
We are also grateful to all participants and the staff at Lebensgut for supporting our practice and helping us hold such a powerful retreat and connect deeply to our Mother Earth. Please look for announcements of similar retreats in 2018.
Posted March 7, 2017
This morning I listened with joy to a radio story on the New Roots for Refugees program we worked together to create at Cultivate Kansas City and Catholic Charities. The story was actually broadcast a year ago but has been circulating again on social media, perhaps because it is an inspiring reminder of the important work of helping refugees resettle into safety and a new life. The dedication of these farmers is amazing and it is transforming the urban landscape as more and more refugee-owned farms are popping up across Kansas City. Equally impressive is the hard work of the staff that has developed this program into such a success. Thank you all for what you do.
(photo: Oluwakemi Aladesuyi/NPR)
By Daniel Dermitzel, posted January 20, 2017
We say we want to live in a world of peace, kindness, love and sustainability. Gandhi reminds us to “be the change we want to see,” and his words intuitively make sense. But how can we be peace, kindness, love and sustainability? In my experience it helps to periodically withdraw from the noise of our technological civilization and to observe in quiet meditation my inner tension, anger, fear and lack of peace.
When I have gotten in touch with my inner state of being, I have reason to celebrate, even if I have observed a lot of pain. In meditation, I can hold and transform anger, sadness and fear without distracting myself with unneccessary and often unsustainable consumption, work or scheming. I can just be with the pain and know that it is not mine alone but that it has been transmitted to me for many generations. Gradually I become less afraid to touch my pain and thereby transform it, heal it. It can feel like a true liberation, a liberation to finally give myself the love and care I deserve and to love others as if for the first time.
You say you long to step into a world of peace, kindness, love and sustainability? The way out is in.
By Daniel Dermitzel, posted January 3, 2017
"Don’t just do something, sit there," people accustomed to meditation sometimes quip when confronted with a difficult situation. It means that instead of kicking into action at the first thought of trouble, we consider first taking a moment to sit and meditate. But isn’t that giving the situation time to deteriorate? For most problems, probably not.
By taking just 10 minutes in meditation you can significantly improve your chance of solving the problem by
Remember that we are much better problem solvers when we are happy, optimistic and at ease. So next time you feel the urge to rush and do, consider heading for the cushion instead.
By Daniel Dermitzel, posted December 30, 2016
(originally posted February 22, 2016 at plumvillage.org)
As we enter the first days of spring here in Plum Village in south-west France, we’d like to share with you the story of a small project called The Happy Farm.
This small organic vegetable farm, which has only been in existence for three years, grew some €33,000 of fresh organic produce for the monastic and lay community this last season. In addition to producing food, Happy Farm offers a year-long training program in mindful organic agriculture and diverse community living. It also offers retreats on mindfulness and sustainability, and provides tours and educational activities for kids and adults throughout the year.
This story is our reflection on how climate, our food, our community, and our personal healing are all inextricably linked. It is our story of love's impact on the balance. With industrial food production making up a significant share of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we believe that small-scale organic farming can be an important answer to climate change, as it promotes soil health and carbon sequestration and generally uses fewer energy-intensive inputs (such as fuel and synthetic fertilizers).
But a deeper story is unfolding at the Happy Farm — a story about people falling back in love with each other and with Mother Earth. As people of all walks of life come together and joyfully sink their hands back into the soil – some of them for the first time in many years – they experience a nourishing, heartfelt connection with their brothers and sisters, deepen their understanding of the entire web of life and offer their true presence to Mother Earth. Working the soil in this manner is a bit like caressing the earth and being caressed by her in return.
During their mindful work on the Happy Farm, the interns, volunteers and children are held tenderly by Mother Earth just as they are with all their joys and pains. Without discrimination, Mother Earth welcomes us back, perhaps wondering what took us so long. And so we experience a renewed love for Mother Earth, a renewed connection. We can now experience that the earth is not something outside of us but that she is in us and that we are a part of her. This is not a transformation of the head, but of the heart. It takes root slowly, almost without notice, unfailingly.
Having a renewed love relationship with Mother Earth, we can now see more easily that our energy-intensive life-style and our high levels of consumption are not producing lasting happiness but do great harm by contributing to GHG emissions and other problems. We gradually let go of our habit to consume and begin to experience a deeper nourishment that comes from communion with Mother Earth and experiencing our community of brothers and sisters and all beings. We begin to feel less lonely and a deep appreciation arises for simply being alive.
We are hopeful that a new generation of small-scale farmers – many of whom are growing food in cities – will be inspired to turn their work into a mindfulness practice, to turn their farms into places where the harvest is not limited to food but includes spiritual transformation and healing as well, where entire communities can begin to rekindle their love and understanding for Mother Earth not as a separate entity but as one with ourself.