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Buddhist Action Day 3rd July 2012

As part of the ‘A year of Service initiative’ , Buddhist Action Day was celebrated nationally by Buddhists of all backgrounds and traditions, along with well-intentioned people from all faiths and none.  ‘Earthkind’ was the theme for planning activities, linked to the fact that so many Buddhist teachings emphasize  ‘right’ or skilful action towards encouraging all human beings to develop and express compassion and kindness for all living beings and our world.

As a practising Buddhist, CEA Director Jan McHarry enjoyed taking part in 2 events, one in Oxford where she now lives, the other in Bethnal Green, East London where she has active links with the London Buddhist Centre.

Although billed as the Buddhist Action Day on the 3rd July, a host of events, up and down the country took place through the whole month. More information on these and local contacts can be found at the Network of Buddhist’s website. The whole month was such a success that further actions in successive years are already being talked about.

In Oxford there was a walk of awareness along the River Thames ending in a litter-pick within the historically-recognized grazing and open land of Port Meadow. Walking together but in silence brings an added dimension of awareness – of both personal feelings – and more heightened perceptions about the territory you are walking through. A walk in silence can be a jewel of mindfulness – i.e. you are ‘awake’ to the moment and not lost in the ‘distractions’ of holding a conversation , especially with someone you don’t know. There is a time and a place elsewhere for this.

In East London just around the corner from the London Buddhist Centre, residents on a housing estate are now growing and harvesting their own beans, tomatoes and other vegetables and herbs.  Encouraged by leadership from people within the Buddhist community, but community –led,  the Globe Community Project, supports a thriving community garden has sprung up on a nearby inner city estate.

After a morning of skilfully- led meditation and reflection on what it means to take part, as well as giving service to the local community, and, of course, a tasty lunch where a myriad of contributions provided a shared feast, everyone walked around the corner from the Buddhist Centre to the housing estate, where, within the under-used green-space, there were several raised vegetable beds and a productive gardening space laid out.

A storytelling session unveiled just how much persistence, patience and good-will –on the part of local residents – had been necessary to reach this point. Most residents had been growing vegetable seeds on their window sills or balconies for the community garden, others had been dealing with local authority planners over planning permission for raised beds(!) and fending off the cynics who thought all the green space was going to be turned over to vegetable growing. Whatver the delays, the results are wholeheartedly worthwhile.

We all had a chance to do a bit of planting ourselves, a fruit bush was donated to the community project and a mass of strawberry plants were planted up for everyone to take home as a reminder of the day. For me, it was just so encouraging to have people who had never gardened taking part – and getting so excited – and for people expressing how much fun the day had been. It reminded me that the celebratory aspect of participation is always so important. As we walked away another local resident joined us, said she had been watching us and wanted to know how she could help. The icing on the cake! I wish the local project all the success it deserves. Hope is a wonderful quality so I’ll join in and grow some seedlings Spring 2013 for this community garden too!

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