Photograph by Alicia Brown

Sending and Taking: Teaching a Practice for Nature

This essay also appears in the issue “Teaching Contemplative Environments” (Volume 4, Number 1). Click here to subscribe and download the entire issue.  The Buddhist practice of sending and taking, or tonglen, is a foundational way to engage the suffering of others. It offers a sense of connection when distance may be present; a possibility of reprieve when struggle overwhelms; and an opportunity for generosity when difficulty may limit our ability to offer. Perhaps most of all, it can reinvent our notion of agency when we feel powerless; tonglen can transcend miles to enable us to offer a bit of peace in a faraway conflict zone, or it can be practiced while sitting at the bedside of a loved one. The simplest instruction for tonglen is to send wishes for freedom from suffering and happiness to someone we hold dear. Bringing that individual to mind, we send warmth, light or peace; we imagine that person healthy and radiant, offering whatever we can to help along the way. In so doing, we generate bodhicitta, the feeling …

Teaching Contemplative Environments

Issue Contents Guest Editor’s Introduction (available to subscribers in the complete issue) by Rachel DeMotts Inner and Outer Ecologies: Contemplative Practice in an Environmental Age by Jacob Richey and Paul Wapner Sending and Taking: Teaching a Practice for Nature by Rachel DeMotts Teaching and Learning in Nearby Nature by Amy E. Ryken Cover design and photography by Alicia Brown

Beyond Economics in the Case Against Fracking

On a spring evening in Southern California, with too much school work and an uncooperative clock ticking away the day’s warmth, I glanced outside my window to find the sky imbued with the color of a sunset. Captured by its beauty and magic, I wondered whether I should take a break from writing my undergraduate thesis to watch. As the sky shifted from yellow-orange to reddish-pink, my thoughts turned to a cost-benefit analysis: “Is it worth it to go outside and watch? A break would interrupt my progress right now. On the other hand, refreshing myself might increase my productivity for the next half hour before dinner.” By then, of course, the sky had faded into deep purple, the sun slipping over the horizon. As an overworked college student, evaluating actions in terms of productivity was common. Even now, several years after Microeconomics initially offered a powerful language for describing human decision-making, marginal utility remains a convenient—if not a little contrived—way of understanding my everyday choices. Indeed, since its inception, the field of economics has …