Jill S. Schneiderman is Professor of Earth Science at Vassar College and a 2009 recipient of a Contemplative Practice Fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. She is editor of and contributor to For the Rock Record: Geologists on Intelligent Design (University of California Press, 2009) and The Earth Around Us: Maintaining a Livable Planet (Westview Press, 2003). She also blogs on her own website, www.earthdharma.org.


Not Standing Still: A Solstice-time Reflection from a “Geologian”

A new post from Shambhala Sun’s “Earth Dharma” blogger, Jill S. Schneiderman

Among my favorite cartoons is one my mom gave me by the cartoonist and author of The Soul Support Book, Deb Koffman. Entitled “Sitting with Awareness,” in each of sixteen small square frames Koffman depicts a person sitting in lotus position wearing, what we call in my house “at–homes”– in other words sweatpants. (Click image at left to see it larger, or here to visit Koffman’s site — you’ll find the image under “Mindfulness Prints.”) Phrases beneath each frame taken together constitute the following poem. I sure can relate to it, and maybe you can too:

I’m aware of my posture, I’m aware of my knees, I’m aware of my hands, I’m aware of a breeze.
I’m aware of my breath, I’m aware I feel cold, I’ve got a pain in my side, I’m getting old.
The clock is ticking, my eye has a twitch, my stomach is grumbling, my back has an itch.
My foot fell asleep, my pants are too tight, someone is coughing, am I doing this right?

Why do I relate to this poem? Because as I pursue my work as a geoscientist–educator at a liberal arts college — reading, teaching, and striving at the intersections of earth science, gender studies, environmental studies, and history of science — I often wonder, “Am I doing this right?” Continued »

Listen! The Earth Breathes!

Geologist and Shambhala Sun Earth Dharma blogger Jill S. Schneiderman shares a post-election wish.

Like many millions of people around the world, I was captivated by President Barack Obama’s election night victory speech. And my heart cheered when I heard the President say, “we want our children to live in an America that…. isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” Maybe the Earth has now, finally, made itself heard on the issue of the disastrous implications of global warming for all beings that live on this planet. Continued »

“Being (noun); Human (adjective)”

A new Earth Dharma post by Jill S. Schneiderman.

Trying out a new set of phrases for focusing my attention while sitting a four-day retreat with colleagues from the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, I sat on a rock ledge at the Garrison Institute, eyes softly resting on the castle rumored to have been the inspiration for the one in The Wizard of Oz.

“Breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in; breathing out, I am aware that I am breathing out.” Continued »

Earth, Mars, and Meteorites Inter-Are

Credit: Dr. Elmar Buchner

We told you about the Iron Man / Space Buddha last week. Now, a look at our own relationship with space by way of a new “Earth Dharma” post by Jill S. Schneiderman.

While discussing the five skandhas (aspects) that constitute a human being during a dharma talk on The Heart Sutra—a core Buddhist text—renowned Zen teacher Norman Fischer commented that although we don’t need science to confirm the veracity of what we think to be true, it’s nice when it happens that way.

Recently some extraterrestrial data sources corroborated for me what my beginner’s mind thinks The Heart Sutra teaches—that all phenomena are expressions of emptiness. Fischer says this teaching on emptiness is really a teaching about connection. Emptiness, he says, refers to the emptiness of any separation and therefore to the radical connection or interdependence of all things. Continued »

Taking the Practice Seriously

Shambhala SunSpace blogger Jill S. Schneiderman noticed an interesting article in the New York Times yesterday. And she wasn’t the only one; James Atlas’ “Buddhists’ Delight” is currently the most-emailed story on the Times site. (And interestingly enough, the Washington Post published an American-Buddhism piece yesterday, too.) Here Schneiderman responds to Atlas’s piece.
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Tengboche Buddhist monastery, Nepal (via Creative Commons)

Yesterday I read “Buddhists’ Delight,” an opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times by James Atlas, a long-time literary journalist who has written for the New Yorker and published a biography of Saul Bellow. In the piece Atlas describes four days he spent at a Buddhist meditation center “in retreat, from a frenetic Manhattan life.” It’s obvious from the essay that Atlas brought “beginner’s mind” to the retreat and his report of this first encounter with Buddhist meditation is pretty insightful. Atlas’ piece is a good introduction to the experience and I intend to give it to friends who are contemplating the possibility of sitting a multi-day retreat. Nonetheless, as experienced meditators know, there’s more to meditation than beginners may realize. Continued »

Bringing Wise Mind to “Mine-golia”

A new post from Shambhala SunSpace “Earth Dharma” blogger Jill S. Schneiderman.

How shall we bring the Buddhist “perfections of the heart,” such as generosity, patience, equanimity, truthfulness, renunciation, and wisdom, to the ways we interact with the earth? I sometimes find myself adopting what might be considered a generous stance of sharing equally what Earth offers. But then I realize that I’m reacting to a feeling of needing more than what I already have. Continued »

After Earth Day, Active Hope

A new post from Shambhala Sun “Earth Dharma” blogger Jill S. Schneiderman.

With its numbered teachings, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy (2012), a new book by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, pays tribute to its Buddhist roots. However, instead of the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path, the five hindrances, and the four brahmaviharas, readers of Active Hope get three stories of our time, five signs of the great unraveling, four stations of the work that reconnects, and three dimensions of the great turning. In their book, Macy and Johnstone update the repertoire of teachings that will enhance our abilities to acknowledge disturbing ecological truths and respond with creativity and resilience. Continued »

What Pema Chödrön (Unwittingly) Taught Me About Climate Change

A new post from Shambhala SunSpace “Earth Dharma” blogger Jill S. Schneiderman.

Recently, when I opened my copy of Offerings: Buddhist Wisdom for Every Day for a bit of early morning inspiration, as has become my habit, I found the following insight from Pema Chödrön:

Not causing harm requires staying awake. Part of being awake is slowing down enough to notice what we say and do. The more we witness our emotional chain reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain. It becomes a way of life to stay awake, slow down, and notice.

Reading it, I couldn’t help but think how relevant her comment is to the situation of North America in March of this year, a month that has felt downright summery. Continued »

Falling in Love with “Other” Earth

Photo by Don Farber

A new “Earth Dharma” post by Jill S. Schneiderman.

In his recent interview with Guardian editor Jo Confino, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh suggested that a spiritual revolution is needed so that we might avoid living in a future world torn asunder by societal stresses related to climate change. He characterized such a spiritual revolution as one in which we fall back in love with the planet and see the connection between the Earth and ourselves. In doing so, he says, we will heal the planet.

I had just heard Christian Parenti, contributing editor at The Nation and author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2011) speak about the “catastrophic convergence” of climate change and increased social and political violence, and as a result felt convinced that Thich Nhat Hanh’s radical prescription for repair is precisely what we need. But how does one fall back in love with the Earth? Continued »

Cherishing Living Beings — Seen and Unseen

From the first-ever video footage of the newly found Yeti Crab.

A new “Earth Dharma” post by Jill S. Schneiderman.

The first time I chanted the Metta Sutta — the Buddha’s teaching on lovingkindness — I was a retreatant at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts and I got caught up in the inflection marks that appeared above the words; I couldn’t quite figure out when my voice should go up and when it should go down. I felt self conscious about not getting it right and awkward each time we chanted the sutta (in Pali, the language of the Buddha, sutta means “thread” and its presence in the title of a text indicates that it is a sermon of the Buddha or one of his major disciples). Still, at each sit I looked forward to the collective chant. I listened carefully and chanted along with the group following the rhythm, tempo,  and pitch. Eventually the sutta seeped into my bones, resonated in my body. In short order, I loved it.

These days, one of my favorite aspects of a retreat with Sylvia Boorstein and Sharon Salzberg is our coming out of silence by reciting together this sutta and discussing the lines we love. Usually my mind settles on “contented and easily satisfied” or “so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings.” Continued »

A taste of impermanence

In this new post, geoscientist and Shambhala SunSpace contributor Jill S. Schneiderman shares how mindfulness practice recently helped her not just to enjoy a delicious dessert but to appreciate and articulate a common phenomenon of our planet.

We were a few days into a week-long silent meditation retreat and pecan bars were on the lunchtime dessert menu. I was particularly into the process of bringing mindful awareness to mealtime. In the past, the practice resulted in loosening knots in my mind so I felt open to the possible surprises this retreat might offer.

A sign next to the dessert tray listed the ingredients: brown sugar, butter, eggs, pecans. I decided to indulge and took one pecan bar to my seat at the massive, dark table in the silent dining room of this one-time monastery. It was small, soft, and barely held the rectangular shape into which it had been cut. I placed it in my mouth and felt the sweetness on my tongue. Continued »

The Keystone XL Pipeline Project: Extremely unskillful?

A new “Earth Dharma” post by Jill S. Schneiderman.

As thousands of people circled the White House to make known their objections to the multibillion dollar Keystone XL Project, I was again reminded of a comment by Jack Kornfield: “Ours is a society of denial that conditions us to protect ourselves from any direct difficulty and discomfort. We expend enormous energy denying our insecurity, fighting pain, death, and loss, and hiding from the basic truths of the natural world and of our own nature.”

The dedicated activists who gathered to communicate their views to the President and many others are trying to alert the world’s population to a critical basic truth about the Earth: fossil fuels are an exhaustible resource whose extraction is a perilous and foolhardy enterprise. What’s more, they are trying to wake us up to the fact that in our pursuit of energy sources, greed prevents us from acting skillfully. Continued »

Earth Dharma: What would the Dalai Lama say about fracking?

In his book For the Benefit of All Beings: A Commentary on the Way of the Bodhisattva, His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes, “The actions of each of us, human or nonhuman, have contributed to the world in which we live. We all have a common responsibility for our world and are connected with everything in it.”

That is of course, a statement that applies to people of all kinds; not just Buddhists. As an earth system scientist, I feel the truth of that statement in my bones, every day. So, yesterday when I heard the news that ecologist, bladder cancer survivor, parent and activist Sandra Steingraber had been recognized this year with a Heinz award, I felt a surge of hope. Continued »

This View of Earth: A Call to Attention

A new “Earth Dharma” post by Jill S. Schneiderman.

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks here on the eastern edge of the North American continent, despite the fact that we are situated in the middle and therefore relatively stable portion—speaking tectonically—of the North American lithospheric plate.

I felt the 5.8 magnitude Virginia quake on August 23 while sitting in a flimsy camp chair perched on Precambrian bedrock just inches above the ground surface in western Massachusetts. Continued »

Connected Across a Billion Years

A new Shambhala Sun “Earth Dharma” post by Jill S. Schneiderman.

For the past month my family and I lived at Eden Village Camp in Putnam Valley, New York. Rooted in the Jewish vision of creating a more environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually connected world, the campers at Eden Village were empowered to promote a vibrant future for themselves, their communities and the planet. While my partner and I worked as science “specialists”—focusing especially on earth science—and our children participated as campers, we lived a collaborative effort to create an earth-based, safe, and kind community.

As a result, I came to think of Eden Village as a Jewish version of the Buddhist sangha. Continued »