My name is Christoph and I’m from Austria. I studied geography with special focus on sustainable development. I came to Mexico in the Tuxtlas region to do my thesis on ecotourism, and I stay here for now especially because my girlfriend lives here.
I got involved in Wake Up because I already knew about the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh for two and half years from books and YouTube videos. But I haven’t had a chance to go to a Sangha or a retreat. Then I went to a MBRS course and later found out on the Internet about the Wake Up movement. However, I was reluctant because I thought that I wasn’t ready to start a Wake Up group.
But a few months ago, I started to attend a Sangha. I got a lot of encouragement and resources to practice, so I started a Wake Up group in Los Tuxtlas. There is a lot of interest, but there is still no established group that meets regularly because it is difficult to find a time that fits for everyone to come. But I’m optimistic that there will be a Wake Up Sangha soon.
The main reason why I came up with the Forest of Interbeing Project is because I came to Mexico to do my thesis on eco-tourism.
I found out about the massive deforestation of tropical rainforest here and the many problems related to it. I also saw that with writing my thesis, it didn’t change anything. I’m just documenting it, and I saw government programs in my region, which do not have a lot of impact.
There are some conservation efforts, but they are constrained due to many factors. So I saw the need to do something. On the other hand, I’m traveling regularly between Austria and Mexico so something that worries me is my high ecological footprint. I try to lower my footprint by various actions like using public transport or consume in a more sustainable way, for instance not eating meat, but my ecological footprint is still very high.
That made me motivated to become more active in working on some projects that are good for the earth. Thay always says that if you want to change something and do something that has an impact, you need a Sangha.
So I had an idea, proposed it to international Wake Up Sanghas to do this project, and thought: let’s see what’s going to happen. It was amazing what happened. There was a lot of interest and enthusiasm, so it’s really great.
Have there been any challenges that you’ve encountered so far or have things been smooth?
Working together with a few friends from Wake Up has been perfect. We’ve been having Skype calls every two weeks, and our virtual meetings have been very joyful. It’s great how everyone has been showing up, participating, and trying to help in this project.
There are some difficulties with the work on the ground. Sometimes plans change a lot. For example in the Tuxtlas region, a person offered us to provide a hectare for reforestation for free. Then two weeks later, he cancelled the offer because someone in his family didn’t agree with it. Then new opportunities arise so things are constantly changing. Overall, there has been a lot of interest from the people in the region. We have to accept this impermanence, so I think this is a good experience to learn in this project.
What are your next steps in the development of this project?
The next step is to make a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for this project because we’ve already put the possibility for donations on www.wkup.org, but I think it’ll be better to create a campaign.
We’ll talk with people who agree to provide some land for reforestation. We’ll also have to figure out how much the actions will cost and define a minimum goal for our crowdfunding campaign. Of course, if we raise more it would be great, so we could even do more reforestation.
While you’ve been involved in this project, have there been any strong habit energies that have emerged or you’ve noticed that with your practice, you’ve been handling this project well especially with your Skype meetings?
In general, doing a project like this is sometimes difficult to concentrate on the present moment and not dream about the future, that is a constant challenge. Just as Brandon wrote in The Mindfulness Bell at the beginning of 2014, you’re not always mindful naturally although you are working on a mindfulness project.
When I’m out in nature to look at places we might reforest, it is easy to connect with the present moment. It is more difficult when I’m on the computer because I’m not focusing on the present moment.
What about any successes that have been working well with the project?
There has been a lot of interest among the people here. Right now, we have three concrete offers but we will wait with reforestation until the rainy season in July or August. If we plant trees now, they would dry.
There is also interest from mindfulness practitioners in other parts of Mexico to come and help as well as from schools in this area, so I think that is one important aspect of the project. It is also kind of environmental education, where children and young adults can work on conserving the environment. I think this has much more impact than learning about these things in the classroom. We’ve already organized one event for a recollection of seeds in the forest to prepare them for planting. Sixteen people came and were very motivated.