Compassionate Earth Walkers enter United States after 23-day walk through Canada

July 31, 2013; For Immediate Release:

Compassionate Earth Walkers enter United States after 23-day walk through Canada

Contact: Shodo Spring,

Five walkers from the Compassionate Earth Walk have completed a 380-mile journey from Hardisty, Alberta to Monchy, Saskatchewan and returned to the United States to continue their three-month pilgrimage along the Keystone XL pipeline.


Not a protest but a spiritual walk, the Compassionate Earth Walk (CEW) focuses on the relationship between humans and the earth, on making wise decisions in this time of climate change, and on listening to everyone involved. Walkers have enjoyed conversations with ranchers, farmers, pipeline workers, retired people, environmentalists, and religious leaders.

The walk began with participation in the Fourth Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk, a 500+ person walk through part of the Ft. McMurray tar sands, learning and volunteering. The Keepers of the Athabascan, a multi-racial group, sponsors this spiritual walk every year in addition to other activities caring for land and water in the region.  Lina Blount, one of the CEW walkers and a recent Bryn Mawr graduate, commented, “Seeing the tar sands during the Healing Walk and being in a spiritual place with all those people wishing for healing, set a profound foundation for the Compassionate Earth Walk.”

Walkers then drove to Hardisty, where the new construction of the KXL is planned to begin, and began their daily practice of walking 20 miles in two shifts each day, with the nonwalking group taking care of support services. Three of the original walkers have left for work, school or family obligations; a journalist traveled with the group for a few days at the beginning; and three new walkers joined the group on July 10. In Montana a group of about 10 walkers will join the group, bringing a school bus powered by recycled vegetable oil and solar panels – the primary support vehicle for the rest of the journey.

Rev.. Shodo Spring, a grandmother and Buddhist nun who founded the Walk, commented, “There are two sides to the walking. For many days now we have simply walked through the landscape, allowing the earth to support and heal us; now I can feel the other side of the walk, that we are giving to the earth with every step, every thought, every action and interaction.”

During the remainder of their journey, walkers will continue to seek interaction with local people, opportunities both to learn and to teach. Public events are currently scheduled near Fort Peck, MT in early August, and near Grand Island, NE in early August. To schedule an event, to join the walk, or to offer food or shelter to walkers, contact the walk leader, Shodo Spring, at 507-384-8541.

For further information and updates, see the blog and website at

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Please check out the website.

All blog posts are now at the website, To catch up with what’s happening, please go there and click on blog.

Lots and lots is happening. We have five walkers committed for the whole walk, the route is set, support people are working hard, and we have a support vehicle – veggie oil school bus. Please check out the website, and sign up for updates to stay in touch. 

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Phone call February 28; matching grant ends soon

Dear Friends of Compassionate Earth Walk,

 We will have our first group phone call on Thursday afternoon, February 28, at 7 pm Eastern Time, 6 Central Time, 5 Mountain Time, 4 Pacific Time. Please sign up for the call by replying to this email.


You’re invited to this call if you’re planning to be a walker or supporter, or if you’re thinking about it, or if you’d like to volunteer some help. Here’s an approximate agenda:

  • Introductions and getting acquainted.

  • Discuss the general feeling of the walk, what it means to be a spiritual walk, doing service, listening, dialogue. At the end of this call you’ll have a better idea of what it will be like, which may help you decide whether to walk, whether to invite all your friends to come along, and so forth….

  • The specifics currently laid out on the website are an attempt to express my original vision; this conversation will help that vision to evolve. Three specific questions have come up; there will be more later. First, shall we go to the Healing Walk at the Alberta Tar Sands – a long drive, but a great send-off; I’ve attended this and will share information. Second, exact start and end dates – or at least a start date and some conversation about the end. Third, the dog question. Two people have asked to bring dogs, and there will probably be more requests. I think that considering this question will help us get real about that “general feeling of the walk” topic.

  • Finally, we can clarify who is interested in becoming a planner, or in volunteering for advance tasks without becoming a planner.


Please take a look at the website, if you haven’t already, and sign up for updates. If you would like to donate, please do it while we still have the matching grant.


And if you’re coming to the call, take a good look at these pages: describes a day on the walk and more. The forum invites conversation online, including one thread specifically for those who are definitely planning to walk. And here is information about ways to support us without coming along.


If the long distance phone call is a problem and you can’t borrow a free phone, contact me. Also contact me if you want to try to join the next call.


I look forward to talking with some of you soon.




Shodo Spring

for Compassionate Earth Walk

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Compassionate Earth Walk – New website, matching grant, and other news

Dear Friends of the Compassionate Earth Walk,

It’s only six months until the walk begins.

Here’s a summary of the topics in this post:
New website information
Donation, matching grant, and list of reasons to donate
Conference calls for walkers will be scheduled soon.

We have a website now, It includes all the old information plus some new things:
a background page – environmental, climate change, cultural and political context, and who’s working on what. It includes extensive links for more detailed information – instead of writing a book! It also includes map links.
Writings and interviews, by me and others, including my personal story
Links to the Facebook page and the blog
A forum for discussion – this isn’t working yet but will be soon.
A donation button – with tax exemption and a matching grant. I’ll say more about donations below.
It does not yet include links to any spiritual or religious organizations, and I ask your help in compiling that list.
If you know a relevant website that should be included, or an article, picture, or poem you’d like posted, please send it to me.

I encourage you to sign up for the website updates, particularly if you are currently getting emails.

Donations: donate here
We can receive tax-deductible donations as a project of the Minnesota Alliance for Sustainability. For the coming month (to the end of February) we have a matching grant, one-for-one, up to $5000 – which would put us in good shape. (Minimum donation $10; the Alliance keeps only 5%.) If you would like, you can designate your donation toward one of the following:

$100 One day of the Walk – food camping, fuel for support vehicle, on a day without local hosts. This is a rough estimate depending on number of people and many unknowns.
$ ?? Scholarship support for individual walkers – help with travel costs and possibly equipment, so participation is less dependent on class privilege. If you have equipment to donate or lend, please email here.
$ ?? Guest speakers and teachers*
$20 to $100 Gifts for host communities.
$500 Networking trips: There are pipeline-related events happening all the time now. In particular it would be helpful to make a face-to-face visit to support allies in South Dakota and Saskatchewan.
$188 Website fee (3 years, paid with borrowed money)
$150 Web design (almost a donation, from a friend and activist)
$ 40-50 Office supplies – paper, cardstock, printer ink for fliers; postage, misc.
$ 12 Four months of SkypeOut, which allows us to call supporters in Canada

Special thanks to 2012 donors, whose confidence and early donations supported the August trip, which turned out to be invaluable in shaping the walk as well as making a real connection to people in the larger movements on environment, indigenous rights, and pipelines.

* one of my hopes is to coordinate some educational events –
(1) permaculture training for interested ranchers. (One of the reasons people sign pipeline leases is poverty – getting worse as the droughts increase.) Because in a crisis, “the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.” Bringing in more ideas means people have more options for community-building, life-enhancing, successful responses to drought and hardships.
(2) spiritual teachers, conflict resolution facilitators, to support community-building and encourage leadership already existing in the local community.
For these speakers we would need to offer at least travel expenses, hopefully more. This will only happen if we get financial support.

Not requested: Costs of phone, laptop, printer, office space, time – all donated. Hopefully support vehicle use will be donated.

Conference Calls:
Starting in February, there will be monthly conference calls. For the first one, everyone is invited who’s thinking of walking or supporting. If you want to be on the call but have limitations with time or calling U.S., please email me now and I’ll try to make it workable. There will be an email with at least a week’s notice for each call.

Other news:
So much is happening over the pipeline issue, and over the larger issue of colonization and how we relate to nature, that I can’t try to report it all here. I post things to Facebook as they come in.

Closing thoughts:
In six months some of us will be on our way to the start of the walk. It feels very close. And if you have questions or concerns, email me. Please help publicize it. If you have a website, we could link; if you’re in a group, share information. This is the time when we’d like to make sure we’ve reached everybody.

And thank you all, bless you all!


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Year-end thoughts

Dear Friends,


At the close of the year, I have just a short update on the Compassionate Earth Walk, and some reflections on the big picture.


We now have a small group of committed walkers – at least three for the full walk, plus more – and in January we’ll start having group phone conversations. With a new webmaster, I expect the website to be up in January, and to have space for a many-sided conversation. Until then, the blog carries the updates and the facebook page adds various things that come my way.


We now have 501(c)(3) status as a project of the Minnesota Alliance for Sustainability, and you can make a tax-deductible donation here. If you feel moved to give, now is a good time. Thank you to all the people who trusted me and donated money without waiting.


We have a $5000 challenge grant, matching donations one for one through the end of January.


What will donations go for? First, the website, a modest fee to the webmaster, and a few other office and organizing items. Later there will be trip expenses – food, some equipment, support vehicle costs, and gifts. I have some wishes: to hire some office and organizing help, particularly to do the things that are hardest for me. To reimburse myself the few hundred dollars remaining from the preliminary trip (invaluable) last August. To help fund a documentary.


There is also a dream: What if we could invite speakers and pay their travel expenses? I imagine bringing teachers with skills such as permaculture, to help bootstrap the move away from fossil fuels, green the plains, help ranchers out of the financial desperation that leads them to sacrifice their lands. Or conflict resolution, cultural exchange, and more. If you have a dream of this walk, what would you want to offer? If you want more information, or to designate a gift for something specific, just be in touch.



The walk is a human response to the world we live in. I have written some of my thoughts, but encourage you first to read a lovely essay by Rebecca Solnit, about the meaning of 2012 and the necessity of 2013. She writes,


Think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger.  This is a terrible thing to say, but not as terrible as the reality that you can see in footage of glaciers …. (read more)


In that context, this walk is a contribution to what 2013 might be – needs to be.


We have been accustomed to having what we want. Turn a switch, there is light and heat. Food can come from the grocery store. People don’t have to live near their families because you can always jump on a plane. This is new, a direct result of fossil fuels – even for the very rich – and it is not a condition required for life or even happiness. We now need to consider whether we are willing to sacrifice the future of our children (everyone’s children) for our present comfort. And we might take note that a simpler life is not necessarily as hard as we imagine, and may well be more enriching than our own.


In 2012, climate change became real to ordinary Americans – as it was already real to scientists, to people in island nations, and to victims of drought and flood around the globe. Still industry and government agreed to do nothing.


Repression continues. Resistance movements flourish. Overt violence and tragedy grow, and we do not know how to respond.


Change, hope, love (a few items):

Ten years ago there was a shooting in Red Lake, Minnesota. Young survivors of that event traveled to Sandy Hook to counsel with the survivors and families there. They had been visited by survivors from Columbine. A new tradition of compassion was born out of the most painful of tragedies.


Since starting to prepare for the Walk, I have heard of at least a dozen different groups or individuals who likewise have taken up walking – or bicycling, or whatever – sometimes in protest or activism, but sometimes it felt like – well, when we do not know what to do, sometimes we put one foot in front of the other and throw ourselves on the mercy of the earth.


For me, walking the pipeline route is about radical acceptance of our situation, finding a way to change our part in it. We place our bodies on the earth in a very ancient way, trusting earth’s compassion, and open to our fellow humans as well.


So that is what I have to offer, this winter season as we move toward longer days. Some beautiful words have come my way, I offer them here.


Walt Whitman:

“This is what you shall do:
love the Earth and Sun and the animals,
despise riches,
give alms to everyone that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
hate tyrants,
argue not concerning god,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men,

go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with mothers of families,
read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul,

and your very flesh will be a great poem
and have the richest fluency not only in its words
but in the silent lines of its lips and face
and between the lashes of your eyes
and in every motion and joint of your body…”

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Dear Friends,

I’ve been silent, away nearly a month, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the East. Although the disasters continue in the world, at this time my thoughts are quiet.

I went to Japan for a ceremony called zuisse, which marks my entry into the role of Zen teacher. Then I visited a friend who’s a monk in Korea, and we spent some time traveling and visiting monasteries. We were guided by Hye Mun Sunim, a nun for over 35 years, who also was an activist during a period of repression in her country. It was a miraculous journey, something I could never have planned.

She spoke no English. I speak no Korean. My friend Kyung Bon Sunim did amazing work as interpreter.

I consulted her about the Walk, and she gave permission to share her words. I said the purpose of the walk is to protect the land, benefit the people, and help people to wake up. There’s an understanding that a monastery benefits the people of the region, just by being there and doing spiritual practice, and my intention is that the walk will be like that too. I also told her that I feel a bit scared of this undertaking, and humbled – it’s so large.

Her reply: First, remember that this is an ancient practice. The Buddha spent most of his time traveling and teaching. If people criticize, remember this. (I thought, Jesus did the same. Pilgrimage is a universal practice.) Second, it’s important that everyone walking be of the same intention. “If a large number of people carry a candle, they light the darkness. If one of them throws water instead, it doesn’t work.”

On intention: there seem to be two kinds of interest in the walk. One is environmentalism, populism, rebellion, revolution, decolonization, anti-civilization: acting to set things right, not giving in to despair. Every time I post information about the pipeline or tar sands, there’s a rush of activity on the Facebook page, which might reflect this. The other theme might be called spiritual, or retreat. This walk may be a way for people who have been battling hard to take a break, to turn inward a bit with silence and walking, and to share a healing and nourishing community with the other walkers as well as meeting people and land. It could also be a semi-monastic training period, or a journey of personal exploration and discovery, or – I don’t know. I’m certain the land can be profoundly healing to each of us, if we allow it, and as we offer it what we have.

She also said, “The leader is just a guide. Remember that and don’t get ego-involved, either with pride or self-criticism.” She asked whether I have support from my teacher and from the Zen organization. Finally she told me about an activist monk who walked across Korea, doing a traditional three-steps-and-one-bow. He started alone and ended with hundreds of people. I felt encouraged.

A month ago I posted a description of what a day on the Walk might look like. Then I worried that it would scare people away. I’ll just add these comments:

If it’s too hard, we’ll change it. Much is unpredictable. Yet I know this: Structure is support. It’s needed most when things are hardest. We can’t predict all the difficulties, but we can make ourselves ready for them, and also build in opportunities for learning, for community, for celebration.

If it sounds too Buddhist, that’s because there hasn’t yet been input from other potential walkers.

On weather: There’s the question of whether July is too hot or October is too cold. So far the jury is evenly divided, so the decision is not yet made.

Other practical things:
Some things have delayed the website; unless there is a new volunteer it might be another month. There are still bills from the August trip and website fee, and donors still have to just give the money to me. Once it is up, I will be working on organization, tax status, support and networking. And – I have had some phone conversations and welcome more.

Please be kind to yourselves.

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October update: walkers and supporters

I’ve been silent for a while, working on the website – which hopefully will go up in a month. Here I’m posting the working drafts of two pages: one for prospective walkers, including probable daily schedules, and one for supporters. This should give some feel for what we will be doing. It’s also quite long.


One problem: This is meant to be an interfaith walk, but I have not found partners yet. (Truthfully, I have been traveling and busy with other commitments. I hope to be reaching out seriously in December, and welcome suggestions.) So the imagery is all Buddhist. I ask you to come forth if you can contribute balance from other spiritual paths.


In the support section you will find a few items yellowed; these are high priority immediate requests. If you can do one of them, please get in touch. Small pieces are just fine.


joining the walk:

  • First, know that you are welcome to join us in a way that works for you. One group of people will go the whole way, 3 months. Others will join us along the route, for a few hours or days or weeks. Some will walk through their town, county, or state. Some will come with special skills or knowledge to offer to the walkers or to our hosts along the way.

  • For short-term walkers:

    Please join us with respect and participate in all activities, or quietly observe. You can read the message to walkers below, to get a feel for it.

  • You could come for a few hours, days or weeks.

  • You may also offer support other than walking: see the “support” page.

A day on the walk:


A day of just walking

  • 5 am wake-up, pack

  • 5:30 meditation (alternate sitting and walking)

  • 6:30 service (chanting, prayers, or other offering that grows out of the shared consciousness of the group)

  • 7:00 breakfast

  • 7:30 circle (announcements, day’s schedule, special needs, intention)

  • 7:45 walking (in silence or chanting)

  • (one rest break during morning)

  • noon lunch stop

  • 1:00 walking (silence or chanting)

  • 3 or 4 stop for the day

  • Informal time: talking, cell phones, bathing, relaxing. For new walkers, orientation.

  • 5 council meeting: shared care of the community and of our intention

  • 6 supper

  • 7 study group

  • 8 meditation

  • 9-9:30 bedtime


A day with local community

  • Same schedule until arrival at our day’s destination. Then the schedule will adapt to include events such as educational programs, listening circles, prayer circles, meditation and/or instruction, public meetings, conflict resolution, and service projects.

  • We hope that we will meet with and learn from not only local activist groups but farmers and ranchers, pipeline workers, church, civic, labor, youth, and every kind of group. We will be prepared to offer a wide range of information and support.


A rest day

  • At least once a week we will have a rest day, without travel and a more relaxed schedule. Sometimes these days will involve meetings or service projects in a community, other times they will be an opportunity to relax, and refresh ourselves. While it’s not possible to define a schedule, these will include sleeping late, three scheduled meals, individual meetings, and time for community activities such as yoga or music.

There will be some commitment expected of walkers.

In Zen, there’s a tradition of a 3-month retreat, in which people gather in a quiet place to support each other in spiritual practice, and to learn from teachers. The retreat is called “ango,” which means “peaceful abiding.” it is commonly understood that a major part of the learning comes from living with peers, and from living with the schedule.


This is not quite a retreat. We will be moving. Sometimes it will be quiet, often not. Rather than retreat, we will be engaging with people who are not part of the retreat. And although there will be teaching and study, and hopefully there will be guest teachers, I consider that the main teaching will be the earth, the people, and the act of walking with intention.


I invite you to walk in the spirit of peaceful abiding.



In the original Buddhist monastic tradition, each day monks or nuns would beg at 7 houses, not discriminating between rich and poor because everyone was equally entitled to the merit of making a donation.


I ask you to request donations from 7 people or organizations, on behalf of the walk. Some of that money will be needed to support the walk; the rest will be donated, by joint decision of all those who have walked.


If you would like, ask an additional 7 donations in support of your own walking – travel expenses to your starting place, hiking boots, and the like.


Probably your friends will be happy for a chance to participate by supporting you.


COMMUNICATIONS and decision-making: we seek the Middle Way.

Our model is the Quakers: decisions are by consensus, everyone is heard, yet some are elders and take more responsibility. During each day’s activities and particularly in emergencies, some people will have leadership responsibilities and others will support them. Responsibilities will be rotated.

The structure of our life is designed to make decision-making easy.


What it’s about to join us:

  • It’s about getting serious. This walk is born out of these understandings:

  • that human activity is causing immense damage to life on earth, enough damage that we are at risk for catastrophe within a few decades or sooner.

  • That we already have the technology to address the problems and change the direction, and that collectively we have not yet chosen to do so.

  • That essential changes are required for our collective survival:

  • Every one of us needs to give up hopelessness, helplessness, and reliance on rescues by government, technology, or other – and accept responsibility to change what humanity is doing collectively. “I didn’t start it” will not save us.

  • A fundamental cause of the problem is our sense of being separate from the natural world, that it is here as a resource for us to use and use up – without limit.

  • Denial of limits is another central issue – though we come by this naturally in the age of abundant fossil fuels, the earth has limits and we need to wake up to them.


I wrote earlier that one should come with the spirit of a pilgrim, a spiritual warrior, or a monk or nun. What does this mean?

  • It means commitment, putting aside individual wishes for the sake of a larger good. This requires discernment between needs (such as “injured ankle, can’t walk”) and wants (such as “ice cream, now!” or “just don’t want to get out of bed”). In that spirit, read the notes about food (in the “support” section. Those notes will probably be adjusted to reflect our conversation.)

  • Do not use either alcohol or illegal drugs, or be intoxicated, during the time you are part of the walk. Of course, if you are on medications, bring them – and tell us, so we can all support each other.

  • Follow the schedule. This means that if you are unable to do what the schedule says, you communicate with walk leaders rather than just disappearing. It also means that sometimes you need to push yourself.

  • This is a spiritual walk. We will not be carrying political signs or chanting slogans. We may carry images of beauty or spirituality; we may sing or chant blessings as we walk; we may practice silence for long periods of time.

  • You do not need to be religious, but you must respect the religious tradition of other walkers and local people, even when this is difficult.

  • Our intention is to live in a way that is connected with the earth and with each other. Part of this will be about staying focused while walking. Part of it will be about examining our mental and emotional responses to people and situations.


    If you would like to support the walkers along the route:

  • We intend to eat three meals a day; you can bring us a meal or contribute food or a place to eat. (We will have our own utensils.)

  • We will sleep every night; you may be able to offer a place to sleep or to camp. (church basements, community halls, barns, homes, or free campgrounds.)

  • Showers, laundry, and other amenities will be very welcome.

  • On your own area, you might help us find the best place to camp, eat lunch, or even swim.

  • Good drinking water is always welcome. In the spirit of caring for the earth, we will each carry our own water containers, so individual water bottles are unnecessary.

  • Another level: think of us, pray for us, send energy.

  • Even though this is a walk, there may be times when we need a ride – particularly to shuttle to an event or gathering, but also to deal with those 30-mile stretches without a break in the fence and no place to stop. And though we’d love the symbolism of a horse and wagon, whatever vehicle you have is warmly accepted.

    If you would like to support the walk from a distance:

  • Very specifically, we need a graphic artist; a media contact expert; and administrative help during winter and spring, both small-scale and large-scale. (For example, one project involves looking up contact information on the Internet.)

  • You could organize related events in your own community – walks, meditations, prayer gatherings, service projects, or educational events, that speak to the issues of the walk and are associated with it. This could be large or small, and we can help you with ideas or listen to yours.

  • You can help us network: enlist your organization to endorse the walk, share information about the walk with your friends or with your online network – in advance, or during the walk – or help us share information in other ways including radio, newspapers, and other media. Link to our web page. (Tell me now, and we’ll do mutual links when the page is up.)

  • You can raise money and other donations for us, or in the name of the walk for a local project.

  • You may be able to loan a vehicle (biodiesel, veggie oil perhaps), or hiking/camping equipment for some of the walkers.


A note on food:

I’ve said that we walk in the tradition of accepting what is offered. Some people will have dietary restrictions based on health or on conviction; we’ll share that information with hosts providing food, but some individuals may need to carry special food. This will be dealt with as needed.


Instead of asking all food to be vegetarian, we ask that where possible food be non-industrial – grown locally and sustainably, or foraged either from either wilderness or city. In making this request, we prioritize protection of the landbase over protection of individual animal life. Because it could be very difficult, we make it a request and not a requirement.

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