In the context of the Roads Less Travelled project, DiversEarth is undertaking the biggest inventory of Sacred Sites in the Mediterranean to date, and looking closer at certain places to find out just what makes these sites so important for biodiversity, for nature and for people of the region. This is one of the case studies from La Demeure Sans Limites, Zen Soto Buddhist site in Saint Agrève, Ardèche, France.

« And I am the woman
who goes to the foot of a tree
and says to herself:
‘Ah, what joy!’
and meditates with joy… »

Therigata

January 2019. The place is resting. The body is resting. Nature is resting. This is the time for Jôkei Sensei and her assistant, Toen-Ni, to inhale during the three months of the Buddhist centre’s closure before the doors open again in Spring.

La Demeure Sans Limites is a small, 1 hectare site. It was established 25 years ago by Buddhist nun, Joshin Luce Bachoux, and is made up of field and forest, water source and garden. It even houses a small protestant cemetery (cared for by the nuns) and a way to St Jacques de Compostelle runs through it. The house is a typical farmhouse and like Ardèche has been historically, it is a place of refuge for those in need. But La Demeure Sans Limites is far from being typical

« For us buddhists, humans are part of nature. We are part of a whole and therefore we have such a great responsibility for nature. ‘Man’ is at the top of the pyramid – we have the power to destroy, or to take care. »

Here we have decided to take care. Take care first of our body and mind, which then dictates how we act on the outside, towards others and towards nature.

« The Buddha is clear when he says that we must take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. That means we must be conscious, present, and straight – attentive to everything. »

Jizô, dressed in white

Jôkei Sensi (Jô: purity, transparent, clean; Kei: grace, blessings) and Toen-Ni (Tô: lamp, light; En: Dharma)

The lessons appear simple, but…

« The wheel of life is us. At the centre of the wheel there is ignorance with its two corollaries, greed and anger – that’s what makes us turn. We always want more. We would like infinity in a finite world. It’s impossible. »

How can we change these human tendencies?

« We need to live with the seasons. Now it’s winter, and winter is related to our kidneys. Nature is resting and we are too. We are inhaling now, because we exhale a lot the rest of the year. »

« We have our garden and the people who come work there with love. When we harvest, we do it with joy and take the produce to the kitchen. Toen-Ni, in the same way, receives the food – she cooks with love, compassion and care. We eat in silence, present and attentive. We eat Toen-Ni (her work and her state of mind), those who have planted, harvested, we eat the sun, the earth…»

« The Buddha walked, with attention. We can learn a lot from that. He was present. Here we practice walking meditation. We are like water, like the air. Then we are really in nature. »

Even after a short retreat with Jôkei Sensi and Toen-Ni at the Demeure Sans Limites, we are deeply touched and we take the simple life lessons home to our every day existence – it is, after all, our responsibility. Yes there are limits to many things here, but it is precisely in these limitations that we find freedom, connection and the sense of No Limits.

By Liza Zogib, DiversEarth
A longer version of this article is available on the DiversEarth website.

Eating an Organic Mediterranean Diet Helps Fight Disease

For years nutritionists have extolled the virtues of a Mediterranean diet, now environmental NGOs like WWF are calling for us to improve our health and the environment by following the Med. The #MedFoodHeroes campaign from 15-27 June coordinated by @RootedEveryday celebrates the rich cuisine the Mediterranean has to offer and the benefits to people and planet when we buy from small sustainable producers.

Meet #MedFoodHero Ambassador: Renato Álvarez

Renato Álvarez was born into a “neo-rural” family who were trailblazers of organic farming in Andalusia. They were also members of the first social movements and associations dedicated to the production and organic food. Since he was little he was involved in agriculture until he decided to study Environmental Sciences at the Pablo de Olavide University (Seville).

Meet #MedFoodHero Ambassador: Fábio Bernadino

Fábio Bernardino is a Chef, the CEO of Travel & Flavours, a teacher, gastronomic consultant, trainer and event organizer; a young Chef whose excellence opened the doors to major Portuguese hotels and restaurants, like the Pestana Hotéis & Resorts group or the Heritage Lisboa Hotels, where he left his mark of professionalism and rigour. With a great passion for cooking, and especially for pastry, he started his career at the age of 14, when he attended the Professional Cooking and Pastry Course of the Lisbon Hotel and Tourism School.

Meet #MedFoodHero Ambassador: Alfredo Sendim

Alfredo Cunhal Sendim was born in Porto and spent his childhood between Lisbon (the city), Montemor-o-Novo (the countryside) and Ferragudo (the sea). Studied veterinary and zoo technical. In 1990 he moved to the Monte of Herdade do Freixo do Meio, a territory where, step by step, he has been developing a structural project in the agricultural and social field.

Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Sahar Elhallak

Nine years ago, Sahar left her home in California and landed in Morocco in a quest to find herself. While she started a new life in Marrakech, she found some challenges to find restaurants that catered to vegetarians like herself. Since she always enjoyed hosting dinner parties and food-related fundraising events, she started cooking for friends which grew into welcoming people into her beautifully restored hundred-year-old house, for unique culinary experiences.

Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Najat Kaanache

Born to Moroccan parents in a small town near San Sebastian in Spain, Najat Kaanache has been cooking at home since childhood. Now based between the US, Mexico and Morocco. She now creates magic in the kitchen as the owner and chef of the beautiful restaurant Nur in the ancient medina of Fez, named World’s Best Moroccan Restaurant in 2017, 2018 and 2019. She also opened CÚS (a Moroccan bistro in the heart of Mexico City) and Nacho Mama (a funky Mexican cantina in the medina of Fez).

Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Driss Mellal

Driss Mellal was born in a small town in the south of Morocco, near the beautiful Dades valley. His love for cooking started at the age of 20, when he was in art school in southern France. He missed Moroccan food and flavours and so started cooking and experimenting himself. After graduating from art school, he didn’t work in the arts as planned, but instead went to culinary school. “I finally got to combine my art background with new cooking skills, and it became the start of a new life for me,” Driss says.

Sheep to Combat Climate Change

Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza collaborated with the city council of Madrid to organise the annual Fiesta de la Trashumancia Madrid 2019 (Transhumance Festival)—which saw 1800 sheep and 200 goats pass through the centre of Spain’s capital city. The event, now in its 26th year, was successful in creating awareness on the importance of maintaining this ancestral practice of which Spain is a global example and that is a very valuable tool in the fight against climate change and rural depopulation, among other benefits.