Maeve Murphy is a Green Sangha member and group leader. She discovered Green Sangha through a talk on Rethinking Plastics sponsored by Sustainable Fairfax. She subsequently attended a retreat at the home of Sita Khufu in San Anselmo, and soon was taking the Rethinking Plastics speaker training. She works for the California State Bar, and is helping her organization reduce waste through recycling and more mindful consumption. Since 2012, she has served as Beach Captain for the California Coastal Cleanup at McNear’s Beach (her report on the 2015 clean-up is here.) Maeve spoke with board member Stuart Moody on February 10, 2016.
Q: What are your roots in the environmental movement?
A: When I was a child, my parents took me and my siblings into the outdoors a lot. From age 6 to 13, I spent my summers in Lassen National Forest, where there were no paved roads, no electricity, no telephones. We were free-range kids and played, swam, fished, and explored every day for the whole summer. I formed a deep connection to nature.
Q: How did you get started in taking care of the environment?
A: The first environmental action that I remember was when I was 12 or 13: I started picking up litter in the woods, mostly along the roads.
Q: Did your parents tell you to do this?
A: No. I felt saddened that people would litter the forest and disrespect it with their carelessness. No one else was cleaning up the litter, so I did. I would take a bag with me on walks and pick up what I found. I delivered a lot of bags of litter to the ranger station.
Q: How did you discover Green Sangha?
A: I saw a little article in the Pacific Sun about a talk in Fairfax. It mentioned plastics, which was an issue I felt strongly about and I had done some work on, so that piqued my interest. What you and Andy said in the talk resonated with me – taking a mindful approach to a very difficult environmental problem.
Q: What do you like about Green Sangha?
A: The actual programs – initially plastics. And, the message of environmental action grounded in spirituality. In my activism perhaps I could be a little over-zealous at times. Sometimes I’d feel angry when people seemed oblivious or apathetic and perhaps that showed.
So, I liked in Green Sangha the approach of a more loving activism. I think more carefully now about the way a message might be received. I’m more aware of how it lands, how it might touch the heart of the listener. But I’ve also learned to be more accepting of ‘what is,’ how things really are instead of how I think they should be.
There were times when I’d get passionate about an environmental problem and my friends would say, “Well, that’s your issue,” meaning that they were not so exercised over the problem. Green Sangha has helped me be more aware of how I’m coming across. For example, I was riding on the ferry and saw a man toss a beer bottle into the trash. At one time I might have said, “You know, that’s recyclable,” or maybe scowled. But this time, I picked up the bottle and said with a smile, “Did you know they have recycling bins here? I’ll put it there.” He smiled back, and thanked me. And maybe next time he’ll think about where he puts his bottle.
Q: What is your current involvement with Green Sangha?
A: I am a supporting member. I have been a chapter facilitator, and occasionally lead the meditation at special events. I also represent Green Sangha as Beach Captain on Coastal Cleanup Day at McNear’s Beach. I took the Rethinking Plastics training, too. Now, working full-time for the State Bar of California, I am finding ways to gradually engage the organization in reducing their waste.
I had led group meetings in my previous environmental projects, and given talks, but I never thought that I would be leading a group in meditation! It feels good to be able to do this small thing to help increase people’s consciousness.
Q: What excites you about Green Sangha and the environmental movement now?
A: The opportunity to make change collectively. An individual can do something, but the effect is limited. I feel buoyed being around and working with people who share my passion and are committed to action.
Q: Do you have any advice for mindful activists like yourself?
A: Speak your truth, because if these issues that we think are important are not in the conversation, nothing changes. And if you can speak that truth with respect, empathy, and grace, but still with passion, you can effect change. It’s still a challenge for me, trying to do this with awareness of how it will be heard.
Find a way to connect with people. After all, they are you and you are them.