On April 20, 2010, an oil spill began in the Gulf of Mexico and quickly became the greatest environmental disaster in American history. An explosion and fire on British Petroleum's (BP's) Deep Horizon oil rig resulted in the death of 11 workers and the sinking of the rig two days later. It was discovered that the well 5,000 feet beneath the ocean surface was leaking crude oil directly into the Gulf of Mexico. Estimates of the size of the spill varied, but oil washed up on the Gulf coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, polluting vital wetlands and beaches; killing birds, fish, shrimp, oysters, crabs, and other sea creatures; and destroying the livelihoods of communities throughout the region. Out at sea vast plumes of oil and chemical dispersants further threatened the fragile ocean ecosystem.

Anger. Frustration. Dismay. Resentment. Impatience. Sadness. Despair. Righteous indignation. We felt all these emotions. But what is the spiritual response?

Prayer and compassion practices are ways to respond from our hearts. So we posted a month's worth of new prayers, chants, meditations, and thoughts for conscious reflection that help us connect with the sacred water of our planet.

Second, we can look deeply into ourselves and confess our own complicity in this tragedy. We are part of a society that rides upon petroleum products. Oil fuels our cars and heats our homes. It is used in the manufacture of medicines, computers, phones, CDs, plastic bottles — more products that we can mention.

By the beginning of June 2010, 34 million gallons of oil had polluted the waters of the Gulf with incredibly toxic effects. This is the amount of crude oil used in the United States every hour. Until we face up to the real costs of our addiction to oil, we will continue to be a threat to our home planet.

Over the years, we have in times of crisis written "I Am" prayers modeled after poem/prayers by Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Once again he speaks to our condition:

"I am the forest that is being cut down.
I am the rivers and the air that are being polluted,
and I am also the person who cuts down the forest
and pollutes the rivers and the air.
I see myself in all species,
and I see all species in me.
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book

The spiritual truth is this: We are the polluted water of the Gulf and we are the polluters. Here is our own "I am" prayer for the Gulf Oil Crisis.

We Are One

I am the ocean, mighty, wild, and free
and I am being poisoned with oil.
From a hole humans drilled into the earth's skin beneath me
flows a stream I cannot stop, threatening all I shelter.
Breath to breath, body to body, we are One.
So be it.

I am a worker who died when the BP oil rig exploded.
I was trying to support my family
and supply a needed resource to my country.
Now I will never see my family and friends again.
Breath to breath, body to body, we are One.
So be it.

. . . Continue reading this "I Am" prayer

Water Is Sacred: Prayers, Meditations, and Thoughts for the Water Crisis