“Nature has a right to live and to exist and to continue vital cycles and processes free from human interference. Nature has right to pure water and clean air and to not have its cellular structure modified by genetic alternation.” Bolivian Constitution stating the rights of Pachamama – Mother Nature.
Our conversation on Sunday October 26th was simply beautiful. (Click here for the recording) Over this series, after each teacher’s presentation, I feel like crying because I am so grateful that we can meet in such an authentic place about our planetary emergency. Chas calls them “Dharma tears.” As our collective awakening is quickening while at the same time the forces of callous destruction are intensifying, I have become very aware of a strong “felt sense” activation in the heart center. It is sometimes excruciating. Sometimes it wakes me at night. Sitting quietly, as I bring awareness to the sensation, I realize it is an energetic “cracking open.” A raw, unfiltered attunement to our collective “soul” in the “dark night of our species.”
Visiting the tomb of the Christ in Jerusalem, there is one image that speaks to me most profoundly. It is of Mother Mary. As a sword pierces her bleeding Sacred Heart while gazing in compassion from the depth of the unfathomable mystery. In the stillness of the deepest heart, there is refuge. Listening into the mysterious deeper current, holding us all, we hear guidance. And in that I trust. I trust that our collective heart, woven together with all beings, is, and will be, ultimately victorious.
Before our teachers spoke, I took the opportunity to respond to a question asked several times about animal factory farming, its impact on climate change, and the importance of moving to a plant based diet. If you are interested in exploring this I recommend watching Cowspiracy, Speciesism and Ghosts in Our Machine. Also a classic book to check out is Will Tuttle’s World Peace Diet.
As we awaken, we become are how our acts impact the world around us. The words of Bonnie, Chas and Vinny illuminated our shared reality of connection and interconnection and led us into new understandings and practical ways forward. I encourage you to listen to the input of each teacher here.
Bonnie Duran – A Different Way of Knowing.
Bonnie, who works in Indigenous communities, said the truth of climate change is the natural outcome of colonization. One way to think of colonization is the three root poisons of greed, hatred and delusion as colonizing our hearts and minds. That we have an unending craving for anything that will be permanent and provide us with contentment and wellbeing; that we constantly seek an identity for ourselves while also comparing ourselves with others as better and worse or the same, and that we are deluded about the reality of our interconnectedness. The Eight-Fold Path is the medicine for these poisons.
Bonnie told us that mindfulness teacher and her friend, Michael Yellowbird from Indian country, said Mindfulness is neuro-decolonization. Bonnie also mentioned David Loy (he will be on our next call) who looks at the three poisons at a systemic level. She elaborated by naming our economic system of unchecked accumulation; our polarized political system, which generates hatred, alongside the hatred the fuels our war-industrial complex. Bonnie also pointed to delusion as the distorted perceptions, thoughts and views that deny the consequences to our environment.
Bonnie went on to reflect another way delusion operates is by not understanding that there is more than one way of knowing things. Linear Western conceptual thought is one way, but it is limited. In Indian country intuitive awareness (which can be informed by mindfulness), offers a wisdom formed approach to climate justice. It is also central to a more humble approach as quoted by Bonny in her reference to John Mohawk. Bonnie also told us that two Indigenous countries, Ecuador and Bolivia, have both changed their constitution to give rights to Nature; that humans are not at the center of the life cycle, but part of a larger dynamic. Overall Bonnie shared that the journey of the Eight Fold Path offers us a way through our climate crisis.
Chas DiCapua – Reconnecting – Finding the Balance
Chas focused on the primacy of technology and related that to an imbalance of masculine and feminine through the overarching influence of Patriarchy for thousands of years. If we see through this lens, much can be understood about what is happening. Using the example of the huge endowment and resources given to Harvard, Chas reflected how placing such high value on technology, science and the intellect has brought us into imbalance. Chas recommended the film Koyaanisqatsi (Hopi for Out of Balance.) Giving our power over to these modalities hyper energizes the masculine and diminishes the feminine (Chas was clear that masculine and feminine energy did not necessarily equate with gender.) That even in our own Dharma arena, the exploding scientific research in mindfulness – hooking up the brain – tended to follow the same paradigm. Why not “hook up the heart?” Chas asked.
When we hyper value one dimension – the masculine – we tend to undervalue the opposite, the feminine. For example, when we come to spirituality, in many religions when women bleed each month they are considered impure – which transmits a powerfully insidious message that the body (particularly women’s bodies) is devalued and seen as dirty. As the body is seen, so is the natural world. We have a profound disconnect to both. We either overly pay attention to the body –- revering it, hyper-getting-it into-shape, obsessing with how we look — or we abuse the body and not take care of it. The same with nature; we conserve natural parks in areas of beauty, but then desecrate and abuse nature in other areas.
What we are disconnected from becomes easier to harm. For example it’s harder to be mean to someone right next to us physically, but easier to get into a road rage when separated by metal and glass. Because of our profound disconnect the three poisons become rampant. So part of addressing climate change is about us connecting with ourselves, with our bodies and with each other. Reconnecting with “small body” (our body) and with “big body” (the earth.)
Vinny Ferraro – Is there a place on this path for revolution?
Vinny (please see Vinny’s updated bio here), began by affirming this is a necessary conversation to have together. That when thinking about interdependence he was brought back to the Buddha and his emphasis on spiritual friends as the foundation of the spiritual path – our need for connection lies at the very core of the human psyche. Vinny then asked, “What is this journey that Chas & Bonnie were both speaking about?” This journey back to belonging – back from disembodiment – slowly waking up out of this trance – how do we wake up to the truth that we are living in an interconnected field? When you see the response of the earth to everything that is happening – you could say it is a lawful response to the stress we’ve put on the planet.
Vinny said the practice has been readying us up for this conversation; How do we get in touch with this belonging…? On a personal level; how do we rest in this field of interconnectedness when 90% of our time is spent indoors; how can we love something we are removed from or ignore – this feeling of disembodiment – if I’m not connected to “me” how can I be connected to “you” or anything else? How can I see greed, hatred and delusion in myself – how can I see these energies in me – hooked on growth and progress – “just one more workshop and I’ll be ok” That everything needs to be better, faster and stronger.
This can be overwhelming time for a lot of us, caught in our own survival beliefs – I’m not enough – I need more – fuelling our addiction mentality. Vinny reflected he can get so busy setting up a good base camp, but never get around to climbing the mountain because it’s hard to know where to begin – it seems so big. We cherish this principle of non-harming – how do we turn that into action – how to discern difference between the acceptance we’ve been practicing and activism?
Vinny said, this is where I’d like to put our attention – Is there a place on this path for revolution and was the Buddha really a revolutionary? What he laid out was really revolutionary for sure – even 2600 years later it seems like a pretty revolutionary path – against the stream. He then read from a revered teacher who has taught many of us about reconnecting:
“When we include the natural world into our identity we are brought into a much larger story of who and what we are – recognizing ourselves as part of the living body of the Earth opens us to a greater source of strength. The expression “act your age” takes on a different meaning when we see ourselves as part of an amazing flow of life that started on this planet more than three and a half billion years ago. We come from an unbroken lineage that has survived 5 mass extinctions – people fear that if they let despair in they’ll be paralyzed because they are just one person. Paradoxically by allowing ourselves to feel the pain of the world we open ourselves to the web of life and realize we are not alone.” Joanna Macy
Vinny then took us into a period of meditation, saying “Knowing the voice we most need to hear comes from within us I’m going to invite everybody to sit back for a few minutes and go inside….”
“What you are looking for, is the one looking”
Her tuneful violin dreams of joyous notes soaring
brings warm blood songs to our voices.
The music flows to the land of awakening
and whispers within tides turning
softening the very center of our chest.
Here is the voice once dreamed of
emerging from the jeweled locket
hidden in silence,
seated within each turn of the rosary,
encoded in the mystery
and drifting on mighty seas.
Here is the deep promise
of this longed for wedding night.
The Return – From Garden of the Midnight Rosary by Thanissara