A Brutal Year Ends as Extinction Rebellion Rises.

This year has been brutal. Specifically because it heralded a drastic state-shift, a tipping point and planetary crossing over thresholds that should not be passed. We have stumbled from the hope of sustainability to a deeply painful reality of rapid environmental dismemberment.

We’ve seen the shredding of democratic principles and processes, we’ve been horrified by a rise in fascism, dragging its ghosts from the 1930’s/40’s, and have been appalled and enraged as billionaires flaunt and force their lethal agendas, regardless of the cost. But most devastating is the eco destruction we can no longer escape or delegate to future times. In a blink of an eye, we suddenly crossed from the assumption of human civilisation’s unbridled bright future to the dawning realisation of our probable demise.

This psychological shock and unremitting assault is shattering. Our overly stressed deregulated nervous systems struggle to cope. On the one hand we experience a plethora of hot reactivity and outrage, on the other a frozen stupefied, bargaining disassociation. As the ground beneath dissolves with such velocity, it feels impossible to grapple with the enormity of the threat we face.

Part of me is doing every day tasks, shop, cook, get through emails, scheduling, turning up for teaching engagements, meetings, zoom calls, planning, trying not to use plastic, buying recycled Christmas cards, while the other half is screaming as I run down the high street, through supermarket aisles (in my imagination), shouting “Wake the F#!K up people.” In my everyday (real) transactions, I lean in to figure if others are also screaming inside.

This leapfrog into our encroaching dystopia, as it stalks our night dreams, rampages through the our day world, and tears apart our fragile cohesion, has made it hard to hold normal life together. I’ve found myself dragging, sometimes strangely lost, taking hours to do a simple task as my mind swirls searching for a some kind of secure landing, some kind of sense.

Everyday, I get stuck to the latest twists and turns while resolving to unstick myself. But it’s hard to avert ones gaze as rapid ice-cap-melt cascades into rising oceans, as catastrophic floods turn cities into black mould, and as an inferno raced 15 miles in 10 minutes levelling a small town, ironically called Paradise, just a few hours north of us.

With 60% of wild life gone, insects vanishing apace, daily despotic legislation poisoning yet another river, ocean, waterway, or killing some other kind of wildlife, or stealing more indigenous land, the true magnitude of our human ignorance is desolating. When the blue macaw parrot that inspired “Rio” was declared extinct this week, and when the crowning apocalyptic IPCC Report stated “we have 12 years” or go the way of that parrot, our hearts broke all over again.

Such bad news filled with sorrow, anguish and extraordinary trepidation at the colossal challenges ahead. Yet, underneath is also a calm, steady determination building apace each day. A clarity forged as pieces of the puzzle that form the systems we live within are unflinchingly dissected in our daily reads and viewing. We understand that the Wizard of Oz, pulling all those crazy-making levers, has been outed. Our fast learning curve is into the roots of our calamity. We have to get the vastness, depth, and fullness of the truth that our economic, social, religious, and political systems, built on imperialism, unregulated capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy have to be rapidly deconstructed for anything or anyone to survive.

So, is there any good news? Well, there’s no happy Hollywood ending here. Instead, this is a clarion call to the depth of our souls. It’s the moment to listen carefully into our spirit, to what is actually important here, and what stirs at the most profound level of our being. What is felt it in our bones. For that we have to adopt a fearlessness, a great courage that breaks through our timidity, the “should’s” and “should not” in order to re-prioritise and align with the sweeping changes needed.

Centuries of systemic conditioning and false narratives have to be abandoned. We have to strip down the layers to stand present, open, and real in the face of this great evolutionary initiation. We should not follow authorities just because they have positions of power, but tune instead into the voices that emerge from truth, from the unexpected. Such a voice, sounding clear over the waffling response of Cop24, is Sweden’s 15 year old Greta Thunberg

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. That people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.
— Greta Thunberg.

Voices from People of Colour, Indigenous, and women newly elected in Congress. From youth crashing into the halls of power asking for a Green New Deal . Voices at the heart of the chaos in France protesting the vast inequities spawned by decades of neoliberalism and predator capitalism that turned humans into fodder and consumers for profit. The voices of  the long enduring unsung heroes of Indigenous peoples who by-rights and by the depth of ingrained wisdom must be vaulted and respected as guides at this time. And from the land of my birth, the galvanising force of Extinction Rebellion moving like wildfire across the globe, sparking inspiration and the allegiance of hundreds of groups, and counting.

So where do you and I land in all this? Here we are, in the midst of a colossal global and civilisational transition from the era of oil, which is not only burning up the planet but is a deeply false and failing economy. With France imploding and yellow jackets showing up beyond its borders, with Egypt banning the sale of yellow jackets, and with Britain wobbling in the vortex of an arrogant elite cannibalising its own. As Russia, the USA, and Saudi Arabia go rogue on climate action and Australia remains silent, it is clear this is not going to be a nicely negotiated, peaceful transition. It’s going to be a slogging match, a devastation for parts of the globe, one already forewarned by Syria, Yemen, Puerto Rico, displaced migrants and the Pacific Islands disappearing under the ocean. So how do we find our way in all this?

For myself, self care and resilience has to be primary. This is going to be a long haul. Let’s try and stay well, balanced, loving. The tending to close relationships, family, is also primary, we need beloved partners and true friends. The reaching out to build community, alliances, networking, sharing. All that is implied.

The daily restoration of a clear, clean heart that can mount a challenge free of hate and division. The daily surrendering of pettiness and grudges. A forgiving heart that cleaves to love over and over. Practices that reclaim the sacred, that establish mindfulness, that free and nurture the body. Choices made, food eaten, products used, and actions taken that understand consequences and renounce harm.

As all this swirls in my being as we race toward the end of this calamitous year and as everything is devolving into tangles of complexity and impossibility. However, the heart itself speaks in simple terms. It has its own true voice if we care to listen. When you hear its prompting, trust it. Follow the guidance. Relish its undaunted, diamond-like clarity. Know that it knows all is resident within its conscious awareness. In the swirl of shadows and the ranting cries of our dismembering times, there is a mystic thread, a trail to follow through the jungle of confusion.

When you follow that thread, you will not tie yourself to the waning light of unreal hopes that come crashing down. Instead, you will claim your full empowered truth that rises to shine its undying light on your pathway forward. You may stumble, but you will know, in the passionate, disciplined, focused, flamenco-like dance that the heart is, you will know how to be. You will know where to go. And you will know when to leap.

Thanissara, Dec 12th 2018

Between this thought and the next
hope awaits its constant song
that angels murmur within our longing.
They breathe a shinning into our uncertain pathway
their voices lilting high over fields of desolation
“We are the holders of your dreams,
the whispering seed
planted in all cells.
The remainder of your journey
through the darkest of all times.”

But when hope vanishes
and things that can’t be hoped for
disturb our waking night.
in that ripe hour
distant bells summon
our hallowed ascension
with jaws soft and hands open,
prayer turns to a new dimension.

The movement beyond city voices
a gentle wind that blows so quietly
a silent singing from this turning earth
a calm knowing of your life’s worth.
Our timeless core unfolding
the easy swing of an opening gate
as the terror of separation
fades with an early bird song.
It is a dream only, of the fevered night.

This deep sleep of remembering
reveals a knowing
within each breath
that keeps a holy world gathered
within spheres of our communion.

Here we always are
moving in the ancient stillness
with fluid steps
tracking a silent song
through the halls of our creation.
This timeless breath with you my love.
It’s been a long, cold, lonely night.

Garden of the Midnight Rosary – Poems by Thanissara, 2002.

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20 thoughts on “A Brutal Year Ends as Extinction Rebellion Rises.”

  1. Dear Thanissara,
    Thank you for these words. They touch upon something, often painfully kept secret, and support in bringing it forth, allowing it to participate in reality again. I really appreciate this and I will keep these words close to my heart.

    Sometime ago, during a teaching at New York Insight, you read from some piece that spoke of the origins of Manhattan and the Lenape community that lived here. Do you remember what that was? Much appreciation.


    1. Hi Arjuna, thanks for your words.

      Re the LenApe of Manhatta (Hilly Island)
      from the Smithsonian National Museum

      “Rich with natural resources, Manhatta had an abundance of fruits, nuts, birds, animals. Fish and shellfish were plentiful and the ocean was full of seals, whales, and dolphins. Migrant birds flew to local marshes based on available food supply and weather conditions.
      The LenApe called the Hudson Sha te muc – meaning the river that flows both ways. In 1626, it was said that the LenApe “sold” Manahatta for sixty Dutch guiders (about $24 at the time.)
      However, the LenApe didn’t see the transaction as an official handing over off one thing for another, they saw it as sharing the land with the settlers.

      During the early years of the Dutch settlement, the LenApe helped the Dutch. By the mid 1600’s conflicts began as Native peoples and settlers competed for trade. Many LenApe died from diseases brought by the Europeans.

      In 1660, the English took over, the name changed from New Amsterdam to New York. By early 1700’s those LenApe who survived the impact of European arrival were forced out of Manhatta.

      And so the sad history went on.. 😦


  2. Dear Thanissara

    we have only met once – at the Barn at Sharpham a decade ago. But it was enough for me – with the aid of the poems of the Garden of the Midnight Rosary – to sense the depth and wisdom and heartfelt immediacy in your teaching and your presence.

    Thank you for ‘A Brutal Year Ends as Extinction Rebellion rises’ Now I know for sure what must be my priority and my dharma path in the coming year. Thank you Sister Thanissara……

    With Love, Blessings and Gratitude from Glastonbury

    Anthony ‘True Original Diligence’


    1. Thank you so much Anthony “True Original Diligence.” Your words make all the writing worthwhile..
      Take care and all blessings for this new year, may it be one filled with peace and well being,


  3. Thank you and Thanks to Kittisaro for all you offered up at the daylong Saturday. I soaked it in. I want to try the pranayama at home. Can you post the names musical tracts please ? They were sweet and sacred.


  4. Thank you for so eloquently expressing what I have been feeling, and
    for pointing to a way forward out of the shadows of this dark place. I found it very moving.
    Even though the warning signs have been there for ever, it is still such a shock that our world has so abruptly been turned upside down. The evaporation of hope has left me sometimes reeling,sometimes numb,sometimes strangely relieved,and in some ways liberated. It’s as if I have awoken from a dream that deep down I always knew to be a dream,but now I am awake, and very sober.. The bubble has burst, and there is no going back. In spite of a very real sense of an ending; with it comes the dawning of a new Age ,and also the possibility of a new world community, and a new me.
    I believe the Chinese word for crisis simultaneously holds two ideas, both danger and opportunity. The danger looms so large at present but there is also a bright flame of new beginnings lighting the way ; and the bearer of that torch is, for me, the Extinction Rebellion. If we’re going down, then we’re going down showing the very best version of ourselves and humanity.
    I’ve been very involved with them from the start and I can sense that they are triggering a shift in societal consciousness.Some people, like me, are jumping on it like it’s the messiah we’ve always been waiting for, while all around, others are stirring from their sleep and will soon be joining in. The tide is finally turning. It’s really happening; and its no longer about the outcome, its just about doing the appropriate thing, coming together and resisting the forces that have led us here,so that we can at least try to throw ourselves in the way of the suffering that’s coming, both for ourselves and on behalf of those who are unable to . I feel so privileged to do so, to be a force for good in these times.
    So there you have it Thanissara !
    We only met once,not so long ago at the DANCE Barclays vigil, followed by the climate rally by the Thames, but I remember you well.
    Thank you again for your beautifully narrated story of where we are now.

    Best wishes


    1. Thanks Jonathan, I remember you too. You write such true and stirring words, and I feel the exact same way about XR. I just got off a 2 hour call today with the American crew (where I am living, that is the USA), who are part also of the early organising this side. I’m all in.
      In solidarity.


    2. Thank you Jonathan for this response – I’ve been delayed, trying to track so much, in responding – but I appreciate all you wrote… with much metta – thanissara


  5. Yup, our poor poor planet is creaking right now, and our current crop of leaders are apparently not up to the awesome responsibility their offices call for. I take big strain around this season and it distresses me to see the amount of suffering and pain all around us, but then I see so often this is countered by truly unselfish actions by ordinary, good people. We need to hope for good sense to prevail as we as humans make decisions that will impact the future generations. I am very grateful for the existence and guidance right now of people such as you Thanissara, and wish you peace and love over the next few weeks and then into the new year, 2019. What will it bring? How can each of us as individuals contribute?
    May I share some words? “Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
    ― L.R. Knost


  6. Thanks so much Michael, yes, the roller coaster from amazing to awful and the blessed ordinary in between.. May we all hold to the practice in these times and as you say, hone to the goodness in all… As Sam said when Frodo asked what was the point of keeping on “there is good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”
    Sending love
    Thanissara x


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