The truth will set us free, but first it will break our hearts. Susie Harrington
Sunday 12th October. We continued with our conversation Mindfulness & Climate Action with Ayya Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni, Rev angel Kyodo Williams and Susie Harrington. At the time of writing there is over 2200 signed onto the course with participants calling in from a diverse range of geographical locations such as India, Finland, Spain, South Africa, Canada, Europe, USA. Some are groups who use the themes discussed to inspire their ongoing conversations around this pressing issue that impacts us all. One of the intentions of this course is to encourage conversation about climate change throughout all our communities. Being willing to speak out is an important part of shifting awareness and increasing the possibility of the game changer we need. You can tune into the whole conversation here and also read my précis below from the words of our teachers. Mainly dear friends, I encourage all of us to take more risks for mother earth and her defenseless species.
Let the conversation continue!
I was particularly moved to welcome our first speaker on Sunday, as both a personal friend and someone who has undertaken the huge journey of becoming a Bhikkhuni, a fully ordained Buddhist nun, a possibility denied women for over 1000+ years. Ayya Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni left her community in England five years ago to help forge a way forward for women wishing to fully dedicate themselves to the life offered by the Buddha. Living as a Buddhist nun is an elegant, dedicated and profound way of being and interacting with the world. So it was with great pleasure that I absorbed Ayya’s words.
“Do What You Can” Ayya Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni
Ayya began by reflecting on the shift happening from disinterest and avoidance within the Buddhist community to increased engagement; that people wanted to hear more about enlightenment and were reluctant to hear about what was happening to our planet. Grateful that the subject is opening up, she reflected that it is a political issue but also a social one that firstly impacts those more disadvantaged, those unable to speak for themselves, and also the forests, lands, animals, but also impacts us all. However, this is also an ethical issue and a spiritual issue as we are all deeply interconnected. We have arrived to this situation mostly due to our human impact, driven by the forces of greed, hatred and delusion. While we may feel angry, fearful and overwhelmed, it’s important to remember all of us have contributed to our current outcome. While important to feel the sorrow of what we have done, Ayya encouraged us not to be trapped by fear and anger but to use and transform those energies into motivation and skillful action. To get involved. Together we can make a difference, understanding this is none other than our practice.
Some may say “Everything is impermanent, all arises and passes, so why bother, why get involved?” This though is a heartless response, it lacks compassion. It is as if we say of our old grandmother “She’s aged, why bother to look after her, she’s going to die anyway.” But our grandmother is precious, she has given so much, she should be respected, made comfortable, loved. In the same way Mother Earth is our grandmother, we need to take care of her. Ayya finished by calling us to action. “Speak out, respond, act, do what you can.” (In the Q&A Ayya Anandabodhi recommend checking out this project, Midway, Message from the Gyre.
Rev angel Kyodo Williams
I first heard Rev angel speak at Shambhala Center New York, just after the Peoples Climate March. I found her depth of inquiry, focus and clarity like a breath taking shower under one of those wonderful waterfalls we have near Dharmagiri Hermitage in the wilderness of the Drakensberg. Rev angels incisive challenge to our comfort zones is awakening and transformative.
“From Hyper Capitalism & Individualism to Being In Heart Together”
Rev angel noted we are at an important turning point in what is a significant crisis facing us all. While more acknowledging the human impact on climate change, we need to explore the roots, which Rev unpacked with clarity and compassion.
Firstly she explored greed and hyper-capitalism, which the West has contributed to through 500+ years of colonialism (not the necessary practice of trade) but the placing of arbitrary value on human beings and planetary resources. At the root of this is anger. An anger which places different peoples at different levels within society dependent on their value in terms of labor – being brought and sold. This has brought about a structure that makes white people superior to other races. This is not necessarily played out in overt racism, however we all — often unwittingly — contribute to a structure which divides people, and which continues to marginalize some and deny them access to resources. Underlying this is ignorance. We are experiencing an unprecedented deep disconnect to our planet and other peoples as a result of these structures and insidious forms of racism which enables a very, very small group of people to stay in an elite status.
The cost is that we are unable to meet heart to heart and mind to mind. Rev angel went on to note that she feels gratified that within the Buddhist teachings we have a lens to look through which also gives us an opportunity, not only to take up our individual practice, but also to begin to respond more collectively (to have the conversation) regards these root issues that lead to climate change. That we have the opportunity to utilize the notion of sangha — beyond a fellowship of people — to being “in-heart” able to support one another and pull back from hyper-individualism. (In the Q&A, Rev angel recommended this site, What is Missing by Maya Lin.)
“Stepping Into Truth” – Susie Harrington
Susie is a beautiful, heart being and advocate for the wildness of our magnificient planet. Hear her words her, alongside Ayya Anandabodhi and Rev angel, and read the précis of her wonderful contribution below.
Susie began by reminding us that the Buddhas path is one where we step into truth rather than stay fearful or isolated. That curiosity can be greater than fear. Picking up on Rev angels focus on outsourcing the cost of our actions socially, Susie explored the outsourcing to the planet and the environment as we extract her remaining resources. Susie lives in the Moab desert in Utah. In Utah 35% of the land is leased to gas and oil fields and beyond that, even more scary, 3 hours north of her home, the 1st oil Tar Sands oil field have been opened up by the same company that is exploiting Tar Sands Oil in Alberta. Susie impressed on the need to educate ourselves about the Alberta Oil Sands. Here is a “fly over” with renowned Buddhist eco-activist Joanna Macy. Tar Sand oil extraction is particularly devastating. It leaves behind a black, lifeless wasteland. In Utah only, the projected 40 – 60 million barrels of oil to be extracted the next 20 years, will tip the climate over. Still, it’s important to know that people power can make an impact, as we have been doing stopping the Keystone pipeline. We have to move from the idea of practicing just for ease to one where we engage the truth. Alongside this, we need to move toward connection, rather than collapse and separation.
What helps is being in nature, being willing to feel our emotions, to cry and rage for our planet. It is this that allows us to love, and all that is wholesome comes from love. What moves us from overwhelm is action, to do something, to keep doing, keep moving. It is all about the precept “Do not harm.” And in this, we will not be alone, but understand we are together. Susie recommended a couple of resources. Kerry Nelson’s Place for Peace, and Sustainable World Source Book. Susie also offered a “truth teaching” from Einstein, which I’ll finish off with.
A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe” a part limited in time and space. We experience our self, thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. Einstein, 1950