Reconnect (Conversation 4)

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.

earthheartbeatingOur 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 tsacred-heart1he 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, animal-genocide2its 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 thBonnieDuran-175at 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 CDCfeminine. 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 vinny-ferraroconnection 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….”

burning-cosmic-heart

 “What you are looking for, is the one looking”

eye of the world

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

Mindfulness & Climate Action (3) Inner Alignment to Pathways of Action by Thanissara

“Action absorbs anxiety & wise action is contagious.” Chris Cullen

I am aware that we have moved into the heart of our series with Sunday’s conversation (19th October.) As we have listened to each teacher over the last few weeks, it has felt like receiving a beautiful jewel of authentic truth, however challenging, alongside embodied, empowered and inspirational ways forward in response to the severe degradation of the Earth’s biosphere, lands, oceans and forests. Last Sunday it was wonderful to hear friends from England — Catherine McGee and Chris Cullen — and friend and founder of many visionary initiatives, James Baraz. I also appreciated Lou Leonard’s input and will post Lou’s contribution throughout the series in a separate blog post the last call on November 2nd.

“Where the Silent Sage & Passion of the Activist Meet” – Catherine McGee

Catherine began with the question – a deep inquiry she has been with over time – What is the meeting place of the silence of the sage and the passion of the activist? How to hold both the timeless refuge of Dharma with the real urgency of the times?

Catherine

Action comes from intention, intention is informed by view (right or wrong view), and this heads up the Eight-Fold Path. With this opening Catherine gave the powerful perspective of right view as understanding ourselves as an “open system.” Everything effects everything else and so with that understanding we sit at the interface and meeting place of inner conditions and the outer world. Can we learn to rest at that interface – which is sacred – and not push anything away? Catherine went on to talk about a statistic from Lou and Kritee Kanko’s science paper: To stay within 2 degrees warming (already extremely dangerous) we can only burn 565 more gigatons of fuel, yet the fossil fuel industry has 2,790 already in reserves ready to burn. Such a reality is “bone jangling.”

Grounded in the imperterbable silence while willing to be perturbed – willing to be altered by the information – here there are  more ways to see into the situation and understand skillful action. We breathe and soften out of tightness and move into ease and sense and see how our heart /mind (citta) is teeming with life, is ever receptive, restoring itself and constantly revealing more and more. This is where we can meet as sangha, and from where action can flow. To receive the full beauty, truth and power of Catherine’s sharing, I encourage you to listen in.

“Acts of Hope” – Chris Cullen

Chris, like Catherine, is a dear friend, who is doing wonderful work teaching Dharma and mindfulness in schools and more recently to members of the British Parliament. Chris framed our work as reconnecting out of the tragic disconnect we are Chris-Cullen-175currently in, and related that process to the work of Joanna Macy in the book, co-authored by her and Chris Johnstone, Active Hope. With clarity and passion, Chris re-iterated pathways of practice and action through walking the following 4 steps:

1.  Coming From Gratitude – The Buddha, gazing at the Bodhi tree after his awakening with appreciation and gratitude, receiving the gift of a tree, of a forest – the 1st Nation People know this as right relationship, which opens us to reverence and love. Wherever and however we are in relationship to climate change — numb & disconnected or on fire and in a flow as an activist, or burnt out, in despair and fatigued — there is deep value in making a practice of mindful and grateful being within nature and of centralizing thanksgiving within our climate practice.

2. Opening to Personal & Collective Pain – As we come into relationship with the pain of what we have done to the biosphere – reflecting, what aspect of this experience is showing up as pain for us right now. Learning to hold pain, anger, fear, with mindfulness and also to resource ourselves, while “dropping the storyline of the bad other” and open to the raw energy of what is here. That we can be in disconnect through the daily demands that keep us out of contact with climate crisis and the impact on front line communities. That we can stay at a privileged distance and so it is imperative to educate ourselves. Self education around the issues of climate change is an important practice. Chris noted that while 80% of people in the UK accept climate science only 14% act accordingly. (This reminds me of living and working in South Africa in the midst of the AIDS crisis where information didn’t necessarily translate into behavior change. There are lessons to learn from the process in SA, which I aim to blog about later, as its relevant to our current climate focus.)

3. Seeing With New Eyes / Transforming View – That the Dharma teaches us to consciously practice ways of looking into deeper truths of connection and interdependence – which we can widen out to include all creatures. Chris also talked of releasing from clinging to outcomes and feeling the truth of the work itself.

4. Going Forth – I found going forth an interesting term as its a monastic phrase that is used when someone takes on the robes and precepts of a monk or nun. For each of us going forth is an ongoing process as we continue to awaken. Chris talked of this as reconnecting the contemplative practice with action – that contemplation and action support each other as Andrew Harvey speaks about in his Sacred Activism work. That action absorbs anxiety and wise action is contagious. Again, I encourage you to hear all of Chris’s presentation and his suggestions for wise action.

“The Power of Holding an Inspiring Vision” – James Baraz

James talked of the importance and power of holding a positive vision for energizing and mobilizing response — the process of acknowledging suffering while also engaging transformation from a place of love. That while he had spent many JamesBarazyears teaching about joy and happiness, he was stopped in his tracks on reading Bill McKibben’s book Eaarth. That it took about a year for James to absorb the information and pain and begin to consider what to do, which led to the understanding that “This is my Dharma practice – to take this on without being overwhelmed.” And to remember that the Buddha’s words are about moving from suffering to peace and to work for that. The Buddha said, “Whatever one thinks and ponders upon, that becomes the inclination of the mind.”

James realized that he was thinking more and more that there was no hope, that we’re doomed, which was very discouraging. Instead, understanding neuroscience’s “confirmation bias” (we tend to affirm our beliefs by how we see the world) that it was important to move to an inspiring vision, and in doing so James noticed he had more energy for addressing this problem.

James shared those he is inspired by, including Bhikkhu Bodhi’s A Challenge to Buddhists. Referring to Andrew Harvey’s Dark Night of the Species, we have the opportunity to face our deepest fears and to understand we’ve been living in unsustainable ways and something needs to change. (That we are in a race between fear and consciousness – or Lou’s “Things are getting worse and worse, better and better, faster and faster.” ) Going through this challenge together is an opportunity for a great awakening. Quoting from the renowned British historian Toynbee (who said one of the most significant developments of the 20th century is Buddhism coming to the West) and contemporary leading sustainability expert Bob Doppelt that the Dharma holds the key to transformation. (James also mentioned Bob’s help with the Teachers’ Collaborative Statement on Climate Change.) This is exciting – that we are conveyors of the attitudes, principles and practices – we can we  help shift consciousness.

Without being naive James reflected on how quickly things can change, that we don’t know what can happen. Thinking about same sex marriage – even climate change in the last 2 years – these kinds of shifts in conventional wisdom can make things change very quickly. Like the divestment movement – which has gained momentum, including divestment from the Rockefeller family – that 10% of the population can change conventional wisdom. That Mr Mandela talked about the multiplication of courage, as we inspire others, we also become agents of inspiration.

So may thanks again to our wonderful teachers. Next week we welcome Bonnie Duran Chas DiCapua, Vinny Ferraro. Do join us, it’s not too late to sign up! Here is the theme of our focus next week. “See” you then!

The Dharma shows us that all things are interconnected. This is the principle behind Dependent Co-arising, which teaches, that is like this because this is like that. If this changes, that changes. This is so glaringly obvious, yet ignorance of this truth has become wide spread among the human population. This ignorance has lead to humans becoming increasingly separated from each other and from the rest of the natural world. The consequences of this separation are being revealed.

Waking up to, and re-establishing our innate connection to each other and the natural world is a crucial aspect of engaging with Climate Change. We must look and see how we are already connected with all of life, not just the parts we like or want to be connected with. With our connection with all of life as a foundation, we will be supported in finding skillful ways to change the tide of Climate Change. What is interesting is that Climate change will bring us together, either in solving the problem, or in the desperate struggle for survival that ensues if we don’t. One way or another, we will be forced to connect.

Thanks to One Earth Sangha & Maestro Conference

Mindfulness and Climate Action (2) Deeper Causes by Thanissara

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

Anandabodhi-Bhikkhuni
Ayya Anandabodhi

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.

Rev angel
Rev angel

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
Susie

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

Thanks to One Earth Sangha & Maestro Conference

Join the Conversation (1) by Thanissara

Things are getting worse and worse, better and better, faster and faster.” Lou Leonard, science advisor and co-founder of One Earth Sangha

Sunday October 5th: What a great launch to our conversation! Thanks to our teachers Tara Brach, Ruth King and Jack Kornfield, alongside our fantastic One Earth Sangha team & Maestro Conference, and mostly your participation and presence, representing our international sangha.

At time of writing we are now 2000+ (and growing) signed up for this conversation. This fast expanding interest show that the time has arrived for Buddhist, Dharma and Mindfulness practitioners to engage climate change. If in doubt, please read leading Buddhist scholar Bhikkhu Bodhi’s post in One Earth Sangha (also printed in Truth Out.) Encouraged by the example of the Buddha, who faced numerous difficult challenges, we too should engage the ginormous challenge of ensuring a sustainable future. Alone it is overwhelming and we can do little, but together we have the focus, clarity and compassion to make a difference. And together not only can we contribute to the fast growing, wonderfully diverse, climate movement, but we can also make an important offering toward the changes that need to happen.

I hope you can continue join us as we further the conversation each Sunday this coming month. (If you haven’t already, you can still register for free here.) Meanwhile here are some of the highlights from our teachers. You can also listen to the full recording here.

“Because We Love” Tara Brach

Tara-Photo

Tara emphasized the need to join together rather than feel alone. That our original suffering is feeling separate and the consequent fear of the “unreal other” which fuels the painful violation of self, other (also in unfortunate racist ways), and the earth. Those who dominate feel the right to exploit, which has now led us to the 6th great extinction: by 2100 over ½ of all mammals and plants will have died off. In the face of this we must, as Rumi said, Sit and be still and listen for we are drunk and at the edge of the roof. Tara then led us into the Grail story and the way of redemption by understanding we are this living earth. Because of this we feel the pain of the earth but we also can make the true choice of the human heart, which is to love and to act from that love.

“Rebelling For Balance” – Ruth King

Ruth-King-2012

Ruth led us into her own process of getting educated on climate issues (recommending Naomi Klein’s new book This Changes Everything.) One thing is clear is the utter interdependence of all things. This understanding challenges us to come out of the “silos” and territorial boundaries we are bound in. At a systemic level we can recognize a skeletal shape of greed and exploitation, which has set a power dynamic play between Capitalism & Culture. We see the planet, Gaia, our Great Mother, exploited unfairly as are poor people, indigenous people, People of Color – over centuries. Climate change then, Ruth said, is a call to clearly see divisions and mostly how our hearts are divided. Climate change is changing us. We are being forced to see the delusion of false boundaries. As encouraged by Martin Luther King, we are learning the true balance of power infused by love and love strengthened by power.

“Setting the Compass of the Heart” – Jack Kornfield

JackKornfield

Jack encouraged sustaining our selves through difficult times and the importance of sustaining our good heart even though there is dukkha (suffering.) As the Buddha taught dukkha is always with us, and now staring us in the face through climate change. And yet there is also the giant vision of the Bodhisattva. We are awakening together with all beings into the way of connection, compassion and care for all. Jack reminded us of the Dalai Lama, and the vows of the Bodhisattva, as the instruction for navigating difficult times. He also reminded us of the important example of great beings like Gandhi, who even while taking down the British Empire, still took a day a week to observe silence and do inner work. That Aung San Suu Kyi, who said of her 17 years under house arrest, that never was she in prison because she never hated “them.” Jack reminded us its important not to hope on the results but to trust the seeds being planted.

Again – here is the full version, plus the Q&A.

Our next conversation is on Sunday 12th October. Join Ayya Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni, Rev angel Kyodo Williams and Susie Harrington (bios here – scroll down) and our team, as we continue to deepen into the conversation. We will be focusing on the following theme:

Imbedded in climate change, are many pressing global issues of our time- privilege, colonialism, patriarchy, consumerism, and a split with the natural world. Presenters will reflect on holding these complex and potentially overwhelming truths, while making space to move into compassionate and authentic response.

“See” you then!

A Next Step by Thanissara

So we are nearing the end of what has been a huge month for the Climate Movement mostly because it went from a disparate number of groups to an actual global movement. Because of this I feel we should celebrate, even as we feel the dread of the very real challenges ahead. Still let’s take a moment to really enjoy and feel the goodness of what has just happened.

There is a party in NY next week. Unfortunately many of us can’t attend (love a party if there’s good dancing music!) Even so we can each celebrate what is a huge accomplishment. We can give thanks to the deeper spirit of humanity that moved so many to step out for the earth, her animals, creatures, forests and plants, and for our future generations.

Climate March

In case you missed what we are celebrating, here’s a few catch ups:

Peoples Climate Story

Great Pics

Inspiring Videos

Religions for the Earth Conference

Pics of Faith Contingent

Most Amazing Interfaith Service @ St John the Divine NYC 

So after the party we must continue to forge forward with determination. There is no time to loose as we mobilize together to tackle the changes that need to happen. Basically this amounts to:

1. Reduce carbon emissions completely (Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry & their government subsidies. Legislate a fee for carbon use & create a dividend for most impacted peoples. Also divest from fossil fuels on massive scale)

2. Sequester existing carbon (Save and increase forests, plant high carbon absorption crops like hemp which can also replace many oil based products. Ensure ocean health)

3. Massive investment in renewable energy (Replace subsidies for fossil fuel to renewables – mobilize renewable energy as if mobilizing a war effort)

4. Re-think consumerism and reclaim the sacred within ourselves and of the earth. (While thinking along those lines, you may enjoy Elder Bing Gong’s Podcasts)

5. Shift from a meat based diet to plant based one.

More about this later, alongside specific possibilities for “what we can to do” together and how we can practice reclamation of the sacred.

Meanwhile, I invite you to join me and our great One Earth Sangha team (check out co-founder of 1ES Lou Leonard’s blog piece The March to March) and sixteen leading Dharma teachers during the month of October. Each Sunday, for an hour and a half, we have teachers input, conversation in break out groups, questions and dialog focused on the layered dimensions of life impacted by climate change. We are already well over 1000 people signed up.

So do join us dear Dharma Friends & Climate Activists as we “break bread” and “share in beloved community.” You can join in wherever you are in the world via Skype or inexpensive phone card. (EST is New York time, USA.)

To sign up and register for free, please click here onto One Earth Sangha. “See” you there!

1ES--climateaction_QR

The Challenge of Climate Catastrophe to Axial Age Religion

I’ve just finished reading Chris Hedges piece “The Coming Climate Revolt.” His closing paragraph is daunting.

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Gathering for Flood Wall Street

The response of the corporate state is repression rather than reform then our strategy and our tactics must be different. We will have to cease our appealing to the system. We will have to view the state, including the Democratic Party, as antagonistic to genuine reform. We will have to speak in the language of … revolution. We will have to carry out acts of civil disobedience that seek to cripple the mechanisms of corporate power. The corporate elites, blinded by their lust for profit and foolish enough to believe they can protect themselves from climate change, will not veer from our path towards ecocide unless they are forced from power. And this means the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves.

Hedges preceding words detail a grim litany of usurped power by the “corporate state” that “perpetuates the facade of democracy.” Why I feel so daunted by Hedges diagnosis is that much of it unfortunately rings true. In the face of corporate and oligarchic power once again I feel like a Hobbit journeying to Mordor. I would like to stay in the Shires and not have to venture further into a terrible journey of confrontation, struggle and risk.

hobbits-at-mordorI am also reluctant to move to this “reality check” while still coasting on the good feeling of our Peoples Climate March and its hopeful buoyant joyful exuberance.

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For now, I’m still digesting the impact of the last week as well as the implications of the challenges ahead. In the midst of that I’ve been talking with friends and teachers about our “Buddhist” piece in all this. Basically, we seem to agree that the reality of our current times is going to profoundly challenge Buddhism along with other Axial Age religions which forged many evolutionary shifts in their time. These focused on an individuated experience and relationship with the divine/ transcendent while also connecting that to an inner moral imperative. However they also shaped a profound split with nature in the tendency to posit “salvation” and “nirvana” as apart from this world.

While Buddhism has followed its own evolutionary arch which dissolved that fundamental split in texts like the Heart Sutra, it is still deeply embedded in the philosophical template that sees the world as samsara and therefore “bad, seductive, lesser and corrupting.” It is this fundamental split and the rise of a patriarchal — earth and female averse — religious doctrine that contributes to our catastrophic and perilous situation.

Rev angel
Rev angel

Fast forward to this last week. I listened to Rev angel Kyodo williams at Shambhala New York talking a straight message. Rev Williams explored “de-white-ing” our collective conditioning. While an obvious reference to skin color and the entitlements of “whiteness” she made the point of including everyone in our “whiteness” focus. The decolonizing of the mind means moving beyond our tendency to characterture and package everyone according to painful social and racial conditioning which generates the inability to actually see each other. In response to her talk, a young African American woman gave the example of arriving at the meditation center where another attendee said to her and her black friend, “Oh the fun people have arrived.” This was painful because immediately the young woman was objectified and stripped of depth, gravitas and seriousness. While it may have been a clumsy attempt to reach out, it actually gave the message “you are other.”

When it comes to the revolution that is needed to ensure our collective survival, we have to understand that part of the problem is our chronic “othering” which denies the reality of a seamless web of life. At Flood Wall Street I was interviewed (a rare occurrence I assure you) and found myself talking about this “othering” as a crisis in consciousness that underpins our energy crisis. We have to stop seeing the earth, the world around us, and the vast diversity of peoples, animals and creatures as apart from ourselves, our tribe and our “special entitlements.”

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Bhikkhu Bodhi @ Flood Wall Street

This new evolutionary arch is summarized brilliantly in Zenji Dogen’s statement Dogen-zenji[1]Enlightenment is the intimacy of all things. Buddhism, when at its best, has never divided evil and good but sees the origin of all dualities within our own mind. We have not launched holy struggles against “evil” but seek to purify our own heart and transform our own consciousness. In doing so, the Buddha engaged Kings and Generals and he sought to stop wars and social injustice. But he did so from an inclusive consciousness.

So blog pieces should not be too long. To be brief here. While I believe Chris Hedges analysis – we have to have a revolution that takes down a rogue fossil fuel state machinery – how we do this is critical. We saw this last week that people power is indeed a brilliant power. We also saw that when it coalesce diversity, youth, grandmothers, indigenous peoples, workers, leaders, people of faith, and a variety of concerned citizens across the globe with creativity, joy, focus and determination, then we have found ourselves a movement. A movement that expresses our new evolutionary edge.

We are warriors and we do have a battle to engage; but we will not default to hatred and violence (though we may feel both impulses.) And it is at this crux that Buddhism has a valuable offering to make. I hope we can get beyond our tribal sangha competitiveness, our narcissistic introversions and sanctioned quietism, our inner splits and entitled “whiteness,” and our fear of the sacred feminine enough to meet the coming wave. Our work is cut out!

Santussika Bhikkhuni carrying a banner made by her 6 year-old grand daughter
Santussika Bhikkhuni carrying a banner made by her 6 year-old grand daughter

The week the world changed by thanissara

Pause and take a moment to realize what a phenomenal and unprecedented happening has occurred across the globe this week in support of immediate climate action. We are witnessing the birth of a people power united across race, geography, faith, class, gender, expunging all other socio-colonial-patriachal defined “isms.”

Climate March in New York

We the people have walked and we now speak for a reality which has been dangerously twisted, distorted, denied and suppressed by the corporate-fossil fuel-oligarchic owned media agenda. This reality is catastrophic climate chaos is upon us, it is real, it is happening, and if we don’t act now, we will destroy the biosphere and render the earth unsustainable for all life. There as no one on the 2,700 marches across the globe, or the 400,000 marchers in New York City that didn’t know this to be true.

London marching
London marching

The march was a statement for political leaders gathering right now to talk our planetary future. Take another moment to watch this stunning opening offering from 26 year old poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit. As world leaders hash it out in the UN Climate Action Summit, we need to acknowledge the true leaders that are among us which is the First Nation Peoples who led our 4 mile long (7+ kilometers) people march through the streets of New York. They know the territory, they understand the disease and they have the remedy.

They have the remedy because they also understand we all have the remedy. We know this when we listen beyond our colonized minds to hear the deep, urgent impulse of sanity that is aligned to the heartbeat of the earth, of the ancestors, of the animals, and of the total web of life. This is the deep feminine primordial mother earth who births all things and who cries out to us now, each of us, to hear her urging. Stand up and be my protector. Do what you can, embody the sacred masculine and be a warrior-lover of the earth, of each other, of our best heart.

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NYI

So dear friends, our task is before us. We must take the inspiration of this historic moment in the climate movement and bring it into our lives while also speaking out to share the message the best we can. While there is no turning back, it is important to remember we are doing this together.

As a Buddhist practitioner it was especially great to see a strong gathering of cross denominational Buddhists turn up to align forces with People of Faith. The determination I felt on the march from those stepping out alongside me was palpable. We must go forward and work hard to secure our collective future.  As we do so, we will see game changers happening.

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Already as the momentum for change is building, results are coming in. Divestments from the fossil fuel industry are happening fast. Yesterday it was announced that Rockefeller’s divested $860million, the World Council of Churches representing 590 million people in 150 countries have divested, 30 cities in the USA, Stanford is dropping coal holdings from its 18 billion endowment funds. (C’mon Harvard, you can do it!) Especially love Dogs for Divestment! Meanwhile investments in renewables is the leading edge in the market.

What’s happening is a eco-re-evolution. When we tune into this our life will start changing, inwardly and externally. As the truth is all things are interconnected, the coming years of this energy and consciousness re-evolution will impact us all in destabilizing, challenging and positive ways. So time to put our practice to use as we connect with refuge, community and our own inner spirit and guidance.

Yesterday I observed Flood Wall Street and had the honor of hanging out with David Loy most of the day as we walked with this activist happening. David was not averse to getting arrested (I was not  up for arrest – not right now anyway.) As we became surrounded by police and as the march moved into a “sit down” David and I went for coffee, aware that it was turning into a long day with an inevitable outcome.

Polar Bear gets arrested
Polar Bear gets arrested

As those on the front line aimed for the belly of the beast, our capitalistic-addicted-steriod-crack-pumped-disembodied-bull-market-machine, (commonly called The Stock Market), David and I talked Buddhist fem-eco-activist-evolution. More about that later, meanwhile, here’s David’s talk from the Eco-Dharma conference in August, Tale of Two Icebergs.

David & DaRa (from NY Insight)
David & DaRa (from NY Insight)

I’m going to finish off by reverting once again to my dear friend Gayle Markow and her “bring it home” advise, after the great joy of walking with a million+ people, across the world, for our mother earth.

Today was truly remarkable because of the really Huge numbers of people that did turn out, their enthusiasm, their creativity, their diversity (in the positive extreme), the enormous positive energy of this march that went on an on and on and on, it was fulfilling and hopeful.  And we All have a lot of work to do to save our Home, our planet, our Mother Earth. This magnificent demonstration was the culmination of much planning and organizing, but Only the Beginning of the Serious Journey to be undertaken. May we all go forward shoulder to shoulder. Much love from NYC. 

I echo that – Much love from NYC – what a city! What a week!

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What a day! by Thanissara

Friends, today in New York there was a seismic shift in the climate movement. In its report Huffington Post estimated more than 400,000 people were on the street. Our message was clear. We want action now and we’re not going away! This is just the beginning.

NY1I was in the Faith block. When we first arrived it was pretty spacious, but we were a few hours early. By the time it was our turn to march I was squeezed in check by jowl with Buddhist friends and barely able to move, such was the volume of people. (Fortunately it got more spacious as we began to march!) We were a happy, joyous, bunch, but also determined. We are the immune system of the Earth rising…I’ll have more to say but it’s late into the night and time to catch some sleep, so here’s two pics for now…Oh and an update from the UK and a brief snippet around the world.

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Buddhists Rock!

It’s late and it’s been a loooong day – so instead of writing an update myself, I’m going to post on from my dear friend Gayle Markow who will join the Peoples Climate March with us here in New York City tomorrow. Gayle and I have known each other for many years. Our friendship began early 2000 when she became central to our fund raising campaign at San Francisco Insight for Dharmagiri’s HIV/Aids community outreach work in South Africa.

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Now many years later we shared the journey on the Climate Train and today’s events which Gayle records here. This was at at New York Insight. There were about 200 people from a diversity of geographical backgrounds, as well as New Yorkers, meeting to “Prepare the Heart to March.” In the evening we attended a symposium of climate leaders at New York Society of Ethical Culture. Over to Gayle.

I got up, got dressed and hailed a taxi for Insight New York down on 27th Street. Turned out to be the MOST awesome 3 hour event. The two nuns (Ayya Santussika and Santacitta Bhikkhunis) who were on the train with us, Thanissara, Bikkhu Bodhi, Wes Nisker, David Loy, and some other brilliant speakers. It was Mega-awesome!!! A major event unto itself!  

At NY Insight, I “scored” possibly the last available ticket for Bill McKibben’s talk tonight. I never heard him before, or read him, but people spoke highly and I was curious. He was awesome. Then other speakers who were also awesome. Mary Robinson, first woman President of Ireland, and now UN Special Envoy for Climate Change (previously UN High Commissioner for Human Rights). There was Sean Sweeney, founder and co-director of the Global Labor Institute, etc etc… Other speakers All wonderful too. Too numerous to name here right now. Sweeney said that ALL NY area Unions have endorsed the People’s Climate March. Bill McKibben said there will be more than 2700 marches  and events going on around the world (150+ countries) this weekend in Solidarity with the Climate March. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will also be joining the Climate March. So much more got said, and it was all of intense interest, and the 800 or so people there tonight were electrified. The energy was palpable.

The Climate March is gonna be huge. Seriously. Huge. And it will transform the movement for change. This is gonna be a wild and interesting ride. Not just the march, which is gonna be Huge. But the next few decades. Because the Earth, and mainly the survivability of our human (and lots of other) species is Seriously at risk, like Never Before. We’re moving rapidly toward what they call the “tipping point” where it will be too late to reverse, to salvage things. It’s already not clear whether we’ve already passed that point, but there seems to be some hope that we haven’t, but that also we don’t have much time, actually hardly any time.

There is a tremendous sense of urgency here. It’s contagious, and at the same time,hopeful. Because people – in large numbers – have gotten serious. I think we might be witnessing the “hundredth monkey effect”. Wow. So, anyway, that was my day. If you can, get out and demonstrate tomorrow, and then be sure to watch the news, and see what kind of news we make here.”

Just to add onto Gayle’s report a mention the presentation at the NY Society of Ethical Culture by Lester Brown who is considered one of the world’s most influential thinkers. He gave a brief preview of his forth coming book which was packed full of truly inspiring data about the fast moving energy transformation from fossil fuels to wind and solar happening all over the world. Countries like Germany and Denmark are leading, and while lagging behind, the USA has the capacity to really fast forward this momentum, given the political will. Brown thinks that we’ll see a significant energy revolution in the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, it’s important to keep the pressure on for change. Here’s more urgency from S.Africa’s Kumi Naidoo – ED of Greenpeace International, spelling it out on the eve of the Peoples Climate March happening all over the world on September 21st.

Rev TK - Japanese American at NY Insight today talking about Nuclear Waste being like having a house with no toilet. (Meaning, we sh#ite in our own home) Time to shift from Nuclear!Back to NY Insight for a moment. The day included speeches on climate, Dharma, and activism, by Ayya Santacitta (we are in climate chaos and there’s nowhere to hide), Ayya Santussika (who reported on the Climate Train, Tar Sands and the Climate Pledge), Bhikkhu Bodhi (who talked of transforming fear into samvega – urgency – and desire into fearless compassion), David Loy (a shift of relationship to body, self and earth), Wes Nisker (the mystery of our cosmological reality, conveyed with humor and lightness), Rev TK (nuclear waste is like having no toilet in your house!), and myself (journey out of denial and reading from The Heart of the Bitter Almond Hedge Sutra.)

Thanks to all who came to share the day and to Kevin Hansen for doing this video of what he called the “new anthem” of the Climate Movement – You heard it here ppl – at our New York Insight event which, as said by Gayle, was AWESOME!

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The Climate Train – A Kaleidoscope of a New World Dawning by Thanissara

earthFrom Emeryville Berkeley CA to New York Penn Station, we were a tribe of nearly 200 diverse peoples, rolling along 3000 miles of train track through exquisite ancient lands. We shared fifty remarkable workshops with the energy of a movement whose time has come. There was clear diagnosis of the forces of destruction, a refusal to succumb to despair, a commitment to dissent, and a determination to see through the energy revolution now needed on our planet.

Snaking through mountains, along riverbeds, past the stake outs of our Petro Empire – oil refinery’s, targeted fracking grounds, graceful and noble rivers, now polluted — we, First Nation Peoples, Faith Leaders, People of Color, white haired granny’s and granddads, tattooed and pierced beautiful youth, musicians, artists, scientists, political buffs, and even many of our Amtrak hosts, were of one voice.

earth on fire

Climate catastrophe is now. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We wait no longer for the powerful to chart our suicidal trajectory. We the people are standing up for the rights of Mother Earth, for the return of the Sacred, for a USA and world that practices social and economic equity. We are unstoppable!

Reflected in words of Elder Bing Gong, quoting his Buddhist master in a workshop on Eldership, we taste an exquisite flavor of our truth.

This human body truly is the entire cosmos

Each breath of mine, is equally one of yours, my darling,

This tender abiding in “my life”

Is the fierce glowing fire of inner Earth,

Linking with all pre-phenomena.

10557673_10152713668453395_5991929044823195638_o Flashing to the distant horizon

From “right here now” to “just this”

Now the horizon itself, Drops away —

Bodhi Svaha!!

Myogen Steve Stucky