Tag Archives: Nona Faustine

From Crisis to Collaboration

It was a big month for the climate, (Sept 2015)

Leading on from August 2015 USA’s Clean Power Plan to reduce CO2 emissions, the U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change committed to meaningful (climate) mitigation action and to transparency on joint implementation of USD 100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. 

China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2030. While not soon enough, China and U.S agreements will enable them to enter the Paris accord as committed leaders.

India just submitted its 38-page plan to the UN for Paris. With its opening quote from the Vedas, (Unto Heaven be Peace, Unto the Sky and the Earth be Peace, Peace be unto the Water, Unto the Herbs and Trees be Peace), India commits to an ambitious target to raise solar power capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2022. Overall India aims to increase its renewable energy capacity x5, which will bring it to supplying 50% of the world’s renewable energy.

The Pope made clear that, Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development, and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family.

Hilary Clinton came out against the Keystone pipeline, I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change.

The governor of the Bank of England gave a stark warning that climate change poses a huge risk to global stability, alongside six major banks (Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo) who wrote a letter to world leaders warning that Global temperatures and related effects, including sea level rise and severe drought, threaten to upend the global economy and jeopardize future prosperity. 

UK polar bear protests Shell
UK polar bear protests Shell

Shell abandoned their exploration for Arctic oil, and while citing low returns for investment, it is clear activists, including the indigenous Inupiat and Greenpeace, after a three-year engagement, impacted public opinion, which in turn ethically challenged Shell and undermined its reputation. Among many activist events, kayaktavists, St. John’s Bridge (with Buddist Peace Fellowship support), UK’s Dharma Alliance Network Climate Engagement, was the month long Requiem for the Arctic played outside Shell’s London HQ.

Flood the System has been out at San Francisco financial district, while many activist events that focused on climate and racism, (showing strong Buddhist participation), coincided with the Pope’s speeches in New York and Washington DC. Meanwhile around the world, Our Voices are coordinating numerous people’s pilgrimage’s to converge on Paris.

As climate emergency catalyzes a social, economic and energy revolution, we have a unique opportunity to explore the roots of this crisis, which is a dualistic consciousness that repeats old paradigms of exploitation. Our assumption of ‘subject’ (me) in relationship to an ‘object’ (it), while fundamental to our everyday experience, veils the truth of a seamless whole where, the plurality we perceive is only an appearance; it is not real. (Schrodinger) The Buddha stated that our experience of the objective world arises within the mind and is dependent on attention.

Erica Simone & Jaci Berkopec, Human Nature 2015
Erica Simone & Jaci Berkopec, Human Nature 2015

The fundamental nature of attention is conscious awareness. Wherever we direct attention is where our experience of the ‘world’ happens. (Mulaka ‘Root’ Sutta AN58) The training of mindfulness, as an open, non-judgmental awareness that is empathetic and curious, directs attention to the body, feeling and sensation, mind states, and phenomena, both personally –internally, and globally –externally. Under investigation, as the Buddha pointed out, both “self” and “world” are seen as a co-arising dynamic that is mutually shaping and informing of each other. When we glimpse this subtle level of reality, we begin to understand that the self and the world are reflections of each other. In other words, the state of the world is a reflection of our minds. If this is the case, then what does a divided, devastated and abused world, on the brink of mass extinction, say about how we feel about ourselves? (I explore this further in Time To Stand Up.)

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Siddhartha Gautama was called the Buddha after his enlightenment as the word Buddha, (buddhi, ‘to know’) best describes the essential nature of awakening. Pure knowing is inquiring, and perceptive. This is an intelligence and clarity that is less concerned with objectifying the world as something to be controlled and owned, and more focused on coursing the depths of the mystery (as stated in the Heart Sutra), where the world and its ‘objects’ dissolve into profound subjectivity. It is here that the intimacy of all things is revealed. Things are ‘known,’ but not as objects. They are known as part of an undifferentiated subjectivity.

The iconic line of the Heart Sutra, Form is emptiness; emptiness is form, inducts us into the deepest mystery of consciousness and matter. In reality, they are not separate. There is no objective world without the subject. Who that ‘subject’ is, is the ultimate mystery. A mere glimpse of that adamantine ‘I Am That’ burns up eons of ignorance, and in an instant we are delivered from craving. This revelation is opposite of splitting the atom, which led to the most destructive power ever unleashed. Instead, all things merge within atomic consciousness, which cannot be further divided, as it has no location in time or space and no boundaries. In Buddhist understanding, the fundamental nature of mind is this very same undivided consciousness.

Peoples Climate March, NYC, Sept 21, 2014 (poster One Earth Sangha)
Peoples Climate March, NYC, Sept 21, 2014 (poster One Earth Sangha)

Seeing the illusion of our separate, hyper-individualized sense of self, orientates us within the inner shifts that can support the outer revolution we now need to ensure a sustainable future. Our climate crisis is accelerating us into a paradigm shift. We have a journey to undertake that has the potential to bring us back home on every level. Inwardly, we listen into the intuitively intelligent awareness, present within the kaleidoscope of the phenomena. Here we meet what is longed for, our own intimate heart. When we touch our true heart, the world is transformed and the search for what is lost ends. We no longer endlessly the Earth to fill up our inner desolation. Instead, we know our true worth. We enter our authentic being as an inner intuitive intelligence that informs the imperative to engage.

The Heart Sutra encourages a leap, a radical shift. We are to Relinquish all that is false, all dream thinking, and leap beyond the walls of the mind. We are instructed to place our trust in our aware, undivided heart that awaits our return. It is this heart that will save us because it brings us back to being truly human, sensitive, ethical, and responsive. This heart will unhook us from the disembodied, fractured, addicted, and crazed machine that we suckle from, even as it poisons us in our attempts to alleviate the desperate ache

Alberta tar sands - a failing project, that has devastated the Borel forests and land the size of England
Alberta tar sands – a failing project, that has devastated the Boreal forests and land the size of England

of our inner void. The void that we fill through endless consumption: a consumption that bequeaths a wasteland in its wake, and sees humans as disposable; for example, like what is happening in Greece. A country decimated by a predator-driven austerity drive is the future for all countries under oligarchic capitalism; of which Chris Hedges offers a scathing assessment,

The Greeks and the U.S. working poor endure the same deprivations because they are being assaulted by the same system—corporate capitalism. There are no internal constraints on corporate capitalism. And the few external constraints that existed have been removed. Corporate capitalism, manipulating the world’s most powerful financial institutions … does what it is designed to do: It turns everything, including human beings and the natural world, into commodities to be exploited until exhaustion or collapse.

In response to fiercely grueling demands of Greece by its debtors, which is turning it to a beggar state, French economist Piketty calls for conference on all Europe’s debt.’ What we really need, however, is a conference on Global debt. We need to ask what debt is really owed and to whom. If we consider the foundations of current capitalist wealth, then, as African American artist Nona Faustine demonstrates in her art statement ‘From Her Body Sprang Our Greatest Wealth’, we are indebted far beyond our current European crisis.

Our wealth is ‘From Her Body;’ that is, the bodies, blood, sweat and tears of millions of enslaved, indentured, and murdered bodies, and from the body of our magnificent and abundant Earth. An earth that can no longer sustain and support the

Khalil Bendib, www.bendib.com
Khalil Bendib, http://www.bendib.com

increasingly extreme demands we place upon her. Those who now profit most from oligarchic capitalism, through the extraction of the earth’s resources, semi-slave labor, and exploitation of the working classes, are the most indebted. With 1% accruing 99% of global wealth in a system that rewards egotistical CEO’s who make thousands of dollars an hour while resisting a minimum wage of a measly $10 an hour; and a system that allows grossly inflated corporate wealth while abandoning everyday workers to poverty, then the logical outcome is a global feudalistic state, or, more likely, a revolution.

Actually, the revolution- evolution is already upon us, as reflected in last weeks statements of those representing spiritual power (the Pope), political power (US-China Presidents, Clinton), and financial power (6 major banks), and the increasing effectiveness of activits (people power.) We are already seeing massive investment and extraordinary innovation in renewable energy across the world. Germany has set a stunning example as the world’s first major renewable energy economy. In 2014, it set a new record, generating 74 percent of its power needs from renewable energy.

At the UN Climate Change Summit in September 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received commitments from more than a hundred countries to undertake climate action. The Congo and Uganda committed to restoring thirty million hectares of damaged forest, and Iceland and Costa Rica committed to being entirely fossil-fuel-free economies. Most countries are now setting ambitious goals that invest in renewables, cap the use of fossil fuels, and restore forest and wilderness areas that act as carbon sinks. Demonstrating the complete viability of renewables, Denmark, through its government-backed offshore wind farms, can now generate 140% of its electricity needs.

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Meeting our climate crisis presents us with new possibilities and a very obvious choice. Either we change our ways exceedingly fast, or we set the course of unmitigated suffering for generations to come; hurtling them, and most all life forms, toward extreme conflict, an unmerciful scramble for resources, and likely mass extinction; all of which is entirely driven by our human activity. To avoid that outcome, we have to appreciate that environmental, social, political, and economic systems are profoundly interconnected. Buddhism teaches that in reality the boundaries we construct are false. This understanding revolutionizes everything because we finally understand that the root of our human ills is the human mind, its delusions, and its projections.

While the mind is the source of our problem, it is also, as the Buddha pointed out, the source of our personal and collective redemption. A mind purified from the projected shadows of its own misconceptions, is capable of insight, wisdom, compassion, and quantum leaps of evolutionary thought and action. All of which can be applied at a systemic level. In spite of humanity’s tormented past, our deeper reality is that of a seamless world, divided only by the human propensity for delusion, fear, and greed. The veils can part, from such an afflicted history, when we allow ourselves to touch into the truth the Buddha spoke, vimuttisara sabbe dhamma, meaning freedom is the essence of every circumstance (Mulaka Sutta), We are not just cogs in a corporate wheel. Our human spirit will ultimately revolt against injustice and inequity, whether for others or ourselves because

earthheartbeatingin truth we are part of one another. And so, the threat to our collective survival offers the chance to move forward in collaborative ways. The belching of carbon into our biosphere knows no boundaries, and so solutions have to go beyond geographic, and nation-state borders, in order to forge global alliances and necessary action.

Such action, to be effective, has to clearly identify the causes and gross offenders that  jeopardize a possible world for future generations. Those, who use their political power to pedal doctrines of denial and deceit, those who subscribe to socio-psychopathic behaviors in their quest to own and control it all, and war mongering, cold-hearted manipulators who use crisis to destabilize mass populations for profit; all have to be called out and stopped. To know that all beings are resident in our awareness* does not preclude the truth that to secure a beautiful world for future generations, is to enter a battle of mighty proportions. As demonstrated by Gandhi, Rev. King, Mr. Mandela, and many, many other spiritual warriors, taking on those who perpetuate destructive and deadly systems can be done without entertaining hatred or committing acts of violence. It can be done through daily acts of resistance, fuelled by inner spiritual focus, and through mass mobilization. It can be done by also understanding our own contribution and collusion with systems that perpetuate greed, fear, oppression, and exploitation.

The future belongs not to wastelands of burnt and tortured landscapes or a return to feudalistic servitude. In the midst of devastation and destruction, as we negotiate the ‘the sixth extinction’* the future is already emerging. It is in the shape of our awakening awareness regards the nature of reality; the immutable nature of consciousness, matter and energy is being mirrored in collaborative, interconnected ways of working, and in new energy systems, which move us out of a fossil fuel-based system that is married to an extinction consciousness.

As centralized systems implode, we are already moving within smaller self-empowered processes, where we can access global information, and are free to create, love and share in ways that seek to express the truth of our deeper spirit, alongside our aspiration to live the truth of interdependence as the Elders, our First Nation ancestors, demonstrated.

Source, Stonehengedruids.org
Source, Stonehengedruids.org

At the end of the day, we humans are only here for a finger snap. Our empires and attempt to hoard up possessions will inevitably be defeated by the shifting sands of time. Whether we manage to turn our dramatic global crisis into a different kind of dream, one that is driven by deep desire to connect with others and share,* or whether we fall under the weight of the dying dinosaur of our capitalist system, is yet to be seen. But what it clear, is that a tiny window of opportunity is still open. Let us not fall back to sleep. Instead, let us wake up and pick up the challenge for the sake of those to come, encouraged by Mr Mandela’s words, It seems impossible until it is done.

Thanissara – Oct 3, 2015

* Alex Grey

 * Kolbert, Elizabeth. 2014. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt & Company.

*Rifkin, Jeremy. 2014. The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, The Collaborative Commons, And The Eclipse of Capitalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

From Her Body…..Money, Enslavement, Debt, Extinction, Revolution

A scroll through authentic news outlets is an intense confrontation with a planet in crisis. Like: As Alaska Burns, Anchorage Sets New Records for Heat & Lack of Snow / Corporate Capitalism is the Foundation of Police Brutality and the Prison State / Greek Voters Deliver Stunning Rebuke to Austerity / Mass Extinction: It’s the End of the World as We Know It. Here is something else from the fringe news, fast moving to central awareness, for reality atune-ment (atonement.)

From Her Body….by artist Nona Faustine, who says, “New York has a reputation for being a melting pot, but it also from her bodyhas a strong history of slave trading.” Her photo series, “White Shoes,” calls attention to that history and its enduring legacy. Here is something else for our history lesson, The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes. You can click on one of the multitude of dots as they fly from Africa toward the Americas and West Indies, and it will show the ships name and flag, (always the flags), and numbers of African slaves on board. The post summarizes, “By the conclusion of the trans-Atlantic slave trade at the end of the 19th century, Europeans had enslaved and transported more than 12.5 million Africans. At least 2 million, historians estimate, didn’t survive the journey.”

Those grand old stately homes we use in Europe for Buddhist retreats; well, just know that we sit in the midst of slave supported comfort… think of that from time to time with each mindful breath of loving kindness. I think of it a lot in South Africa, for obvious reasons, as I move within a country built on the back of black servitude. It’s none too comfortable… I breathe with it and the layerings of deflecting thoughts and reactions, some of which I scribe here. I think of origins when in the USA; to be honest, more recently than when I first arrived in Tennessee in 1992. My fast learning curve, through the layerings, began in 2008 when invited to co-facilitate the consciously diverse CDL4 at Spirit Rock.

To un-peel the layers of what has gone before is part of our awakening curriculum. Because the truth is, what has gone before is woven deeply into what is here right now. I originally thought awakening is to let go of everything from before. But it seems we can’t let go, or really move to a more hopeful future, until we honour a woman, with ill fitting white shoes, standing naked in the middle of Wall Street, attracting our attention to all that such an extraordinary, human art, activism statement, represents.

earth on fireHer Body, the body of Africa, India, Asia, aboriginal Australia and New Zealand – and where people of color were colonized for profit – is now the Earth’s body, plundered to the point of, “you have 20 – 30 years to sort this out – dear human species – otherwise write your last testament, but don’t worry about the will, there’ll be no point.“**

So money… empire…..accumulated wealth from Her Body, and… warp speed on a planet burning to a crisp…into a Greek OXI… the Mother of Democracy says absolutely NO.

NO to… well, pretty much everything it seems, because underlying all human life is the ability to share in our collective resources by means of flighty pieces of paper and lumps of metal, stamped with faces and numbers. That’s fine if you have vaults of money, but a country tyrannized by un-payable debt, an extreme austerity program, and relinquishment of its sovereignty to a remote governing system, is bound to finally revolt. Is this the beginning of a debt unraveling? Because all nation states are now pegged to an unreal debt based economy, which consistently punishes the poor.

imagesIt’s all pretty complicated, but the sight of the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, after delivering some stunning statements, (I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride), driving off into the sunset on his motorbike, peeks the human spirit. It is just what we all feel; even as EU “suits” cry foul, we root for the guy who kicks ass. Because we know what is really foul; the hijacking of our democracies and rights to a sustainable world by unethical politicians, oligarchs, media barons, banking institutions, wall streeters on crack, and psychopathic corporate agendas.

So, in brief… revolution is the next part of our awakening curriculum, dear friends. This agenda has always been coded into our DNA, because underneath the layerings, which are many, is the reality of a seamless world, divided only by the human propensity for delusion, fear and greed. The veils can part, from such an afflicted history, when we allow ourselves to touch into the truth the Buddha spoke, vimutti sara sabbe dhamma,** “Freedom is the essence of every circumstance.” This is because we are not just the money we have (or more often, don’t have), the job we do, the country we live in, or the color of our skin. Our human spirits will ultimately revolt against injustice and inequity, whether for ourselves or for others, as the truth is we are profoundly inter-woven with each other, and with all life. We are all present in each others awareness.


Thomas Piketty, since writing Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is considered one of the most influential economists in the world. In his enlightening interview with Die Zeit, he challenges the view that Germany and France have behaved better than Greece when it comes to paying off debts. “Germany is the country that has never repaid its debts. It has no standing to lecture other nations,” Piketty states.

Piketty calls for a “conference on all Europe’s debt.” But perhaps we need a conference on Global debt. We need to ask what debt is really owed, and to whom. If we consider the foundations of our current capitalist wealth, then, from Her Earth, Enslaved and Genocided Peoples, Killed in Colonial Wars, Body”… then the debt discussion moves from Euros and Dollars to the bodies of billions and the body of our magnificent and abundant Earth.

May we weep for the loss, the terror, the pain, the abuse…may we deeply feel what our lives are built on. May we take the word debt from its power play dynamic, and shift it into acts of recognition, atonement, sharing, redemption, and passionate, careful love.


* “The window of opportunity is closing: we have at best only 20 or 30 years left to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent; even better to arrive at 100 percent reduction by 2040.” Bhikkhu Bodhi, Simple and Practical Steps for Mitigating Climate Change.

** A line from the Mula Sutta – ANLV111

When the last tree is cut, when the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has been caught, then we will find out that we can’t eat money. Cree Prophecy –