Tag Archives: Joanna Macy

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