Press Release – Our World is Burning.

Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement

OTTAWA, ONTARIO – This book examines our fragile future and offers an alternative way of living based on Mindful Engagement. In sixteen essays Ian Prattis offers examples of how to respond to the most serious social, economic, environmental and personal challenges of the Twenty-First century. He advocates mindfulness practice to cultivate awareness as an ethical framework to guide actions, to create steadiness and equanimity, and to replenish body, mind and spirit. This book offers a lightning bolt that will singe incredulity and cynicism. Our World is Burning is Dr. Ian Prattis’ life work.

Anita Rizvi, Therapist

Dr. Ian Prattis, with the vision of a Prophet, the heart of a Buddha and the mind of a master Story Teller, offers a timely gift to humanity, as our collective psyche, reflected in the deterioration of our ecosystem, is poised to burn on the pyre of global consumption. In the midst … a Teacher has come… Now, pick up a copy of Our World is Burning and watch evil leave the room.

Melissa Studdard, Author and Poet
Amidst the fear, greed, and pain of our burning world, there is a cool garden where you can recover hope for posterity and cultivate your best life. Ian Prattis’ words are one of the surest pathways to that garden. Both analytically rigorous and fearlessly honest, this book is a must read for anyone asking, “What can I do?”

Please visit http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html for more information.

Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement by Dr. Ian Prattis

Price: $19.95 CDN – published by Manor House, 192 pages.

ISBN 978-1988058 -24-5

Available at:  http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

Soon on Amazon, on Indigo/Chapters (Spring 2018)

About the Author

Ian Prattis, Zen Teacher, Anthropology Professor Emeritus, peace and environmental activist, was born in the UK. He has spent much of his life living and teaching in Canada. His moving and eye-opening books, essays and poetry are a memorable experience for anyone who enjoys reading about primordial tendencies. Beneath the polished urban facade remains a part of human nature that few want to acknowledge, either due to fear or simply because it is easier to deny the basic instincts that have kept us alive on an unforgiving earth. Prattis bravely goes there in his outstanding literary work. A stone tossed into the waters of life.

It Hurts – Tragically Hip

It Hurts – Tragically Hip

It hurts
That the “Man Who Walks Among the Stars”
is now there,
poetic, mystical magician of music.
The collective grief of Canada spills
– almost too much for a country
that loved Gord Downie
yet understood not enough of his intentions.
He celebrated every particle of Canada
inviting us to his death, placing his heart
with indigenous brothers and sisters
– a Secret Path and Chanie Wenjack –
to bring lasting reconciliation to the neglected and abused.
Exposing a deep scar on the nation’s conscience,
In his passing he challenges us still –
His flaming torch will not be doused.
I for one commit to pick up this flame
….will you?……

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, standing and concert
Honouring Gord DownieLike Page

There will never be another Gord Downie. 

The Solace of Winter.

                The wind from the north soughed softly along the shore but froze any man it gripped. Snow lay in drifts, piled deep to the spine of Mount Doracher. A mire of ice covered the window panes. The cold stole into every door and numbed the hands and minds of those unprepared for it. No winter had been like this. Donald stood by his window and breathed on the window pane to melt the frost. He saw a fringe of ice skirting the bay below his house. There was a stoop to his shoulders and his clothes were unkempt. He lifted his coat and scarf from a chair and put them on. He pushed his bed away from the fire that was now cold. The room was untidy and dirty with newspapers and dishes strewn about the place. Breathing heavily from the cold he lit the fire, humming tonelessly to himself, indifferent to the squalor around him. In this, his sixty-eighth year, he simply did not care. No one came there anymore and he chose not to go anywhere. His face was heavily lined, older than its years. His mouth pursed as he sucked at his teeth waiting for the fire to catch. He grunted in pleasure as the flames grew. He spread his large, weathered hands before him to catch their warmth. He shuffled into the kitchen and coaxed a paraffin burner to life and placed a kettle of water on it to boil. He waited, not even thinking of the day and what he had to do. His responses to the seasons and their demands were automatic and often without thought.

He waited in his freezing kitchen for the boiling kettle, then took his cup and made tea. He collected a large spoon and took a pot of cold stew from the pantry and shuffled back to the fire. He sat on his bed and breakfasted on the cold, greasy lamb stew and left the pot by the fire. He drank slowly from his large cup then prepared for the cold. He lined his boots and socks with newspapers and put a layer between his shirt and jacket, and stepped outside. He gasped as the cold hit him and he made hurriedly to the byre. The animals there shuddered at the raw blast as the door opened but quickly recognized him. His hens boldly gathered about him. He talked to them, reaching to the loft for their feed and water.

He set their feed before them and searched their nesting places in the crannies of the byre for their eggs. They offered large brown eggs to this man with the soft voice and gentle hands. He collected a basketful of eggs before taking hay into his cow. He put the hay in the manger and ran his hand over her back and flanks. She lowed softly and turned to rub her head on his leg before picking at the hay. He cleaned the manure from her stall and put fresh water in the trough. The byre was cleaner than his house and some nights he would sleep there next to the sound and warm smell of his animals. He milked the cow, pressing his face to her flank while his strong fingers drew milk from her swollen udders. He hummed a tune that once he danced to, drawing life and vigour from the company of beasts. He left the cow munching at her hay and placed the two buckets, one with eggs, the other overflowing with milk, on a shelf by the door. Taking a half filled sack of cob nuts he braced himself again for the cold.

He trudged away from the byre, feeling the cold’s bite. He searched for the dozen sheep he still kept, thinking of where they would be sheltering from the snow and cold. He climbed the ridge that separated his house from the rest of the village, noticing clumps of moss underfoot and icicles hanging from fences. He looked down on desolation. No smoke rose from any chimney. Nobody lived there any longer. They had left or died. Fences hung in disrepair and empty houses gave themselves to the ravages of time. He shielded his eyes from the snow’s glare and looked for his sheep. In the distance some four miles away he could make out the thin ribbon of the new road, built to take tourists more rapidly from one end of the island to the other, cutting off his village. But it mattered not. Donald was the only one left in the village. He shunned the company of men, preferring his solitude and isolation. He was warmed only by nature and his animals and had long ceased to think about the world he had turned his back on.

He saw his sheep huddled for warmth in the lee of a deserted croft house and he picked his way through the snow drifts towards them. The wind had dropped and the sweat from his body had turned his layers of newspaper to a spongy mass. He shivered as he threw them away. The sheep had seen him and galloped towards him, some floundering in drifts in their eagerness to reach him. He patiently dug them out and fed them by hand from the sack he carried. He led them to a deserted house and opened the door so that they could shelter there. He counted them. They were all there. He shivered as he sat there pressed against them for warmth. His sack was empty but still his creatures ferreted for more. He laughingly pushed them away and stood up to go. He noticed a change in the sky that heralded more snow and pulled his coat about him a little tighter.

He wondered if the post van would have left his supplies by the road. It came with groceries once a week and the driver would leave a box of bare essentials for the man he rarely saw, taking his dues from the weekly cheque from the district office that he cashed for Donald. The two men would hardly talk on the rare occasions they met but there was a subliminal trust between them. If he did not have money then he would leave a basket of eggs, a shoulder of mutton or a box of filleted fish and the van driver would arrive at an adequate recompense. This primitive form of barter suited both parties. He walked the few remaining miles to the road leaving the sheep in the deserted house. Broken fence frames stuck out from the grip of the snow, wooden sheep pens, broken and derelict, groaned with the ice expanding in their seams. Donald had long ago accepted this neglect and desolation.

He arrived at the road and saw that a cardboard box had been left for him. He opened it and examined every article before putting them in his sack. Flour, butter, sugar, tea, nails and cartridges. And a large pot of home-made jam. He smiled at this and muttered to himself, “Nice man that driver, must leave a lobster for him one of these days.” He transferred the sack to his back and walked hurriedly to his croft. Already the day’s light was disappearing. It began to snow as he walked half frozen the five miles to where he remained the sole human survivor. His hands and feet were numb and his eyes staring as he gulped great breaths of air into his lungs on his steady trudge home. He reached his door and fumbled with useless fingers at the latch until it yielded to admit him.

His fire was all but out though he had banked it with slow-burning peats. It had taken him longer to struggle to the road and back than he had anticipated. He took paper and thrust it under a still smouldering peat. His hands could not grip his box of matches and while he tried again and again to take a match between his fingers the paper took flame from the peat. Gratefully he bent to it, placing small sticks round the flame, building it up to take peats that were stacked by the fire. The warmth shot through his hands like a pain as the cold thawed from him. He shuddered at the sensations in his body but did not move away until the flames cast their warmth to the room. He hung the pot of cold stew on a hook above the fire and added flour and salt to his greasy mixture.

While it cooked he went outside again, to the byre, to feed his animals and bring back the eggs and milk. He was tired. The cold had drained and sapped him. It was with relief that he finally closed his door for the night, stuffing paper and rags into the gaps through which winter’s fingers would poke. An involuntary shiver passed through him as he sat on his bed before the fire. His stew boiled and he ate ravenously, spooning it straight from the pot to his mouth, soaking lumps of bread into the gravy and eating them with his fingers. He carried the empty pot to the kitchen and took a long drink from the bucket of milk. It left a white stain around his lips which he wiped with his sleeve. He belched in satisfaction and wearily returned to the warmth. As the fire continued to burn he lay fully clothed on the bed and pulled the heavy blankets over him. He slept the dreamless sleep of the weary.

The winter seemed to never end. Donald was desperate for the spring to come. He needed the signs of continuity and life to guide him on his own peculiar struggle for survival. He had forgotten why he had become so separate from friends and family, if indeed any decision had consciously been made. He had clung to his father’s barren farm, to the hills and his animals and they had nurtured him in a way that human company could not. He was not unhappy, neither was he happy — he was simply content to survive.

“Letter for you.”

Donald was standing by the road basking in the first signs of spring as the van driver pulled up. The driver climbed out of the van with a sack of provisions under one arm and a letter clutched in his other hand. The deep cold of winter had thawed, allowing the first daffodils to poke their heads above ground with their dormant yellow splendour. The thaw had not penetrated Donald. He stood uneasily in the spring sunshine, staring at the letter held out to him. He slowly took the envelope and a faint uneasy memory stirred in him as he recognized the writing.

“I believe it’s from your sister,” said the van driver.

He nodded in agreement and stood still for a moment as he wondered why she would write to him. He stuffed it into his pocket and collected his sack of provisions, then without a word walked away from the van. The driver shook his head slowly at Donald’s retreating back and got out to collect the bucket of eggs left there for him. Behind the bucket was a large lobster. Its claws were bound and the antennae on its head moved slowly when he picked it up. The driver again shook his head at the strangeness of the man he would have liked to know better.

There was turmoil in Donald’s mind as he walked to his desolate home. Moira, his sister, thirty years or more since he had seen her. The letter remained unread for several days, sitting underneath a cup on the mantelpiece with other letters he had received through the years and had never opened. He went about his daily round with his animals and his lobster traps, taking care of the creatures that sustained him. He caught the changing tide in a small rowing boat he had salvaged. He carefully placed several traps by a rock skerrie where he knew the first lobsters of spring would be hiding. But the letter from Moira kept drifting into his mind. It lay neglected on the mantle until he could stand it no longer and hurried home from the oar he was mending and he took the letter down. He opened it and read what Moira had to say, admiring the roundness of her script. She had been to the island several times but could never bring herself to cross the gulf that now separated them. She had seen him from the road last summer.

“So that was the well-dressed body who stared at me so long,” mused Donald.

She wanted to see him. She was widowed. She would come in the late Autumn. She did not expect that he would meet her at the ferry.

“No I wouldn’t do that, right enough,” he muttered to himself. She would make her own way.

He read the letter several times before placing it back underneath the cup. He rubbed his hand over the stubble on his chin.

“I must shave for when she comes, aye and clean this place up.”

He glanced round at the midden he inhabited and smiled ruefully to himself. He liked his walls and took comfort from the simple homeliness of the clutter. He talked and chuckled to himself as he imposed a certain tidiness and cleanliness to his home. All for his sister’s visit, late in Autumn. He was harvesting his main crop of potatoes when he saw her walk from a car that stopped at the road. He went to meet her and greeted her shyly, unsure of what to say to his sister. He admired the cut of her expensive suit and sensible walking shoes and guided her along the path to the house where they had both been children. They talked easily about their lives and different fortunes, letting the other only glimpse the surface and not the depths. Donald had not talked for such length in a decade and was mildly exhilarated at using vocabulary long neglected. He noted that time had not been kind to Moira. Her face was drawn and he saw bitterness in her gaunt eyes that did not reflect the dignity and grace of her expensive clothes.

He led her through the door of the house. There was a large bucket of marsh flowers by the fireplace. He had picked them that morning from the marsh, remembering her love for them. He had rearranged the house so that its comfort would welcome a visitor. Moira looked around and wrinkled her nose in distaste.

“The same old sticks and ugly furniture. How can you live with it still Donald?”

His heart sank with disappointment.

“It suits me well enough for what I want.”

“That is quite evident.” She answered waspishly. Her own house in a fashionable area of Glasgow was polished and gleaming, expensive and cold. Correct for mid-day bridge with her ladies’ committees. A burnished reflection of the constant show to paper over the void of life that she had never lived. Her escape from the poverty of her island life had not provided freedom from her bitterness.

She couldn’t help but to walk round the room and into the kitchen, inspecting the carpets, chairs and ragged curtains.

“You should get rid of all this. I’ll send you what you need from Glasgow. Don’t worry, I’ll pay. The least I can do for my neglect of you.”

Donald was stunned and stood in helpless silence at his sister’s verbal destruction of things that satisfied him.

“Is that all you can see, Moira?” he said gently. “These sticks you despise are just simple parts of what I have here. I’m content with them. If they offend you, look not at them. Did you see the irises I picked for you this morning? In the bucket there. You used to like them.”

She turned and looked at his gesture and felt the mildness of his soft rebuke. She bit her lips and tried to control the mounting venom that came to her tongue. How dare he live in this simplicity? Who was he to turn his back on the world and live just as he pleased?

“Why do you stay here, cut off from everything?” She blurted out.

He shrugged and took his time to answer. “I don’t really know why, it just seemed to happen that way.” He answered simply. His mildness and gentleness were a spur to Moira’s deep well of bitterness.

“I’ll tell you why,” she snapped ” You’re hiding here in this hovel. You could never leave this island because deep down you’re a total failure.” She paused for breath unable to stop the bitterness she felt. “Out there is a world that takes guts and backbone. You-you’re spineless.” She stopped for a moment at the look of amazement on her brother’s face. “You could have been the best fisherman in the Minch, yes and a writer too. But look at you. Secluded here with your sheep subsidies and quiet. You would be exposed anywhere else for what you are. A failure. That’s what keeps you and everybody else here on this island.” She finished with a sharp edge to her words, intended to cut her brother.

Slowly Donald understood the well of bitterness that his sister drew from. With quiet composure he spoke. “If that is so, then why must you come back to reveal this truth to me, Moira? Why do you think you have to make sure I understand why I am here?” At her silence he continued. “I’ll tell you why. There’s a simplicity here that offends you, that reminds you of where you came from, an honesty before God that you fear to recognize. This is a rebuke to the empty round of shallow stagings you fill your life with. That’s why you come back to this island. To fill your emptiness, to scoff at simplicity, while you snatch at it for yourself.”

The colour mounted on Moira’s cheeks as his voice grew more insistent.

“There’s a reminder here, of what you once were and could have been and that’s too much for a creature like you to accept. You chose your life, ashamed of us here but you know full well where the balance of truth lies.”

There was a hushed silence filled only with their emotion and strain. They were both right. They faced one another across the kitchen table, the same one they had cracked crab claws on when they were children. The fury and shock of their words made them tremble. Moira’s lips quivered as she choked off a retort and hurriedly she turned away from Donald’s piercing eyes and words. He let out a long breath and stepped to Moira’s side and put his hand on her arm. “What are we saying to one another Moira? Thirty years and all we do is hurt? We’ve learned very little then. Come and walk to the shore with me and let the autumn breeze take the evil from our tongues.”

Moira nodded through her trembling and reluctantly followed her brother. They walked slowly and Moira slipped her hand through his arm. He pointed out things to her – gently reminding her of what she had come from. Easing her mind with stories of the sheep running away with the washing and rabbiting with their brother Angus. They stood by the shore. Two figures in middle age briefly united in a semblance of peace.

“Well Moira, I may be a bit of a failure in some eyes.”

“No, no Donald please let me take back my words I didn’t mean to……”

“You can have back the pain, my sister, but not the words. There’s some truth in them. But realize that here in a terrible fashion to you and others I at least survive in the shadow of truth and eternity. Derelict and simpleton that I appear, I might just understand a little of the way of things.”

They stood in silence for a long time, tired and spent from their emotion. He walked with her to the road where her car was parked. They were at last strangely comfortable with one another.

“I’ve a favour to ask of you.”

He stopped and listened.

“My youngest son is with me on the island.” There was a note of distaste in her voice that puzzled him. “He’s a businessman and has bought the schoolhouse at the head of the next bay to you. He wants to set up a shellfish factory and needs a site and a deep water landing stage for fishing boats. It would bring business and employment to the island.”

She finished feebly.

Donald looked at her sharply. The only location for such an access was on his farm, the north side of the bay below his house. There the rock plunged vertically into the sea, a natural anchorage for fishing vessels, a haven yet for cormorants and guillemots.

“No, that’s not why I came to see you,” she said hastily at his continued silence. “I came to see you for myself, but will you meet with him?’

Donald nodded and she quickly got into her car, relieved that she had accomplished her purpose. She drove away from everything she feared to be reminded of.

The smells and sounds of morning pleased Donald as he sat in the sun by his house the next day. He was cleaning his shotgun. He cocked his head to listen to the different songs of birds long awake, resting the gun across his knees. He saw lapwings soaring almost vertically to catch flying insects and high above a majestic eagle circling slowly in a sky so clear and blue. He drew breath at the scent of marsh and pasture that drifted towards him. He never ceased to wonder at the regeneration the seasons were capable of. He smiled to himself as he continued to clean his gun, thinking of the mountain hares he must outwit that day. A man, about thirty years of age, approached the house. Donald had seen him for the last mile of his long walk from the new road. As the man came nearer he noticed the smart blue city suit and the small green yachting boots that kept the trouser cuffs from the grass and mud. The man was sweating heavily in the morning sun, his collar tight about his throat. He was heavily set and his breath wheezed harshly as he came to a halt in front of him. Donald inspected him more closely, noting the sleeked back hair, the carefully clipped moustache, and the shrewd, sharp eyes that lurked behind hooded lids.

“I’m your sister’s son, John Menzie is my name.” The voice was soft, melodious and manipulative. It took Donald by surprise. No, this could not be Moira’s son.

“Well, I’m her stepson, Moira never had children of her own.”

So that’s it, I was right not to recognize him as spawned from Moira. Donald pondered in silence at the soft and charming voice that he was not in the least taken in by. He shook John Menzie’s hand and exchanged easy pleasantries about the weather and crops and his sister Moira. He recoiled a little at the smoothness of the man, but nothing showed in his soft blue eyes or mild expression. He listened as his sister’s stepson carefully led up to his business.

It was explained to him why the access through his croft was so important to John Menzie’s business venture. He allowed the music of the man’s voice to continue without his full attention. He patiently listened to the economics of shell fishing, the employment it would bring and the new life and prosperity it would promise. Menzie had already established small ventures on the island that tied in to his mainland business.

“Will it be your money that will pay for all this?” Donald asked.

“Not exactly,” a quick frown wrinkled Menzie’s forehead. “There’s government grants and employment grants for starting something new in an area like this. It just needs someone like me to start it. With present prices for shellfish, a factory here couldn’t fail. There’ll be quite a bit of my own money as well, but most of it will be from the government.” He grinned in an assumed compliance.

“It’s time something was put back into these islands. Well, shall we walk over to where the site would be and I’ll show you what I have in mind?” Donald reluctantly complied. Menzies seemed not to notice his reticence as he talked of book keeping procedures that would bring in the most profit, the money in it for Donald and the good it would do for the island community.

At the other side of the bay John Menzie paced out the factory’s location, how simple and quick then to transfer the fish from a jetty that would abutt the natural landing stage. He was thorough and persuasive and Callum Mor admired his skill. But it was only with half an ear that he listened. He heard the wash of the sea on the rocks and looked at the welter of flowers about him, whose regimes changed with every month. He was no longer attentive to the words of the young man. His mind was open to a different reality. They walked back from the bay. Menzie felt pleased, mistaking reticence for acceptance.

“You’ll think it over? There’ll be quite a pocket full of money for you if this goes through.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s at all necessary.”

“This is business, you know,” Menzie smiled expansively.

“You do not understand me Mr. Menzie, I do not wish my pockets to be full.” They were back by the house.

“There will not be any jetty on my land for your factory.”

John Menzie stood in silence, but only for a moment.

“Why not?” There was no melody in the voice now, just a controlled harshness. Donald took his time, picking up his shotgun to resume its cleaning.

“There may be a lot you think I don’t understand but this much I do know. You will no doubt be here to receive the government’s bounty in the name of helping this island. But I will not expect you to be here the moment there is a draw on your own finances.” He looked shrewdly at the young man whose face was reddening with anger. “Dreams will be raised, there’ll be a brief life for a few families but you will leave richer and it will be this island that will remain poor. It is better that the flowers and gulls maintain their ascendancy on that bit of my land. They have more respect for it than you.”

A mixture of emotion struggled for expression in John Menzie’s face. He burst out angrily “You bloody old fool. Do you think you can hold back progress?”

Donald smiled at him and said slowly “I think I may be just doing that very thing.” “You’ll not stop me, there are other places and other people who can use money,” Menzie snarled.

Donald calmly indicated with the gun barrel that the conversation was over. Menzie stood for only a moment before striding swiftly away, his green yachting boots brought a smile of amusement as Donald lifted the gun. A blast from the shotgun roared over the morning’s stillness. Menzie threw himself to the ground and rolled into a ditch, and frantically searched himself for pellet wounds. There were none. Slowly he drew himself erect and looked back to where the old man stood with the shotgun in his hands. Donald pointed to the hare that lay twitching in its death throes not thirty yards from the ditch that harboured Menzie.

“It’s a terrible mess you’re making of your fine suit, Mr. Menzie,” he called.

Menzie noticed the green slime on his shoulder and mud on his knees and in fury strode to the already dead hare and was due to kick it until he noticed the shotgun aimed casually in his direction. He spun on his heel and quickened his step. Every time he turned to look over his shoulder he would see the old man stalking him, keeping an easy pace with him. Twice more the shotgun roared, and twice more did John Menzie throw himself to the ground only to have yet another dead hare pointed out to him.

He reached the road and panting in fury and hysteria. Moira was there with the car. She had watched her stepson set the hares coursing for her brother’s gun and relished that her arrogant stepson should be reduced to a frustrated sobbing. He climbed into the seat beside her, struggling for control. She sat silent, coolly smoking a cigarette. She did not offer him one but waited for her brother to walk to the car. He came slowly with the shotgun in the crook of his arm and stood by her window.

“It’s a fine day Moira.”

“Not if you are a hare or a businessman, surely.”

He chuckled softly at her humour.

“Here’s something for your dinner.”

“It’s a good day for shooting, Donald.”

“It is at that.”

They enjoyed an almost private amusement, ignoring the man staring fixedly through the windscreen. Moira exulted in her brother’s surprising invincibility and accepted the hares he held out to her. She smiled openly at him, her brother, without guile or bitterness tracing her features. “Thank you Donald and God’s blessings with you.”

“And with you Moira.”

She drove away. He knew he would not see her again but rejoiced that they could give God’s blessing to one another. Donald glanced at the darkening autumn sky and knew there would soon be a first snow on Mount Doracher. He smiled to himself and returned to his solitude and isolation, relieved once more to shun the company of his fellow men.

 

 

REVIEWS OF NEW PLANET, NEW WORLD

This futuristic finale of a trilogy stands on award winning books – Redemption and Trailing Sky Six Feathers. Buy a copy ($24.95) and receive the two prior books for FREE. Order through: http://ianprattis.com/NewPlanet.html   

Also on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble.

  • Virginia Minchkin, Poet:

This work is exquisite – the colors, movement, confusion, overlap, confrontation… visceral interpretation of connectedness… these are the words ‘New Planet, New World’ bring up for me. …the last book in a trilogy, bringing the vibrancy, violence, cataclysms, and expansive growth of the characters’ experiences on different planets, back full circle to share in the humanity of hope for us all!

  • Joslyn Wolfe, Editor: Focus on Women Magazine:

Ian Prattis has been gifted with the ability to move, encourage and inspire others through his books.  He writes about ethics, religion, personal experiences, spirituality, transformation and excels at the task. It is time to celebrate his many accomplishments with this recent literary masterpiece.

  • Maggie McLeod, Artist:

I am deeply honoured to see part of this journey…What Ian Prattis has already done for this world and what he continues to do with this book provides a sense of relief and gratitude not only to me but for anyone who turns the pages of this epic work.

  • Camila Reimers, Chilean-Canadian author:

Ian Prattis is a master storyteller. His writing style reminds me of Magical Realism used in Latino American literature, where there is magic in the rational world and there is no lineal time, the characters live in a circle where past, present and future happen simultaneously. At this time of turmoil the message of hope that Ian has to offer is very much needed by new and old generations.

  • John Lundin, author of The New Mandala – Eastern Wisdom for Western Living, written with the Dalai Lama, and Journey to the Heart of the World, written with the indigenous elders of la Sierra Nevada in Colombia.

In his new book, New Planet, New World, author Ian Prattis shares a compelling futuristic Hero’s Journey of hope for humanity.  And he offers an age-old prescription for bringing about the realization of that hope: the cultivation of love, the mainspring for authentic and responsible living, as taught by the elders of all spiritual cultures throughout history. This book is a wisdom teaching of its own, with the past informing a hope for the future.

  • Rabia Wilcox, Counsellor:

Ian Prattis has created a magnificent journey through time and space – dimensions too – in sacred ways of honouring all peoples, their ancestors, future generations and the kindly power of Nature. The acts of generosity, the authentic responsibility explored and experienced throughout this book nourishes my body, mind and spirit.

  • Anita Rizvi, Therapist:

“New Planet, New World” is a powerful novel which explores an alternative to the destructive path civilisation is presently on. The intricacy of many themes keeps the reader engaged with brilliant writing that is exciting, tender, engaging and thoughtful. The underlying message is the fostering of love as the basic philosophy for the future. Most arresting is the fiery rant by Dr. Tom Hagen at the UN in 2080 addressing the stubborn refusal of governments and corporations immersed in the oil/carbon complex to take heed. The relationship between Catriona and Rising Moon is particularly moving.  We observe two young women from different worlds coming together to create a haven for young people, placing their safety above ego fostering. Through these characters, we consider how any two nations can apply similar principles while civilisation still has the chance. The battle with jihadists is riveting and difficult to bear, but even here compassion prevails.

This futuristic novel combines science with Pope Francis’ Encyclical and strong warnings regarding the disregard by carbon cabal leaders. Tolstoy’s assertion of love as the basis for proper living pulsates as an undercurrent throughout each chapter. Dr. Prattis succeeds in offering us a gift of hope in troubled times via the presentation of a new way of living based on ecology, respect and compassion. “New Planet, New World” not only is one of the most important books of 2016; it is a wake-up call for all of humanity. Ian Prattis’ writing moves me… a visionary sent from God to our troubled world.

Dear Ian, I thought the first book introducing Callum Mor in “Redemption” was the best but oh, how I was wrong… I am in absolute bliss reading New Planet New World…it’s hard to explain how it feels to read your work… It is like God’s energy is moving through each word. I cried so much at Catriona’s meeting with Rising Moon…it is one thing to know the general summary of this book, it is quite another to read it…Thank you for being a gift of light to our world, dear friend!

Anita

 

  • Lynn Ross Adamson-Malelli, photographer:

In this original and surprising plot twist, the final book of this trilogy leaps into the near future. This future does not exist as a separate chronological entity, it is simply part of the eternal ‘now’, the ‘now’ that requires mindfulness. We learn through the twists and turns of the individual stories that the spirit of this Mother Earth is in all of us, at all times, wherever we are in the universe. The trilogy as a whole guides us from one man’s macrocosm, through the connectedness of spirit throughout time and out into the expanse of the universal macrocosm.

 

  • Eleanor Aronoff, Reiki Master

The stories in the trilogy are diverse and very human tales that touch deeply into the emotional heart.  The beautiful and evocative writing brilliantly weaves the stories together, carrying us along as we evolve with the author, learning what it truly means to be human.  This final book completes the journey that has taken us across great distances of time and space while also keeping us rooted firmly in our hearts.  I highly recommend New Planet, New World.  Not only is it an inspirational and heartfelt story, it is a magnificent adventure to savour and enjoy.

  • Allan Green, Spiritual Facilitator

This book celebrates one of the great visionaries of our times.

Childhood Bedrooms

Childhood Bedrooms                                                                        

 

Igor asked her a surprising question, “When you were a child what was your bedroom like?” Catriona smiled as fond recollections arose in her mind. “I had the most marvelous bedroom. It was more of a music room than a bedroom, full of musical instruments.”

She giggled and clapped her hands, “I had all these stuffed animals and would place them next to instruments and move them around. My father was such a goof. He would knock on the door and ask if he was to be Elephant, Tinker Bell or Bear and then come in and play their instruments.” Igor was rolling over with laughter, as she continued. “My bedroom had a large bay window and my father would sit there with whatever stuffed animal I assigned to him. Often my mother would come in and conduct the entire ensemble.” Catriona’s face was lit up with the memories and she turned to him, “What about you Igor?”

He pondered whether to reveal too much, then decided to do so. “My bedroom as a child was my sanctuary. My parents were often under police scrutiny for their beliefs. To compensate they created a very safe haven for me.” He slowly gathered himself, “I see the corner where books, paintings and wooden stools are piled up in disarray. My bed had two levels, one for me to sleep upon and the other for my stuffed animals to talk to before sleeping. It was a comfortable bed with large pillows and green checkered blankets. I had a telescope next to the window and I would fly in my mind to galaxies with my favorite animals.” Then he paused, “Perhaps it was too much of a sanctuary, as I did not like to leave this house. I had to when my parents entered the Space Agency in Moscow. I did not want to leave my safe bedroom behind but my father was very smart. He cleared it out and painted it in colors I hated. I begged him and my mother to let me see it one last time.”

There was a tremor of emotion in Igor’s voice and Catriona stayed very still. “On that last visit, mother pointed to the empty window where my telescope once focused on the sky. I felt the loss, stripped down in an empty space once resonant with discovery. I felt my mother’s gentle hands on my shoulder and still remember her saying, “There is nothing to hold you back, Igor. Your dream is still inside. Now step into freedom.” She smiled as I looked for the telescope. Nothing was there. My treasures were boxed and sent on to Moscow. This was their way to move me on from fear rather than cling to childhood safety. My mother held my hand and I stared at where the telescope was not.”

Catriona reached over and gently held his hand, “And here you now are Igor.”

He raised her hand to his lips and gently kissed her fingers.

Excerpt from New Planet New World – one of three love stories in the finale of the trilogy – Chronicles of Awakening. Available:  http://ianprattis.com/NewPlanet.html

Sacred Stalker

“Sacred Stalker” is the story of what I felt about writing “Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse.” And how it led to transformation. You can receive an Autographed Soft Cover book for $15 (plus $12 S&H) plus a FREE Pine Gate Meditations CD. Go to http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

Several decades ago I became aware that I had a stalker. I would glance over my shoulder and feel a distinct presence. The presence was a woman from the 18th century. This was made known to me by a shaman mentor – White Eagle Woman – who made it clear that I was mistaken. This was no stalker. The female entity from the past was a medicine woman from the American Southwest. She was trying to bring powerful medicine gifts through to me in the 21st century, but I had not learned how to release my logical and intellectual mind, and certainly did not possess the wisdom to receive. She had a name – Trailing Sky Six Feathers.

Over time my stubborn resistance was no match for her determination. I ultimately surrendered to this Muse. I learned that I had died in her arms in 1777 and she swore to find me in the future to complete my purpose. Through her insistence I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place and consciousness. She refused to give up on how dense I was and through her insistence, karma was reversed, the internal battles ceased and I learned to navigate past and present life experiences over four centuries.

The medicine gifts received from Trailing Sky during dream visions and shamanic journeys required that I nurture skills within me to use them wisely. I eventually remembered a clear mosaic of experiences stretching back to 1777. Past life memories collide head on with the present. The relentless shadowing by this Muse brought understanding and purpose to overcome the darkness of my past.

How did this all come about?

Many years ago when I was a young professor at Carleton University, I split my time between Ottawa and the Hebrides in Scotland. I was trying to create an academic career and at the same time save a failing marriage. I was not doing a good job with either. I had a boat – a 26 foot clinker built vessel with an inboard engine to enter the dangerous surrounding sea with tourists on board. I must have been really insane or totally desperate – perhaps both! One disastrous journey sears my mind. It was from Eriskay, to the north, back to my home on the Island of Barra. An unanticipated storm and dense fog quickly blew up to gale force winds. Disaster loomed from every option that was available to my mind. I stood braced at the wheel of this small craft with four tourists huddled on board. Fear was no longer guiding me, as I muttered the 23rd Psalm – “I shall not want.” I remember a terrible chilling silence come over me along with utter helplessness. The boat navigated through a narrow gap in an offshore rock spur, and the wheel spinned to avoid the sharp spine of another rock ledge.

I did not have that knowledge. I did not have that skill. They were not my hands on the wheel – something else had taken over as the boat slowly limped into the sheltered harbour after dark. I disembarked and walked to my house. I sat on the steps, as the storm ceased its fury and a crescent moon came out from the clouds. My reflections on the day were savage, yielding ugly truths I had long buried. I could take no credit for bringing the boat home safely. I thought of the furious sea as a piercing dirty grey, the color of dying – just waiting for me. I knew I had to put an end to my recklessness on the sea and in life. This was not where I was to be; either in this relationship I was trying to save or the location. The stressful drain on time and energy to travel back and forth between Canada and the Hebrides was debilitating. It left me with zero energy for my life purpose. Instead I was choosing the graceless oblivion that alcohol and depression permit.

I knew I had to emerge from the swamp I had created. This deadly sea voyage was the signal for me to embark on an intense spiritual journey. They were not my hands on the wheel. It took me a long time to realize that it was none other than Trailing Sky who saved my life at that instance – and on many other occasions.

It was no accident that on my return to Canada after the brutal sea voyage I first met White Eagle Woman at an elders gathering. She beckoned me over, looked me right in the eye and told me that she did not like me at all. Quite an introduction! She had been instructed by her ancestors to train me and it began straight away with an eight day vision quest. Her blunt introduction was a prelude to a thirty year period of training and healing under her guidance. She became a spiritual mentor and directed the shamanic process of my healing from childhood sexual abuse. This allowed the mosaic of the past to reveal itself. She also identified Trailing Sky for me and then taught me how to create a medicine wheel in my mind with a circle at the sacred centre. That was the location where I could dialog with Trailing Sky.

I also met a Rishi – a holy man from India who recognized me and insisted I go to India for spiritual training. I took leave from my university and spent two years as a yogi, where the spiritual treasures of India were opened to me. I also became seriously ill and knew there was a distinct possibility of death. I met this with calm and a total lack of fear. Huddled on a bed in an ashram in Mumbai, India – I opened my eyes to see one of my swami mentors. He said:

“We are so happy Ian that you have decided to die with us in India. And we will be most happy should you live.”

Lying there close to death, the lack of fear provided a sense of freedom. Trailing Sky was also there – constantly. She orchestrated all the energies to keep me alive. I later learned that she was there every time my life was at risk. That must have kept her very busy!! She brought me through to safety – time after time.

Trailing Sky is not an illusion, a projection that I am attached to. She is the ultimate Muse, constituting all that is now crystal clear within me. I am deeply humbled and privileged to touch this deep wisdom of transformation.

She said to me, “You have transformed all that you brought in with you and suffered from, You changed course and now have freedom and alignment. The person who stumbled blindly through the first part of your life is not the Ian walking through the second part of life. In India, Arizona, France, the Canadian wilderness and around the world you went to extraordinary lengths to deal with karma. Had you not done so – I would have to wait for several more lifetimes to come through to you. There were so many severe experiences, but you responded by moving in this spiritual direction. You touched a universal thread and that allowed me to close the gap – so I could keep my promise from 1777.”

The rest of my life is still a work in progress

 

Call to Action

Call to Action                                                                                      

I quote from the May 2017 edition of the Lion’s Roar magazine: “Thirteen leading Buddhist teachers, joined by over 200 additional signatories, called on Buddhists and all peoples of faith to take a stand against policies of the new United States administration that will create suffering for the most vulnerable in society……Feeling the reality of this suffering, we remember that peacefulness does not mean passiveness and non-attachment does not mean non-engagement…..The dharma is not an excuse to turn away from the suffering of the world, nor is it a sedative to get us comfortably through painful times. It (the dharma) is a powerful teaching that frees and strengthens us to work diligently for the liberation of beings from suffering…..While Buddhism has traditionally emphasized the personal cause of suffering, today we also discern how the three poisons of greed, aggression, and indifference operate through political, economic and social systems to cause suffering on a vast scale…….

As we resist the heightened threat of many of the new administration’s policies, we also recognize that under-represented and oppressed communities in the United States have long suffered from systemic greed, aggression, aversion and indifference…….While some argue that the principle of non-duality suggests that Buddhists should not engage in or take sides on political or social issues, we believe the opposite is true. It is because we and others are not separate that we must act…….. For those who are new to this, please remember that there are many people who have dedicated their lives to the work of social change. They have the useful skills of compassionate organizing and building sustainable movements. Find them, get involved and learn from them.”

I shape this into a simple personal mantra – “I refrain from causing harm.” I know that by refraining from one thing that causes harm, I then prevent other harmful things from happening. I arrive at my own insight, which is not imposed by any outside authority. I issue a Call to Action. Bhikkhu Bodhi in Buddhadharma, spring 2017 urges Buddhist advocacy in alliance with progressive leaders to defend the United States’ embattled democracy from President Trump’s “cabinet of bigotry.” He states; “We can call in unison for a policy of global generosity in place of rash militarism, for programs that protect the poor and vulnerable, for the advancement of social and racial justice, and for the rapid transition to a clean-energy economy …….and bring the moral weight of the dharma to bear on matters that affect the lives of people anywhere – now and long into the future.”  His statement was followed by the stance taken by Buddhist leaders in the May 2017 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine

I also call out the Hopi Elders’ Prophecy in 2000: “Create your community. Be good to one another. And do not look outside yourself for your leader… See who is there with you and celebrate…. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

For our part we can work with municipalities, conservationists and River Keepers to clean up our waterways and environment. Ensure that children in schools go with you and prepare them to handle cyberbullying and neglect. We hold politicians and corporations to account. Create coalitions with progressive organizations who share our love of kindness and decency.

Walk upon the Earth – Lightly. Be fully Here and Present – Lightly.

Love Story from Chapter 12 of new Planet New World

Love Story from Chapter Twelve of New Planet, New World

Childhood Bedrooms

Igor asked her a surprising question, “When you were a child what was your bedroom like?” Catriona smiled as fond recollections arose in her mind. “I had the most marvelous bedroom. It was more of a music room than a bedroom, full of musical instruments.”

She giggled and clapped her hands, “I had all these stuffed animals and would place them next to instruments and move them around. My father was such a goof. He would knock on the door and ask if he was to be Elephant, Tinker Bell or Bear and then come in and play their instruments.” Igor was rolling over with laughter. “My bedroom had a large bay window and my father would sit there with whatever stuffed animal I assigned to him. Often my mother would come in and conduct the entire ensemble.” Catriona’s face was lit up with the memories and she turned to him, “What about you Igor?”

Igor pondered whether to reveal too much, then decided to do so. “My bedroom as a child was my sanctuary. My parents were often under police scrutiny for their beliefs. To compensate they created a very safe haven for me.” He slowly gathered himself, “I see the corner where books, paintings and wooden stools are piled up in disarray. My bed had two levels, one for me to sleep upon and the other for my stuffed animals to talk to before sleeping. It was a comfortable bed with large pillows and green checkered blankets. I had a telescope next to the window and I would fly in my mind to galaxies with my favorite animals.” Then he paused, “Perhaps it was too much of a sanctuary, as I did not like to leave this house. I had to when my parents entered the Space Agency in Moscow. I did not want to leave my safe bedroom behind but my father was very smart. He cleared it out and painted it in colors I hated. I begged him and my mother to let me see it one last time.”

There was a tremor of emotion in Igor’s voice and Catriona stayed very still. “On that last visit, mother pointed to the empty window where my telescope once focused on the sky. I felt the loss, stripped down in an empty space once resonant with discovery. I felt my mother’s gentle hands on my shoulder and still remember her saying, “There is nothing to hold you back, Igor. Your dream is still inside. Now step into freedom.” She smiled as I looked for the telescope. Nothing was there. My treasures were boxed and sent on to Moscow. This was their way to move me on from fear rather than cling to childhood safety. My mother held my hand and stared at where the telescope was not.”

Catriona reached over and gently held Igor’s hand, “And here you now are Igor.”

He raised her hand to his lips and gently kissed her fingers.

New Planet New World is the final book of a trilogy – Chronicles of Awakening. It is available from Chapters in Canada and Amazon https://www.amazon.ca/New-Planet-World-Ian-Prattis/dp/1988058155/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr

If you wish to purchase an autographed copy and receive for free Book 1: Redemption and Book 2 Trailing Sky go to http://ianprattis.com/NewPlanet.html

 

 

A Manifesto for the Future

“A Manifesto for the Future” is the final essay in my forthcoming book, “Our World is Burning: Essays in Mindful Engagement.” As the planet’s life support systems erode due to Climate Change, do we seek guidance from spiritual ethics or are we trying to transcend an unsatisfactory world? The Mindfulness Trainings are there yet social, political and ecological engagements are devalued. Walk the Bodhisattva path not as a separate self but as an engaged self.

 

A Manifesto for the Future

 

As a Zen teacher I make a commitment not to cause harm. I am guided by spiritual ethics yet am aware that the current disastrous state of the planet will not bring forth strategic plans of how to fix things. I could go on and on about the terrible things taking place in society and to the planet – and will divert to that in a moment. Yet the bottom line for me is to remember and refine a system of ethical conduct. I go deeper into meditation and mainly fix myself to be steady and insightful. I register with Mindfulness Trainings, as it brings out all that I would like to see in people around the planet.

The bottom line for me is that awakening and mindfulness are active. Activism, on its own, does not have the inner resources to maintain effective social and planetary transformation. I know from personal experience that re-training the wild mind is a necessary ingredient to precede activism. Becoming environmental or political is only one part and cannot be fully effective until the internal side is in place.

We have no alternative but to concentrate on sustainable living, rather than exploiting the spoils of perpetual economic growth. Profit cannot be the sole reason for commerce. There must be responsibility tied into the equation. At present, we are totally out of sync with the earth’s resources. The fragile threads of ecosystems around the globe are severely compromised. We are in the position of either going down the collective sewer or changing our values in the direction of awakening.

Jane Goodall issued a dire warning in 2016 that ‘life is hanging by a thread,’ as all living things will be negatively impacted by rapid climate change. In particular, she advocates the necessity of creating programs that stop tropical deforestation by making rural communities custodians of the forests.

This is difficult when President Trump, an influential leader, has begun to dismantle environmental regulations, setting in motion irreversible consequences around the world. The United States is ignoring climate change, obstructing clean energy and many forms of conservation. Noam Chomsky in 2016 refers to Trump’s priorities as “…racing as rapidly as possible to the destruction of organized human life.”

Stephen Hawking’s thoughtful piece in the Guardian (December 1, 2016) places a focus on elite behavior creating further inequality as he examines Brexit and the Trump presidency. His question is how will the elites change? “We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality and people see only a slim chance at earning a living at all.” Hawking acknowledges this dangerous moment in humanity’s evolution.

Earth is like a giant living cell, all parts are linked symbiotically. Biologist Thomas Lewis created this metaphor with humanity just as one part of a vast system. This is not something that powerful and corporate people have paid much attention to. The reality is that the life support systems of the planet are severely threatened by climate change, aided by accelerating global consumerism. Our ignorance and neglect are destroying Earth, because we do not know how to respect ourselves, others, and the planet. Unless we radically change, there is no possibility of balance, environmentally or socially.

This became clear in my filmed distance course “Ecology and Culture” at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I wanted to connect the many levels of violence and fear we engage with to the environment, and to the everyday use of harmful speech and mindless consumption. With ethical guidelines rooted in spiritual practice, we do not generate the energy that enables terror and violence to grow. Comparing an everyday situation to an overall climate of fear, hatred and vengeance, I suggest that it is all the same. We just need to learn how to behave differently.

These issues were examined with great clarity by the awakened mind of the Buddha, 2600 years ago. His teachings are timeless, as relevant to the modern world as when first spoken. The Buddha taught the Five Mindfulness Trainings as a design for living. Thich Nhat Hanh reworked them to relate to modern realities. They are non-sectarian and all spiritual traditions have their equivalent. The first training is to protect life, to decrease violence in oneself, family and society. The second training is to practice social justice, generosity and not exploit other beings. The third is responsible sexual behavior for all people, to protect couples, families and children. The fourth is the practice of deep listening and loving speech to restore communication and reconciliation. The fifth is about mindful consumption, which helps us not to bring toxins and poisons into our body or mind.

I asked the students in my Ecology and Culture class if anyone would care to read them out to their classmates during my lecture on environmental ethics. There were many volunteers. I did wonder if this borrowing from Buddhism would go over well with students and the viewing audience. Much to my surprise, students and the public viewers wrote in to tell me that this was a wake-up call, the first time they had been presented with specific environmental ethics. Let me be clear, the trainings are not there to judge others. They are an internal guide so that, as individuals, we wake up to love and compassion and take heed of the directions the mindfulness trainings take us in. The trainings are not a coercive design for conformity. They simply assist us to be more aware of what is going on, around and within us. They enable us to distinguish what is good for ourselves, our minds and the world and what is not. It is not necessary to complete the practice perfectly, as that is not possible. It is, however, possible to move in the direction of responsible and ethical living and make a difference to our society and environment. Do we bring to violence, indifference and terror a renewed application of the same or do we step back and consider these teachings?

There is a solution to our present situation. Our leaders have often become trapped by corporate and electoral agendas, following a similar script, seeking justification and in some cases, avocation for the use of violence. Large scale change is difficult to find within this system but the Buddha offers a path. The implications of his Five Mindfulness Trainings apply to the dangerous times we live in. Our world needs guidelines like these.

A flip side to global violence is the growing concern over the absence of love, decency and compassion in daily public life. This preoccupies and worries many citizens and scholars.  If there was ever a time to learn anew from these teachings, it is now. When we touch base with the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we are being reminded to wake up. Neglect, terror and fear are states of mind. Therefore, we need tools that reconnect us to a mind state driven by love, decency and positivity.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings are presented as an antidote to the contemporary crises. The ethics of the Five Mindfulness Trainings provide a necessary balance to find our true nature, while caring for all we connect with. In addition to addressing social and environmental crises, the building of inner spiritual strength through meditation and mindfulness is crucial.

However, I must point out that it is critical in the 21st century that necessary re-education also find a place in the Five Mindfulness Trainings. They are indeed a guidance system to encourage us to no longer participate in a non-sustainable economic system driven by greed and distraction. This global ethic is our protector as it helps us to stop, look deeply and throw away our harmful patterns of behavior. Crises such as Climate Change prompt us to refresh and refine the trainings but as we will see there were some awkward disconnects in their creation. This begs the question of how to relate to the trainings without a disconnect to their intentions?

The Buddha was clear about impermanence and new challenges. He created the Five Mindfulness Trainings for the lay community and told Ananda, his faithful attendant, that the minor precepts should be revised according to the culture and the time. But Ananda and the Buddhist elders were confused about which precepts were the minor ones and misunderstood what the Buddha was talking about. And so nothing changed for 2,600 years. There was no preparation or anticipation for modern realities, as monastic precepts have not changed very much and were not equipped to handle issues ranging from internet, terrorism, a world full of refugees, to Climate Change.

The seeds of disconnect are not just with the trainings but with dharma in general. The disconnect reveals itself in terminology. Minor precepts refer to the Five Mindfulness Trainings for lay people while major precepts define monastic ethics. This language creates a divide between lay and monastic with the latter considered as superior, which is certainly not the case. In the modern era it is the lay dharma teachers who are in society, working in the trenches of everyday life, creating transformation in alliance with many other groups of lay people. Whereas the monastic community is secluded, cut off from everyday reality and are not in a position to create transformation in the wider society.

This disconnect is a marker of modern Buddhism in the west and was noted by David Loy in his excellent article in Buddhadharma (Winter 2015.)  Loy addresses the current ecological crisis and questions the deep rooted ambivalence within Buddhism towards it. He asks “Does the ecological crisis have nothing to do with Buddhism?” I add a further enquiry, “Where are the Buddhist politicians, CEO’s, entrepreneurs in political, ecological and economic spheres?” There is a wide disconnect in Western Buddhism between playing the capitalist game, yet only being concerned with the so-called peace of the inner self. The latter is the refuge we so readily withdraw to. This can never be satisfactory. Loy points out that the issue is structural as well as personal, making the challenge that of changing the economic and political systems rather than remaining in blissful denial. He identifies the two main obstacles as:

  1. Changing the mind is where it’s at – self-absorption in the separate self – the deal we fall into.
  2. Beliefs of Buddhist practitioners that we do not waste time trying to reform the unsatisfactory world, just concentrate on transcending it.

Both obstacles are major dharma mistakes, traps about higher spiritual reality that reflect disconnect in modern times, preventing us from engaging fully with the trainings and the world. Social, political and ecological engagements are devalued as we place our backsides on the cushion, chant, drink tea and avoid the reality around us. Modern Buddhism in the West definitely needs a wake-up call. The basic premise of the Bodhisattva Path is to walk it, not as a separate self, but as an engaged self. Then an authentic sense of awakening naturally extends into political, economic and ecological spheres of potential action. I agree with David Loy that the reconstruction of our mind necessarily involves the reconstruction of our world – economic, political and spiritual.

I like his comment that “Bodhisattvas have a double practice – as they deconstruct and reconstruct, they also work for social and ecological change…….Such concerns are not distractions from our personal practice but deeper manifestations of it.”

Thich Nhat Hanh was able to overcome this awkward divide when he created the Order of Interbeing during the Vietnam War. Socially Engaged Buddhism was renewed in Vietnam by him and then extended to the West. Thich Nhat Hanh ordained the first six members of the Order of Interbeing in February 1966 during the Vietnam War. The Order’s foundation ethics for engaging with the wider society are the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings created by Thich Nhat Hanh. They contain the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the Noble Eightfold Path and are a renewal of the earlier Bodhisattva Precepts. Thich Nhat Hanh was up to date and in tune with our times. He ensured that the Fourteen Trainings of the Order are in step with modern historical, cultural and socio-economic developments yet rest on the foundation provided by the Buddha and 4th century expressions of socially engaged Buddhism.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Lotus in a Sea of Fire and the fourteen ethical statements that he carefully sculpted, presented a revolutionary statement of Engaged Buddhism. Since 1966, the revolutionary part has been diluted, particularly in the West where the disconnect noted by Loy is in full swing. The Order of Interbeing established by Thich Nhat Hanh seems in the twenty first century to have morphed into an ineffective bureaucracy.

To emphasize that it is not just me who is way out on a limb here, I refer to a senior Theravada monk and scholar – Bhikkhu Bodhi (Buddhadharma Spring 2017). This respected monk looked at Donald Trump’s “cabinet of bigotry” and at the same time noticed the absence of Buddhists on a petition of objection to it, which was signed by 2,500 religious leaders in America. He asked the obvious question; “why are Buddhists not visible as advocates for peace, sanity and social justice?’ Where are they indeed, given that Buddhism is the pre-eminent religion of peace and compassion? He stated forcibly that not to participate in active engagement with politics, environmental and worldly events runs counter to the Buddha path of enlightenment. He points out that Buddhists fail to realize that the battleground over power and position are ethical contests. Trump’s ascendancy to power shakes every Buddhist Mindfulness Training and this requires a strong push back from Buddhist leaders. So where is our agenda of collective resistance?

Bhikkhu Bodhi urges Buddhist advocacy in alliance with progressive leaders – religious and lay – to defend America’s embattled democracy and leads the charge of relating to the trainings in a way that has no disconnect with present global concerns. That is the point of this essay – for there is nothing wrong with the trainings, apart from some essential rewording. The disconnect lies with contemporary Buddhists in the West who do not engage with the intent of the Trainings laid out by the Buddha and Thich Nhat Hanh. The Trainings are right here! Do we engage with them from the vantage points of self-seeking and separate-self OR engage with them from an open and engaged heart?

Bhikkhu Bhodi struck a chord with Buddhist leaders in the United States. I quote from an article in the May 2017 edition of the Lion’s Roar magazine.

“ Thirteen leading Buddhist teachers, joined by over 200 additional signatories, called on Buddhists and all peoples of faith to take a stand against policies of the new United States administration that will create suffering for the most vulnerable in society……Feeling the reality of this suffering, we remember that peacefulness does not mean passiveness and non-attachment does not mean non-engagement…..The dharma is not an excuse to turn away from the suffering of the world, nor is it a sedative to get us comfortably through painful times. It (the dharma) is a powerful teaching that frees and strengthens us to work diligently for the liberation of beings from suffering…..While Buddhism has traditionally emphasized the personal cause of suffering, today we also discern how the three poisons of greed, aggression, and indifference operate through political, economic and social systems to cause suffering on a vast scale…….

As we resist the heightened threat of many of the new administration’s policies, we also recognize that under-represented and oppressed communities in the United States have long suffered from systemic greed, aggression, aversion and indifference…….While some argue that the principle of non-duality suggests that Buddhists should not engage in or take sides on political or social issues, we believe the opposite is true. It is because we and others are not separate that we must act……..It is true that our numbers are small, yet we can join with others who share our convictions and values. For those who are new to this, please remember that there are many people who have dedicated their lives to the work of social change. They have the useful skills of compassionate organizing and building sustainable movements. Find them, get involved and learn from them.”

This May 2017 Manifesto is a major step in relieving the disconnect problem in Buddhism. This brings me to the tricky role of Impermanence.

Impermanence

To change structures of elitism, greed and corporate dominance requires a mass change in consciousness. Mindfulness supports that outcome. The Buddha’s teachings on impermanence also spur such a radical change. Can we grasp the insight of extinction – of ourselves, our civilization – even of the planet? Without the insight of impermanence, we will not be able to change our mindsets. We have to find a way to adjust to our changed political and environmental circumstances. We can no longer hold on to a view of how it once was. Once we can accept that we have created the present global situation, then and only then can we find a respite, discovering insights that bring radical change to our values, habits and mindset.

It is very difficult in our western culture to accept death. The usual response is fear and denial. We have to re-educate our minds to get past these two obstacles. When we can recognize that our present form of civilization is dying, we will recognize that despair and denial will do us no good. We need only find the courage to surrender and rely on our practice of mindfulness to provide a measure of safety. Instead of denial, a space opens in our mind for lucidity and steadiness to enter, which could propel our species to live differently. Such a future on Earth requires a mass awakening of attributes that run counter to the ecology of greed. It requires a candid acceptance that our global civilization in its present form is coming to an end. Such an acceptance of our true reality on the planet can alleviate the course of environmental collapse. The energy and power to avert the disaster facing us rests in our minds and in a new collective choice to live very differently.

Thich Nhat Hanh brings this home to us in a direct and challenging way, making it very clear that any view not based on impermanence is wrong. He shows how the Buddha provided meditations on impermanence for his followers so they could recognize that the only thing that follows death is the fruit of our action and thinking, of our speech and of our acts during our lifetime. Specifically, on climate change he is very blunt:

“If we continue to consume unwisely, if we don’t care about protecting this wonderful planet….the ecosystem will be destroyed to a large extent and we will need millions of years to start a new civilization. Everything is impermanent…. We are our environment, which is in a process of self-destruction.”

 

This brings a certain peace and clarity to our minds and perhaps we can implement ethics, structures and technology to ensure a niche on this planet. We have a job to do in terms of cultivating a transformation in our consciousness, bringing about a new way of living in harmony with one another and on Earth.

We must deliberately cultivate positive ethical attributes in our minds. We have to shine the light of recognition and mindfulness on our suffering, so that we can become steady and full of resolve to live differently. We have to shift the tide of negativity, change our mindset and not squander our life. The Five and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings provide us with templates to do that, as we consciously choose to nurture patterns of behavior and habits that are wholesome and generous. In other words, we make mindfulness practice our new habit. It is an internal transformation of consciousness at the core of our being.

I shape all of this into a simple personal mantra – “I refrain from causing harm.” I know that by refraining from one thing that causes harm, I then prevent other harmful things from happening. I arrive at my own insight, which is not imposed by any outside authority. It takes mindfulness to do this and the Five Mindfulness Trainings provide the starting point, a guidance system and a deep well of internal ethics to live by. My commitment is to actualize these trainings in my life, and in the lives of others, to the best of my ability.

I issue a Call to Action and bring Bhikkhu Bodhi back. In Buddhadharma, spring 2017 he urges Buddhist advocacy in alliance with progressive leaders to defend the United States’ embattled democracy from President Trump’s “cabinet of bigotry.”

He states; “We can call in unison for a policy of global generosity in place of rash militarism, for programs that protect the poor and vulnerable, for the advancement of social and racial justice, and for the rapid transition to a clean-energy economy …….and bring the moral weight of the dharma to bear on matters that affect the lives of people anywhere – now and long into the future.”  His statement was followed by the stance taken by Buddhist leaders in the May 2017 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine

I also call out the Hopi Elders’ Prophecy in 2000:

“Create your community. Be good to one another. And do not look outside yourself for your leader… See who is there with you and celebrate…. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

For our part we can work with municipalities, conservationists and River Keepers to clean up our waterways and environment. Ensure that children in schools go with you and prepare them to handle cyberbullying and neglect. We hold politicians and corporations to account. Create coalitions with progressive organizations who share our love of kindness and decency.

Walk upon the Earth – Lightly. Be fully Here and Present – Lightly.

 

Foreword Clarion Review of Redemption

Foreword Clarion Review of Redemption               

“An admirable command of language brings to every scene a striking visual clarity.”

A lost manuscript from 1975 reveals the depths of a sensitive man’s soul in this pondering look at life nearing a crossroads. Not until 2011 did Ian Prattis pick up his heartfelt novel again, a book he titled Redemption. Set in the Hebrides off the northwest coast of Scotland, an unpretentious locale steeped in regional culture, this story focuses on an eccentric yet down-to-earth protagonist named Callum Mor. Subject to individual understanding and loaded with the symbolism often found in parables, the book alludes to more than what is openly stated in the narrative. Like all interpretive fiction, Prattis’s writing will communicate a different meaning to anyone who attempts to analyze his carefully crafted words. Short but powerful, Redemption may leave a person wondering whether pieces of this tale were intentionally obscured, for the plot covers an extensive period of time from Callum Mor’s childhood to maturity.

An admirable command of language brings to every scene a striking visual clarity. In this descriptive passage, the devastated mood surrounding Callum Mor’s father can be seen and felt in contrast to the harsh elements of nature: “In the wake of the gale, the day had produced a hazy sunlight that made the reeds in the marsh glimmer, but the unexpected heat in the day could do nothing to warm the cold, vacant, deadness that now enveloped Andrew.”

As Callum Mor ages, he slips into abject loneliness and succumbs to alcoholism before he goes through a positive reawakening. Gentle, with a poignant affection for animals, this cosmically aware lover of God’s creatures seems to collapse under the brutality of man’s instinct to inflict pain. To a certain degree, this somewhat typical view of morality confronting immorality causes the novel to fall into a vague realm of timeless storytelling for any indefinable, poetic piece without a specific purpose. This does not detract from the literary quality, but anyone seeking an indisputable message will not find it here. In this scene, winter emerges as a villainous character: “The wind from the north soughed softly along the shore but froze any man it gripped. The cold stole into every door and numbed the hands and minds of those unprepared for it.”

Ian Prattis is a professor of anthropology and religion. A peace and environmental activist, he was born in the UK. Prattis has spent much of his life living and teaching in Canada. This moving and eye-opening book will be a memorable experience for anyone who enjoys reading about primordial tendencies. Beneath a polished urban facade remains a part of human nature that few want to acknowledge, either due to fear or simply because it is easier to deny the basic instincts that have kept us alive on an unforgiving earth.

Julia Ann Charpentier

Available at www.Amazon.com  and www.BarnesandNoble.com   Autographed Book – Order Through: http://www.ianprattis.com/Redemption.html