Guardians

Ottawa Independent Writers 30th Anthology

I have two pieces in the 30th Anthology of OIW. My poem “Vietnam War Memorial” and short story “Dawson’s Desert Legacy.” The anthology will be published in October 2016. I invite you to meet Dawson.

Dawson’s Desert Legacy                                                                                       

Dawson was a wisdom holder of many traditions – Ojibwa, Hopi, Lakota and the Native American Church. He did have a second name, but preferred Dawson. He was a legendary figure in Central Arizona and left a lasting impression on everyone he met. I have encountered many people at conferences and talks all over North America and when it emerges that I have spent a considerable amount of time in Central Arizona desert country, I am always asked if I know a man named Dawson. He had met all kinds of people in his capacity as a guide and teacher. Yet his attention and presence never wavered in its intensity as he welcomed all into his orbit of wisdom and patience. I first met him in 1987 on a day long ethno-botany field trip he offered in the Sonora desert region of Central Arizona. I was the only person to turn up, yet this did not deter him. He generously extended his knowledge of plants and hidden sources of water in the scrubland of the Sonora desert. His field trip skirted ancient medicine wheels created centuries ago. He talked about plant cycles within the teachings of the medicine wheel both for ceremony and healing. Part of the mentorship in future years was his instruction of how to build a medicine wheel.

Dawson was a slender yet muscular man in his sixties, though he seemed to be much older. His manner was slow and deliberate, gentle but firm though his light blue eyes carried a steely glint. He loved movies and would always sit in the cinema until the end of the credits, the last person to leave. Eyes closed, he made a point of downloading the full feeling of the movie. It was the same with people, animals and the desert. He brought a sense of gentle intensity and intimacy to every relationship. The initial connection from that first field trip and movie experience warmed into a friendship. One evening in Sedona, two years after our initial meeting, I received a call from him. He asked if I would pick him up two hours before dawn the next morning.

“Wear hiking boots,” he said.

I drove in the early morning dark to Cornville and found him waiting outside his house. I followed his directions to take various forestry roads leading to a reserve on the northern fringe of the Sonora desert. After parking we hiked for approximately thirty minutes into the desert through a scrubland trail. It was still dark when he gestured that we should stop. We shared a flask of coffee and the intense silence of the desert, interrupted only by the scurry of small wildlife. As daylight slowly emerged I could barely see the clouds across a setting moon, yet Dawson gestured for me to look in the direction of three large cacti directly in front of us. The sun rose and I could vaguely make out the flowers opening. Then Dawson pointed them out. They were absolutely stunning in their unreal beauty, ranging from yellow to dark violet. We sat there for over an hour, appreciating their beauty, as the morning sun rose.

“You had to see this before you travelled home to Canada,” were his only spoken words. The morning heat was suddenly broken by a sudden hail storm. We put our packs over our heads and ran quickly to the shelter of the nearest rocky outcrop. The storm lasted only ten minutes although the stones were not small, making quite an impact on any unprotected area of the body. Dawson looked at me strangely.

“That sure is some kind of acknowledgement from the past, and it ain’t for me. What have you been up to Mister Ian?”  Dawson asked.

I just shrugged, as I had no intimations of cause. We walked in silence to where I had parked the car. The hailstones were not to be found beyond a hundred yard perimeter of where we had been sitting.

“Beats the hell out of me, though I reckon you will have some building to do back in Canada,” said Dawson cryptically, as he peered at me out of the corner of his eye. These were the last words I heard him speak. As was his custom we drove in silence. He got out of the car by his property, waved once and was gone.

On a later journey in 1992 to that region of Arizona, when enquiring about him, I discovered to my dismay that he had been killed in a car accident outside Phoenix. I was deeply saddened by this loss, thinking about all that he had so patiently taught me. I drove to where I had last walked with him, to pay my respects to this extraordinary spiritual  teacher, remembering the way almost without thinking. It was not the time for the cacti to flower but I treasured once again the gift he had shown me. I wondered who he had passed on his vast knowledge to, then realized suddenly that he had passed on a great deal to me about medicine wheel lore and construction. Dawson was a spiritual guide and had taken me through many shamanic journeys. The hailstone storm was no longer a mystery to me, rather an early prompt. What I had received from him was put into place in the hermitage where I lived, in the Gatineau Forest in Quebec.

            Over a period of five months in the spring and summer of 1994 I experienced very intensive shamanic journeys with an Algonquin shaman that I prepared for through fasting, meditation and sexual abstinence. On five separate journeys I met and dialogued with ancient shamans from the East, the South, the West, the North and finally to the ancient shaman of the Center. I figured at first that this was an experience with five facets of the same archetypal material from my deep unconscious – though there were major surprises I had not anticipated. Each shaman created distinctive unconscious energy within me, interconnected to the other four. In each journey I was always met by the same beautiful female figure, who then led me to the ancient shaman.  Dawson had repeatedly told me that the feminine source would eventually emerge as a Muse for me – and there she was.

At my hermitage in the middle of Gatineau Park Forest in Quebec, I had a small circle of large stones in my front yard with beautiful ferns growing at the center. I had an overwhelming compulsion that summer of 1994 to build a medicine wheel with this circle of stones as the interior circle. I had been taught by Dawson the appropriate mind-state and procedure of respect to construct a medicine wheel. Dawson had instructed me intensely in Arizona about the central circle of the medicine wheel. It could only be truly experienced when connection to the sacred mystery was intact. The four cardinal directions, East, West, South and North, were the organizing axis for this ultimate fusion, represented by the ferns over which I took such care. It had sunk into my intellect but now reached my heart.

I constructed the medicine wheel with the assistance of two friends who shared my respect and training. We carried out the appropriate ritual, and worked with reverence on a very hot and humid summer’s day. The silence settled on all three of us spoke of something happening inside and around us while creating this architecture of incredible grace, power and beauty. The stones for the medicine wheel came from my garden and the surrounding forest, the hard granite of the Canadian Shield, part of the very ground where the medicine wheel was being built.

After filling the four quadrants of the medicine wheel with fresh garden soil, we contemplated what had been created. I realized its connection to my five shamanic journeys over the previous year. The cardinal points of the wheel and its center were a reflection of the five ancient shamans I had journeyed to meet and the ferns at the centre were an appropriate symbol for the feminine muse that delivered me. The medicine wheel was a symbolic map of my internal experience. I was re-inventing the wheel from my journeys to meet the five Ancient Shamans, yet also ensured that the beautiful ferns remained intact at the centre of the medicine wheel.

I started to smile at how this medicine lore and knowledge had gradually seeped into my consciousness from Dawson. His overarching influence had prepared me for the journeys to the five shamans. I could feel his intense blue eyes watching me at this moment and perhaps he permitted himself a smile too. He had known that I would eventually understand, and had instructed me five years prior in the precise construction of a mental medicine wheel and quietly informed me at that time about the space at the centre being the locale where I would seek counsel from the internal feminine – the beautiful ferns at the center.

             

Knotted Juniper at vortex

Are We Stupid? Climate Change Unhinged.

Essay Three: Are We Stupid?                                                                                                                                                                           

Oscar nominee Pete Postlethwaite plays the best role of his acting career in the film “The Age of Stupid.”  The movie fast forwards us to the year 2055.  Pete plays the sole fictional character in this riveting film.  He stars as an old man living alone in a world totally decimated by global warming.  His location is the High Arctic.  How prophetic this makes James Lovelock’s conclusion from his 2006 book Revenge of Gaia. In an interview about this book, Lovelock provides a dire prediction for humanity: “Before this century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”

The character played by Postlethwaite is the curator of The Global Archive, a digital storage laboratory located in the Arctic. It is the last habitable place for humans on Planet Earth.  The footage he views shows how global warming reached tipping points and runaway effects while at the same time humanity’s achievements are also saved for posterity.  How could the human mind capable of such monumental achievements neglect to take care of the destruction happening to their lived-in-ecosystem?  The old man shakes his head in disbelief looking for an answer.  The film gives us an answer – carbon based energy. Our addictive dependence to it is what propelled the downward spiral of devastation. The addictive process was enabled because we allowed the environment to become an extension of human egocentric needs and values, an ego-sphere rather than an eco-sphere. In this ego-sphere we consumed mindlessly in the global economy without regard for ecosystem balance or concern about creating inequality, poverty and ecosystem imbalance.  Planetary care is not on this agenda, as the film graphically shows.  We see the old man in the High Arctic watching archival video footage, carefully preserved from 2008.  His stark question to the viewer is: “Why didn’t we stop climate change in 2008 when there was a chance?”

The director of the film, Fanny Armstrong, creates a montage from live news and documentaries saved from 1950 to 2008.  The video record charts the steps taken by humanity into global devastation – devastating that is for human habitation and for all other species. In an artfully created mosaic, six real life characters play out the dramas of their personal stories.  Their humanity and incredible stupidity are extant in this brilliant tapestry of human folly.  What is so gripping is that we who view it are made to feel distinctly uncomfortable, because their shadows and myopia reflect our own. The shadows and myopia arrive as a projection of our political and corporate leaders.  After watching this film we can no longer hide from these shadows.  We are forcibly held to account.  If we do not act now, this film then becomes our story.

Two Forks In the Road – Which One Will We Take?

I talked about the Failsafe in Consciousness concept in my 2008 work, Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves, to describe how consciousness expansion will be held back by a deliberately cultivated ignorance about better knowledge. That is until the global ecological situation deteriorates to a breaking point. My thought was that this breaking point will then act as a catalyst, exposing such ignorance. At which point consciousness is propelled into expansion, deliberation and change. My vision was a very positive one, as I believed that humanity could create new structures and organizations out of which emerge the radical solutions to address the environmental crises. We have the knowledge to create this, but the obstacles that stand in the way are not technological. They are the attitudes, values and concepts that define the present dominance of corporate values, rampantly consolidated through “turbo-capitalism.” I argued that the necessary clarity to deal with the global environmental crises will emerge, once our thoughts, values and attitudes change and no longer sustain and feed our internal pollution. This is the radical internal Climate Change necessary to engage intelligently with the external Climate Change.

There is certainly global awareness, but also fear about our future place on Planet Earth. The overwhelming terror of Gaia crashing down on us is unbearable. Yet I asked the reader to take hold of the 2% option that creates the opportunity for the Failsafe in Consciousness to function and multiply. I recall many years ago when I was teaching meditation in India, hearing Sai Baba, the Indian sage, say that a transformation in human consciousness required at least 2% of the population to meditate on a daily basis. I have no idea what the knowledge source was for his pronouncement yet I do remember the “buzz” of energy in my body and mind when I heard it. I do not remember anything but that from the audience with him, yet have retained it as a distinct possibility, translating this wisdom into the 2% option. This is do-able and within our immediate grasp. Just persuade 2% of the people we know to implement a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity, reduce meat consumption, walk or cycle more, drive less, create an organic garden, plant a tree – but do it! Reduce our ecological footprint by conserving energy with one eco-friendly act every day, then global consciousness as a collective human phenomenon will change. Different questions will be asked and different solutions found, as a new mind-set of shared consciousness emerges to make the necessary decisions for change.  Mass awakening does not mean that everyone “wakes” up.  A critical mass of 2% will be satisfactory as a tipping point, the catalyst, to get things moving in the right direction.

To make Failsafe a robust concept I identified three interconnected components:

  1. Innate Earth Wisdom,
  2. Counter Culture and
  3. Tipping Points in Consciousness.

We do in fact possess innate earth wisdom. Ninety-nine per cent of our evolution as a species relied on a hunting and gathering adaptation known as foraging, a strategy of adaptation based on sophisticated ecosystem knowledge, which was integrated into harvesting patterns through a spiritual understanding of the world. That is still hardwired into our brain and I thought it was simply a matter of re-accessing what we already possess. My anthropological logic pointed to the radical remembering of this mindset in order to activate the feedback cycle needed to prevent further degradation of the global ecosystem. I note how the modern day counter culture pulled together the Ecology of Ideas from Gregory Bateson, Rachel Carson’s Radical Ecology and the fostering of Gaia as metaphor and social movement through feminists, environmentalists, and the New Age beads and incense set. This unusual coalition established a broad consensus that provided a foundation for the new science of Eco-psychology. The counter culture also touched base with a responsible corporate response and the emergence of the powerful anti-globalization movement.

A massive global citizen response will certainly elicit an equally massive government and corporate response, as the bottom-up movement and top-down strategies for drastic change meet and integrate. There is not room in this Global Ecological Emergency for separating into “US’ and “THEM” categories. We are totally interconnected whether we like it or not.  We will all live together or we will all die together. An intelligent green ideology embedded in everything we produce and market is a means to bridge competing agendas. Our dependence on fossil fuels reduces because we are aware of the deadly consequences of our addiction to oil and coal. The transition to a carbon neutral global energy system over the next few decades will be costly and require a massive response from government and corporate leaders to initiate the second industrial revolution. This is necessary to blunt the impact of climate change. It is a huge global industrial project that governments and corporations can bring about due to citizen pressure to “Make It So!” Global warming has certainly entered public consciousness. It just has to penetrate the corridors of political and corporate power. As global citizens we must find the ways and means to support the shift in consciousness at all levels of global society to make this so. Our future existence, and the existence of other species on planet earth, depends on making a new beginning for all of us.

Tipping points in consciousness are about achieving a critical mass for radical change and draw on the new science of Neuroplasticity that clearly demonstrates we are not necessarily stuck with present mindsets. Our mindsets can be changed but that takes extensive and diligent internal work. Just as there are tipping points in the external ecology of Gaia, so must there be tipping points in the internal ecology of consciousness.

“The Age of Stupid” is a watershed film.  You will not be the same after you have seen it.  It is impossible not to be moved in a constructive direction of immediate action.  For the latter, I refer the reader to Failsafe’s Appendix I: Simple Steps to Empowerment, which provides guidelines and an action plan for the global ecological emergency. The steps are:

  1. Take Action
  2. Get Up Close And Personal
  3. Reduce Your Ecological Footprint
  4. Guidelines for Business and the Workplace
  5. The “Big” Picture for The Future
  6. Science and Diversity
  7. Environmental Organizations
  8. Warning to Governments

The Scientific American journal published “10 Solutions for Climate Change” much later and basically endorsed my Appendix.  If only we can get it right – and get it right now!

The hopeful trajectory is that our diligent mindfulness has changed our brain structures in the direction that permits new paradigms of behavior to come into form.  As cells in the ecosystem of Gaia it is as though humanity has aligned their neuronal networks with principles of ecosystem balance, ethics and responsibility.  The critical mass has arrived and it amounts to a collective tipping point for our species.  Once the wild, ego driven, greed driven mind is reined in then clarity and compassion are suddenly there to provide the basis for how we can be with the planet and with one another in a totally new way.  This is what happens if we “Begin It Now” – the concluding words to Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves.

The best case scenario is that we get on with the task of reining in our ego and greed driven mind.  This permits a Failsafe in Consciousness to kick in because conditions have been created by our choice to cultivate different patterns within our minds. Thus consciousness expansion can no longer be held back as the radical internal Climate Change has taken place.  Our innate knowledge is manifest. We interconnect with a vast counter culture that is no longer a minority, no longer asleep or disempowered. We become another light shining in the quiet revolution that has over two million organizations world-wide pursuing constructive change.

However, I underestimated the lure and power of the Second Fork. Should a Failsafe in Consciousness prove to be unfounded, we are then faced with the likelihood that humanity is a failed genetic experiment. If we continue to turn our beautiful rivers into sewers because of our endless greed and neglectful ignorance, it is obvious that there is no place on Mother Earth to support our present civilization. That too will join the trash heap collectively created by mindless generations of humanity.  If consciousness is too slow to change and make the quantum leap to a culture of sustainability then there are drastic consequences to contemplate, which are starkly portrayed in the film. The ancient ecologist on Mars studying a million years of earth history would note a parasitic infestation of Planet Earth that was not very intelligent. An intelligent parasite would ensure the good health of the host that supports it. And so the Martian biologist would factor in an inevitable elimination date for our species in her star-date log and may well view our civilization as a failed genetic experiment.

This is a sobering metaphor, yet we have to accept it as a potential reality staring at us from the very near future. Our present values and patterns of consumption are the architects of the present global ecological emergency, as we remain ignorant to the consequences of the fact that everything interconnects. We are, in fact, our environment. It is our collective habits, thoughts and patterns of mindlessness that have created a flimsy, uncertain future for our species on Planet Earth. Yet civilizations rise, civilizations fall. Once we can accept that we have created the conditions for the present global civilization to die, then and only then can we find a respite. During this respite, perhaps it is possible for insights to emerge that will bring radical change to our values, habits and mindset.

It is very difficult in modern day civilization to accept death, whether it is of a loved one, ourselves or the planet. The usual response is fear and denial. We have to re-educate our minds to get past these two obstacles. For once we can clearly recognize the reality that our present form of civilization is dying we know that despair and denial will do us no good. Instead, a window opens in our mind for peace and steadiness to enter, which could then propel our species to live differently so that we may create a future on planet earth. This requires a mass awakening of attributes that run counter to the bottom line of turbo-capitalism and the ecology of greed. It does require a candid acceptance, without fear, that our global civilization in its present form is coming to an end. Such an acceptance can actually free the mind from its chains and enable mindful engagement to naturally arise. Such a way of life, such an acceptance of our true reality on the planet, can be the springboard to mitigate 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.

Because of all the warning signals, however, allow me to be starkly realistic. If the Failsafe in Consciousness does not kick in, the field is open for James Lovelock’s conclusions to take root. But perhaps after all the Arctic Circle may not be such a bad evolutionary staging point, as digital records, carefully preserved as archaeological relics, could provide clear guidelines for future civilizations to conduct themselves more appropriately with respect to the Earth Mother. A million years from now is merely a blink of an eye in geological time. After Global Warming destroys the present habitable eco-niche any future civilization that evolves will be able to draw on the triumphs and failures of our present civilization.

I finish with Dave Hampton’s passionate thoughts about this film (Resurgence May/June 2009: 66).  “The Age of Stupid is not just a film that could change the course of humanity.  I hope it will be the catalyst that gives us a second chance to create a sustainable future.  I hope it will promote a mass collective awakening globally such that we are not stupid and that we choose life and reclaim our children’s birthright – the right to expect a future.”

I have fourteen grandchildren. In the same vein as this film, I wrote Failsafe: Saving The Earth from Ourselves. Consider this book as archival footage from 2008 that provides hope and an action plan so that my grandchildren can enjoy a habitable planet. Should the adversity of Climate Change overwhelm humanity – then a different question arises. What will we then choose to do as a paradigm of behavior?

 

Glance at the sun

See the moon

And the stars

Gaze at the beauty

Of the earth’s

Greening

 

Now Think

 

Hildergard of Bingen 1098 – 1179

 

 

 

 

 

Jeep ride to Montezuma's Well

Rant From The Future

I am bringing together a series of essays for a new book project “Our World is Burning.” Essay Two: Rant From The Future sets the tone.

Essay Two: Rant from the Future 

New Planet, New World (Manor House 2016) is the final book of the Chronicles of Awakening trilogy. I take characters from Book One: Redemption and Book Two: Trailing Sky Six Feathers, placing them on a new planet in the near future. The adventure allows me to look back on the factors that compromised life on Earth. Here is the opening of Chapter Three.

Dr. Tom Hagen’s blistering speech to an elite forum of political and corporate leaders at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in 2080 changed the future of humanity. Gathered before him were the power brokers from around the world. He was an astrophysicist, engineer and prolific author. He wrote searing plays about human fragility and books for children to inspire them to care for the Earth. His endeavors, however, did not turn the tide of willful ignorance about drastic climate change. This was despite his creation of detailed scenarios for adapting to climate change and reforming business ethics, both of which imperiled life on Earth. He was also the chef-de-mission of the International Space Agency’s PRIME 3 project to locate a suitable planet, as habitation on Earth became increasingly compromised. The project was outlined in Space Agency folders that each member of the audience had before them.

The International Space Agency had established research stations orbiting Mars and on Jupiter’s largest satellite. Radical advances in space technology made this possible mid-century, through the invention of space elevator nanotubes and revolutionary advances in nuclear fusion engines for spaceships. Station One at Jupiter was the key construction. From there a probe, PRIME 1, was launched into the heliosphere through a wormhole into interstellar space. In a neighboring galaxy it located a planet with two moons in an ecliptic plane with a dozen planets orbiting around a massive sequence star, the sun for this system. The planet had a liquid hydrosphere similar to Earth. A more sophisticated probe, PRIME 2, sent back information identifying distinct zones from tropics to polar with evidence of oceans, forests and mountains. No sign of habitation was revealed. Both probes identified a dense particle field in the upper stratosphere of the planet, similar to a Van Allen belt. The long term plan was for Jupiter One to serve as a way station to ferry pioneers to the new planet. This project required massive financial support that Tom was trying to elicit.

He was standing quietly at the podium in Geneva, readying to speak.  He had both good and bad news for his powerful and wealthy audience, deeply hoping that some of them would finance this late opportunity for survival of the human species. Tom looked at his carefully researched notes then put them to one side. This speech, the most significant of his life, had to come directly from his insight and heart. He composed himself, standing still and silent at the podium, six foot three inches of intense focus, dignified and alert. He took his glasses off and placed them on top of his notes. Sian, his wife, sitting off to one side of the podium smiled in relief. His fifteen year old daughter, Catriona, was sitting in the front row, dressed in a fashionable grey pant suit to offset her lustrous red hair tied up in a bun. Her mother had fetched her from her boarding school in Switzerland. She knew Catriona would love to hear her father speak. Tom looked around at his audience, one he did not particularly like, but one he had to convince. He saw Catriona in the front row beaming her smile to him and he relaxed a little. He breathed deeply and waited for that icy steel of reason and vision to ignite his insight.

He began to speak in a calm, clear baritone voice.

“In this very moment what is left of the population in Australia is being evacuated. The sand storms and volcanic eruptions in the interior plus successive coastal tsunamis have brought an end to human occupation there. The inundation of Bangladesh, the Netherlands and coastal regions round the world are a direct consequence of the collapse of the Polar Ice Sheets, which increased sea levels by seven meters. These cryogenic events have dislocated half the global population, ushering in plagues and pestilence that eliminated ninety per cent of other species and directly threaten human survival. These are facts that cannot be refuted. Furthermore we cannot turn away from the reality that our entire planet is overwhelmed with refugee camps and utter desolation.”

Tom paused for several silent moments and made eye contact with the few individuals there who could support him. He glanced towards Catriona who adored him. This helped him to gather his wits. The facts he had just delivered set the tone for what was to come. He knew many of his listeners would be offended. He slowly took a drink of water from the glass in front of him.

“In the early part of the twenty first century it was possible to make the leap to a zero-net-carbon world. Yet the opposite trajectory was chosen with a rapid increase in greenhouse gases because wealthy nations and economic enterprises like yours doubled their production of fossil fuels.”

He then glared at his audience and raised his voice, “Did you not notice that degradation of the Earth’s ecology was the catalyst for radical Climate Change? Did you not see that food crops were destroyed by horrendous heat waves? Did you not realize that food riots and world panic trace back to one cause, the economic agenda of your energy extraction? I know where your collective power was invested. It was in political, social and economic structures that centered on the carbon combustion complex. Did you not discern that this collective agenda was destabilizing world order?”

Several members of the industrial elite stood up and left. There was another pregnant pause, as Tom waited for them to walk out without comment.

“This focus on economic wealth at all costs was stupid. With blindfolds towards the devastation caused, you directly went in the wrong direction. Your brand was, and is, a dysfunctional global financial system lurching from one disaster to another throughout the century, ignoring the welfare of populations and the ecological breakdowns caused by the consequences of your actions. May I remind you that the economy is a mere sub-set of the mother lode of ecology and you have successfully destroyed most ecosystems on Planet Earth. On your watch not only did financial collapses signal dangerous global watersheds, the world food system crashed along with the chaos brought in by climate change. Nobody moved to ask different questions and find different answers, as the anger of the populace turned on the powerful masters of capital and politics. At the extreme end of the violence spectrum this anger boiled over into lynching corporate and political leaders held responsible by eco-militias, the false defenders of the Earth who are basically criminals. The heinous actions of these black clad anarchists are certainly an extreme response to your control, lies and doublespeak. But none of you are safe from their reach.”

That dangerous reality registered like a punch in the stomach with the rich and powerful still present.

Tom said, “Look back over this century and see why such violence emerged. Millions of people have died from thirst, starvation and disease.  Death arrived from every pestilence available, some of it created in your counter-intelligence labs. The countless millions who have died do not include the many wars waged over scarce resources, particularly water. The reason for such wars have their origins in your greed for money, control and power leading directly to the cascade of disintegrating eco-systems. Government, industry, banks and financiers grew wealthy while they permitted a systematic breakdown of failing ecosystems on Planet Earth.  I have spoken before to gatherings of this nature and provide a warning to all about the course we are headed on. I will try one more time.”

Tom felt exasperation arising within him yet calmly continued along the same track.

“Your willful ignorance of dire warnings served to discredit climate change scientists and oceanographers screaming that eco-systems were disintegrating. You silenced and jailed citizens with the integrity to save the Earth. But it was never about the unanimity of science or free speech. It was about the brand of economics favored by your fossil fuel complex, a collective cabal of extraordinary power that extended its reach to encompass all powerful corporate ventures. You know who you are.”

Tom paused to sternly stare at his audience. “You single mindedly created a powerful culture of denial about climate change and how it has impacted the cryosphere to such deadly effect.”  There was an angry tone in Tom’s voice as he stepped away from complicity with diplomacy.

“Social order broke down in mid-century ushering in the overthrow of governments, the establishment of martial law and Nazism. All of which increased the desperation of populations worldwide who took to the streets in mass riots. In the vacuum of social order, opportunist and vicious warlords and militias took over many parts of the world. You have all suffered from the violence of so called eco-militias, which hunt down and string up in the streets those politicians and corporate leaders they hold responsible for the collapse of Earth’s eco-systems. Let me be clear. These eco-militias do not serve the Earth. They are pathological criminals on the loose, yet in many parts of the world they constitute an ever present danger. You and I have lost many friends and colleagues to the murders they have carried out. They are extreme, but you are just as extreme. Somehow you inherited the Nero gene, fiddling with indifference while Rome burned. The entire planet has been allowed to burn on your watch. Perhaps at this late stage you can learn something from Rumi, the Sufi saint. He said, ‘Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.’

Tom allowed an entire minute for that to sink in before continuing.

“Your policies and brand of economics have forced humanity off the edge of the roof and you can now see the consequences worldwide. Big Oil and government created incredible propaganda campaigns to promote oil and gas extraction, irrespective of the damage caused to ecosystems and populations. They produced false images of reforestation, utmost safety, deep concern for wildlife, populations and clean water. This played to receptive audiences yet decades later we find rivers and lakes occupying a wasteland. Oil derivatives swiftly poured through interconnected waterways and aboriginal populations world-wide that once augmented their households with fish, game and forest products are no more. They either relocated or died. This effectively torpedoed any form of transition to a sustainable, renewable economy.”

His explosive words were like shards of broken glass and secured the exit of more power holders, though his next words caused a few of them to stop in their tracks.

“The billionaires amongst you have well equipped and tightly defended underground bunkers to escape to, but I have bad news for you. The deep core drilling for oil and gas all over the world, particularly in fragile ocean beds, has compromised the tectonic plates at the center of the Earth. The tectonic plates are now rising closer to the outer crust of Planet Earth. Where they collide precipitates world-wide volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that will first of all destroy your underground bunkers. It is estimated that millions will die from the volcanic explosions and many of those surviving will likely die from poisonous gases and the inevitable tsunamis in every ocean. Seventy years ago seismologists provided the critical evidence that deep core drilling and fracking were directly associated with the rapid increase in global earthquake and volcanic epicenters. Tectonic plates ride on a fluid like core, known as the asthenosphere. The collision of these tectonic plates are now triggering massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Repeated warnings from scientists to ban deep core drilling were ignored, bringing the unspeakable into reality.”

Tom paused and took a deep breath before looking around at his depleted audience.

“I ask you at this late stage to do one last noble thing. Take a good luck at the dossier provided by the International Space Agency. Support the PRIME 3 space project to the tune of fifteen billion dollars. That is what it will cost to build a new spaceship and create a viable outpost at Jupiter Station One. The very future of our species is at grave risk and presently lies in your hands. PRIME 3 is the last Hail Mary to begin anew without replicating the structures and policies that have led to the inevitable demise of Planet Earth.”

Tom stopped talking.  He was greeted by a cold silence. There was no applause. No-one acknowledged him. He walked steadily to the side of the stage where Sian was standing. A look of sheer admiration lit up her face at his bravery. She embraced him lightly and sweetly. She held his hand as they left the podium. Catriona stood up and took her father’s arm and joined him and her mother as they walked up the center of the UN forum. She was so proud of her father but noticed that no-one would meet his eye. He strode purposefully as the rich, powerful and greedy studiously ignored him, or so he thought. Still, Sian sent a smile to everyone who appeared to be in some kind of shock, stasis or agreement. They passed through the security of the UN building and started to walk down the graceful stone steps. Tom let out a long slow breath, as he glanced at Lac Geneva sparkling in the distance. “I sure blew that one Sian and Catriona. Hardly any one of those bastards allowed what I said to sink into their mind. I have no idea where I can turn to ensure the PRIME 3 project gets funded.”

“Perhaps you may be wrong my dear Tom,” Sian softly replied. “Look over there.”

An armored limousine had drawn up in front of them. Heavily armed guards quickly fanned out in a defensive format. One guard opened the side door of the armored vehicle. Out stepped Seymour Hansen, the president of the biggest bank in America. He was a tall, commanding figure. His greying hair was offset by deep flinty blue eyes that he now fixed upon Tom.

“Dr. Hagen, you do know who I am?”

Tom nodded.

“I listened to your powerful speech. You may be surprised to learn that it impacted me deeply. I have sent a line of credit to the International Space Agency for the fifteen billion dollars required for your project. I am not buying a seat for myself on your space craft, as I doubt that I possess the necessary credentials. I have lined up a consortium of technologically sophisticated corporations. They will provide whatever technology and systems you need. They will deliver, as they are in my thrall.”

Tom was stunned, yet asked, “Why are you doing this?”

Seymour Hansen replied with a wry smile, choosing his words carefully, “Your speech stung everyone, some more deeply than you realize. I admired your courage as well as your vision and precision. As far as I am concerned I would not trust anyone else with this space project. I may not be alive to see its fruition and neither will those who just listened to you. There are no strings to my offer. Just get it done.”

Tom stood dumbfounded at hearing this from the most powerful oligarch in the world. He had no words or grace in that moment. Thankfully, Sian was endowed with both. She gracefully stepped forward to their benefactor and gently kissed him on the cheek, simply expressing their gratitude.

Hansen smiled, his flinty eyes softening, “It’s good he has you Mrs. Hagen for the necessary graces.” He held his hand out to Tom, who shook it firmly and gratefully, “Dr. Hagen, get it done.”

Tom nodded, as his heart expanded with relief and determination.

Sian was delighted that Tom’s vision had been supported. Catriona was jumping up and down with glee, laughing at the bewildered look in her father’s face. Sian had to shake him by the shoulders to ensure it had sunk in.

Brand Jpeg

The World Is Burning: Climate Change and Voluntary Simplicity

The Buddha taught: “The world is always burning, burning with the fires of greed, anger and foolishness; one should flee from such dangers as soon as possible.” The fires of greed, anger and foolishness refer to the three poisons said by Shakyamuni to lie at the root of samsara. He taught that one should “flee from such dangers.” Although this passage might be used to support a world-denying attitude toward life, it is important to note that what the Buddha taught was that it was the kleshas, the unskillful, unwise forms, feelings, mental formations, perceptions and consciousness that burned, and not the world itself. The Hopi people referred to this state of imbalance as Koyaanisqatsi. We are not the first people to experience this. The difference today is that without our commitment to wise intervention, we could be the last. The Buddha emphasized the need for introspection and the development of mindfulness first of all to take action in the outside world.

The 2015 Paris Accord on Climate Change was an exceptional step by the international community, dedicating their intent to prevent global temperatures from rising a further 1.5 degrees. The signatories returned to their respective countries to find the wherewithal to “Change Climate Change.” What is missing from all the deliberations and press releases was a candid recognition of the “Cascade Effect” – a notion well known in biology. Tipping points in sea level rise and temperature connect to tipping points in air pollution, which connect to tipping points in polar ice melt and trigger further tipping points in deforestation, desertification and so on in a cascade that cannot be stopped. The reality is not the reversal or change of Climate Change, the question and strategy is about learning how to adapt to the consequences of Climate Change.

The obstacles preventing the general public taking wise action with regard to Climate Change are a mixture of fear, despair, sheer laziness, disempowerment and a sense of hopelessness. These apply to all forms of a burning world – war, poverty, resource inequality, ideological extremism, hatred and bigotry. “What on earth can I do to make a difference?” is a phrase muttered all over the world in countless languages. Followed by “So why should I do anything?” There is certainly global awareness, but also fear about our future place on Planet Earth. This is understandable. The overwhelming terror of Gaia crashing down on us is unbearable, as there is evidence that we may be a primary cause.

I wrote in 2008 in Failsafe: Saving the Earth from Ourselves that a critical mass of 2% will be satisfactory as a tipping point, the catalyst to get things moving in the right direction. But I underestimated the impact of the carbon fuel cabal, a complex web of powerful corporate and government interests. Not just in the energy industries of oil and gas, this carbon economy extends into the manufacturing and servicing sectors, supported in an insulated ecosystem by financial institutions that control the marketing and advertising sectors. This collective power, when extended into the media, has attempted to make science and ecology into public enemy number one. It is supported in the United States by strong and well-funded political action committees with immense resources. This powerful, intermeshed cabal can easily circumvent the Climate Change accords agreed to by the international community.  They have also tried to influence other public policy such as rights of women and children, clean air and water, the efficacy of education and even the wars that show no sign of abatement. People everywhere are aware – but feel helpless in the face of this power. So what are we to do?

In terms of action, we have data-based evidence (and the voice of the Buddha telling us) that we must cut back, simplify, make-do with less and implement a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity. Reduce meat consumption, walk or cycle more, drive less, create an organic garden, plant a tree – just do it! Reduce our ecological footprint by conserving energy with one eco-friendly act every day, then global consciousness as a collective human phenomenon will change. Different questions will be asked and different solutions found, as a new mind-set of shared consciousness emerges to make the necessary decisions for change. The challenge is to be in society, but as a still island of mindfulness.

Of course we must think globally and be aware of the bigger picture and step beyond the smaller pictures of ourselves created from fear and disempowerment. Yet we can also act locally with great vigor in our families and communities. Our intentions then spread as ripples from a pebble dropped in still water. We cannot truly hold officials, politicians and corporate culture to account, until we have mindfully begun the small things that we can do. At the same time we can alert the political and corporate decision makers that we do mean business as voters and consumers deeply concerned about the planet and our location on it. This is very important.  Our leaders are a manifestation of our collective will, when the collective will changes, our leaders will surely act differently.

Building Epicenters at Pine Gate as a Revolutionary Act

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community in Ottawa, Canada encourages Voluntary Simplicity and Community Ethics as a way of life and creates epicenters to bring this about. Starting with the Earth – our organic garden produces an abundance of vegetables, apples and flowers that are shared with neighbors and sangha members. It is a solace for me to spend time with the Earth, observing bumblebees and butterflies while gardening with assistance from neighborhood children. They once went into hilarious laughter when they saw that the plant I had carefully nurtured turned out to be a giant weed and not a tomato plant! We had great fun returning it to the compost bin. At the back of the garden is a beautiful fountain that murmurs amidst the flowers that are gathered and sent to the elderly folk living on our crescent. A simple underground economy arises from the sharing. A solar panel fuels the hot water system. Everything else is as eco-friendly as we can make it for our fifty year old bungalow with a meditation hall in the basement. This eco-effort became an example for other friends as they did the math on how much cash we were saving.

I have always thought of the present millennium as the century of the daughters. Not so much as a gender separate thing, but as attributes of a holistic, nurturing presence of mind. This connection with the feminine was naturally carried into my peace activism. I have been musing about this, reflecting on the annual Ottawa Friends for Peace Day, which is put on by Pine Gate. I realized fifteen years ago, when I founded Friends for Peace as the engaged arm of Pine Gate that I was making a conscious choice to focus my energy and work on the local, my home city of Ottawa.  Pine Gate’s focus was on mindfulness in schools, city environment, youth at risk and above all else – on the empowerment of women. I am astonished by the results, for at the local level there was continuity with great women who helped make things happen.  There is now a two week Peace Festival in Ottawa that precedes the Friends for Peace Day.  It has all grown in ever increasing concentric circles. The foundation of mindfulness and the empowerment of women through the fifty organizations we partner with have taken root in our northern city. All use some form of the Friends for Peace mandate – peace, planetary care and social justice – voluntary simplicity and community ethics at work.

The drive behind Pine Gate Mindfulness Community is to foster a strong cadre of people in Ottawa who make a difference for the betterment of society. Women are in the forefront of this endeavor. They are the heart that holds the living waters and that heart is the dynamic epicenter of the mind/will/emotions that lead to action. That is how we get things done differently in our northern city with an evolving Manifesto to create a different course of action and living. 

Dr. Ian Prattis is Professor Emeritus at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He is an award winning author of fourteen books. Recent awards include Gold for fiction at the 2015 Florida Book Festival (Redemption), 2015 Quill Award from Focus on Women Magazine (Trailing Sky Six Feathers) and Silver for Conservation from the 2014 Living Now Literary Awards (Failsafe: Saving the Earth From Ourselves). His poetry, memoirs, fiction, articles, blogs and podcasts appear in a wide range of venues.

 

Ian at Rachel's Point

Vietnam War Memorial

On a recent visit to Washington DC I visited the Vietnam War Memorial. The massive black granite slabs rising out of the earth with the names of fallen soldiers seared through me and I found myself in tears. The poem below wrote itself.

Vietnam War Memorial                                                                                Ian Prattis 

 

Gaunt with grief:

Motionless:

Stilled, Silenced:

Cold December day:

Grey and bleak.

 

I could not move:

Stunned:

Frozen in Time:

Unbelieving:

Damn it all!

Damn!

It!

All!

 

It was not my war

don’t you know?

They were not my people

don’t you see?

Do I protest too much?

 

Name engraved black marble slabs

rising from the earth

sear into my soul.

Burning deep to feel the pain,

of so many deaths, such futility.

Ball of fire flames my chest,

chills the marrow of my bones.

 

Subterranean edifice                                                                                                                                         hurts me awake,

transforms deep memories

for my own kind.

Fellow Humans.

 

Americans,

Vietnamese,

All peoples

caught in the sinister web

of dark and deadly shadows

that lurk in all of us:

Hate, Greed and Power.

 

I circle the profanity of war,

nerve center of our world.

Grimly aware thought:

Our world must be transformed:

Our world must be changed:

 

And we must do it.

Transforming ourselves

then others in swift urgency.

Else the memoirs

of our civilization

are no more than

Monuments To The Dead.

 

Our Dead:

Yours

And

Mine.

Buddha's Geet

Buddha Mind

Notes on Buddha Mind                                                                         

Reflections on Mentoring and Mindfulness Trainings.

2,600 years ago – 5 Wonderful Precepts                   1966 14 Mindfulness Trainings

The trainings were created under radically different circumstances – but have the same underlying thread of implementing the Bodhisattva Way.

  • Where did the Five Precepts come from? They had to come from somewhere.  There are three major causes and conditions that permitted their emergence.  The first is the awakened mind of the Buddha; the second is the great skill of the Buddha as a teacher; the third is Thich Nhat Hanh’s insightful rewording of the Five Wonderful Precepts of the Buddha.  In a language that would appeal to the consciousness of the 21st century, the Buddha’s Precepts were renewed as the Five Mindfulness Trainings, in tune with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments.  So when we study and penetrate deeply into these mindfulness trainings we touch all three conditions, in particular the awakened mind of the Buddha.  At the same time we also touch our potential to be similarly awakened.
  • The 5 MT and the 14 MT are for the lay community – created at different times by different sages (Buddha and Thich Nhat Hanh), also under drastically different conditions.

2,600 yrs ago Gautama Shakyamuni awakened under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya in India.

Before that he practiced many deflections and trained in limited spiritual paths.

  • Ascetic practice almost killed him when he tried to subdue his mind and his body.
  • Buffalo herder Sujata saved his life – fed him – he focused on the Middle Way so his mind could settle. He sought out the bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya and sat in an imperturbable manner at the foot of the tree.

Two considerations:

  • The man Gautama Shakyamuni
  • The Buddha Mind – a universal, mystical level of consciousness. Christian mystics talk about this as “Christos.”

At Bodh Gaya we have #1 stepping into #2 and never being the same again. Gautama became the Buddha on his awakening.

Buddha’s Creation of the 5 Precepts for the Lay Community – Avatamsaka Sutra

– Avatamsaka Sutra: Establishes how to enter the Buddha’s world and mind, the reality witnessed by enlightened beings whose vision and mind is no longer clouded by egocentric addictions. What can be communicated from the Buddha Mind to our mind is the vision the Buddha first obtained under the Bodhi tree. The Avatamaska Sutra – known as the Flower Ornament Scripture – was translated from Chinese texts by Thomas Cleary in 1993. It has a surreal, mystical aspect. The Chinese scribes describe how it was delivered in full by the Buddha soon after his awakening – to all the heavens and galaxies.

The Avatamsaka Sutra requires more than an intellectual understanding. It needs a visceral response to grasp it. It is a universal phenomenon – a Buddha-verse of enlightened beings no less, bringing awakening and empowerment in their wake. It comprises thirty nine books, each one a sutra in itself – everything in Buddhism is derived from this. Tucked away in it are the 5 Precepts for Lay People.

The template of Avatamsaka lays out the Bodhisattva path in all its intricacies. A visionary, mystical text – millions of enlightened beings from all the galaxies listen to the Buddha’s revelations, or so the Chinese scribes tell us! We join them with our mentoring program for the 14 Mindfulness Trainings at Pine Gate. The 1966 Mindfulness Trainings lay out a framework for the Bodhisattva thread to be re-woven. We will encounter a multi-dimensional reality that transcends time/space/past/future.

A prior stage of emphasis on this Bodhisattva paradigm was supplied by Shantideva in 8th century India at Nalanda University. This is an example of Buddha Mind at work – Shantideva  provides an example of multi-dimensional reality, as did Milarepa in Tibet during the 11th century.

  • “Eats, Sleeps and Shits” was the observation of Shantideva’s attributes, described by his teachers and fellow students. He was set up by the students to give the Graduating Speech so that he would likely be disgraced. Shantideva, however, delivered his classic poem, “The Way of the Bodhisattva” and took the entire audience into a trance – then disappeared from the throne built for him. He was never seen again. He had devoured all the sutras and books in the great library at Nalanda and stepped into Buddha Mind. Distinct parallels with the Avatamsaka Sutra in terms of mystical reach.
  • Pema Chodron – “No Time To Lose” – titles her foreword “People Like Us Can Make a Difference” in her book about Shantideva. She brings awakening down to the everyday level Shantideva prescribed – changing our minds and living in a particular kind of way by following the Way of the Bodhisattva.
  • Shantideva’s greatest gift: “Verse 14 – Great Sins are utterly consumed by Bodhichitta” – damaging patterns/habits burned up by refraining from causing harm. We also refrain from firing the 2nd arrow of fear and anger into our consciousness.
  • Bodhichitta – Awakening of the Heart and Mind
  1. Boddhisattva – an Awakened Being, who chooses to stay in the mess and turmoil and takes steps to transform it.

Same energy experienced when we do walking meditation at Pine Gate and connect to the Earth Mother through our feet while walking – bodhichitta rises up when we make an authentic connection with the Earth Mother.

Relative Level – Yearning to transform ourselves with bodhichitta and then transform others

Absolute Level – Buddha Mind

  • Shantideva shows us how to work with emotional reactivity, develop bodhichitta so it becomes a way of life. His “Way of the Bodhisattva” is a guidebook for compassionate action. Think Bigger. Unwavering encouragement to deal with suffering, fear, habits, collapse, depression, anxiety and so on.

2016 MENTORING PROGRAM AT PINE GATE – 14 Mindfulness Trainings

  • It is vital that you make each of the 14 Trainings your own.
  • I should emphasize that there is no right way of doing the reflecting and rethinking of the MT’s. It is all in the sharing with dharma friends – you can rewrite, or paint or make up a poem, dance or song from your insights, prepare a skit, create a photo essay etc. Identify and document the personal process you took in the investigation of each one of the Trainings. This is very important as the transformation vehicle is YOU!  How you express your own experience of each MT is not at all restricted to the written form.  Feel free to express yourselves as you wish to. It is the sharing process that provides the real “fire” of understanding, which brings me to Thich Nhat Hanh in 1966.

Thich Nhat Hanh – LOTUS IN A SEA OF FIRE 1966 – Continues “The Way of the Bodhisattva.”

In the middle of the Vietnam War Thich Nhat Hanh creates the Tiep Hien (Order of Interbeing), based on the 14 Mindfulness Trainings – 6 members were ordained. He took an incredible revolutionary step – taking Buddhism out of the monastery and into society. The emphasis was on Engaged Buddhism, though Buddhism was always engaged from the get-go! Buddhist monastics conveniently forgot the significance of the “Engaged” part of the Buddha’s dharma talk to the five ascetics about The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path (plus Engaged Buddhism!) They by and large busied themselves in creating a monastic semi-feudal structure that fed off the hinterland of monasteries.

  • In 1966 Thich Nhat Hanh touched the Buddha Mind to lay down a radically different template – 50 years ago. Since that time there are two major crises not anticipated:
  1. Internet explosion – distraction technologies leading to blatant addiction with cellphones.
  2. Climate Change – denial, lack of understanding, ignoring science – in particular The Cascade Effect that compromises a safe niche for humanity on Planet Earth.

The present task of the mentoring process is to update, refine and relocate the 14 MT within current circumstances. It is not easy to bring about change in a spiritual bureaucratic organization. It took ten years to get “mitigate” considered rather than “reversal” of Climate Change into the trainings. Evidence from climate change scientists, seismologists, particularly the Cascade Theory from James Lovelock, brought a few concessions. The best we can actually do is to mitigate the impact of Climate Change and learn how to adapt. The 2015 Paris Accords on Climate Change also overlooked the notion of “mitigate.” I unilaterally changed the wording in the trainings at Pine Gate and it quickly caught on with many communities. In dealing with the bureaucracy I relied heavily upon the Hopi Prophecy of 2000: “Do not take anything personally!”

REQUIREMENTS FOR INVESTIGATION

  1. Intelligence
  2. Personal Experience and Suffering
  3. Focus and Investigation
  4. Silence
  5. Deepening of Practice
  6. Allow Buddha Mind to enter – flash of insight, the pen writes something you did not intend, be open
  7. End result (hopefully) – being totally authentic. Just you at your best!!
12042852_1715880898640947_3047739141824356391_n

Engaged Practice

My understanding of the Order of Interbeing charter and the transmission ceremonies is that they presented me with the heart of the Buddha and the heart of Thay. In my experience of the transmission ceremonies with Thay – the 14 Mindfulness Trainings and the Dharma Lamp – I certainly felt Thay’s love and encouragement but also felt his steel. For me, this was never an invitation. My direct experience was that I was authorized by Thay to teach the dharma, build sangha and skilfully engage with the wider society and environment. In engaging with creativity, experimentation and skilfulness, I felt that

I was actualizing the spirit and the letter of the OI charter. Thay gave me a driver’s license and the keys to the car and I drove it as far and as fast as I could.  There was plenty of creativity and experimentation though I was initially lacking in skilfulness. In my sense of urgency I kept the gas pedal to the floor and went flat out at high speed – this was not wise.  I quickly learned that action followed consciousness, not the other way round and so I eased up on the gas pedal!

My grounding was in Pine Gate Mindfulness Community, founded by Carolyn and I in 1997 after my return from teaching meditation in India.  Sangha life was a subtle ebb and flow through a series of concentric circles.  At the core was the practice of sangha leaders (Carolyn and I), the next circle was senior OI members and aspirants, then a circle of sangha members committed to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, then a circle of sangha members young and old, and then extending to a vast circle beyond the boundaries of Pine Gate to the wider community.  The ebb and flow between concentric circles breathed us in and out and the energy generated became the basis of action.  A good alternative to keeping the pedal to the floor!

An unusual set of circumstances led to a particular form of engaged action. This is not a blueprint or a formula – just what arose from the depth of sangha practice in the midst of global crisis – the international war against terrorism and Global Warming.  The beginnings of Friends for Peace began with the outbreak of the Iraq war in 2003.  Friends from across the city of Ottawa worked together together and organized candlelit vigils all across the city prior to the outbreak of war.  Over 3,000 people responded to this hastily put together initiative.  We also organized a Peace Song Circle on Parliament Hill, the seat of Canadian government, to send the strong message that mindful living was preferable to the warlike alternative.  Pine Gate members provided the nucleus for this nascent movement.

The organization of this event was left in their care as I left for two months in India just before the event took place.  It was in highly competent hands. On a cold, wet March day in 2003 a sea of multi–colored umbrellas adorned the grounds of Parliament Hill.   Choirs from all over the National Capital Region were there to give their hearts for peace. Earlier that morning I had received news of the shock and awe bombing campaign of Baghdad – and was filled with anger and grief.  This was not the appropriate mind state to lead this event, so I took refuge in the sangha. Carolyn took care of all the final arrangements, while I did walking meditation in Pine Gate Meditation Hall to calm and look deeply into the causes of my anger and to let it go.  Then I could be peace.

The incessant rain symbolized the tears of Iraqi children, your tears, my tears. Young, old, multi faith and diverse – the faces in the rain moved me deeply as people sang, danced and stood up for peace.  The NOWAR group was due on Parliament Hill after us and they had a more violent agenda.  I had talked to their leaders and requested that they join us on the Hill but without noisemakers and slogans.  They came with anger after burning effigies of George Bush and Tony Blair outside the US embassy. We felt the anger of their demonstration as they joined us, then it suddenly calmed and dissipated as they sang and danced with us in the downpour. The Sufi Universal Dances of Peace group organized 5,000 people to do a dance, chanting “May Peace be With You and With You be Peace” in English, French, Hebrew and Arabic.  When the rain came down like a monsoon – nobody ran for cover.  We danced and sang for peace together. The NOWAR group meditated with us in silence at the end.

From the response to these events Friends for Peace was created and registered as a non profit organization with a mandate for peace, planetary care and social justice. It has a charter and a mandate.  All parts of the mandate are active with respect to outreach, support and action. The first thing put into motion was an annual Friends for Peace Day every Fall, which was a celebration of all that we stood for.  It had the feeling of a country fair with lunch kitchen, activist tables, Silent Auction, great entertainment and Peace Awards to prominent citizens who delivered their often very edgy Visions for planetary care, social justice and peace.  Peace Grants were also awarded to organizations making a real difference. This day has now grown into the final bookend of a two week Peace Festival in our city of Ottawa. The growth and enthusiasm is there because there are tangible results from each area of the mandate.  There is a new six storey apartment building for low income families downtown that we supported, there is a pristine watershed – the Dumoine River – that we helped to get protection for, there are direct results from our support of aboriginal rights in the apology from the Government of Canada to First Nations, there is the annual Peace Camp Canada bringing Palestinian and Israeli teens to Ottawa for a peace camp.  And much more that is unfolding – the promotion of Orkidstra and the Dandelions Dance Theatre,  Tibetan and Syrian resettlement in Ottawa and many other causes.

The consequences of engaged practice for Pine Gate are confidence, clarity and skilfulness. Friends for Peace now comprises a loose coalition of over 45 groups throughout the city – activist, environmental, peace, business, faith, cultural, schools, government – and they are a force to be reckoned with in a good way.  The former Mayor of Ottawa has described Friends for Peace as the face of the city he wants to see in the future.  That future is now! The present Mayor, Jim Watson, had this to say: “Friends for Peace is an outstanding organization that does very important work, promoting, strengthening and maintaining peace, planetary care and social justice within our communities and the environment.”

The confidence from doing all this has led to the sanghabody jumping into the river of the Buddhadharma and kindly carrying me along with them. This is all due to deep internal practice and intelligent engaged practice. The home of Pine Gate had a major eco-retrofit – solar panel to heat the hot water, low flush toilets, energy efficient furnace and wood burning fireplace, energy windows and doors, solar blinds on south facing windows, insulation, rain barrels and so on.  The neighbours and sangha are watching very closely and enquire about cost, rebates and results – and several have followed suit.  Our money is where our mouth is, as this is a planetary care project right at the heart of Pine Gate, which is also the heart of Friends for Peace. And on it goes all the way back to the hearts of Thay and the Buddha.

I have also planted an apple tree on the front lawn, so that as the fruit ripens passersby and neighbours with their children may just pick them and eat them. There are many ripe fruits on the sangha tree, especially young people. They are storming the barricades, transcending boundaries and breaking down barriers. I ask only one thing, that they hold out their hand and wait for me – because I am going with them.

 

Galillee 2

New Planet, New World

The final bookend of a trilogy is now ready for publishers’ eyes. Sci Fi novel that takes place in the near future. It is the final bookend of a trilogy – “Chronicles of Awakening.” Redemption is the first book in this trilogy that has Trailing Sky Six Feathers as the second book. The final tome of this trilogy takes characters from the prior two books, placing them in the future on a new planet. I place in the mouth of Dr. Tom Hagen a blistering rant to the UN in 2080 that I would certainly like to give from the future. It is about the willful ignorance displayed by corporate and government cabals invested in the carbon/oil complex, while eco-militias murder in the streets and social disorder is a norm. Here is an extract from the opening chapter, where Catriona and Rising Moon do their best to kill one another.

She looked around for combustible material to build a fire, while her mind deeply grieved the loss of her parents. There was an abundance of dry weathered wood on the sandy beach. Catriona quickly gathered a clumsy pile and ignited it with her small hand laser. Then she consumed the emergency landing rations – protein, liquid and sedative. She followed all the necessary protocols as the wood caught fire. Then the shock hit her. She was shaking uncontrollably, frightened and at a total loss. Catriona sat weeping next to the bonfire. Tears splashed on her delicate hands, leaving wet blotches on her grey space tunic. Her sobs were accompanied by the gentle lapping of the lake, as it washed ashore driven by wind.

She felt a presence close by and turned around. A young woman wearing an embroidered buckskin dress and calf length laced moccasins was standing there with her bow pulled back, an arrow pointed right at the middle of her chest. She gasped at the stern yet beautiful face, noticing a cut on the woman’s forehead and a long black braid of hair hanging loosely at the front. She took everything in about this fierce apparition, who clearly meant her harm. She watched the woman carefully approach closer, one silent foot after the other, the arrow unwavering from its destination. The woman had a long knife in a sheath at her embroidered belt. Her deep dark eyes pierced right into Catriona. She had not been on the spaceship.

Catriona summoned all her courage, abandoning her shock and grief. Her voice quivered, “Who are you? Where did you come from? How are you here?” Her cry echoed through the deadly silence.

In halting English the strange woman replied tersely, “Why you need to know?”

There was a fierce edge to her words. The stranger’s eyes glared steadily at the young red haired, blue eyed woman dressed in a body tunic from neck to feet. She noticed the tear lined face and the strange craft pulled up on the shore. Catriona bravely stood her ground though her hands were shaking. She stepped forward and in an instant the intruder lowered her bow and swiftly threw a lariat so the noose settled around Catriona’s neck. With a sharp jerk Catriona went face first into the sand. Her assailant quickly bound her hands behind her back with a leather strap from her belt. She then jerked Catriona upright and they were face to face.

Catriona’s deep blue eyes blazed with anger. She was suddenly alert and yelled into the woman’s face, “I am not your enemy. We may be the only two people on this planet and you choose stupidity.”

Then Catriona head-butted the dark eyed woman on the bridge of her nose, just as she had learned in martial arts training aboard the spaceship. As the woman stumbled back, Catriona with her hands still tied behind her back, pivoted on her left foot and landed a perfect round house kick to the side of her assailant’s head with her right foot, followed by a swift side kick into her ribs.

Catriona’s onslaught briefly caught the woman by surprise yet once again she faced an arrow aimed right at her heart. Catriona saw the woman pull the bowstring back and stared into dark angry eyes. Time stood still, then the woman’s eyes suddenly changed and her mouth fell open. She had heard her mother’s voice speaking inside her mind to put the bow down. She felt the weight of her mother’s hand lower the bow. The two young women were both breathing heavily. The fire leaped in flames as it caught the adjacent logs. There was only a ripple of air across the lake. Both women were indifferent to the morning’s layered colors across the lake and into the sky.

In the groove

Violent Consumption and Dharma Disconnect

I begin with a story. Shortly before the 2016 Christmas season my grand-nephew celebrated his ninth birthday. He was asked how he felt about being nine. Jacob replied that he felt awful and would prefer to stay five years old. When asked why, he replied that if he could stay five forever then the Earth would not explode. I pondered for a moment on what I could say to little Jacob. I could not say that everything will be OK, that my generation will fix things, as he was much too intelligent for such a placebo. So I spoke to him about the steps taken by the Pine Gate Mindfulness Community in Ottawa. We simplify, make do with less, share and adapt. The intent is to create environmental leaders and that includes him. “Why not become a leader for your generation?” I asked him. He thought about that intensely. Then I told him about a talk I gave recently about mindless consumption and consumerist madness. His sharp mind held on to every word.

I pointed out that festive occasions like Christmas provide opportunities for the best and the worst within us to come out and play. Compassion and kindness are quickly overshadowed by greed, selfishness and consumer madness. We need to begin a re-assessment, as it is time to move on from being so self-absorbed and distracted. Let us locate ourselves in something bigger – a humanitarian cause, respecting the earth, making our thinking better, being kinder and more generous. How about examining our habit energies around gift giving and learn to give gifts that make a difference?  I pointed out to Jacob the small steps I have taken. I no longer buy Christmas gifts, instead present gift certificates in the name of family, grand-children and young neighborhood friends. These gift certificates provide: education for a girl in Afghanistan, grants for female led families, rebuild forests in Haiti, literacy packages and mosquito nets where needed, support for Habitat for Humanity building houses for the destitute and so on. Such gifts are bigger than our self-absorbed egos and create happiness for less fortunate people. I related to Jacob that my grandchildren proudly take their Christmas certificates to school for Show-and-Tell periods. They play it forward with their class mates and teachers. One boy on the crescent where I live had received such gifts from me for several years. For his most recent birthday he asked all his friends not to give him presents, but to bring a donation for the Ottawa Humane Society that looks after hurt animals. All of his friends brought donations, a splendid sum of one hundred and eighty dollars. They all went together to the Humane Society and happily handed their bag of cash to the surprised staff there.

The greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others at this time of global crises is Freedom and Caring. It involves stepping onto the Bodhisattva path – or something like it. (Jacob knows that I am a Zen teacher!) I explained to him what a Bodhisattva was and stated that it is time for the Bodhisattva-within-us to enter the 21st century as an example for action. This enables us to deeply transform ourselves and our civilization. We nurture this paradigm by cultivating two aspects that lie dormant within us. The first aspect is Interbeing, knowing that we interconnect with everything – the earth, oceans, forests and mountains, all species and most of all – with all people. The second aspect is Non-Discrimination, which carries the energy of compassion and dilutes selfishness. Taken together – these buried aspects, once they manifest from within us, open pathways and bridges to build a better world.

Jacob asked “How?” I said, “We cultivate energies of transformation – Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight. Always, at every opportunity we bring Interbeing and Non-Discrimination to the forefront of our daily lives. We shape the future of the 21st century because we begin to live differently. We are not intimidated by present crises. We are certainly shocked and hurt by such circumstances but are much stronger than we think.” I emphasized that “Enter the Bodhisattva” is our guiding paradigm and alluded to Bruce Lee’s classic Enter the Dragon, which was one of Jacob’s favorite old time movies. I told him that it brings the fierceness of the warrior to the fore and the determination of a saint to overcome tragedy and set a new course. It takes practice, smartness and creative vision. I assured Jacob that we are equal to the task and did not hold back anything from him. He is an unusually bright boy and asked questions and demanded clarification. Yet I knew he had grasped what I had said. He came up to me as I was leaving and whispered in my ear that my chat with him was his best birthday present ever.

Violent Consumption

The focus of this essay is on Violent Consumption and how it dominates our planet, mind and body. I also examine the relevance of dharma and sangha to modern realities, as I clearly see a Dharma Disconnect from modern crises. There is drastic need for updating and refreshing both dharma and sangha.

Jacob’s greatest fear was about the planet’s ecological crises, from mining disasters in Brazil and China, Amazon deforestation making way for cattle ranches all the way to the Gulf Oil Spill, which has the specs to suit all disasters. BP deliberately underestimated the amount of oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from its destroyed Deepwater Horizon oilrig. Their spin did not fool the stock market, as the share values of this corporate giant plummeted down. Yet BP ads continued to tout their environmental sensitivity. The ads could not be taken seriously. But do people actually think or just get caught in a whirlwind of spin from business, government and other stakeholders in environmental disasters like this? Not only are ocean ecosystems and wetlands at risk, vital economic sectors are doomed. Fishing, tourism and real estate are at risk in all Gulf states. The tons of toxic oil dispersants used to break up the surface oil slick settled on the ocean floor. It contaminated the entire oceanic ecosystem. Not only are fish, marine mammals and other wildlife being killed, the industries and communities that their harvest support are also being eliminated.

The US administration, CNN, FOX and other media had their own spin doctors to amplify the volume, so spin became a norm.  How do we get off this mad carousel of lies? We must stop, locate ourselves in the present moment and make different choices by examining our minds, consumption patterns and personal culpability in the creation of such a huge disaster. Guidelines are necessary and can be found in the Mindfulness Trainings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh – particularly the Fifth Training about mindful consumption.

It takes us back to what we do with our minds. I apply this to walking meditation, taught to students and friends who come to Pine Gate Mindfulness Community, where I have the privilege of being the resident Zen teacher. When we concentrate on our breath and focus on slow walking, we have a brilliant piece of engineering to quiet the mind and body and be present.  When we add a third concentration – aware of how our feet touch the earth – we have a meditative practice for our times.  We focus our mind on the mechanism of each foot touching the earth – heel, then ball of foot, then toe.  We slow down even further and with our body – not our intellect or ego – and make a contract with Mother Earth to walk more lightly and leave a smaller footprint. We examine our consumption patterns and energy use, and commit to decreasing the size of our ecological footprint, all from walking with astute awareness. Our conscious breath co-ordinates our steps as we notice how our feet touch the earth. The energy of wellbeing that arises from this practice is stronger than our habit energies and mental afflictions. And so the latter falls away.  Insight and clarity then guide us in the direction of what to do. Nobody requires a lecture from me. We do know how to reduce our ecological footprint. We also know that taking care of the earth and the oceans takes care of ourselves. We must begin it now for the future, which is our tomorrow shaped by the actions we take at this moment.

I had told Jacob that if rampant consumption remains our deepest desire we will certainly have a degraded planet that will blow up.  Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas – are targeted by the captains of industry for optimal retail returns, and mindless consumerism is fuelled to the max. At Christmas we are far removed from remembering the significance of this spiritual celebration. The mantra of western civilization – endless economic growth – provides a promise of expectations being met without any awareness of consequences for either our own health or the health of the planet.  Our current non-sustainable energy and economic systems are subsystems of a global ecology that is disintegrating before our very eyes.  If we do not simplify, make do with less and change then the vicious downward spiral of environmental degradation would definitely occur.

I added that if we are driven to search for, strive and even fight to obtain that “something” we crave, we will suffer all our lives. We are never happy with what we get or achieve, as there is always that “want” for more.  We need the big insight that our habits of consumption are the obstacle to true happiness. We must be prepared to release the habits rather than be held captive by them.  We can stop this process by meditating, being present and looking deeply into the driving force of our deep desires.  Instead of greed and fame we foster the desire to awaken at the highest level – the desire to bring loving kindness to everything we connect with.

There is also violence to our bodies through the food we eat, driven by internal desires that have disastrous consequences, particularly for our connection to all living beings. The vast consumption of meat and alcohol constitutes a grossly excessive ecological footprint.  Industrial animal agriculture, which is the norm in North America, is not really farming. Animals are treated solely as economic commodities and subjected to horrible cruelty.  The stress, despair and anger generated in the animals are the energies we consume when they end up on our plate.  We are eating their suffering and pain, taking it into every cell of our bodies and consciousness.  The ecological footprint created by our dietary preferences is huge, costly and damaging.  Furthermore it is not good for our health – physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Although this is horrific – it is not the card I want to deal from the deck.  There is a much bigger card.

FAO produced a scathing report in November 2006 titled Livestock’s Long Shadow. Relentless statistics demonstrate how industrial animal agriculture creates more greenhouse gases than the entire sum of emissions from cars and trucks worldwide. Vegetarianism is no longer just a healthy lifestyle choice. It is a direct and rapid means to restrain the livestock industry from damaging the planet beyond the point of no return. We can actually save the planet by not eating animal products. It is unrealistic to expect folk to go vegetarian in an instant. Yet scrupulous shoppers could do their best to buy free range meat and be vegetarian one week per month and move gradually to eating organic foods and less meat products. This change in basic consumption does far more than taking our car off the road. The present mind-set that drives our consumption requires an essential planetary saving change for we are eating our mother. Also our children, as we are depriving future generations of their chance to live. Our dietary preferences have to be called by their true name – cannibalism. The FAO report concludes that it is essential to reduce meat industry products by 50%. That was in 2006. Consumers can still make this happen by changing their minds about what and how they eat.

With awareness we can change our minds and patterns of food consumption. We re-educate and retrain ourselves mentally, as well as physically, and choose to support our body, consciousness and planet by shifting deeply ingrained food habits.  We step more lightly on the planet when we consume with mindfulness and radically decrease those activities that pollute. Furthermore, the chronic degenerative diseases common in western civilization find their origins in the toxic food we eat.  Yet if we know how to eat mindfully, then we also know how to take care of ourselves, of others, and the environment. Before eating, simply look at what is there on the table, where it has come from, how it has been prepared, and whether it will truly nourish you, and at the same time protect the environment and future generations from harm. It means reducing as much as possible the violence, destruction and suffering brought to living creatures and to the planet. If we bring violence into our own biological system and consciousness, then we inevitably bring violence to the other systems – political, economic, planet – we engage with through our thoughts, speech and actions.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings and Dharma Disconnect

Where did the Mindfulness Trainings come from? I identify three major conditions that enabled their emergence. The first is the awakened mind of the Buddha; the second is the great skill of the Buddha as a teacher; the third is Thich Nhat Hanh’s insightful rewording of the Five Wonderful Precepts of the Buddha. In a language that would appeal to the consciousness of the 21st century, the Buddha’s mindfulness trainings were renewed to be in tune with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments. When we study and penetrate deeply into the mindfulness trainings we touch all three conditions, in particular the awakened mind of the Buddha. At the same time we also touch our potential to be similarly awakened. Thich Nhat Hanh’s revisions were an important step not taken by other traditions.

There is an energy in the trainings that comes directly from the awakened mind of the Buddha, which is continued through us. As a sangha collectively and diligently practices the Five Mindfulness Trainings, an extraordinary energy emerges that uplifts everyone who is suffering. When I think about taking refuge in the trainings I smile. My home sangha, the Pine Gate Mindfulness Community founded in 1997, has matured so that it operates very much as an organism. There are many leaders in the sangha choosing to walk the Bodhisattva path and be of support to everyone else. We take one another’s hand and walk together through the early part of the twenty first century. Great confidence and clarity emerge from our engaged practice in the city of Ottawa for peace, environment and schools. The experience of the fruits of practice transforms our wider community. We become more skillful and aware that we are infusing mindfulness throughout our city.

Previously I briefly documented the toxic overload on our planet, and in our minds and bodies. It is critical that necessary re-education also find a place in the Five Mindfulness Trainings. They are 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 there were some awkward disconnects in their creation. The Buddha was clear about impermanence and new challenges. He created the Five Mindfulness Trainings for the lay community and told Ananda 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 for modern realities, as monastic precepts had not changed 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, but we see that Thich Nhat Hanh was able to overcome this awkward divide. 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 the true bodhisattvas. They 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.
  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 world. Social, political and ecological engagements are devalued as we place our backsides on the cushion, chant and avoid the reality all around us. Modern Buddhism 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. 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.”

Gardening in the Mind

I offer eight simple steps to refine the mind and at the same time take it into the world as engagement that does not disconnect with the Buddha’s intention. Ananda and the Buddhist elders really got it wrong about periodically updating the minor precepts. Furthermore, the terminology used by the Buddha was fine for his times but needs to be better framed for the 21st century. Yet the Buddha mind continues through time, permitting a re-creation of creed and understanding. If we are intelligent with what we do in the modern era, we can correct both.

  1. Clear time and space for spiritual practice at home and throughout your daily schedule. You – learn to be still and quiet!
  2. Create a stress reduction menu and subtract the “weeds” in the garden of your mind.
  3. Be determined to meditate daily – do the weeding.
  4. Focus on and soften your heart – cultivate the soil of your mind’s garden.
  5. Water the seeds of mindfulness at home, work or in retreat.
  6. Simplify, make do with less, de-clutter your mind and home.
  7. Taste the fruits of your spiritual practice.
  8. Engage with the world. This thread (8) runs through all of the prior steps (1-7) as you become more mindful.

Just as our mind must be transformed and re-constructed, our ways of living together, caring for environmental, political and economic realms must also be re-constructed. 1 – 7 and 8 are two sides of the same practice. Tasting the fruits of practice and transforming (7) is not the ultimate step. It provides a beginning for intelligent engagement. We must also re-think the nature of sangha. This was a brilliant creation by the Buddha 2,600 years ago, but it has entered the modern era with some missing and necessary extensions. Most bodhisattvas are not to be found sitting on cushions during weekly meetings with chants, bells and dharma talks. There are many forms of sangha and I do not cling to any rigid form. In Ottawa I founded Friends for Peace Canada and am part of the National Capital Peace Council. I also work with organizations such as Orkidstra and the Dandelion Dance Company to name only a few. These groups are all sanghas in their own right, with commonly held ethics and a determination to change things for the better within the city and elsewhere. They provide the means to galvanize parents, friends and volunteers so that good kids are created and excellent citizens emerge – all this with an eye on society, economics, ecology and politics.

We all have the capacity to awaken the mind and transform it. If we do not access such capacity then we become pre-occupied with self-importance and attach more distractions to our separated self. There is a Zen saying that the goal of practice is to discover our true face. This is heart consciousness and there are many ways to this source. Finding stillness and inner silence is a necessary first step. We have to find a way to create the conditions for this to happen (1 – 7). In our modern world of fast paced lifestyles there are so many distractions that make us outwardly dependant and un-centered. We often fail to find the time or discipline to access the store of mindfulness just waiting to be cultivated. The external restlessness amplifies the internal restlessness in a feedback loop that ignites our untrained mind. We have closed the doors due to wrong perceptions, ignorance and continual suffering. Our hearts are not open and the tapestry of our consciousness is limited. We hold on tight to self-imposed dramas and suffering, slamming the door shut and keeping dysfunctional habits well fed and alive. We find it easier to close down rather than open up our hearts. Thus we remain wounded and suffer all our lives, driven by scars, anger and fears. The remedy is, however, within reach. We unravel the knots of suffering and move from being mindless to being mindful. This is brought about by organic gardening in the mind.

Why should we do all this stuff? Here is why. When you can be open and receptive you become an epi-center of light for others. When you can just sit with pain, come face to face with what hurts, breathing in and breathing out, you feel the sting recede as you calm. Stay open by never closing your heart. If you start to close down ask yourself, “Do I really want to take a pass on happiness?” Always let go once you feel you are clinging. I have a fridge magnet – Let Go Or Be Dragged – that I see every day and take to heart with a quiet smile. It is essential to learn to be quiet, to stop clinging and find the way to be present. As the Hopi advise us – never take anything personal and look around to see who is with you. As you do all of this, transcendental love becomes your calling card and Buddha consciousness becomes your state of being. The world changes as a consequence. Such a destination is well worth your try.

 

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VIOLENCE IN THE MIND

If rampant consumption is the deepest desire then we have a degraded planet.  Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas – these special days are targeted by the captains of industry for optimal retail returns, and in the process mindless consumerism is fuelled to the max. At Christmas time we are far removed from remembering the significance of this spiritual celebration. Christmas products created by fossil fuel energy feeds consumerism and consumerism fuels Global Warming. The chain of interconnection is clear. Whether it is holidays, housing, transport, gifts and so on, our consumption requires the continuous use of fossil fuels. The mantra of western civilization – endless economic growth – provides a promise of expectations being met without any awareness of consequences for either our own health or the health of the planet.  It is becoming clearer with every passing day that our current non-sustainable energy and economic systems are actually subsystems of a global ecology that is disintegrating before our very eyes.

Yet even those few policy makers who recognize this, rush to find energy alternatives to fossil fuels without addressing the root causes of rampant consumerism – the major behavioral manifestation of western industrial civilization.  Biofuels are not the answer, as their production will destroy ecosystems rather than replenish them. New energy technology is certainly needed, but if placed within the existing paradigm of current values and consumption habits then the same vicious downward spiral of environmental degradation would occur. Until such time as the underlying causes of rampant consumerism have been understood and changed.

Consumerist addiction and craving, fostered to keep the wheels of industry turning, can take over our entire life with disastrous consequences.  It is a state of consumption wherein we cannot be happy without the object of our cravings.  We are then driven to search for, strive and even fight to obtain that “something” we crave.  This makes us suffer all our lives, as we are never happy or present with what we get or achieve, as there is always that “want” for more.  We need the insight that this kind of consumption is in fact the obstacle to true happiness, for we also have within us the capacity to “be”, to live fully in the present moment. Yet these capacities are obscured and covered up by habit energies, by acquired and inherited addictions.  We must be prepared to release these obstacles rather than feed off and be held captive by them.  We stop this process by meditating and looking deeply into the driving force of our deep desires.  Then create an opportunity to transform them. Instead of lust, greed and fame we foster the desire to awaken at the highest level – to experience joy and happiness in the here and now – the desire to bring loving kindness to everything we connect with and the desire to alleviate all suffering. Just as addictive consumption provides food for our consciousness, the desire to awaken and be present is also a food for our consciousness.