Monthly Archives: August 2013

CREATING FAILSAFE: Saving The Earth From Ourselves

CREATING FAILSAFE: Saving the Earth From Ourselves

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Available from Amazon Kindle for $4.99

http://www.amazon.com/Failsafe-Saving-Earth-Ourselvesebook/dp/B006DLB4AK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329677682&sr=8-1

 Many of the ideas expressed in Failsafe were presented to students – both at the university and in the meditation hall. Their feedback, helpful suggestions and sometimes boredom prompted me to refine the basic ideas.  I first talked about a Failsafe in Consciousness in my 2002 book The Essential Spiral: Ecology and Consciousness After 9/11, drawing on the post Enron crash where financial analysts actually talked about responsibility and ethics.  I also drew on the writings of E.O. Wilson – that despite all that was happening around us there was still an unmistakable link with nature’s systems in the human psyche.

 

So I endeavoured to improve on the ideas floated in 2002 and tried it out on my ecology class at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I had the privilege of meeting two outstanding students – Eric Smith and Paul Schlissel. They took up the challenge of mapping my ideas into diagrams and re-arranged how I addressed the components of the emerging concepts. Failsafe, due to their promptings, became more than a set of ideas.  It had substance and a design based on three interconnected components. These were Innate Earth Wisdom; Counter Culture; Tipping Points in Consciousness – all of which intertwined with consciousness transformation. Can we fix the planet? This is the wrong question. Our present values and patterns of consumption are the architects of the present global ecological emergency. The right question is can we transform ourselves? My point in addressing Climate Change and Global Warming was that they were not the problem.  The real problem was the mind-set that created the ecological conditions for Global Warming to explode dramatically into the lives of every human being on earth.  I needed a set of interconnecting variables to link into the really crucial aspect of changing human consciousness.  I suppose it is an act of faith on my part, but I feel that once consciousness changes then different questions will be asked and different solutions found.  Out of the transformation will emerge the structures and institutions that can regulate global affairs without endangering all species – including our own.

 

Failsafe provides understanding of global eco-crises and issues a call to change the existing world order by arriving at a deep spiritual understanding of what needs to be done. Step by step methods to transform our existing mindset are laid out to usher in a new era of planetary care, social justice and peace. Failsafe is about hope and faith and the clear knowledge that we have the capacity to get things done. There is hope for future generations to occupy a healthy planet and faith in the human consciousness to change. There is faith that we beings can awaken to the miracle and beauty of all of life. Failsafe provides examples and guidance for transformation and change. Failsafe is a critical response to Lovelock’s 2006 book “Revenge of Gaia” where he argues that the present self-regulating mechanisms of Gaia cannot be controlled by human agency.  In the context of Global Warming and dire predictions for a habitable econiche for homo sapiens I present a Failsafe in Consciousness. I describe how consciousness expansion will be held in abeyance by wilful human ignorance until the global ecological situation deteriorates to a breaking point.  This breaking point will then act as a catalyst, penetrating such ignorance and activating consciousness so it is propelled into expansion, deliberation and change.

 

I drew a lot on the new discipline of Neuroscience, the Wisdom of Aboriginal Elders and the teachings of the Buddha about changing the human mind. Taming the human mind was a major issue, because to change external circumstances with technological fixes still leaves a damaging mind-set intact.  If our minds are not clear and at peace, we simply pass on our disturbance and selfishness to everything we create. In the final chapter – Taming The Wild Mind – I felt it necessary to include highly personal accounts to show that Taming the Wild Mind was not easy for me.  My particular journey is not for everyone – yet some form of journey is absolutely necessary for all of us – one that takes us beyond the superficial into the deep reality of our true nature.  This is nothing other than old fashioned goodness, caring and wisdom coming out to play instead of the greed and negativity that stalks the mind of humanity.

 

I started to give talks to the most unlikely audiences about all of this stuff, and found to my surprise that most of the folks listening got the drift of where I was going.  Their questions and requests for clarification enabled me to sculpt the Failsafe in Consciousness concept into a more understandable form.  I want to reach every man and woman in the street, as the sheer necessity of a bottom up revolution in patterns of consumption and behaviour is necessary for the Failsafe notion to kick in. Failsafe is taken from engineering, where the term is used to describe a stop lever or valve that comes into action whenever the machinery is in danger of exploding or breaking down.  As such, it is a useful metaphor for what is happening globally with Climate Change. I add to the Failsafe notion – particularly the idea of tipping points in consciousness.  This is akin to the Hundredth Monkey syndrome, where once a critical mass is reached then behaviour changes across the board.  In other words once a tipping point is reached there is a quantum leap of energy across the population.  For humanity I set this threshold at 2% of the human population. If 2% can truly commit to changing their minds and altering their patterns in the direction of voluntary simplicity, planetary care and compassion – then this is the tip of the spear that lances through the problem of Climate Change.  Let’s face it – Climate Change is very dangerous to us continuing to inhabit the earth, and still we do all kinds of senseless things to not face this reality.

 

Failsafe is by no means finished. There will be bright minds who will take it further, find loopholes in it and re-fashion it.  All this I gladly welcome. I look forward to the dialogue as it helps us move on. My hope is that you enjoy the book and share it with friends.  I will keep you up to date with my continuing journey as it evolves.

 

Every blessing to each one of you.

 

Ian

Four Arrows

One morning Trailing Sky rose from the bed she shared with her husband in the cave set in the high canyon. She saw that Eagle Speaker had left before dawn to hunt. They had not eaten fresh meat for over a month, as the larger game had a tendency to migrate towards the east during the day while resting at night in the canyon valleys nearby. So he changed his pattern of hunting to track the mule deer as they grazed before sunrise. She dressed slowly, watching and becoming very aware of the shamanic energies arising within her. She stood very still at the lip of the cave, observing the first rays of daylight caressing the valley below. She swayed back and forth, rooted in one spot, and concentrated on her husband. She could clearly foresee the danger.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Without waking her friend Long Willow, she took down her powerful long bow from the cave wall, selecting Eagle Speaker’s four best arrows. She knew that this day she would need every one of them. Though Eagle Speaker had left carefully so his tracks were scarcely visible, she drew on the experience shaped by her mountain home, where she knew the trace of every creature wherever she went. Quickly she found Eagle Speaker’s footprints and followed them eastwards. She noticed a rock cache with small animals that Eagle Speaker had hunted along with four broken arrows. Not the game he was looking for, but nevertheless vital to keep them alive. She carefully replaced the rocks exactly as they had been built. The tracks then led her to a dried up gulch where she saw the heavier print of his forward foot.

She stilled herself again sensing the shamanic energies. This was the place he had stood to shoot a larger game animal from his bow. Eagle Speaker had stood in that exact spot at dawn, drawing a steady bead on a large mule deer with his last arrow. His previous arrows had shattered on impact and he noted in his mind the tree he had fashioned these arrows from. His final arrow was made from stronger wood and he knew it would deeply penetrate the unaware mule deer in his view, starkly outlined by the early morning sun. As he released the arrow from his bow, his prey moved in the same instant. The strong, swift arrow did not provide a clean kill. It went deeply into the mule deer, high in the muscles of the left foreleg. Eagle Speaker whispered a prayer to the mule deer for causing unnecessary suffering. He proceeded to follow the wounded creature to end its misery. The erratic and painful trail left by the dying mule deer strayed into Tonto Apache territory. Eventually he caught up with the mule deer, exhausted and on its knees, close to a sandstone butte reaching up into the morning sky. He dispatched it with his hunting knife and enacted a simple ceremony of gratitude by cutting out part of the heart and liver, placing it on a natural rock altar. He put tobacco by the stone as an offering to the animal, then became acutely aware that he was no longer alone. He had been spotted earlier by a scout who called in two other warriors to corner this stranger hunting in their territory. One of them – the smallest – started to climb the sandstone butte, while the other two approached in a pincer movement that provided no escape. Eagle Speaker saw all three of them and knew they would kill him. He had only his hunting knife and a bow without arrows. A spontaneous shout echoed in his mind as he silently called out to Trailing Sky for help.

And there she was. Standing with her bow fully drawn, Trailing Sky commanded the edge of a clearing close to the sandstone butte. She was well shielded from sight by small ash trees. Her first arrow sent death to the scout climbing the butte and he fell with a heavy thud on the rocky floor below. This surprise pre-emptive attack made the tallest warrior move towards her at the edge of the clearing, but an arrow was already coming his way from her bow. It went right through his throat. As he turned, dropping his weapons while clutching at his throat, her third arrow went directly through his heart killing him instantly. The third warrior was in fierce hand to hand battle with Eagle Speaker and had gained the upper hand, throwing Eagle Speaker against the rock wall of the red sandstone butte. As he raised his battle axe to strike a death blow, Trailing Sky’s fourth arrow, shot with great accuracy, entered below his armpit, through his chest into the heart. The warrior fell forward and Eagle Speaker tore the battle axe from his hands and finished the death process with a swift smash to the skull. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

Eagle Speaker stood there with the battle axe in his hand, breathing heavily as Trailing Sky, with the stealth of a mountain lion, approached the two other scouts, now motionless on the ground. Her hunting knife was drawn, but there was no need. They were both dead. She walked slowly towards Eagle Speaker and he fell to his knees in front of her and wept. Trailing Sky lifted him up and gently wiped his tears away. Eagle Speaker’s voice came out as a sob. “You heard me..”
“My husband, I heard your scream long before you uttered it in your mind. I have been tracking you since dawn, knowing the danger that would befall you.”

He knew he would never understand her gifts of seeing and felt humbled by her presence in his life. Trailing Sky was filled with gratitude that his life was still with her, as she feared the dislocation that a different outcome that day would have created.
Eagle Speaker’s strategic sense quickly re-asserted itself. “We must take the arrows out of the slain Apache scouts and from the mule deer. Leave the bodies right here, just where they have fallen. The animals and vultures will come and scatter their remains and cover some of our tracks.” Trailing Sky nodded her consent. The sun had begun to rise and they knew they had to be meticulous. They created a false trail to a pass in the canyon wall that led to the southern plateaus. Retracing their steps to the killing ground by the clearing next to the sandstone rock, they began the painstakingly slow removal of all trace of their passage westwards. Eagle Speaker took care to relocate the rock cache he had built for the small animals he had killed – two rabbits and two small grouse. He retrieved his shattered arrows and scattered the rocks in the pinyon forest, leaving one dead grouse for vultures to find and scatter their unmistakable presence over their tracks.

It was nightfall before they got close to the safe haven of their cave. Trailing Sky stopped and gave the small grouse call. Long Willow loomed out of the darkness, with her long gun leveled at them and her battle axe slung over one shoulder. She had stationed herself at a hidden juncture of the trail leading to their cave, ready for the worst. She had sensed the same foreboding that drew Trailing Sky out at dawn, but did not have her gifts of seeing. Trailing Sky whispered to her briefly what had happened. Long Willow nodded silently and beckoned them to go on to the cave while she checked that they had not been followed. She returned several hours later in the dark. They did not light a fire, wrapping themselves in blankets and animal skins for warmth. They humbly offered prayers for the three slain Apache scouts. They did not leave the cave for a week, surviving on dried berries, water and their scant supply of dried meat. Long Willow maintained a sharp vigilance during this time, her long gun trained on the trail far below. No-one came their way.

 DCF 1.0

Deep Silence

Deep Silence

In the Silence

I heard my own voice

The sound was deafening.                                                      Teresa Hernandez

DCF 1.0

My journey through meditation has often been clumsy and ineffective until I stumbled across where I had to go.  It was into Silence.  Deep Silence and stillness amidst the chaos and noise of the world I lived in.  I could truly look deeply into the dark areas that held hostage my mental formations of an unwholesome nature.  Over the past decades I have built more and more silence into everyday life.  On a daily basis I stop, look deeply and dialogue with the feminine seeds in my consciousness – a practice received from my Native American medicine teachers. I listen deeply in the silence to the communications from the wholesome attributes of feminine wisdom within me to address issues and questions.  There were some tangible benefits.

 

High School Murders and the Post 9/11 World

After the murders at Columbine High School in Colorado I put this practice of silence to good use.  Firstly, to prevent myself from being overwhelmed and secondly, to provide guidance and solace.  The spectre of children shooting children in high schools shocked me very deeply.  I was offended by the carnage and angry at society for creating the conditions for children to end up murdering other children.  I also had meditation students who had settled in Colorado and they phoned me in a panic.  I knew I could be of little help, for I was not in the appropriate space to give counsel to anyone.  I had to find a bedrock of understanding and compassion before I could communicate anything worthwhile.  After several days of silence and meditation I wrote an essay in one piece titled “Yes, It Can Happen Here.”  It provided understanding and guidelines about what to do.  It was directed to parents, teachers and children and was sent far and wide across North America and later to Germany and Scandinavia.  Steps of mindfulness in terms of specific meditation practices to deal with grief, anger and hatred were provided in addition to a clear understanding of what had brought events to this particular state.  I felt it was a necessary priority to provide protective measures for our children.

 

I now speak of my meditation practice after 9/11.  When I learned about the extent of the horror, I went into a deep silence and practiced deep looking to generate calm and clarity, to try and understand.  It was not easy, as there was so much disbelief, shock and outrage within me which only silence could take care of.  It took a great deal of walking meditation, being aware of the feelings that arose and using conscious breath to acknowledge and take care of the strong feelings.  I slowed down with meditation and came to a stop, looked deeply and touched the well of understanding that would have been inaccessible if I did not diligently meditate at this time of crisis.  I wanted to understand, to grasp the roots of suffering, so that anything I might say or do could act to alleviate such suffering – my own and everyone else’s.  From that place my 2002 book was written – The Essential Spiral: Ecology and Consciousness After 9/11.  It was born from the benefits of silence so that I could provide insights for the wider community.  I do see clearly and this is thanks to the many years of silence, mindfulness practice and meditation in times of crisis, as well as in times of peace and happiness.  My response to 9/11 was guided from silence by the actively cultivated energy of compassion.  I do not pretend that this was easy.  It was not, but it was the only thing I could do to generate lucidity.

The Essential Spiral: Ecology and Consciousness After 9/11 – $2.99

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006ZBQ0W0

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Newton, CT

I want to talk to you about children who are no longer here. They are dead. Twenty children gunned down at an elementary school in Newton, CT. Children killed as collateral damage in Gaza, Israel, Syria, Congo, Afghanistan and in world-wide violence. We are all grieving parents to the world. The question we all face is – What Now?

In the face of grief we must feel it deeply, be hurt by it, taking time to feel the pain of the tragedy. Then come through, determined to make a difference. STOP IN SILENCE: REASSESS: ENTER THE BODHISATTVA. Stopping requires calling in the support of wise friends, counselors and Sangha so we can begin to see clearly and give ourselves the chance to find ourselves. Stillness and silence is needed, not social media distraction – for we now have to look for a new direction and leadership. To reassess the 21st century, we must look deeply at the factors involved in the Newton, CT massacre. We will see a complex, intertwined tapestry with the easy availability of guns and drugs, compounded by societal tolerance of violence through the worst that cyberspace and Hollywood have to offer. Plus the very serious common denominator shared by the killers stretching back to the Columbine massacre. This is the factor of mental illness in pre-adult white males who are caught in an identity trap that they escape from through violence and murder. This is their five minutes of fame that enables them to be remembered. They occupy a toxic landscape of “not love”, “not connected.” And this is what requires the attention of our mindfulness.  How do we begin?

 

In Silence.

What If Nobody Shows Up?

What If Nobody Shows Up………?                         

 Ian and Lady at Pine Gate

It happens.  That unanticipated moment when you – the facilitator – are there, and nobody shows up.  I remember with a mixture of anxiety and humor the first time this happened.  One fall evening I had cleaned the Pine Gate Meditation Hall, set the cushions in a neat semi-circle in front of the simple alter, meditated beforehand, and made sure the notes for the Dharma talk were ready.  And nobody showed up.  At first I thought friends were just a little late, but thirty minutes past the hour convinced me that nobody was coming.  I was disappointed and remained so, until two beautiful beings caught my attention.  My dog, Nikki, and my cat, Lady, were sitting patiently close by me in the meditation hall, waiting for my attention.  They were fully present, only I was not.  When I did notice them, I smiled.  Only then could I look deeply at my thoughts.  What in fact was disappointed?

 

My ego, expectations, habit energies, and mental formations – these were all certainly disappointed.  Yet the moment I smiled to my loving animals, the disappointment began to fade away.  I was left with the insight that of the many elements necessary for a sangha facilitator, on this night it was Equanimity with a capital “E” that I needed most to nurture.  After inviting the bell for Nikki, Lady, myself and absent friends, I meditated on the Four Brahmaviharas – Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity – the Buddha’s teachings on Love – with a particular emphasis on the Fourth one – Equanimity.

 

The following evening, the doorbell rang at 7.00pm and two friends from the sangha came in, followed by another three, then five minutes later by another four.  I welcomed them with surprise at seeing them.  They were puzzled by this welcome, then told me that this was our sangha evening.  I had prepared for them the day before in error!  We all laughed until the tears rolled down our cheeks when I told them the story.  Our meditation and gathering that night became known as the Night Of Warm Smiles And Quiet Chuckles, as once again Nikki and Lady joined us.  Not surprisingly, after meditation, our discussion was about Equanimity.  Of how we can so easily get caught in our projections and mental formations when Equanimity is absent.  Also we shared at length our experiences of its interconnection with Love, Compassion and Joy – the remaining trio of the Four Brahmaviharas.  To make this come alive we all knew that our practice had to become more skillful, drawing on one another’s support. The second track of the Pine Gate Meditations CD is about the Four Brahmiviharas, based on the Buddha’s teachings on Love. The gentle offerings on this hour long CD nurture the heart so that love and understanding are nourished.  The Buddha’s teachings on love were first given to a Hindu Brahmin, who asked the Buddha to tell him how he could be with Brahma, the universal God.  The Buddha replied with a practice devoted to cultivating Love, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity in each moment, and he expounded with great clarity on the nature of these four components, all of which are interconnected.  They are also known as the Four Immeasurable Minds, as the potential expansion of each one is infinite, each one can embrace the entire world and universe.

 

There are many things I could write about Pine Gate sangha practice – our hikes in the forest, finding a quiet place for a Dharma talk, then on to a waterfall for a silent and mindful lunch.  Of the generosity of sangha members as they take their practice out in an engaged manner.  The sangha practices in the true spirit of engaged Budhism with the introduction of mindfulness practice into city schools, and the formation of Citizen’s Coalitions to protect the city environment from inappropriate development, and peace celebration days to bring about an end to war.  The other groups in these Coalitions are quite happy to find a meditation group at their core, and I do believe we assist them with our steadiness There is so much more – yet for me the Evening Of Warm Smiles And Quiet Chuckles after the Day When Nobody Showed Up, provides a benchmark for the qualities actively cultivated as a basis for sangha practice.  Whenever I talk about the Buddha’s Teachings on Love, usually at our Christmas gatherings, the sangha revisits this benchmark.