Monthly Archives: February 2017

Foreword Clarion Review of Redemption

Foreword Clarion Review of Redemption               

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

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

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

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

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

Julia Ann Charpentier

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Medicine Mentors in Canada


                       White Eagle Woman

It was during a gathering of elders in 1978 that I first met White Eagle Woman where she announced that she did not like me at all! Her rebuke was perhaps well deserved, given how dense and unaware I must have seemed. My disjointed education and experience with the Native American domain of mysticism did, however, slowly evolve into a seamless pattern rather than remain as random knots stretching across an abyss.

The blunt introduction to White Eagle Woman was a prelude to a thirty year period of training and healing under her guidance. She was a heavy set woman with a round face and long black hair, but it was the air of quiet authority that pervaded her presence that immediately struck me. She rarely smiled, but when she did it illuminated the entire room when her dark eyes lit up with mirth. I was very fortunate to be in her hands. She was the first of three incredible medicine people in Canada who provided me with shamanic training and teachings over the next three decades. White Eagle Woman directed the shamanic process of my healing from childhood sexual abuse, and this allowed the mosaic of the past to start revealing itself.

Shamans and medicine people from far and wide came to consult with White Eagle Woman. Elders from the Amazon would come to see her. She was a holder of the Midewiwin lineage, a secret tradition of medicine people which stretched far and wide across the Americas. At that first encounter at the elder’s gathering she told me about a Vision Quest on her reserve in Sault Ste. Marie in south western Ontario. I was to be there, as she had received instructions from her ancestors to train me. That humbled me and was enough for my attendance.

The eight day Vision Quest began and finished with a sweat lodge. In between were six days of fasting, prayer and ceremony in the wilderness. White Eagle Woman located me in a small grove of birch and oak trees and I had to stay within a strictly designated area. The other seven participants in the Vision Quest were located in a different part of the forest, distant and unseen. I found some level ground for my tarp and strung it over a frame built from what I could find within the grove. I placed my coloured ribbons at each of the four directions, also for the realms of above and below. One of the oak trees became the symbolic stem of my pipe. The bowl of the pipe was a clamshell with tobacco in it. As the sun moved the tree’s shadow, I had to be alert and move the clamshell in the same direction around the base of the tree.

I was very still and silent, observing my territory’s nuances, the leaves, smells, insects and the rain, all while in a constant state of prayer and thanksgiving. White Eagle Woman located herself in a trailer close by for anyone who needed guidance. She indicated that a medicine bear would visit one of us and to report that to her. Time passed in a seamless flow, scarcely existing before we gathered for the final sweat lodge once the Vision Quest was over. On coming off the land, a surprise awaited. I had to consume a half cup of blueberries and then drink vast quantities of a foul tasting concoction created by White Eagle Woman. This was a cleansing medicine to make me throw up the blueberries. It was quite disgusting. Especially for me, as it took a long time before I vomited up the blueberries. White Eagle Woman’s comment to me was terse. She pursed her lips and looked at me quizzically:

“Hmmm – you’re holding on tight to resist the truth you need to know!”

I had no idea what she was referring to. White Eagle Woman asked about the medicine bear. Nobody reported experiencing it. In exasperation she turned to me and announced that she had seen the medicine bear visit me twice. What did I remember? I recalled dreaming about a tall, gangly and somewhat goofy creature that was not a bear to my mind. I had also noticed the creature on another day, out of the corner of my eye, sitting next to the sacred oak tree. White Eagle Woman immediately threw tobacco on the fire to absolve my ignorant gaffe and instructed me that a medicine bear can take on many forms. The goofy creature was the most receptive one for an idiot like me.

Though the medicine bear had been easy on me, White Eagle Woman was certainly not. She chastised my lack of insight while we were all in the sweat lodge. Later on, in private, she quietly revealed the door that had been opened wide due to the medicine bear experience. The visit was to assess whether I was capable of receiving medicine gifts from the past. White Eagle Woman identified the female entity that was trying to come through, as a medicine woman from the American southwest, before white settlement.  She even named her, Trailing Sky, and indicated that this entity was trying to come through to me in this 21st century. Further, that she would bring powerful medicine gifts and I had to find the wisdom to receive them.

The significance of what my mentor was saying did not penetrate very deeply, as I still placed intimations about the feminine in an intellectual, scholarly frame.  The only insight I had was a scholarly one that I was somehow engaging with the anima, a vital reflection of Jungian psychology. The real significance of the anima experience remained buried. White Eagle Woman sensed correctly that I was not open at this time to receive Trailing Sky’s presence, so she advised me to constantly dialogue with the internal feminine, directing me first of all to White Calf Buffalo Woman, a prominent source of Lakota Sioux spirituality. I could grasp that direction along with Carl Jung’s concept of anima, yet did not see that White Eagle Woman was carefully preparing me for a major leap in consciousness.

On a daily basis I followed White Eagle Woman’s instructions. I would come to a stop, look deeply and dialogue with the feminine seeds of knowledge in my consciousness. I listened deeply in the silence to the communications from feminine wisdom within me to address issues and questions. This became my fieldwork of life, observation and understanding the field of consciousness through the eyes of the internal feminine. Silence and skilful deep looking were certainly important, yet I knew that dialogue with the internal feminine was the key. I made diary entries with my questions and dilemmas, doubts and misgivings then waited quietly for a reply from within. I wrote with respect, love and gratitude and anticipated counsel to arise from inside. It was frequently not what I expected, hence my faith in its integrity.

White Eagle Woman also ensured that I trained with other shamans in journeying, so I could eventually create a form that would be acceptable for non-Natives. White Eagle Woman had taught me how to create a mental medicine wheel earlier. I was always to start by bringing into my mind the ancient shaman from the East, then the South, West and North in succession. Finally I was to bring in the ancient shaman from the Centre in. She instructed me to see this as a map in my mind, the foundation for a personal mandala. Next, I was instructed by White Eagle Woman to call forth the animal guides I had personally experienced, again starting from the East. I had experienced many animal guides and told her so. White Eagle Woman retorted with some exasperation:

“Choose the most powerful ones, dammit.”

With that cryptic encouragement, I chose mountain lion in the East, moose in the South, deer in the West and medicine bear in the North, with dolphin and whale below and the great eagles above. The space at the centre of the medicine wheel was a stillpoint, a safety zone and conduit for different time/space conjunctions and the meeting place for my later dialogues with Trailing Sky.

Susan Tatoosh

In 1990, I took a sabbatical leave from my job at Carleton University in Ottawa. In addition to teaching a course at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, I was conducting energy and healing workshops in the city. This led to my offering a retreat in the high plateau area of southern Colorado, near Crestone. Quite a few people had signed up for this but all fell away except one: Susan Tatoosh, elder of the Shuswap First Nation. She was very quiet spoken with a gentle smile that lit up her features. She carried her slim frame with great elegance. The power within her was largely concealed, as I later found out when I became the butt of her exasperation. She knew that her ancestors were instructing her to guide me to realizations I had long ago buried. The retreat turned into a major learning experience for me, as Susan led me to deeper revelations not the other way around as I had expected. We spent time in meditation and ceremony. The arid desert scrub of the high plateau, cut through by small streams, was our backyard. Wherever we walked there was always a gathering of eagles. I did not notice this until Susan pointed out our recurring company. One morning after breakfast she called to me

“Ian, there is someone here to speak with you.”

I went to the door. There was no-one there, or on the pathway.

“Who?” “Where?” She pointed to a large golden eagle on the scrubland close to the house.

“He is there waiting for you.”

I slowly walked over, approached the eagle and squatted down.

“Do you hear anything?” The elder was right behind me.


“Stop thinking. Empty your mind. Do you still not hear?”


“He called you by a name you should remember. Did you hear?


There was a long pause from the elder. She continued: “You’re so useless Ian. From the way you are squatting down your name should be Shits with Eagles.” In exasperation she slapped me on the back of the head and stormed back to the house and watched me from the doorway. I slowly rose to my feet and waited for the eagle to fly. He stayed there right in front of me. Then I felt, or heard him communicate, that I should go to the elder. I did. She was still steamed with me.

“Don’t you realize yet Ian? You were here before and could speak with eagles and other creatures? That’s what the eagle told me and you got nothing.  I will name you rightly as Shits with Eagles. You are so stuck in your own shit in your mind”

I offered to Susan that I had heard the eagle speak as I stood up – to return to the elder. She put her hands on her hips, still fuming:

“Progress at last. Maybe he will come to you in dreamtime and you had better tell me. For now, get out there and listen without any thought in that shit laden mind of yours. Breathe slowly as I have taught you. Stand apart from all notions. Wait. Listen.”

Still I heard nothing, sensed nothing – I just looked at this magnificent creature.

“Speaks with Eagles, we have been waiting for you.”

Where did that voice come from? Was this some kind of trick? I turned round to see Susan smiling. Was she a ventriloquist playing with me? She gestured that I turn my gaze and attention to the eagle. He was preening his feathers, still there within ten feet of me. I took a small step forward and kneeled down so our eyes were on the same level. Not that eagles smile, but it felt as though this one was amused by my discomfort as I knelt on stones and a small cactus. I found it strange that I had sensed the name “Speaks with Eagles.” That was a name bestowed upon me by an Algonquin elder ten years ago in 1980 during a sweat lodge ceremony to reconnect humanity to the Earth Mother. Susan Tatoosh knew about this ceremony and the naming. It was the source of her scornful sarcasm.

The eagle and I stayed like that immobile for an endless moment.

“We protect and guide your direction.”

The voice in my head was deep and resonant. I felt myself going into a sort of trance and wondered if I was hallucinating. What had Susan put in my food at breakfast? Really stupid things I thought of. The great eagle was patient and waited for my thoughts to fade away.

“We will come to you in ways you cannot know. We are at the pinnacle of the medicine wheel that becomes sanctuary for you.”

What medicine wheel? Aaaaah, the one that White Eagle Woman instructed me to create in my mind of course, I get it. Then quickly I came back to stillness, ignoring the ache in my leg muscles and the cactus needle in my left knee. For long moments I gave myself up to this beautiful eagle, not understanding too much at all. Then he gathered himself and launched into flight. I watched him as he flew with huge wing beats over the scrubland towards the southern hills of the Rockies surrounding Crestone. Even when he was out of sight, I just stayed there. Then there were Susan’s hands gently on my shoulders.

“You can stand up now.”

My left knee was bleeding. She led me to the house and applied ice to the knee, which had become quite swollen. She had heard everything and knew I was now open to being tutored by her wisdom. Susan Tatoosh, elder of the Shuswap nation, educated me about Eagle Medicine, as her ancestors had instructed.

            Grandfather William Commanda

Grandfather William Commanda, spiritual elder of the Algonquin nation, taught me about the legends of the Seven Fires Prophecy. He was revered throughout Quebec and Ontario, and created The Circle of All Nations organisation some forty years ago. It was inclusive, as the name implies, and a very unpopular step with many aboriginal groups who had suffered greatly from oppression by the wider society. His vision, however, was clear, to create a global centre for all peoples at the sacred Chaudiere Falls in the city of Ottawa, based on models of healing and reconciliation long established in aboriginal culture. The plans and architecture were carefully drawn together and simply await implementation.

Grandfather had a welcoming spirit and a twinkle of humour in his kind eyes. He was open to everyone who wished to spend time with him and share his wisdom. He taught me what he and other Native American spiritual leaders believe. That present day humanity has entered the Seventh Fire.  A time for hard choices, to either remain on the same destructive course or incubate a major change in consciousness so the Eighth Fire can be ignited. This is an internal Fire for basic human goodness to prevail. The Seven Fires Prophecy is meant for all peoples, to encourage a new generation to fearlessly come together and create a society based on earth wisdom and harmony. I was told by Grandfather that it invokes an end to bloodshed and suffering, the beginning of forgiving and reconciliation. He was the holder of the Seven Fires Prophecy Wampum Belt until he died in 2011. The belt was created in 1400 CE and encodes the potential evolution from the Seventh Fire to the Eighth Fire. I discovered from him that the prophecy was both a warning and an opportunity for reconciliation and change.

Grandfather was a formidable figure and influenced me greatly in the writing of Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves. He provided a generous testimonial. I drew upon the wisdom of the elders to show that human beings are programmed literally with a Failsafe, which will ultimately kick in, unleashed by our very will to survive. The Failsafe I was describing referred to the necessary incorporation of the Eighth Fire into everyday life. He was also a trickster with a wicked sense of humour. Grandfather warned me, with a hint of mischief, that I would receive a visit from the Thunder Beings that would scare the hell out of me and totally confuse everyone else.

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community in Ottawa, where I am the resident Zen teacher, had for some years participated in an annual sweat lodge ceremony. Just before 2004’s winter set in, we entered into an extraordinary inipi experience. On a rain swept day, nine members of the Pine Gate community travelled to a remote location in the Gatineau Hills to meet the lodge keeper, Roy Barnes. Grandfather had first introduced me to him at the sweat lodge I was invited to participate in to reconnect humanity with the Earth Mother. Roy was the fire-keeper for that ceremony on Victoria Island next to the sacred Chaudiere Falls, the location for Grandfather’s vision to establish a centre for the Circle of All Nations.

Roy was trained in the Lakota Sioux tradition and was also a Sun Dance leader. We were joined by four Dene Chiefs from the Northwest Territories as well as by five members of Roy’s First Nations community. I felt these two sets of nine as one body of eighteen. Despite the relentless rain, the fire heated the grandfather rocks beautifully. The ceremony began with blessings and purification. In the first round I was asked to speak about my work for peace and reconciliation and to extend a welcome to the Dene chiefs from the far north of Canada. One of the chiefs replied and honoured me for setting in motion the reconciliation between traditions and cultures. There was an auspicious energy present from the get-go that soon turned into a startling reality. In the third round, as the men offered prayers for the Earth, thunderclaps exploded overhead and a lightning bolt struck the sweat lodge, travelling underground into the fire pit. No one was hurt or injured, but we all felt the ground shake underneath us, like a mini earthquake.

After the completion of the fourth round, we emerged from the sweat lodge quite shaken yet knew something awesome had taken place. The fire keeper tending to the rocks and wood for the fire recounted how the entire sky turned a bright yellow when the lightning bolt struck the sweat lodge. In the weeks and months that followed, Roy and the Dene chiefs consulted with elders and medicine people about the events of this inipi ceremony. They were told that this was a Thunder Beings lodge, a mark of respect for whoever had been honoured inside the inipi. Most elders had only heard of this in legend and offered honour to whoever received this blessing from the Thunder Beings. When this was told to me, I placed the honour on the Dene Chiefs and the lodge keeper. They stated firmly that this was for me also. We had all been marked by this auspicious visit from the Thunder Beings. Roy later related to me that the medicine people and Sun Dancers across the country honoured the work I do by keeping me in their prayers so that I would be protected. I was humbled by this unexpected source of support.            



Redemption: The Movie

Redemption: The Movie

My book – Redemption – has caught the interest of an American filmmaker. The screenplay script has been commissioned to bring the epic character of Callum Mor to the widescreen.  This is the first book in a trilogy – Chronicles of Awakening. Book Two is Trailing Sky Six Feathers, Book Three is New Planet, New World. All available through my website

Here is a brief overview.

About Book One: Redemption

Redemption was a lost manuscript first written in 1975.  It was soon forgotten, as back then, I did not know how to get published. This heartfelt novel was rediscovered by accident in 2011. I found it in an old filing cabinet where it was gathering dust. I went through it and could scarcely believe it was such a good read. I requested my wife and friends with critical eyes to read it, just in case I was dreaming. One friend cried all the way through, the other mused about the film to be made. Modern technology enabled the yellowing typed manuscript to be transformed into a computer-ready document. The narrative was vivified from my writer’s eye some forty years later, yet still stands pristine as when first written. The story is an allegory for the life difficulties I experienced at that time, forty years ago. The surprise for me was how could I have written such a book about Awakening while in a desperate state of mind? I was a total mess with a failing marriage in the Hebrides, Scotland, and trying to create a career at Carleton University in Canada. I was not doing a good job with either.

Redemption is set in The Hebrides, islands off the northwest coast of Scotland, with startling cycles of maturing and downfall of the epic character, Callum Mor. He was a gifted child, master mariner and derelict drunk, who eventually gains wisdom from a hard life’s journey. He enters the dark zone of alcoholism and withdraws from society. With only his animals keeping him this side of sanity, he survives in a bleak solitude. Laced with grim humor, the novel has nature’s harsh and beautiful rhapsody as the background for tragic human failings; violence, power, murder, rape and madness. The failings are ultimately topped by the triumph of the human spirit. A family with a young girl seeks refuge from a storm at his house and slowly Callum Mor steps away from self-destruction to an astonishing awareness that triumphs over his tragedies. He saves the girl’s life in a blizzard and the glimmer of awakening dawns in him to set the stage for the final drama that illustrates the resilience of the human spirit.

Redemption is a deeply moving tale of desolation, love, loss, transformation and hope. It reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and of human nature. Its starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world. The rich cast of characters offers numerous gripping interludes that brim with interpersonal drama. The story centers on and is always connected to Callum Mor, but he is surrounded and influenced by a fantastic cast of family and fellow islanders. They provide a deep well of material as their conflicts and intrigues move the plot forward and offer a vast array of powerfully emotional moments. The story arcs of other characters in the novel offer intriguing counterpoints to one another and to Callum Mor. Their hopes, desires and difficulties intermingle in a tumultuous tapestry of human existence.

The narrative tone is generally quiet and introspective, but it is frequently punctuated by storms both literal and metaphorical. Loaded with the symbolism often found in parables, Redemption alludes to more than what is openly stated. Every scene provides a striking visual clarity that mystically slips into the realm of timeless storytelling. All of this provokes the tapestry for deeper, more subtle messages of compassion and faith to carefully unfold. From the rhapsody of an idyllic childhood through traumatic tragedies to the derelict zone of alcoholism and then a state of awakening, I depict the stations of a personal Calvary that ultimately leads to Redemption.

Dr. Tom Hagen, his wife Sian and daughter Catriona comprise the family taking refuge at Callum Mor’s house. They are writ large in the final book. I place them in New Planet, New World in the near future of 2080. Dr. Hagen becomes the chef-de-mission of the International Space Agency mission to settle on a planet in a nearby galaxy. Tom, Sian and Catriona move from a minor key in Book One to a massive symphony in Book Three, as their characters fill New Planet, New World to the brim.




Through The Eyes of a Terrified Boy

My grand-nephew James was recently celebrating his birthday, yet he felt awful and very sad about being nine, wishing he could stay five years old forever. When asked why, he replied that if he could stay five then the Earth would not explode. His lips quivered and the tears welled up in his large brown eyes. He said, “I don’t want to grow up and live in a world that is burning.” In the silence that stretched between us I could not say that my generation will fix things. He was much too intelligent for such placebos. So I spoke to him about the mindfulness community I created and the deliberate steps taken for planetary care. We simplify, make do with less, share and adapt. Our 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 and asked what else did the community do?

            I pointed out that we encourage Voluntary Simplicity and Community Ethics as a way of life. We start with the Earth. Our big organic garden produces an abundance of vegetables, apples and flowers that are shared with neighbors and community members. It is a solace for me to spend time with the Earth, observing bumblebees and butterflies while gardening with assistance from neighborhood children. At the back of the garden is a beautiful fountain that murmurs ‘midst the flowers, which are picked and sent to the elderly folk living on our crescent. A solar panel on the roof 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. Our focus is on mindfulness in schools, city environment and teens at risk. I admitted to James that I am blown away by the results, for at the local level there were great women who helped make things happen.

“You mean girl power?” asked James incredulously.

“Exactly that,” I replied and told him that I have written elsewhere that the present millennium  is the century of the daughters, not so much as a gender separate thing, but as attributes of a holistic, nurturing presence of mind.

The idea is to foster a strong cadre of people in Ottawa to make a difference for the betterment of society and the Earth Mother. Women are in the forefront of this endeavor. They are the heart that holds the living waters and that heart is the dynamic epicentre that leads to effective action. James was taking it all in. He knew instinctively that major changes were needed. I intimated that when enough of us change, then we will be in charge. I told him about a speech I gave about violent and pathological consumption. His sharp mind held on to every word as I pointed out that festive occasions like Christmas provide opportunities for the best and the worst within us to come out and play. Yet kindness is quickly overshadowed by selfishness and consumer madness. We need to re-assess, as it is time to move on from being self-absorbed and distracted.

“How?” he asked again, as he really wanted to know. So I gave him a list.

Locate in something bigger than oneself; a humanitarian cause, respecting the earth, making our thinking better, being kinder and more generous. How about examining our habits about gift giving and learn to give gifts that make a difference?  I pointed out to James that I no longer buy Christmas gifts, instead present gift certificates that provide items like education for a girl in Afghanistan, micro-loans for female led families, rebuild forests in Haiti, literacy packages and mosquito nets where needed, support for Habitat for Humanity and so on.

One boy on the crescent where I live has received such gifts from me for several years. For his most recent birthday he asked all his friends not to give 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. This resonated with James.

“James, the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others at this time of global crises is Sharing and Caring. It involves stepping onto what the Buddhists call the Bodhisattva Path.” I explained that a Bodhisattva was a person who stayed in the global mess and did their best to awaken the minds and hearts of people. I firmly stated that it is time for the Bodhisattva-within-us to enter the 21st century as the example for action. It takes training, practice, smartness and creative vision.

“You mean like Jedi training?” he enquired. I nodded with a smile. I referred briefly to my years of training in ashrams and monasteries in India and France. I confided that the real kicker for me was the time spent alone in the Canadian wilderness. I promised to talk to him about this at some future time.

Then he asked, “So what is the big deal about violent consumption?” I replied that it totally dominates our planet, mind and body. “How do we change this mad destruction of the planet?” James exclaimed. I wondered how best to explain matters to him, yet trusted his intelligence.

I said, “We must come to a stop, locate ourselves in stillness and make different choices by examining our minds, consumption patterns and then see how we actually participate in creating these terrible disasters.”

“Just how?” was his one line mantra.

“You can start by making friends with your breath,” I said. James looked up at me quizzically. “You just bring your focus to your in-breath, then on your out-breath. Really concentrate and do this ten times. This kind of focus peels away anxiety, frustration and anger so that you become calm and clear. Try it with me and notice the difference for yourself.”

He did so, nodded and grinned with agreement. I told James that 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 is shaped by the actions we take at this moment. I looked at James and indicated that was plenty for him to digest, but he yelled, “No, I want to hear more.”

I could not turn away from his eagerness. I mentioned that if rampant consumption remains our deepest desire we will have a degraded planet that will certainly blow up. His fears were correct. Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day and so on are targeted by the captains of industry for optimal retail returns, and pathological consumerism is fuelled to the max. At Christmas we are far removed from remembering the significance of this spiritual celebration. Endless economic growth, the mantra of modern civilization, provides a promise of expectations being met without any awareness of consequences for our own health or the health of the planet.  If we do not simplify, make do with less and change, then the vicious downward spiral to a burning world would definitely occur.

“Is this your Buddhism?” James then asked.

I smiled, “The Buddha was very smart. He taught that the world is always burning, but burning with the fires of greed, anger and foolishness. His advice was simple; drop such dangers as soon as possible. What the Buddha taught was that it was the unskillful speech, selfish feelings, negative mental formations, wrong perceptions and badass consciousness that burned the world.

James laughed, “Did the Buddha really use the term badass?”

I grinned and said that was my embellishment.

“Is climate change our basic problem then?” he asked.

I paused for a moment before replying. “The basic issue is whether we can adapt to climate change. You know about the 2015 Paris Accord on Climate Change as we have discussed it before.” James nodded. “It was an exceptional step by the international community, dedicating their intent to prevent global temperatures from rising a further 1.5 degrees. What was missing from all the deliberations and press releases was a candid recognition of the “Cascade Effect,” a notion from ecological science. Tipping points in sea level rise and temperature connect to tipping points in air pollution, which connect to tipping points in polar ice melt, boreal forest wildfires and triggers further tipping points that create deforestation, desertification and so on in a relentless cascade that cannot be stopped. The reality in front of us is not the reversal of Climate Change. The question is about learning how to adapt to the consequences of Climate Change.”

I emphasized to James that the disasters all over the world reinforce each potency to explode. Whether it is wildfires, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tsunamis, millions of aquatic creatures dead on beaches, it goes on relentlessly. The media and news reporters cast science to the wind when they report the drama and hype of terrible things happening world-wide but rarely tell the truth that, “Here is another manifestation of Climate Change.” News programs are often showbiz and full of fake news, so the general public are not educated by the media about the terrible realities happening on our planet.

I continued speaking on a personal note, “So James, the challenge for me is to be in society, but as a still island of mindfulness. Take small steps at first, then larger ones. We just need to make essential changes in energy use, diet, language, media and outreach. Voluntary Simplicity is a good starting place. It means making deliberate choices about how we spend time and money rather than living on the automatic pilot of busyness. Enjoy being simple and living modestly by shifting our perceptions just a little bit.  Just look deeply into what we do with time, money, clutter and our choices, and change.  The world will follow.”

I assured James that we are equal to the task and chose not to 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.