Postscript for “Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement”.
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My life as a global traveller stretched my attention beyond any limits I could have placed on it. From teenage volunteering in Borneo with Britain’s Peace Corps to being a yogi in India and a Zen teacher in Canada – expansion of mind was inescapable. My challenging journey navigates shamanic healing of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. In my teenage expedition to Sarawak, Borneo, I kept a journal of the vivid surrounds. From that time on I kept journals and scribbled poetry. I eventually had trunks full of journals that reminded me of the experiences I went through, particularly in India.
My extensive shamanic training with First Nations medicine people was also carefully logged. As an anthropologist I was fortunate to encounter many story tellers across North America – Dene, Hopi, Ojibwa, Algonquin, Inuit – to mention a few. Their poetic recounting of myths and history had a deep impact upon me. I would say that without poetry, cultures implode. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhanced my process of remembering the power of the poetic voice. Through their mentoring I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place and consciousness. I also chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious. This impact shows up in my writing.
From this vast range of experience I found an ability to sculpt narrative in a novel way and this was expressed in my poetry and books. I certainly stumbled through the first part of life, but then stood strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. In India, Arizona, France and Canada’s wilderness, I went to great lengths to transform karma and began to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. My journal notes were a signpost to always be authentic, even when it was difficult to re-read. As a professor I wrote text books and scholarly papers, which had particular protocols that were often stifling. When I started late on the writing craft – I had to re-learn how to write without sounding pompous, to be mindful of what the reader could take in. I gave up on footnotes!
I am a Zen teacher, also a recognized guru in India. My initial task is to refine my own consciousness – to be a vehicle to chart an authentic path. If I did not do this, then I could not write the way I do. The focus on daily mindfulness from my Zen practice enables me to be still and clear. From this energy the poems and chapters emerge. I do my best not to write from a space of frustration or of wanting to get the writing finished. I wait until the energy of mindfulness is tangible – then creating the words and text just flow.
My books are epic tales that seamlessly weave together to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers, environmentalists, Generation X and Y, feminists, students and academics alike. I recognized early on that global citizens are staring into the abyss – yet instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them: “Awaken Spiritually,” for that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. Turning on the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea! That is the prod and direction of my poems and books. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of daily life to find the courage and determination to transform. My writing caps a long-term fascination with consciousness. As a Professor I taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Engaged Buddhism and Meditation Systems. I am a healer, mentor and educator, able to encourage people through example to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed. All of this funnels back into my writing.
My hope is that the reader will summon the courage to believe that they can take steps to transform internally and then make a difference externally. The stories I tell are offered as a gift for our planet. My purpose is to share my wealth of experience on how to live in harmony not just with ourselves but with the place we call home… Earth. I shed light on issues that will affect our world for generations to come. The example of my own challenging journey and personal transformation illuminates a path for others to expand their consciousness and chart the course for a future beyond the abyss. The human race does not need to be stuck with maladaptive options and patterns. We can and must transform. My Essays deliver a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become different stewards of the earth and society. In the Sixteen Essays, I offer reality-based information that is in high demand in today’s society, which provides the potential for my projects to become fresh, new icons for today’s hungry culture. Hungry, that is, for authentic transformation. Authenticity is the bottom line, which took a while to register in my career as an academic. It is essential to find one’s authentic voice and not be afraid to express it.
In Essay One my grand-nephew James requested a training program. I offered this 8-point plan.
- You – learn to be silent and quiet! Clear time and space for spiritual practice at home and throughout your daily schedule.
- Create a stress reduction menu and subtract the “weeds” in the garden of your mind.
- Be determined to meditate daily – do the weeding.
- Focus on and soften your heart – nurture the soil of your mind’s garden.
- Cultivate the seeds of mindfulness at home, school, and work or in solitude.
- Simplify, make do with less, de-clutter your mind and home.
- Taste the fruits of your spiritual practice.
- Engage with the world.
This plan for James, or something like it, is a necessary prelude for mindful engagement. Whether it is at home, in community, activism against damaging global structures – some form of reflective quiet enables citizens to connect, reach out and play a part in reconstructing our place on planet earth. To stay on the sidelines doing nothing, creates victims of us all. There is no time to lose. I remember saying to James that “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, intelligence and creative vision to find the drive to create a tangible spirit of co-operation, the willingness to share and be supportive, and learning how to cross the bridges of conflict.
This thread of understanding finds a place in every essay in Our World is Burning. However, the obstacles preventing people taking wise action are a mixture of fear, despair, disempowerment and a sense of hopelessness. The overwhelming terror of Gaia’s collapse, along with the consequences of global refugees and fascist regimes are unbearable. Our challenge is to be in society, but as a still island of mindful engagement. We do not have to be caught by pathological consumerism. Voluntary Simplicity is a good starting place, becoming aware of our consumerism. We can also participate and engage in global protests through organizations such as Avaaz. We take action and get up close and personal with the crises, reduce our ecological footprint, bring ethics into business and the workplace, support science and diversity, and warn governments and corporations.
Where do we start? 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 vigour in our families and communities. Our intentions then spread as ripples from a pebble dropped in still water. In addition to holding officials, politicians and corporate culture to account let us begin with the small things that all of us can do. While at the same time alerting 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 act differently.
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 and all-encompassing 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 a new 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!” Climate Change 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 your making a new beginning for all of us.
Glance at the sun
See the moon
And the stars
Gaze at the beauty
Of the earth’s
Hildergard of Bingen 1098 – 1179