All posts by iprattis

About iprattis

Author, Professor Emeritus, Ambassador for Peace. Spiritual Warrior for planetary care, peace and social justice. Zen teacher, poet, scholar, guru in India.. Public talks and retreats around the world. Ian encourages people to find their true nature, so that humanity and the world may be renewed. Founder of Friends for Peace: www.friendsforpeace.ca Ian - a poet and scholar, peace and environmental activist – was born on October 16, 1942, in Great Britain, Ian grew up in Corby, a tough steel town populated by Scots in the heartland of England’s countryside. Cultural interface was an early and continuing influence. Ian was an outstanding athlete and scholar at school, graduating with distinctions in all subjects and was dux of the high school – top graduating student. He did not stay to collect graduating honours, as at seventeen years old he travelled to Sarawak, Borneo, with Voluntary Service Overseas (1960–1962) - Britain’s Peace Corps. He loved the immersion in the myriad cultures of Sarawak and was greatly amused by the British colonial mentality, which he did not share. He worked in a variety of youth programs as a community development officer, and also explored the headwaters of Sarawak’s major rivers, with expeditions into Indonesian Borneo. He was acutely embarrassed to be written up in the home press as “Boy Explorer Discovers Central Borneo!” He knew he had not discovered anything, that Kayan tribesmen had kept him safe. He had an acute sensitivity and respect for other cultures and traditions, and knew he was privileged to be with skilled guides and trackers. He was adopted by the Kayan tribe as one of their own in Northern Sarawak and part of the initiation was the right to have an extensive tattoo on his left forearm, commemorating his journeys. Ian politely declined this honour, stating that it was not his custom. As a teen, he had a clear idea of who he was, though that clarity was frequently challenged and occasionally lost later in life. Returning to Great Britain after Sarawak was an uneasy transition. He did, however, manage to stumble through an undergraduate degree in anthropology at University College London (1962–1965), before continuing with graduate studies at Balliol College, Oxford (1965–1967). At Oxford, academics took a back seat to the judo dojo (where he earned a University Blue), rugby field, bridge table and the founding of irreverent societies at Balliol. Yet by the time he pursued doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia (1967–1970), his brain switched on. He renewed his passion for other cultures, placing his research on North West Coast cultures within a mathematical, experimental domain that the discipline of anthropology was not ready for. Being at the edge of new endeavours was natural to him, and continues to be so. He was a Professor of Anthropology and Religion at Carleton University in Ottawa from 1970 to 2007. Fieldwork amongst North West Coast American aboriginal populations and North Atlantic fishing communities was an early focus. Over the past thirty years an interest in native land claims has lead to ongoing fieldwork in Indian and Inuit communities, with an emphasis on training native leaders to conduct their own research process. He has worked with diverse groups all over the world and has a passion for doing anthropology. “It’s better than having a real job,” he says “everything changes, and the only limits are your imagination and self discipline.” His career trajectory has curved through mathematical models, development studies, hermeneutics, poetics and symbolic anthropology, to new science and consciousness studies. The intent was always to expand, and then cross, existing boundaries, to renew the freshness of the anthropological endeavor and make the discipline relevant to the individuals and cultures it touches. His highly acclaimed television course on “Culture and Symbols” drew on his novel perspectives, and Ian is exploring the possibilities of delivering the twelve videotapes of the course through an Internet homepage - a prototype for the Electronic University of the Future — no boundaries. His millennium project for the year 2000 created another twelve part television course on “Ecology and Culture.” This educational enterprise produces a cadre of environmental activists each year. In their final assignment, students are asked to select an ecological issue, then write a thousand word letter to a head of government, or CEO of a polluting industry, or to a Director of an environmental NGO. After careful research on the organization and ecological issue, students state specifically what they want the recipient of the letter to do. Students, by and large, send these letters and begin to translate their awareness about ecosystems and globalization into action – as does their teacher. The up and coming hard rock/blues band – SLYDE – has a keyboardist who was a student. SLYDE released a CD in 2011 titled Feed The Machine. It was inspired by the class text: The Essential Spiral: Ecology and Consciousness After 9/11. Who knows what they will do with the later books! He studied Tibetan Buddhism with Lama Tarchin in the early 1980’s, Christian meditation with the Benedictines, and was trained by Native American medicine people and shamans in their healing practices. He also studied the Vedic tradition of Siddha Samadhi Yoga, and taught this tradition of mediation in India (1996–1997). He was ordained as a teacher and initiator – the first Westerner to receive this privilege – and is recognized in India as a guru – Prem Chaitania. Since meeting Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master – he found a way to take his experiences much deeper within himself. He received the Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh and is an ordained Dharmacharya (teacher) in that tradition, giving dharma talks and retreats around the world. He has trained with Masters in Buddhist, Vedic and Shamanic traditions. He encourages people to find their true nature, so that humanity and the world may be renewed. He has taught children’s meditation courses as well as adult and advanced retreats from coast to coast in Canada. He travels widely on this beautiful planet and gives talks and retreats in Canada, India, Europe, the USA and South America. The basic commitment he holds is to make the world a beautiful place by encouraging people to embrace their true nature. His teaching focuses on the spiritual issues of the day and honors all traditions At the outbreak of the Iraq war he founded Friends for Peace Canada www.friendsforpeace.ca - a coalition of meditation, peace, activist and environmental groups to work for peace, planetary care and social justice. He is also the editor of an online Buddhist Journal and the resident Zen teacher of a meditation community, Pine Gate Sangha. www.ianprattis.com/pinegate.htm He received the 2011 Ottawa Earth Day Environment Award on behalf of Pine Gate Sangha. He writes poetry and had an edited collection published in 1985 – “Reflections: The Anthropological Muse.” The meditation teacher is not separate from the professor or the global citizen. He has six children and fourteen grandchildren from his first marriage. Later in life, as a respite, he lived in a hermitage in Kingsmere, Quebec, in the middle of Gatineau Park forest when his pet wolf was alive. Some day a retreat centre will flourish midst the lakes and hills of this incredibly beautiful area. His interests include cross-country skiing, hiking, canoeing and caring for the world of nature. He also enjoys Qi-Gong, gardening, playing baseball and swimming with dolphins. Ian now lives with his present wife Carolyn in the west end of Ottawa where the Pine Gate Meditation Hall is located in the lower level of their home. Since retiring from the university in 2007 he has authored four books on dharma, two on the environment, a novel and a legend/autobiographical combo and enjoys the freedom to create at his own pace. He has yet to discern the ordinary meaning of retirement!

Great Review for Poetry

Another Great Review – OnlineBookClub.org

ORDER BOOK: http://ianprattis.com/PaintingWithWords.html

Painting with Words by Ian Prattis is a collection of poems written at different times throughout the writer’s life. This collection is divided into six parts each one with a different theme. Every part is unique and deeply emotional with an extraordinary aesthetic that I’ve never come across in poetry before.

I really enjoyed the variety of themes, feelings, and lessons I received by reading this book. The first part “Bittersweet” is, in my opinion, the most melancholic. It’s the dark side of the poet who seeks consolation in writing poems to overcome his frustration and sadness. Soon after that, our writer takes us to wonderful landscapes to calm our troubled souls. “Painting with words” is the second part, and it’s literally a series of beautiful images illustrated with words. This part is a great reminder of how beautiful our world is if we just stop and behold it for a while. My personal favorite part is “Speaking of True Love”. As a romantic soul myself, I couldn’t help but adore each and every poem in this part. I could clearly see the depths of the poet’s love for his wife since every poem of this part is inspired by her. She is obviously his muse, and they have a beautiful love story that makes every poem even more sentimental and meaningful. The other parts are “Agua Viva”, “Footsteps of Buddha”, and “Ancient Wisdom”. I won’t give more details of these ones as I want readers to discover for themselves the rest of this collection.

What I can say though, is that after you finish reading this book you’ll probably find yourselves knowing the poet like he is your old friend. Every part is a different piece of Prattis’ puzzled life. He made sure to share every emotion and experience he had with us, and I think that is really brave and beautiful.

Reading this book was definitely an emotional roller coaster. The first part almost made me cry, especially the poem “ The Old Mare”. Some poems will make you think and others will put a smile on your face without realizing it. I’m sure everyone would find a poem to his liking in this collection. Furthermore, what I really appreciated while I was reading this book, was that the author, before every part, wrote an introduction. In those introductions, he explains why he wrote each poem, what inspired him, and what he was trying to achieve by writing it. This is extremely helpful because many times I find myself devaluing a poem since I can’t understand what it means. I also got to know the mentality of the poet better. I also loved the fact that the book starts with a poem dedicated to a Muse. This used to be a custom back in Ancient Greece when poets and writers asked inspiration from the Muse of writing. As a Greek, I’m very honored that a foreign poet decided to do that as well.

Overall, it’s clear to see that I loved every minute of reading Painting with Words. There was nothing not to like in this collection of poems. I actually read it twice, and I’m planning on reading it many more times. Moreover, I was pleased to see that it was exceptionally well edited. Thus, I’m happily giving this book 4 out of 4 stars. For those of you who love poetry, you should definitely give it a try. However, please keep in mind that some of those poems have curse words and some are hard to understand, so I wouldn’t recommend this book to an underage audience. Last but not least, many of these poems represent a Buddhist lifestyle and interpretation, so if you are offended by that, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this collection.

******
Painting with Words 
View: on Bookshelves

Smash Hit for Poetry Volume

Five Star Review

Reviewed By Kathryn Bennett for Readers’ Favorite

Painting with Words, Poetry for a New Era by Ian Prattis is a collection of poems that is split into six parts, each part having its own distinct theme. This collection of poems takes the reader through the full gamut of human emotions. The author has masterfully used his own life experience to transport the reader through this journey, while striving to leave a mark directly on the reader’s heart. Take the spiritual journey with the author and you may find yourself on your own journey as well.

I have to be fully honest in saying I read this book three times before settling in to write this review. Each time I felt like I uncovered another layer with the collection of poems that I had missed the last time through. To me, there is something truly magical about a work that can do that. The poems within this book are clearly very personal and strike right at the heart of the journey the author himself has taken in life, and yet it also has an ability to resound with others. The title painting with words is truly a perfect description of this poetry collection; you can see the images come to life before your eyes as you read. It was truly a pleasure to be able to read this collection of poems and it has inspired me to look back on some poetry I used to write and perhaps to start doing so again. I would highly recommend this book to any reader who loves a journey and wants to find themselves mesmerized by the written word. 

ORDER BOOK: http://ianprattis.com/PaintingWithWords.html

5 Star Roll for “Painting With Words”

Another 5 Star Review of Painting with Words, Poetry for a New Era by Ian Prattis

 BOOK REVIEW

Five Stars 

 Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

Painting With Words, Poetry for a New Era is a book of inspirational verses written and compiled by poet Ian Prattis. Shying away from the old fashioned traditions of symbolism and imagery, the work expresses an emotional outcry in a raw and direct form, creating powerful auditory moments to express the highs and lows of the human condition, as our author sees and experiences them. The work is separated into six themed sections, travelling through different moments in recent history as the author experiences them, reflects upon them, and reaches different emotional conclusions along his journey to full discovery. What results is a work which runs the full spectrum of emotional consideration, taking a singular, personal experience and reaching for the qualities which make it universal to all.

One of the things which I found unexpectedly delightful about this work was the strong and recurrent connection to nature that Ian Prattis strives for. Whilst many of the works pertain to some of humanity’s most unkind acts towards one another, unveiling the true greed and violence we are capable of as a species, others look beyond these base defects to consider the potential for good that we have if we can reconnect our spirits to nature. The poems are direct in address, but spiritual and philosophical in the message which they leave lingering afterwards. Overall, Painting With Words, Poetry for a New Era, presents an optimistic new viewpoint with a clear and engaging emotional progression of how it came to be.

 “Painting with Words, Poetry for a New Era” Order through: http://ianprattis.com/PaintingWithWords.html  To avoid shipping costs, Ottawa area friends can get a signed copy directly from the author –your purchase enables you to take home a prior book or Meditation CD home for FREE, as a special thank you.

 

5 STAR Review of “Painting with Words”

Painting with Words, Poetry for a New Era 

BOOK REVIEW

 5 Star – Reviewed By Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite                                                 

 Painting with Words, Poetry for a New Era by Ian Prattis is a collection of poems that are thematically arranged and that reflect the very soul of humanity, filled with imagery and rhythms that mimic the different seasons of the human soul. The poems in this collection bear witness to what readers feel, perhaps in the hushed hours of the day; emotions, thoughts, feelings, and realities for which they find no language. This poet succeeds in capturing moments of reality that allow readers to connect with the things he writes about. The voice is powerful, the poetic lines rhythmic, and the entire collection is filled with powerful imagery. I love the depth in Ian Prattis’ poetry and the beauty in the rhythm and the richness of its diction. For instance: “A week in the life/ of a poem/ has words racing to knowing’s edge.” Here is another: “Phrases creep / over the dawn of logic, / suspended, then gone.”

Painting with Words, Poetry for a New Era opens new portals into reality. It is highly imaginative and the author articulates brilliantly on a variety of themes, from denouncing the horrors of war, to celebrating the seemingly mundane moments of life, to capturing the relationship between humanity and nature. Each poem is unique, expressing a thought, a reality, a moment in existence in a succinct manner. Some of the poems are very personal while others are universal in nature. This collection is as delightful as it is meaningful. You will read these poems and find yourself going back to them.

“Painting with Words, Poetry for a New Era” Order through: http://ianprattis.com/PaintingWithWords.html  To avoid shipping costs, Ottawa area friends can get a signed copy directly from the author –your purchase enables you to take home a prior book or Meditation CD home for FREE, as a special thank you.

 

 

Back Cover of Painting with Words: Poetry for a New Era

It is exciting to be putting the final strokes on the poetry volume. 40 years in the making – quite a surprise for me. The mug shot and Back Cover of the book displayed in this blog.

Ian Prattis was able to sift through his forty year opus of poetry written all over the world. He divides it into six moods of life, presenting experiences in all their varied richness – a curious wonder about the world of poetry into which the reader is ushered.

He has experienced truly extraordinary things, blessed with the gift of writing. He is a Poet, Global Traveler, Founder of Friends for Peace, Guru in India, Zen teacher and Spiritual Warrior for planetary care, peace and social justice. Ian presently lives in Ottawa, Canada and encourages people to find their true nature, so that humanity and the planet may be renewed. He mostly stays local to help turn the tide in his home city so that good things begin to happen spontaneously.  He is an award winning author of seventeen books. His books are screenplay-worthy epic tales that weave together seamlessly to create inspiration for global citizens staring into the abyss. His writing delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become responsible stewards of the earth and society.  His poetry, memoirs, fiction, articles, blogs and podcasts appear in a wide range of venues.

Beneath the polished urban facade remains a part of human nature that few acknowledge, because it is easier to deny the basic instincts that have kept us alive on an unforgiving earth. Ian Prattis bravely goes there in his outstanding literary work. His books, essays and poetry are a memorable experience for anyone who enjoys reading about primordial tendencies. A stone tossed into the waters of life.

Painting with Words – Part Two

My poetry volume will be out soon. It contains six distinct moods. I give a description of Part Two, which also provides the title of the book. One poem follows the intro……..

PART TWO: PAINTING WITH WORDS

I remember as a child how I blithely assumed that nature walked me when I cut school to roam the forest and rivers near my home. It brings back memories of stretching time as I explored nature’s domain. I still retain that childhood naivety about the web of life. I have always talked to birds, animals, trees, rocks and the planet. My speaking to nature provided me with an awesome, humbling sense of interconnectedness.

I have been an environmentalist all my life, long before I knew what the word meant. It emerged from an intrinsic love of nature and rapport with animals. I was often late for school, as the flowers and songbirds in the hedgerows captivated my attention, particularly in springtime, when creativity and new life exploded into being. I once attempted to explain my lateness in these terms to my schoolteacher. I was kept in at recess for my seemingly troublesome nature and made to write out 100 lines of “I will not be late for school.” I adorned my punishment schedule with drawings of birds and spring buds, and was then made to repeat the punishment. I did not understand this adult world, nor did I like it. Something in me persisted. I redid my lines, once again drawing birds on branches opening their beaks to sing joyously. I was kept in at recess for an entire week for my stubbornness, yet refused to let go of my feelings for nature. Eventually the teacher gave up on punishing me for my drawings. I was eight years old, and that is when I learned to mistrust authority figures solely concerned with control and power.

As a child I had special relationships with wild animals, in particular with one otter and a family of hedgehogs that I kept under my bed. My parents were long suffering over the stray animals I brought home, but their patience was severely stretched over the hedgehogs. The hedgehogs had to be returned to the hedgerow when I became infested with their fleas, which I passed on to my immediate family, classmates, and also to a particular schoolteacher that I was delighted to so infest!

My passion for nature was solitary; it had no encouragement from any quarter because it needed none. I have subsequently made studies of wolf and dolphin behavior, and was “adopted” by a wolf. When I first met him he was running free in the coastal mountains of British Columbia. He immediately claimed ownership — I was his! After showing me his mountain habitat and uncannily appearing every time I visited the Mt. Currie area, he chose to live with me in my hermitage in Gatineau Park forest in Quebec. It had become clear that he was a lone wolf and not part of a pack. It was in his mind to live with me in my forest home in Eastern Canada. How did he know I lived in Gatineau Park Forest in Quebec? I gave him the highly original name of “Wolfie”!

The fascination with dolphins led to many adventures, studying and swimming with them in their oceanic habitat, ranging from the Outer Hebrides in the North Atlantic, to the Java Sea north of Bali, and in the Pacific Ocean off Maui and Vancouver Island.  I was always exhilarated and totally humbled by their magnificent presence.  For me nature was never to be conquered and mastered, it was simply to see my place in a vast, interconnected, and changing web of life. 

Autumn

Trees. Dead.

Stretching fingers to the sky in pain.

Waiting for the return,

that time of warmth and renewal long forgotten,

as Fall merges with Winter’s severity.

 

The waning sky casts hues and movement to

the stillness in the lake.

Promise of a more gentle time, where winter’s cruelty

is cast aside by buds of flowers,

that insist on their dominion.

 

The evening moon,

a delicate mistress, sees it all.

The clear diamond light of spring

anticipating the aging leaves left

behind by Autumn,

shared with Summer’s bounty.

All waiting for the icy hand of Winter

to banish Autumn from the land.

 

Gatineau Forest, Quebec, 1978

 

Painting with Words

                                                         

When I published my last book, Our World is Burning, I thought I would study the writing craft more deeply. But first I had to clean out my filing cabinet, which was a total mess. I tossed stuff out and then came across a yellowing folder. It was full of forty years of my poems. Most of it was garbage but there were enough gems to create a volume made from six very different moods. This one comes from Part 5: Speaking of True Love. The volume will be published early in 2019.

Dance of the Eyes

Behind a plow of words a poet drives a furrow,

never straight.

Phrases spiral upwards as an eagle soars in a sky

with no horizon or meter.

 

Cascading into passages that hover,

tracing cosmic runes at the edge of knowing.

Words drift by on the morning mist,

a whisper of wind haunts every thought I breathe.

 

Enter the Muse – waiting wondrous so long

to grant life to this poem on dancing with the eyes

 

Slow pirouette of eyes turning en pointe,

knowing glimpses dancing with joy.

Our soft spoken adoration blows on dandelions,

creating parasols drifting to fertile ground.

 

The waltz of happiness, exhilaration of vigorous reels

leave all sadness behind –

a funeral march to banish pain elsewhere.

That was all before our eyes danced together.

 

My life lives in each glance of your eyes.

Cradled in the mosaic of green lustre smiling from you.

Gently lifting my heart you reach how deep

we bind together.

 

Connecting where the universe begins and ends.

 

Delicate curves of elegant quadrilles, staccato intensity of flamenco

and the peace of loving serenade.

We dance with our eyes, sneezy jive, convulsive samba,

cheek to cheek smooch.

 

All in place, this dance of our eyes

 

France, August 2001

Ian Prattis is a Zen teacher, poet and author. For his books go to www.ianprattis.com

Wise Words from Joanna Macy 

“Yes, it looks bleak. But you are still alive now. You are alive with all the others, in this present moment. And because the truth is speaking in the work, it unlocks the heart. And there’s such a feeling and experience of adventure. It’s like a trumpet call to a great adventure. How do we begin to deal with the plastic in the ocean that covers areas the size of countries? What are cell phones and microwaves doing to our biological rhythms? What exactly is in our food? How do we address genetic modification of crops? We are so hooked on all of this, on every level. How do we begin to contain it?

Carrying capacity is the level most people talk about. It’s a defining aspect of the climate crisis. How will we grow the food we need given huge variations and extremities of weather? How will we handle the natural disasters and famines that will result from a chaotic climate? The deeper level is that consequences will extend far beyond the collapse of this civilization. The third level of crisis is the enormous increase in the rate of extinctions – creating a loss of biodiversity so extreme that we can glimpse the doom of complex life forms. It takes highly differentiated, integrated and diverse systems to produce life forms complex enough for consciousness. The fourth level of crisis would be the destruction of everything more complex than anaeorobic life forms, because of the loss of our oxygen production in the oceans and on land.

Our little minds think it must be over, but the very fact that we are seeing it is enlivening. We know we can’t possibly see the whole thing, because we are just one part of a vast interdependent whole–one cell in a larger body. So we don’t take our own perceptions as the ultimate. My world view has been so interwoven between the Buddhist teachings and living systems theory. They inform each other so powerfully. But even in Buddhism, where impermanence is a matter of course, there are no obvious concepts to deal with super-impermanence, in the sense that humans are now bringing an end to the Cenozoic era. In the best case, there may be an Ecozoic era to follow it. Continuing on our “business-as-usual” trajectory will acidify the oceans and trigger runaway global heating, epic mass extinction and a completely new cycle of geological time. A few climate scientists consider we may have already entered into runaway climate change.

So the choice is how to live now. With the little time left, we could wake up more. We could allow this whole experience of the planet, which is intrinsically rewarding, to manifest through our heart-minds—so that the planet may see itself, so that life may see itself. Unfortunately the dominant institution of our time has been created in the image of a psychopath, and it is legally mandated to behave as such. The American broadcast media is thoroughly controlled by corporate ownership or advertising revenue. They have reduced the population to a state of such stupidity. The experiential work, is to help people make friends with uncertainty, and reframe it as a way of coming alive. Because there are never any guarantees at any point in life.

And as far as Buddhism is concerned, I find that Western Buddhists tend to privatize their practice, and look for what I call premature equanimity. They go for peace of mind and that is such an inadequate response. A major change is the relevance people are now finding in Native American teachings. There’s a deep respect for the wisdom that is there, and for the nobility of character that it fostered. I think that it is a precious addition to our triple gem—this fourth gem of our time—that the native peoples are speaking out.”

See also:  http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

Our World is Burning is an inspiring and informative read. Ian Prattis offers us valuable insight, wisdom and perspective in finding our way to a healthier world, one based on compassion and commitment, mindful of how everything we do impacts the whole.

  • Laurence Overmire, Author of “The One Idea That Saves The World”

 

Vesak Ottawa Project on Mindfulness

I will present a session on Mindfulness at the Ottawa Public Library, at Laurier/Metcalfe branch. Saturday, September 15, 12.30pm – 1.45pm, Main Room B 125. There are 35 seats available. Register by clicking on the green Register button to the right of the page. Enter your library bar code number and PIN (usually the last 4 digits of their phone number) & click on Register again. https://biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/event/mindfulness-dr-ian-prattis

Lalith Gunaratne will continue at 2pm – 4pm with Mindful Leadership and Emotional Balance – in the same room. https://biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/event/mindful-awareness-inquiry-ways-finding-emotional-balance-our-modern-lives

Bhante Savath, co-ordinator for Vesak in Ottawa will do the introduction. My session at 12.30pm will begin with a wellness chant. My talk afterwards is taken from the opening chapter of my new book – Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement. Let me tell you a story …..

My grand-nephew James was celebrating his birthday, yet he felt awful about being nine years old. He wished he could stay five years old forever. When I asked him “Why?” he replied that if he could stay five then the Earth would not explode. His lips quivered and tears welled up in his large brown eyes. “I am scared it is too late, that there will be nothing to save,” he exclaimed with a frightened voice. He dropped the unopened gift in his hand. He was so upset. I gently guided him from the hallway of his home to sit with me on the back garden steps. It was quiet there.

James said, “I don’t want to grow up and live in a world that is burning.”

After a long talk I gave James a mindfulness plan to follow.

I talked about “Gardening in the Mind” – a basic strategy of Engaged Buddhism. I offered him eight simple steps to refine mindfulness and then engage differently with the world.

  1. Yo James – learn to be silent and quiet! Clear time and space for spiritual practice at home and throughout your daily schedule. James shouted back: Yo Uncle Ian – right on – got it!
  2. Create a stress reduction menu and subtract the negative energies in the garden of your mind.
  3. Be determined to meditate daily – do the weeding of getting rid of negative energies..
  4. Focus on and soften your heart – do not be mean – cultivate the soil of your mind’s garden.
  5. Cultivate the seeds of mindfulness – Love, Compassion, Joy, Equanimity and promote them at home, school, work and in solitude.
  6. Simplify, make do with less, de-clutter your mind and home.
  7. Taste the fruits of your spiritual practice that change your mind.
  8. Engage with the world.

James was entering all of this on his tablet as I continued to talk. “Our ways of living together, caring for environmental, political and economic realms need to be re-constructed.” I assured James that “Gardening in the Mind” has the capacity to transform how we think. Finding stillness and inner silence is a necessary first step. “We have to find a way to create the conditions for this to happen. In our modern world of fast paced lifestyles there are so many distractions that make us outwardly dependant and un-centered. We also find it easier to close down rather than open up our hearts. But the remedy is within reach. We can unravel the knots of suffering and move from being mindless to being mindful. This is achieved by gardening in the mind. The 8 point menu helps you to get there.”

I assured James that we are equal to the task and I chose not to hold back anything from him during this long conversation on his birthday. He is an unusually bright boy, as he 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.

http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

Our World is Burning is an inspiring and informative read. Ian Prattis offers us valuable insight, wisdom and perspective in finding our way to a healthier world, one based on compassion and commitment, mindful of how everything we do impacts the whole.

  • Laurence Overmire, Author of “The One Idea That Saves The World”

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARE WE STUPID?

Forest Fires and the drastic increase in Global temperatures may become the new normal. In my latest book – Our World is Burning – Essay 3: “Are We Stupid?”  is timely.

http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

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 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. The film makes James Lovelock’s conclusions in his 2006 book Revenge of Gaia, seem prophetic. 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 film 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 the destruction happening to their lived-in-ecosystem? The old man shakes his head in disbelief whilelooking for an answer. The film gives us one – 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 of 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. They 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?

“Failsafe’ is an engineering term used to describe a lever or stop valve that comes into play when a piece of machinery is just about to self-destruct. Phut! The lever comes down or the stop valve kicks in before the boiler blows up or the nuclear core melts down before inevitable destruction occurs. I talked about the Failsafe in Consciousness concept in my book, Failsafe: Saving the Earth From Ourselves,published by Manor House in 2008. It describes 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 would be propelled into expansion, deliberation and change. My vision was a positive one, as I believed that humanity could create new structures and organizations. Out of these would emerge the radical solutions addressing the ecological emergency we all face. 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 the future of Earth. The overwhelming terror of Gaia crashing down on us is unbearable. Many years ago in India I had an audience with Sai Baba. I was visiting this sage’s ashram in Andra Pradesh with an Indian friend. As he slowly walked through the morning gathering, to my utter surprise Sai Baba stopped in front of me. He spoke to me for quite a while. Somehow he knew of my commitment to environmental concerns. I remember very little of what was said, except for one sentence that blazed into my mind and stayed there. Sai Baba said to me that a transformation in human consciousness required 2% of the population to meditate on a daily basis. I have no clue about the knowledge source for his pronouncement, but I do remember vividly the “buzz” of energy in my mind and body when I heard it.

I translated this wisdom into a 2% option. If only I, and others, could encourage 2% of the people we knew to change their lifestyles to one of voluntary simplicity then the environmental crisis could be mitigated. If everybody did so, then the planet would remain habitable for all species. This would involve conserving energy usage, being aware of the effects of mindless consumerism and completing one eco-friendly action every day. This may seem naïve, but to me the 2% option was readily do-able and within the grasp of everyone. The end result of a transformed consciousness would lead to different questions being asked, with different solutions and structures created. There would be a new mindset to make the necessary decisions for change. This one statement from Sai Baba changed my thoughts about awakening.  Not everyone has to “wake up” – just 2%. This spearhead would provide a catalyst, the strategic tipping point, for an immediate change in planetary care.

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

  1. Innate Earth Wisdom,
  2. Counter Culture
  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. This adaptation known as foraging, is a strategy based on sophisticated ecosystem knowledge, 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 remembering what we already possess. My anthropological logic pointed to the retrieval of this mindset in order to activate the feedback cycle needed to prevent further degradation of the global ecosystem.

The modern-day counter culture pulled together the Ecology of Ideas from Gregory Bateson, Rachel Carson’s Ecology and the fostering of Gaia as a social movement through feminists, environmentalists, and the New Age beads and incense set. This unusual coalition established a broad consensus. providing a foundation for the new science of Eco-psychology. Bateson, a prominent 20th century thinker focused on the understanding of cybernetics and ecosystems, demonstrated how our modern context has rules that need changing. He showed how ecology is a set of interconnecting feedback loops that include everything. When we destroy some of the interconnecting loops, an ecology of ideas is created that reinforces other bad ideas. Bad, that is, for the health of the ecosystem and its components.

For the corporate world, Paul Hawken’s 1993 book The Ecology of Commerce led the charge of re-evaluating commerce and redesigning finance capital. The wisdom of natural design is built into Hawken’s call for a restorative economy, which an increasing number of manufacturers are implementing. This has prompted the emergence of a genuine environmental capitalism as opposed to the corporate “green-washing” that pervaded the 1992 Rio conference. Some corporations appear to be subtly changing despite the knowledge that shareholder interests come first. The new discourse in business uses terms such as sustainability, civic duty and corporate citizenship in annual reports and press releases. This new language form can be “gimmicky,” making it difficult to distinguish between the fake and the genuine. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is here to stay. It is now a component of globalization, endorsed by successive World Economic Forums held in Davos, Switzerland.

The present “buzz” about CSR paints corporations as protectors of Mother Earth. In many cases the green-washing public relations exercise provides a totally unearned image for corporations. Yet it cannot be dismissed as mere smoke and mirrors, as there is substance here. But could these initiatives be too little, too late?  They are signs of change. Rock stars, government initiatives in Scandinavia, ground up responses from municipalities in the United States, green energy companies, climate crusaders in the corporate world, citizens’ willingness to change lifestyles – all taken together indicate that the tide could be turning. But can it penetrate the corporatization of our value system and therefore on the fate of our planet?

The restructuring of capitalism requires that social capital and community sustainability become just as important as profits. There needs to be an ethical structure of profit, providing a new direction for globalization. The present structure has caused so much destruction to the planet and its populations, so structures and mindsets are required to eliminate the control exercised by international finance capitalists. There will be no post environment economy for them to exploit! The mental shift to bring this about seems to be happening worldwide. Over two million groups, NGOs and foundations worldwide are addressing the issues of sustainability, ecology and climate change in a comprehensive manner. There is a natural mixing of social and environmental justice with peace issues, and global grassroots activism is restoring the earth’s capacity to endure. At the same time this social movement refreshes our own capacities to endure and change, as we are all intricately and intimately a part of Gaia’s ecosystem.

An immense global response by citizens will certainly elicit an equally massive government and corporate reply, 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 could reduce 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 massive support from government and corporate leaders to initiate the second industrial revolution. Absolutely necessary to blunt the impact of climate change, it is a global industrial project that governments and corporations can bring about, supporting citizens. Climate change has certainly entered public consciousness but 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 society to make this happen. Our future existence, and the existence of other species on Earth, depends on making a new beginning for all of us.

Tipping points in consciousness are about achieving a critical mass for radical change. Research clearly demonstrates we are not necessarily stuck with present mindsets, although it 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. Recent studies that use sophisticated MRI scans on the brains of Buddhist monks in meditation, demonstrate that long-term meditation practice rewired the chemical and physical structure of the brain.  As a consequence, the rewiring promoted attitudinal changes in the direction of balance, harmony and happiness. New neurons and synapses are generated as a consequence of meditative processes activating memory functions in the brain. It is clear that meditation retrains the mind by changing our brain structure so that behaviorally we transform. These recent novelties of scientific collaboration provide good news. We are not necessarily stuck with the mind state that has created a devastated and discriminating world. This obvious conclusion is both encouraging and exciting.

This brings me to The Age of Stupid as a watershed film.  You will not be the same after you have seen it. It is impossible not to be moved. I refer the reader to Failsafe’s Appendix I: Simple Steps to Empowerment, which provides 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

If only we can get it right and get it right now!

The hopeful trajectory is that our diligent mindful engagement will change our brain structures to permit 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 negative mind is reined in then clarity and compassion able to provide the basis for how we can exist with the planet and with one another in a totally new way. This is what could happen if we “Begin It Now,”- the concluding words to Failsafe: Saving the Earth From Ourselves.

The right conditions have been created by our choice to cultivate different patterns within our minds. Thus consciousness expansion can no longer be held back as a radical internal climate change has taken place. We interconnect with a vast counter culture that, together, is no longer a minority. We become another light shining in the quiet revolution that has over two million organizations world-wide pursuing constructive change.

The Second Fork: A Failed Genetic Experiment

I underestimated, however, 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, it is obvious that there is no place on Earth to support our present civilization. That too will join the trash heap collectively created by ignorant generations of humanity. If our collective consciousness is too slow to change to a culture of sustainability then there are drastic consequences to contemplate, which are starkly portrayed in the film mentioned above. Imagine an ancient ecologist on Mars studying a million years of earth history would note a parasitic infestation on 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.

We may 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 and we remain ignorant of interconnectedness of the world. We are, in fact, our environment. It is our collective habits, thoughts and patterns that have created a flimsy, uncertain future for our species. Every authoritative body on the planet provides dire warnings to humanity about the effects of climate change. We have fixated on external climate change searchng for technological fixes. Yet climate change is merely the symptom and outcome of a maladaptive human mindset.  It is clear that our current non-sustainable energy and economic systems are not working. However, policy makers who rush to find alternatives to fossil fuels do so without addressing the root causes of the problem. Pathological consumerism is the major behavioral manifestation of industrial civilization.

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.

I conclude this essay 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 so 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 Ourselvesto provide 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 choose 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