Category Archives: Awakening

Coping with COVID – 19

This was sent to me by my friend Theda Phoenix. An excellent overview.

From a psychologist:
After having thirty-one sessions this week with patients where the singular focus was COVID-19 and how to cope, I decided to consolidate my advice and make a list that I hope is helpful to all.
MENTAL HEALTH WELLNESS TIPS FOR QUARANTINE

1. Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.

2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.

3. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues. If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.

4. Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!

5. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your kids miss their friends, too!

6. Stay hydrated and eat well. This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!

7. Develop a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when overwhelmed.

8. Spend extra time playing with children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.

9. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.

10. Everyone find their own retreat space. Space is at a premium, particularly with city living. It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.

11. Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently. We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on emotional connection.

12. Focus on safety and attachment. We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement. We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children. Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.

13. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. This idea is connected with #12. We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.

14. Limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.

15. Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.

16. Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.

17. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it. In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.

18. Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.

19. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements. Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.

20. Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel. It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!

21. Find lightness and humor in each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.

22. Reach out for help—your team is there for you. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.

23. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now. Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.

24. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.

25. Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?

Podcast for “Shattered Earth” and other books.

This podcast lands first on “Shattered Earth: Approaching Extinction” – then on a prior book “Earth My Body, Water My Blood” plus some astrology at the end

Podcast with Mark Aaftink – “Shattered Earth: Approaching Extinction” and other books, followed by astrology #extinction #climateemergency #booklovers

https://furtherreflections.net/home/2020/2/2/episode-41-shattered

This Brings Me To a 2050 Scenario

A harrowing scenario emerged in May 2019 from the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration in Australia, written by David Spratt, Research Director and Ian Dunlop, Club of Rome. Retired Admiral Chris Barrie, who introduces the work, quotes Professor Steffan:

“It’s not a technological or a scientific problem – it is a question of humanity’s socio-political values. We need a social tipping point that flips our thinking before we reach a tipping point in the climate system.”

The authors take a harder look at Climate Crisis than their scientific colleagues in the UN and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They state emphatically that the existing climate science projections and policy making are too conservative. Instead they explore a 2050 scenario of extreme severity, and show that accelerating climate impacts pose very large negative consequences for humanity. In a succession of scenarios from 2020 – 2050, the authors lay out a disturbing vision of human life becoming extinct in a horrible manner.

They predict that between 2020 – 2030 there is abject failure to act on the evidence. Keeping global warming below a further 2 degrees centigrade is ignored and locks in at 3 degrees of global warming. The global heat wave in the summer of 2019 has already increased warming and the lock in of 3 degrees looms closer. From 2030 onwards carbon-cycle feedbacks are beyond predictions so that by 2050 the “hothouse Earth” scenario is realized. The interaction of carbon system feedbacks drive the Earth System Climate so that further warming becomes self-sustaining. The jet stream is destabilized, ecosystems collapse and there is nowhere for relocating billions of people. The sheer scale of predicted destruction is beyond any capacity to model. Outright chaos is all that remains due to catastrophic climate emergencies from 2020 – 2050.

Their bottom line is that a zero-emissions industrial system must be built immediately. And this requires a global use of resources akin to a wartime level of response – something like the Marshall Plan after World War 11 or even a global Green New Deal. Both options are not enough, as they ignite severe political partisanship around the world. Climate science has shown that current projections will likely bring about a further 3 degrees Celsius – a catastrophic explosion across the globe. Without radical change, Spratt and Dunlop’s scenario is a glimpse of outright chaos creating the end of human civilization and modern society. Naomi Klein argues in her 2019 book – “On Fire” – that something like a Green New Deal is a radical change that could transform our economies to meet the Paris Accord protocols.

To conclude – we have a decade to change the present predictions.

http://ianprattis.com/ShatteredEarth.html

 

Impermanence and Extinction

The point of meditation is to grasp our true nature and accept the inevitability of change. It is impermanence that enables composure in the face of the difficult possibility of Extinction. The Buddha was very clear about “Impermanence.” His teachings on this foundation spur a radical change. The 12th century Japanese Zen Master Dogen writes, “Impermanence is itself Buddha nature.” For the Buddha, Dogen and countless sages this is not a problem to overcome. It is a path, not an attempt to overcome impermanence. Without this insight, we will not be able to change our mindsets about disruptive political and environmental circumstances. We rigidly hold on to views of how it once was, only it has already changed – often dangerously so. This lapse is further embedded by humanity’s general avoidance to value the planet and other people, undermining the possibility of understanding the sheer necessity of “Impermanence.” However, once we can accept that we have created the present deterioration of the global situation, then and only then can we find insights that bring radical change to our values, habits and mindset. Thich Nhat Hanh adds,

“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”

From the Buddha, Thich Nhat Hanh, all the way to Eckhart Tolle and Mooji, poets, seers and scientists – there is a unanimous point of view.

Dogen, from the 12th century, instructs us to intimately observe cause and effect, especially the condition of impermanence and loss. Then he throws in, “…..time is always impermanence.” The bottom line is that concentration on this factor releases us from fear and suffering. I offer a simple four step understanding of impermanence:

  1. Things change.
  2. Accept the existence of the change.
  3. Find your composure about it.
  4. Use meditation and the fullness of your heart to continue.

It is very difficult for western culture to accept death and the notion of impermanence. The usual response to both is fear and denial. We have to re-educate our minds to get past these two obstacles. When we can recognize that our present form of civilization is dying, we will recognize that despair and denial will do us no good. We need to rely on our practice of mindfulness and community-building to provide a measure of sanity. Martin Luther King devoted most of his time and efforts to build “The Beloved Community” as the strength to break through racism in America. With spiritual practice and community activism, instead of denial and despair, a space opens in our mind for lucidity and steadiness to propel our species to live differently. When such a community walks with us, fear dissipates and the dreadful despair and suffering recedes.

Such a future on Earth requires a mass awakening of attributes that run counter to the ecology of greed. It requires a candid acceptance that our global civilization in its present form is coming to an end. Such an acceptance of our reality on the planet enables understanding of environmental collapse and Extinction. Thich Nhat Hanh brings this home to us in a challenging way, making it very clear that any view not based on impermanence is wrong. He shows how the Buddha provided meditations for his followers so they could recognize that the only thing that follows death is the fruit of our action and thinking, of our speech and of our acts during our lifetime. Specifically, on climate crisis he is very blunt:

“If we continue to consume unwisely, if we don’t care about protecting this wonderful planet….the ecosystem will be destroyed to a large extent and we will need millions of years to start a new civilization. Everything is impermanent…. We are our environment, which is in a process of self-destruction.”

The origins of the Climate Crisis can be found in greed, craving, delusion and ignorance, where sanity is crushed by the greed for profit and corporate rules triumph over social responsibility. That sums up our overwhelming retreat into denial. The Buddha advised a long time ago that we need internal changes in our values, our thinking and our ways of life. This means turning away from a system driven by greed, limitless profits, exploitation and violence against people and the environment. By relying on impermanence we can make changes to our collective systems and choose co-operation and living in harmony with the natural world. That enables humanity to flourish in a better 21st Century.

Understanding impermanence brings clarity to our minds and perhaps we can implement ethics, structures and technology while on this planet. We have the job of cultivating a new way of living with one another on Earth. This is what Thich Nhat Hanh means in his homily, “Only Love can save us from Climate Change.”

We must deliberately cultivate positive ethical attributes in our minds. We have to shine the light of recognition and mindfulness on our suffering, so that we become steady and full of resolve to live differently with a community. We have to shift the tide of negativity, change our mindset and not squander our life. With templates like the Mindfulness Trainings we consciously choose to nurture patterns of behavior and habits that are wholesome and generous. In other words, we make mindfulness practice our new habit, an internal transformation of consciousness at the core of our being.

I shape all of this into a simple personal mantra for myself – “I refrain from causing harm.” I know that by refraining from one thing that causes harm, I then prevent other harmful things from happening. It takes mindfulness to do this and the trainings provide the starting point, a guidance system and a deep well of internal ethics to live by. My commitment is to actualize these trainings in my life, and in the lives of others, so that impermanence is understood. To mitigate ecological collapse, the transition from doomed economic and political systems have to change to life sustaining societies based on community activism. There are many hurdles, as people do not see Climate Emergency for what it is, because they are stuck in their personal suffering. The plight of Mother Earth is beyond their capacity to grasp. Spiritual practice and community building of some kind are drastically needed in order to prevent being overwhelmed by suffering, despair and fear.

I could go on and on about the terrible things taking place in society, politics and to the planet – and will divert to that in a moment. It is important to refine a system of ethical conduct. I go deeper into meditation to mainly fix myself to be steady and insightful. I register with Mindfulness Trainings, as it brings out all that I would like to see in people around the planet. The bottom line for me is that awakening and mindfulness are active. Activism, on its own, does not have the inner resources to maintain effective social and planetary transformation. I know from personal experience that re-training the wild mind is a necessary ingredient to precede activism. Becoming environmental or political is only one part of the gig. It cannot be fully effective until the internal spiritual work is in place.

At present, we are totally out of sync with the earth’s resources. The fragile threads of ecosystems around the globe are severely compromised and we are in the position of going down the collective sewer. Earth is like a giant living cell, all parts are linked symbiotically. Biologist Thomas Lewis created this metaphor with humanity as just one part of a vast system. The reality is that the life support systems of our planet are severely threatened by Climate Crisis. Our ignorance and neglect are destroying Planet Earth, because we do not know how to respect ourselves, others, and the planet. We have no alternative but to concentrate on sustainable living, rather than exploiting the spoils of perpetual economic growth. Profit cannot be the sole reason for commerce. There must be responsibility tied into the equation. Unfortunately, we have largely discarded our ability to relate to meaningful values such as compassion, planetary care, love and social justice to mention a few castaways. Unless we radically change, there is no possibility of balance, environmentally or socially.

These issues were examined with great clarity by the awakened mind of the Buddha, 2600 years ago. His teachings are timeless, as relevant to the modern world as when first spoken.  In the modern era Thich Nhat Hanh taught the Five Mindfulness Trainings as a design for living related to modern realities. They are non-sectarian and all spiritual traditions have their equivalent. The first training is to protect life, to decrease violence in oneself, family and society. The second training is to practice social justice, generosity and not exploit other beings. The third is responsible sexual behavior for all people, to protect couples, families and children. The fourth is the practice of deep listening and loving speech to restore communication and reconciliation. The fifth is about mindful consumption, which helps us not to bring toxins and poisons into our body, mind or planet.

Expanding Heart and Mind – Community Building and Activism

I rest on the Hopi Elders’ Prophecy in 2000,

“Create your community. Be good to one another. And do not look outside yourself for your leader… See who is there with you and celebrate…. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

I believe, from my own experience, that community activism is a vital action for populations around the world. I would say community building and activism are essential actions in our times. For years I organized a big event in Ottawa City Hall – the annual Friends for Peace Day. This was my job for a decade. It all started on a bitterly cold winter evening as the Iraq war loomed. I received notice that a Peace Song Circle was happening on Parliament Hill to protest the bombing of Baghdad. So I went, accompanied by my wife Carolyn, a friend and our dog. No-one else turned up, as it was so cold. I remarked to Carolyn,

“This is a good idea but it needs attention to detail and organization.”

She replied, “Let’s do it.”

So we created the nucleus for Friends for Peace Canada.  It quickly grew to a loose coalition of over fifty organizations in the city and we asked them to begin the peace process first of all within themselves, then to the community and out to the world. Our mandate evolved from peace advocacy to projects on the ground. We gave annual Grants to local organizations making a difference in our city, as well as working with other coalitions in the city for environmental and social justice issues. We organized five thousand participants at the Song Circle on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, held on a miserably wet, cold spring day in 2003.

A sea of multi-colored umbrellas on a rain swept morning welcomed all those gathered.  As other peace protests joined us and sang “All Within Me Peaceful,” the crowd covered the grounds of Canada’s seat of government, all meditating at the end in total silence as the rain poured down on our heads. The pouring rain was strangely welcome, for it symbolized the tears of Iraqi children, my tears, your tears, transformed into hope through singing for peace with one another and experiencing deep stillness with this community on Parliament Hill. There was a transformation of anger, anguish and violence into a determined clarity to be peaceful and to oppose war. From there we know the wise actions to take.

The projects in the city of Ottawa supported by Friends for Peace include: the Multi-Faith Housing Initiative, the Youth Treatment Centre, Child Haven International, and Peace Camp Ottawa, which brings reconciliation to Palestinian and Israeli teens. In addition we supported the Physicians for Global Survival initiative to expand the mandate of the Canadian War Museum to include the creation of a culture of peace. There were other projects in Africa, India and Nepal. One planetary care project was the campaign to make the Dumoine River watershed in Quebec a protected conservation park. Peace Grants were also awarded to rebuild the Galai School in Liberia and the Healing Art Project of Minwaashin Lodge – an aboriginal women’s centre in Ottawa. Orkidstra received several grants to expand their children’s orchestra. Other grants were presented to the Dandelion Dance Company and to USC Canada. Ottawa Friends of Tibet received several Peace Grants for their Tibetan Re-Settlement Project, just to mention a few.

Each year since the relentless rain on Parliament Hill in 2003, the annual Friends for Peace Days have been memorable. We were rained and snowed on for several years on Parliament Hill, thunder and lightning at Alumni Park of Carleton University, before we moved inside to Ottawa City Hall. We organized differently there, with peace activist and environment booths along the periphery of the hall, a food court at the back, a long set of tables with items for the silent auction and the stage at the north end. The response to this community activism was beyond any expectations.

The yearly event, held in the Autumn, became an awesome, diverse, unique Ottawa experience. It was made possible by the generosity of volunteers, supporters and citizens of Ottawa who showed up to have a good time, be educated and inspired. It created an epicentre of intent and action, intense at times as people were moved to both tears and laughter. The intensity and joy rippled through the diversity, all generations, faiths and cultures in our northern city. The force of the epicentre roared through the community and activist tables, Muslim families, Asian groups, elders, young folk and volunteers. The diversity of Ottawa gathers, listens, dances, laughs, cries, and takes home an unforgettable experience of hope and confidence.

Friends for Peace presented Awards to outstanding Canadian citizens who devoted their lives to securing peace, planetary care and social justice. Our mandate was always solid throughout the day, at the Welcome and Community Tables, the Silent Auction, Connection Centre and Food Court. Citizens left at the end of the day feeling uplifted, confident and connected. The intent was to create a different form of peaceful expression that appeals to a wide cross section of Canadian citizens who want to create infrastructure in our institutions that value peace and planetary processes.

When I founded Friends for Peace Canada I was making a conscious choice to focus on the local, my home city of Ottawa. My focus was on mindfulness in schools, city environment, youth at risk and the empowerment of women. I was astonished by the results, more true to say “blown away.” At the local level there was continuity with great women who made sure good things happened. Many of the Award recipients were women. The funds raised from the annual Peace Day were used to issue Grants to organizations in Ottawa.  In particular we supported youth organizations that burst on to the local scene guided by awesome women. Orkidstra, founded by my friend Tina Fedeski, provides children from under-served communities with the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and sing in a choir. It is modelled on the El Sistema program, which was so successful in Venezuela for breaking down barriers of poverty and violence. The philosophy of El Sistema has spread to sixty countries in the world, serving millions of children.

In Ottawa, Orkidstra is creating a quiet social revolution on the backs of children – in a very healthy way. Tina Fedeski and two friends drew together a marvelous group of music teachers, promoters, volunteers and educators. There are now 700 children from over 62 cultural and linguistic backgrounds – a huge enrollment beyond the 27 children who started in the program in 2007. Orkidstra is a social development program giving children in Ottawa a sense of belonging and achievement plus fostering life skills. Children from low-income and under-served areas receive tuition, instruments and music – provided free of charge. Each child commits to playing in an ensemble. The program builds community, co-operation, commitment, compassion and self-esteem. This is in the opposite direction of fear, suffering and neglect. The results have been amazing. All graduates go on to post-secondary education making good the belief that empowering kids builds mature citizens and community. In the Orkidstra domain there is no sense of separation, only love. They interconnect with integrity, a recipe that makes the entire organization deeply heart-warming.

Similar support was provided to The Dandelion Dance Company, which has a similar structure. This is the creation of Hannah Beach, who brought forth a dozen young women actors, dressed in black to several Friends for Peace Days. This Ottawa based youth dance theatre company explores social issues through movement. Their repertoire is driven by the experiences, reflections and passion of young women who range in age from twelve to eighteen. The themes they dance include children’s rights, hunger, authenticity, bullying, drug addiction, stereotypes and inclusiveness. Their performances of John Marsden’s “Prayer for the Twenty First Century” brought the entire audience to their feet applauding their passion for nonviolence and the basic rights for women. The dance alluded to our hope and dreams we want for our society. The Dandelions provide the means to galvanize parents, friends and volunteers so that good kids are created and excellent citizens emerge.

Peace, Planetary Care and Social Justice are alive and well in our northern city. A Circle of Nations no less. Friends for Peace had a fantastic run for a decade, then I was side-lined by surgeries for three years and I could clearly see Impermanence working on me! There is now a two week Peace Festival in Ottawa every September. It has grown in ever increasing concentric circles. The foundations of mindfulness through the organizations we partnered with have taken root in the annual Peace Festival. All adhere to some form of our mandate: Peace, Planetary Care and Social Justice. Concentration on my home city was a primary focus. I was inspired to devote my time and energy to moving things just a little bit, so that good things could begin to happen spontaneously. I soon discovered, there were many good friends across the city more than happy to make this possible – and take over.

This narrative shows how the strategy of community building and activism in the face of Extinction is necessary. This is what it takes to derail the culture of fear and greed. To truly embrace impermanence requires an open spiritual practice, co-operative networks and preparation for community activism to invigorate the values that serve humanity. The required global response to implement some form of the Marshall Plan or the Green New Deal is not likely to appear in time, unless political leaders suddenly become brave and make bold choices to connect rather than separate. In the looming vacuum, deadly forms of Climate Emergency will certainly crash down all over the planet. Yet the organization of community building and activism provides local support with a strong view of impermanence. In my home city of Ottawa, Canada, there are many magnificent networks of solidarity in the city to help and support.

There may well be disaster in our faces, yet there is also solidarity in community activism.  Martin Luther King’s “Beloved Community” no less.

 

Indigenous Ways

My soon to be released book “Shattered Earth: Approaching Extinction” has a final section that draws on Indigenous Wisdom. Look for the book at the end of the month. If in Ottawa – get a signed copy from me.

PART FOUR – ALL MY RELATIONS: ANCIENT WISDOM

My long encounter with Ancient Wisdom enabled my heart and mind to expand in a manner that astonished me. I absorbed the significance of the Earth Mother and saw clearly how humanity neglected the basic respect for all that sustains us. Indigenous cycles of harvesting the Earth were based on an ethic of planning seven generations into the future. Such an ethic is not found in modern society. Indigenous wisdom the world over knows that protecting the Earth is primary to care for ourselves and all species. The era of Climate Crisis and Extinction is not a surprise to them.

My approach to life comes through experience, crises, difficulties and joys that may have common ground with many readers. I was gifted with mentors in the desert, training with sages in ashrams in India and the Ancient Wisdom of Indigenous cultures.  My intensive training in different traditions enabled me to better understand the processes of transformation. There was a lot of mud in my seasons, yet that mud provided the necessary compost to cultivate surprisingly accurate insights. Thus, I was able to anticipate the hard core of Extinction by first of all developing Impermanence. And just why do I – do we – need all of this? It is so we may emerge as the new leaders for the 21st century.

I introduce Sacred Stalker in Chapter 10 and in Chapter 11: Medicine Mentors- my indigenous education. Chapter 12: The Transfer Particle is a futuristic story about Hopi mysticism for a new planet. Chapter 13: The Forest provides a short, sharp finale about my intentions.

Climate Strike in Ottawa, September 27, 2019

I published “Failsafe, Saving the Earth from Ourselves” in 2008. I remember apologizing to my students at Carleton University that my generation had not left a healthy planet for them. I remembered that apology at the 2019 Climate Strike in Ottawa – Friday September 27 – surrounded by thousands of magnificent children. I was in admiration of their strike, yet emotional and sad that earth matters had not changed for the better. I noticed that I was not the only grandparent who cried a bit. Montreal was in the forefront with 500,000 protesters, followed by 100 towns and cities across the country – also around the world. The largest protest ever with over 6 million climate strikers.

I was also thinking about the completion of my new book – “Shattered Earth: Approaching Extinction” – to be released at the end of October.

This book is dedicated to the brave children of our world.

Here is a recent testimonial of this work:

Krystina McGuire-Eggins, Therapist

In Shattered Earth, Ian Prattis catapults the reader into a dark, brutal vision of the devastation on Earth as a result of our willful neglect and abuse of its resources. Prattis shares his abundance of knowledge and experience as a professor emeritus of anthropology and religion, scholar, world traveler, spiritual leader and poet, to present a convincing and alarming view of the future, including a glimpse of the year 2080. Using the wisdom he has gained from his travels to overseas ashrams and monasteries, as well as his time spent with Native American medicine people and shamans, he also provides an invaluable insight into the ancient wisdom that can sustain us. This book is dark. It is bone-chilling. It is captivating.

Three Five Stars for Painting With Words

Some words from Five Star Reviews may bring the book alive for you. You can pick it up from the author or order it online, details at: http://ianprattis.com/PaintingWithWords.html

 

Kathryn Bennet wrote: “I read this book three times before settling in to write this review. Each time I felt that 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 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…….You can see the images come to life before your eyes as you read….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.”

From K.C. Finn: “Shying away from the old fashioned traditions of symbolism and imagery, the work expresses an emotionally outcry in a raw and direct from, creating powerful auditory moments to express the highs and lows of the human condition………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…..The poems are direct in address, but spiritual and philosophical in themessage the leave lingering afterwards.”

Romuald Dzemo speaks: “A collection of poems thematically arranged 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, felings, and realities 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 thebeauty in the rhythm and richness if 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.”

 

Poetic Voice

                                              

I will talk about the Poetic Voice and “Painting with Words, Poetry for a New Era.”

In 2017 I published a book of essays titled “Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement.” Once I sent it off to the publisher I had to clean out my filing cabinet, which was a total mess. In the process of dumping stuff I was surprised to come across a folder with 60 years of my poetry stuffed in it. Most of it was garbage, but there were sufficient gems to feature six distinct thematic moods to capture the shared aspects of human experience.

It all started during my teenage expedition to Sarawak, Borneo (1960 – 62). This was with Britain’s Peace Corps. I kept a journal of the vivid surrounds and how I was feeling. From that time on I scribbled poetry wherever I went, accumulating poems that reminded me of the experiences. Later on in life, my extensive shamanic training with First Nations medicine people was also carefully logged. Those notes and poems were a sign-post to always be authentic. In my career as an anthropologist I was fortunate to encounter many First Nation story tellers across North America. Their poetic recounting of myths and history had a deep impact on how I wrote. I would say that without poetry cultures implode.

My first book – Redemption – was written in 1975. I refer to this novel as I wrote it as an extended prose poem. It became a lost manuscript as I did not know how to get published at that time. In 1975 I was writing way over my head and lacked the maturity to understand the deep nuances emerging from my pen. Redemption was writing me and it is fitting that it was not published until 2014. It reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and human nature. The time lapse allowed me to grow into the insights and revelations writ large. I was a total mess in 1975 – with a failing marriage in the Hebrides and trying to keep my career intact as a young professor at Carleton University. I was not doing a good job with either. The surprise for me in 2014 was how did I write such a powerful poetic novel while in a desperate state of mind? This background brings me to “Painting with Words” – my latest book

PART ONE: BITTERSWEET

It growls rather than sings – a side show malady of words I sometimes prefer to hide. It relishes what I failed and flailed at – my discomfort with relationships, hierarchical structure and all that is phony. Growing up I was acutely aware that I was a maverick – on the outside looking in. I saw more clearly and deeply than allowed.

The poem Punk Palace in the Moonlight presents a sudden shift in the first mood. This poem is about my son – lost in the drug underground of Glasgow, Scotland. I went there to bring him out. Punk Palace in the Moonlight is a collaborative poem composed with my son. We took turns composing lines of a poem to the moon. I cannot discern where he began and where I ended, which is perhaps just as it should be.

Punk Palace in the Moonlight

Moonlight speaks of a morning passing by

life crisis turns beyond wreckage

preventing boundless life entering grim death.

The moon a delicate mistress

veiled by fleeting clouds and mysteries.

It makes the stars and galaxies dance.

The moon does this,

with all that is in me.

This gateway to boundless space

is a door for my troubles and joy.

For I am in the moon and stars

and they are in me.

We dance together

– Now Bright; Now Turbulent

Now Lost; Now Found –

Beyond any sense or reason.

And the night sky casts movement and hues

to something I touch

with that in me.

The full harvest moon

rises from banks of pastel grey,

pacing existence

through the rhythms of our universe.

Glasgow, Scotland. September, 1995 

PART TWO: PAINTING WITH WORDS

Part Two displays my passion for nature, the colourful images of nature’s cycles and its “undeterred rhythm” of change. 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. 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. They had to be returned to the forest when I became infested with their fleas, which I passed on to my immediate family, classmates, and also to a particular schoolteacher that I did not like.

My poem “Weaving in the Forest” paints the image of a lake, awakening the senses to the striking beauty of the depicted scene.

Weaving in the Forest

 

Let me share it.

This symphony of autumn color,

cascading melody from a sky

pastel grey and fiery red.

Descant to the dancing tones of

a painted forest

cooled by lush evergreens.

 

Sensual beauty,

rhapsody of forest and sunset sky

fused a golden sheen,

caught in a still lake.

Waiting with patience

beyond time and space,

A pause to reflect this moment of

splendor –

Weaving

Lac Philippe, Gatineau Hills, October, 1992

 

PART THREE: AGUA VIVA and PART FOUR: FOOTSTEPS OF THE BUDDHA

I will run together Part Three: Agua Viva and Part Four: Footsteps of the Buddha. They are both about the spiritual journey at different times. Agua Viva (in Mexico) provides poems about my clumsy emergence to new understandings. They are very different from the more mature Part Four – Footsteps of the Buddha.

I met a visiting Rishi to Canada in 1995 – a holy man from India who recognized me and insisted I go to India for spiritual training. In November and December of 1996 I became seriously ill in India. As I observed my bodily systems crashing one by one I knew there was a distinct possibility of death. I was living in a small ashram in the city of Mumbai – reserved for saints and holy men. I did not qualify for either category yet felt their grace at hand. One humorous manifestation of that grace occurred one morning when I woke up and opened my eyes to greet one of my swami mentors. He smiled broadly and said in his wonderful Indian accent:

“We are all so happy Ian that you have decided to die with us in India, if indeed you are to die. And we will be most happy should you live.”

I went back to India six years later. My wife Carolyn and I embarked on a pilgrimage – In The Footsteps Of The Buddha – through North India and Nepal in February 2003. I created six insight poems that provide a glimpse of experiences that are too immense to otherwise communicate. The Footsteps of the Buddha pilgrimage was full of wonder and miracles. It was a journey to the center of being so that everyday life becomes a pilgrimage.

 PART FIVE: SPEAKING OF TRUE LOVE

I do not have the credentials to speak of this lofty pinnacle. My relationships through time hardly equipped me, as I stumbled through ignorance, stupidity (mostly mine) and unhappiness. My mistakes were legion and I eventually decided to live alone. I found a spacious cabin set in the Gatineau Forest across the river from Ottawa.

An old friend pierced that bubble. She was taking ballroom dancing lessons and asked me to accompany her, as her partner was unable to do so. At the Jack Purcell Centre in Ottawa, an elderly Jamaican gentleman was our instructor. He was charming and had all the moves to put us through the paces of ballroom dancing. I noticed an attractive blonde woman always dancing the male part with her female friends – all from the same office. Her name was Carolyn. I asked if she would like to dance the female role with me. Her wide green eyes and gentle smile said it all. The following week of dancing with her was magic. Not once did I tread on her toes during the intricate passages of the Quick Step and the Fox Trot.

Before leaving that evening, I asked if she would like to meet my wolf. As soon as these words came out of my mouth, I thought she must think this was the worst pick-up line in the world. She paused, smiled and then said “Yes.” I did, in fact, have a pet wolf in the back of my truck. He had found me in the Mt. Currie forest in British Columbia. He played his part beautifully. I rolled down the window of my truck and Carolyn could see his magnificence. He had a russet brown coat with white forelegs and face. He rested his large paw on Carolyn’s shoulder and gently licked her cheek. It was an instant match. She told me much later that she fell in love with the wolf first, then thought that there must be something about the fellow who had him.

The thematic focus of these poems is a celebration of souls mirroring each other, bonded in a union reminiscent of twin flame bonds. They remind me of the Romantic period in English literature, or the Sturm and Drang of the German poetic expression, where ecstatic feelings prevailed over the poetic form. Here is a taste: “Our soft spoken adoration blows on dandelions, creating parasols drifting to fertile ground” – PAUSE – that begins one of the many verses.

PART SIX: ANCIENT WISDOM

PART SIX – ANCIENT WISDOM was written when I accompanied two friends on the first leg of their cross Canada canoe expedition.

My creation of this epic poem had a double focus. I wanted to leave a document about Canada’s wilderness for my grand-children, so they could be inspired by Mother Earth. I also wanted to weave in the Wisdom of the Elders, to speak about Canadian waterways from the reverence of First Nations.

Painting With Words Poetry for a New Era ends with this thematic focus on Ancient Wisdom – pulsating with the rhythm of the river, the spirit of nature of its ancient inhabitants. In spite of being exposed to the merciless harshness of the elements, the poet – that is me – still smiles because I am a part of this world just like a tree or a rock.

The connection between humans and nature is illustrated in the poem about a solitary tree and a man. In each other’s presence, their feelings of aloneness vanish.

The Forest

In the forest a great many entities

of the earth and sky speak of before

and what is to be.

Clearings sunk into the earth

await further visits.

In the center of one clearing

stood a single tall aspen

Waiting for companionship,

fragile in its aloneness,

in her aloneness,

in our aloneness.

I stand within her circle

– this tree and I –

and for a brief moment,

neither were alone.

To finish I would like to bring to your attention a 5 STAR review which inspired the writer of it to start writing poetry again. READ.

Kathryn Bennett writes:

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. 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.

 

Greta Thunberg and March 15, 2019

In Sweden 2018, 15 year old Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish parliament with her water bottle, books, snacks and a homemade sign “SCHOOL STRIKE FOR CLIMATE.” Every Friday she left her school to do this. She says “No-one was interested, so I had to do it myself.” She was not alone for long. A flyer from her stated: “You grownups don’t give a shit about my future.” Sweden’s newspapers and reporters soon flocked around her. She still strikes every Friday. She spoke at the UN climate talks in Poland and called out world leaders for not being mature enough to tell it like it is. “Even that burden is left to us children” was part of her address to the global business elite at Davos. She even told the EU to double its climate change reduction targets as this would be its fair share of keeping the planet below the dangerous level of global warming. Greta affirmed her stance with a withering Ted Talk in Stockholm that left nothing behind and earned an ovation from a huge audience.

She lit a fuse among young people around the world. And that fuse has brought the EU to institute further steps to reduce Climate Change in Europe. Thousands of students in Europe and over 1,000 cities world-wide joined her “FridaysForFuture” campaign. Her example came amidst very dangerous warnings about climate change. Thunberg remarked that “Change is on the horizon, but to see that change we also have to change.” Thunberg has Asperger’s syndrome. She cites her neuronal structures as providing her single pointed dedication to the issue of Climate Change. She quips, “I see the world kind of black-and-white. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t.”

This unusual warrior for Climate Change, now 16 years old, deserves the active attention of every adult in the world. She has put out a call for students world-wide to leave their schools on Friday March 15 to “Strike for Climate,” bringing out the determination of young people to force the hand of political change. Her model for this was the Parkland School students in Florida, who walked out of school to protest gun violence. Greta holds the firm desire for global student strikes to be non-violent, with no hate and no damage. She insists that everyone become educated about the Paris Accords, respecting science and personally minimising their carbon footprint. She requests children to do their homework about Climate Change, because most adults have yet to do so.

“Youth Climate Change US” are mobilized to point the Strike right at resistant politicians, demanding that they decarbonize the US economy, and furthermore make legislative action to combat the effects of climate change. The registered Climate strikes are planned in over 90 countries around the planet. Young people see that their present and future on the planet are at stake and they are pulling in university students and women to strike with them.

British PM Theresa May asserted that the school strikes are “wasting lesson time.” Greta’s sharp response was, “Political leaders have wasted 30 years of inaction. And that is slightly worse..” Good bye Theresa May and your ilk! It is apropriate to ignore her, when over 3,000 climate scientists have given their full backing to the strikes. I feel strongly that the response globally to the March 15 strike will be beyond anything we have seen on our planet. Please do your part – Support and Help.

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.