Category Archives: Dharma

Healing The Inner Child

Healing the Inner Child                                                                         

The Territory of Suffering

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjJJTuXjrNk

I turn to my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (Reconciliation: 2010: 64) to open this essay on Healing the Inner Child.

“Dealing with suffering is like handling a poisonous snake. We have to learn about the snake, and we ourselves have to grow stronger and more stable in order to handle it without hurting ourselves. At the end of this process, we will be ready to confront the snake. If we never confront it, one day it will surprise us and we will die of a snake bite. The pain we carry in the deep levels of our consciousness is similar. When it grows big and confronts us, there’s nothing we can do if we haven’t practiced becoming strong and stable in mindfulness. We should only invite our suffering up when we’re ready. Then, when it comes we can handle it. To transform our suffering, we don’t struggle with it or try to get rid of it. We simply bathe it in the light of our mindfulness.”

 First we have to develop and nurture our mindfulness, which means waking up to the reality of our suffering that we would rather avoid. There are clear warning signals if we choose to pay attention. We get caught in our dramas and find ourselves telling and retelling our stories to whomever will listen. We also court our suffering and keep it alive. We often engage in a competitive aspect – my suffering is bigger than yours. The courtship of suffering can be an ugly romance for we enter into a co-dependent relationship, which has to be called by its true name – Addiction. Physiologically and emotionally we become so tightly tied into our suffering that we cannot be without it even though it is destroying our well being. We grasp at brief insights that “Yes – this is suffering” – but deal only with surface appearances. Yet the surface exposure has a long history of gathering momentum and energy until it actually surfaces. The small snake has become a monster. The addiction to suffering is now embedded in our mental state. We respond to any glimpse of suffering with such destructive emotion that we reinforce the causes and conditions that created the suffering in the first place. And so we continue shooting ourselves in the foot, torpedoing our lives – over and over again.

Our suffering is caused by abuse – emotional, physical and sexual – and it becomes an organizing template in our mind. We then create an abusive relationship with that template’s qualities – addiction; fear; co-dependency. To stop the cycle of harm we need an OMG moment.  The insight that: OH MY GOD THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING ALL MY LIFE. HOW DO I STOP IT? That insight has to arrive in the mind before we can apply ourselves to developing mindfulness as an antidote to the abusive relationship established with our suffering. It is an awesome realization to penetrate the darkness and realize that the abuse you have suffered has created an abusive relationship with yourself. Mindfulness practice can bring the abusive relationship to a halt. This is the required OMG moment that propels you to get to work. To go backwards from the surface and investigate the causes and conditions that placed you in such suffering. And so we learn the practices, tools and concentrations that support this journey of understanding suffering and taking care of it. We break the cycle through re-training and mindfulness practice. We equip ourselves for a journey to be well that requires our determination to practice mindfulness daily and ensure that we take refuge in wise support.

The Wounded Inner Child

Emotional, physical and sexual abuse during childhood creates a lost, frightened and frozen child within us.  If we are unable to reach this lost and wounded child then we may never heal ourselves.  We prefer not to remember the sufferings of childhood, so we bury them and hide.  We run away from seeing deeply into the causes of our suffering.  Whenever the memories arise, however fleetingly, we think we cannot handle them and deflect them into the deepest realms of our unconsciousness mind. This results in the wounded child not being seen for a long time simply because we are terrified of further suffering. Yet we have to find a way to reach the hurt child and make her safe. This means we have to get past the fear and address the suffering, realizing that it is suffering which provides the way through to awakening.

Although we may now be adult, there is also a little boy in us, a little girl in us, who is so afraid and suffers deeply, no matter what kind of happy pretend face we present to life.  This suffering child within our adult frame colors everything we do, generating our fears, insecurities and self loathing, wounding us in our relationships and life.  That wounded child is you, is me, and we must extend a different energy to him so that the energy of childhood suffering can be understood, defused and transformed. Mindfulness is the way through to the inner child. We have to embrace him, embrace her exactly where they are caught by the past – in fear and with anger at being neglected for so long. Moreover we have to be very skillful.

This means touching the seeds of childhood suffering from an adult state of being mindful and aware, knowing that we must make it safe for that child to come out from hiding behind the closed doors of suffering and pain.  It is we as adults who must no longer run away.  We must have the courage and awareness to bring healing to our hurt inner child and thereby produce a transformation for ourselves.  The steps we take are not only to heal ourselves, we somehow connect to all wounded children – those in our ancestors and descendants and elsewhere in the world.  For once we cultivate the seeds of mindful healing in ourselves, the energy of these seeds continues on into all that we interconnect with. A quantum leap from our cellular memories to everyone else’s throughout time and space. With awareness we take our inner child into our daily life, on picnics, walks, sitting at the dining room table and doing the dishes together. Patiently realizing that we are on a splendid adventure to bring the cycle of suffering to a close, for it may have persisted over generations. Thus we are healing and transforming generations of ingrained patterns transmitted from our ancestors and continued through us to our descendants. Such patterns build up like corrosive rust through time and amplify the fears and suffering of the wounded inner child.

Thich Nhat Hanh addressed the issue of child abuse in a Question and Answer session held in the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village, France on the 17th October 1998.  Very gently he spoke about the ignorance and pain of the abuser as well as that of the abused, and stated clearly that understanding was the basis of recovery.  Not blaming or feeling guilt and shame, but seeing deeply and understanding.  First of all to understand that the person abusing must have lived under ignorant and deprived conditions without support, guidance or a wise teacher.  So much so that the power of ignorance was stronger than the person, and thus they were driven to do wrong things.  If the person abused can begin to understand just a little bit of that, then their anger, shame and outrage can transform into a droplet of compassion and through mindfulness practice their suffering can diminish. When forgiveness and understanding are there, suffering decreases.  The second step he suggested was to recommend that the person abused practice mindfulness, to transform herself into a Bodhisattva and engender the compassion to help and be of service to all children who need protection.  By merit of understanding the experience and recovery from abuse, such a person can practice and use their talents to promote measures to protect children.  This helps to eradicate the ignorance that generates abuse.

There are many techniques and methodologies of therapy that address issues of the inner wounded child.  The first one I am going to describe is simple and anyone can do it.  It is a first step and I recommend that it be practiced under the guidance of a therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher.  You are going to start a diary or log book for you and the inner child to write to one another.  The adult you will write using the hand that you normally write with.  You begin by saying “hello” to Little John, to Little Allison.  Then go on to say how sorry you are for having been away and neglectful; that you are grown up now and strong, and that you are going to do everything to make it safe for Little John, for Little Allison.  They will be safe, loved and cherished.  Write in your own words along these lines.

Then with your other hand, the one you do not write with, allow the inner child to express herself.  Do not edit.  Just write down whatever comes out.  It may well be angry, blaming and abusive words that come out, and it is your job not to be shocked or defensive but to provide constant re-assurance, love and guidance.  You bring to this communication with the wounded inner child all the qualities of love, compassion and wisdom you can muster.  These are the seeds of mindfulness you consciously bring to support the wounded child inside you.  The energy of these seeds works on the energy of the traumatized inner child to reduce his pain and suffering.  Talk to him through writing in this way – with total love and acute mindfulness. Then read your diary entries out loud – placing yourself in your adult shoes and then in your inner child’s shoes. This simple act of reading out loud is a way for both of you to be heard. On a daily basis register with how deeply your understanding and love is getting through to the wounded child, for she is listening carefully to every word and knows that you are now listening to her. You draw closer – the adult and the inner child – as you bring awareness, love and healing to the suffering and pain of the child.

Details of trauma may be revealed that you did not know about, which is why you need the help and guidance of a trusted therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher.  This is to support you being a wise and loving parent to your wounded child.  And with time you will notice shifts and changes in patterns of expression as the child becomes trusting and starts to grow, eventually merging fully with you as an adult.  (You also learn to write very well with your other hand!)  In your letters tell your inner child about yourself and your life, take him on outings, treats and give to that child all the care, attention and love you feel you did not receive when you were a little boy, a little girl.  The suffering will diminish and you will experience such a transformation, for you discover that your relationships with co-workers, friends and family start to change, and your fears of the past and anxieties about the future do not have the same driving force.  When you notice things like this tell your inner child: “Thank you for being with me.  That makes me so happy.”   The experience of being with the inner child in the healing journey is a stimulus for this kind of happiness.  There are times you may cry, or feel total joy and also suffer despair, which is why guidance and support is necessary on this beginning journey of reclaiming yourself.  You need that wise spiritual friend and teacher to keep you steady and mindful.  I know, for I went through it.  I am happy to say that it worked for me, as I experienced the painfully slow establishment of trust, then the exhilarating joy of safety and integration, until finally my inner child was the adult me, integrated with a freshness and vitality that I continually treasure.  Ultimately there is only one pair of shoes!

To support this journey there are other practices and meditations that are valuable for the steady process of healing. We have brought mindfulness, concentration and insight to our inner child and constantly enveloped him in the refreshing energy of transformation. We have worked diligently to nurture seeds of happiness, joy and safety in the consciousness of the inner child – the same seeds that are also in us, our ancestors and descendants. When despair and fear arise from the child we have the presence of mind to listen deeply and surround the fear with the stronger energy field of mindfulness. This is a deep and beautiful process because we are no longer running away or hiding from afflictions that have rendered us dysfunctional. Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Reconciliation tells us: “The capacity to be aware – that is, to be a human being who is mindful – is what will save us” (2010: 114).

Buddhist teachings contain a multitude of tools, concentrations and practices that can nurture this process. Such as The Five Remembrances, Five Year Old Child Meditation, Sutra on Mindful Breathing, Deep Relaxation, Touching The Earth and Removing The Object to mention only a few. In Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s practice center in France, he has provided a much loved practice gatha for the meditation community, which begins with “I have arrived, I am home.”  This is used in walking and other meditations as an instrument to concentrate on breath and be present.  In this way the fears and traumas of the past and anxieties about the future do not crowd in and overwhelm the mind.  The gatha with walking meditation, connected to in-breath and out-breath, provides an essential tool to take care of the many mental formations that flood our waking consciousness with fear, pain and suffering.  With daily diligent practice we can examine these same mental formations but from a place centered in mindfulness.  This simple gatha has become the dharma seal of Plum Village.

I: Inner Child Has Arrived Meditation

The Vietnamese origin of the gatha provides a penetrating tool to touch our inner child who suffers from trauma and abuse experienced in childhood.  It does not translate as:  “I have arrived, I am home.”  It translates as: “Your child has arrived, your child is home.”  This is so beautiful to say to yourself as you breathe in and out whenever you do walking meditation, for each step welcomes your wounded child to be well and to come home to you.  When you walk to your car or your office, by a river or in a park, you can be more specific and recite to yourself:

In-breath         “My inner child has arrived”

Out-breath       “My inner child is home.”

This is good practice, for with intelligence you use your conscious breath and concentration to heal, simply by welcoming your wounded inner child home through the practice of being present.  We are capable of arriving in every moment of practice, whether it is sitting meditation, walking meditation, having a mindful meal, taking a shower or doing laundry.  Being present in each moment is a way of practice that welcomes home the injured, frightened inner child harmed by abuse.

In order to heal it is necessary to cultivate the internal energy of mindfulness before stopping and looking deeply into what caused the fears and traumas of abuse.  The practice of arriving in each moment nurtures that strength.  From the space of clarity provided by locating yourself in the present moment, not only is your inner child welcomed home, there is also the lucidity of mindfulness practice to deal with the ghosts of the past and at the same time put the ghosts of future anxiety to rest.

In-Breath:        My inner child has arrived

Out Breath:      My inner child is home

II:  Love Meditation for the Inner Child

Another tool is to adapt the Four Brahmaviharas meditation to focus on the injured inner child and is based on the Buddha’s teachings on Love.  Prepare for meditation by sitting comfortably with the spine erect.  Bring your concentration and focus to breath on the In-breath and breath on the Out-breath.  After ten or twenty breaths, whenever you feel calm and stable, begin by bringing each of the components – Love, Compassion, Joy, Equanimity – into yourself, the adult you.  The next sequence now provides a focus and concentration to water the seeds of Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity within your inner child.

In-breath                     I bring Love

Out-breath                   to my inner child.

You can say a loving name for your inner child if you wish.  Say silently “Dear Mary” or “Darling Joseph.”  Feel the energy of love fill you from top to toe and register with the energy for several breaths.  Then continue in the same way with:

In-breath                     I bring Compassion

Out-breath                   to my inner child

In-breath                     I bring Joy

Out-breath                   to my inner child

In-breath                     I bring Equanimity

Out-breath                   to my inner child

Then conclude the meditation by once more bringing Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity to the adult you.  This meditation nurtures the wounded inner child wonderfully and at the same time nurtures the adult you.  The Buddha’s teachings on Love provide the foundation for this Love meditation to the wounded inner child.  The concentration on these four qualities is an incredibly powerful instrument for healing.  I do not have the words to adequately describe the impact but Thich Nhat Hanh does:

The Buddha says if we gather together all the virtuous actions we have realized in this world, they are not equal to practicing love meditations………If we collect together all the light from the stars, it will not be as bright as the light of the moon.  In the same way, practicing love meditation is greater than all other virtuous actions combined.

 There are many other methods of meditation and practice that could be documented here.  I felt it appropriate to indicate some of the ones I used to good effect in my process of healing.  These were practices that accompanied the shamanic healing conducted in an Altered State of Consciousness (See Healing Journeys in Portals and Passages: Book 2).  One factor that was very important is that I was determined to heal once understanding dawned in my consciousness.  From that awareness I took specific steps and relied on wise teachers, medicine women and steady friends to help me along the path of healing and transformation.  I must emphasize that this is not a journey that can be taken alone, so do ensure that you have support from your sangha and good guidance from a therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher.

Ian is the author of Eighteen Books (www.ianprattis.com ) He has given talks and retreats all over the world. He now stays local in Ottawa to help turn the tide just a little in his home city so that good things begin to happen spontaneously.

THE FIVE MINDFULNESS TRAININGS

I did wonder about placing the 5 Mindfulness Trainings in a University class on Ecology. However, students and those viewing the video wrote in about how much they appreciated seeing environmental ethics from this perspective.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings presented as Environmental Ethics was a big hit for students at Carleton University in Ottawa, Class Two on “Deep Ecology” in my 12 week course on Ecology and Culture (2000 – 2004). Originally produced through the facilities of Carleton University.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqZWfeHMW1o

On Being Splendid: Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing

Dear friends and gentle people,

 Although retired from Carleton University and Pine Gate Sangha I had also created a Video Channel on YouTube. Students and friends have requested that in this shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic the videos of dharma talks and interviews would perhaps be useful. So here goes!

 This week’s video rests on a terrific dharma from the Buddha. This was not given until his sangha matured.

ON BEING SPLENDID

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4kEG5o8WBg

The Buddha’s Four Clay Pots metaphor as a means to introduce Shambhala Warrior training. Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, a mature teaching from the Buddha. Learning to Throw Away Strongly so that when you meet the Buddha on the road – you kill him. Kill the perceptions you hold about the Buddha. The raft is not the shore.

COVID – 19 and Walking Meditation                                                           

Anxiety and fear provide the internal Coronavirus. It overwhelms practices to calm and meditate. It is often impossible to sit and meditate, but we can walk with normal breaths for 15 minutes – in our home, in our back yard or around our streets – making sure we honor distance from others.

We know from our experience of hikes in nature, or neighborhood walks after dinner, that sudden flashes of insight often arise in concert with our footsteps.  We then see clearly how to handle a predicament or solve a problem. Imagine what can happen when we add conscious awareness to our footsteps.  When we concentrate on our breath and focus on slow walking, we actually have a brilliant piece of engineering to quiet the mind and body.  When we add a third concentration – aware of how our feet touch the earth – we have a meditative practice designed for our times.  We focus our mind on the mechanism of each foot touching the earth – heel, then ball of foot, then toe.  We slow down even further and with our body – not our intellect or ego – we make a contract with Mother Earth to leave a smaller footprint. We examine our consumption patterns and energy use.  All from walking with awareness, our breath, our legs and noticing how our feet touch the earth.

With this concentrated focus of walking meditation there is very little opportunity for the mind to worry about past events or future anticipations.  The meditation keeps us present, here in the moment of being fully alive.  It slows us down step by step so that our mind enters silence.  This is aided by another component we can add to walking meditation – a gentle half smile to nurture the peace and silence within. With the deepening of this internal silence, insight naturally occurs.

Walking meditation is a powerful methodology for healing ourselves.  We start by breathing in and out with full attention to the in-breath and to the out-breath.  Co-ordinating our breath with our steps we breathe in, saying silently to ourselves – “Breathing in” – as we take two or three slow steps.  Then as we breathe out, we say – “Breathing out” – as we simultaneously take two or three slow steps.  Practice this for several minutes just to get used to the concentration and the co-ordination of breath and steps and be fully aware of breathing in and out, and of walking slowly step by step.  Sometimes you will take two steps, sometimes three or four steps, sometimes there will be more steps on the out-breath than on the in-breath.  Allow the breath and lungs to find a natural rhythm with your steps.  It is the concentration and awareness that matters, not whether you take two or three steps, but do remember to wear a half smile on your lips!  If you take two steps with the in-breath, say to yourself –

“Breathing in” (on step 1), “In” (on step 2).

If you take three steps on the out-breath, say to yourself –

“Breathing out” (on step 1), “Out” (on step 2), “Out” (on step 3).  As you take each step, you can add a concentration that brings you solidly into contact with the earth.  Concentrate on your foot touching the ground in this sequence – heel, ball of foot, toe.  This particular concentration assists you to be fully with your stepping on the earth, keeping you alert to earth rhythms.

At Carleton University where I used to teach, I would walk from the bus stop and take a detour around the greenhouses of the Botany department and come to the Rideau River that runs along one side of the campus. From there I had a kilometer of riverbank to practice walking meditation before arriving at my office building.  It is quite secluded in parts and the river has sets of rapids that greatly enrich my walk.  One section of the path took my steps through a cedar grove, and I always felt a sacred blessing from these beautiful trees.  I slow my walking right down to a three – three rhythm when I enter the cedar grove.  The path is never the same, as the seasons change its character.  Autumn leaves give way to snowfall as winter leaves her embrace.  My clothes and footwear change, yet my steps, breathing and feet touching the earth remain constant.  The rustle of autumn leaves is replaced by the crunch of snow and ice, which gives way to the mud and rain of spring before the heat of summer allows me to walk in sandals or barefoot.  The birds and foliage change with the seasons, as does the river – iced over in winter, turbulent in the spring and calm in summer and fall.  Students with their books and friends congregate by the river when the weather is sunny.

I notice the changes in the seasonal round of nature, yet remain with my breathing, footsteps and the earth – so that I am not drawn into unnecessary thought.  It takes me approximately twenty minutes to arrive at my office.  I am in a clear, calm state and better able to be of assistance to students and colleagues and bring my own sense of calm and clarity to the university.  On leaving the university I retrace my steps of walking meditation along the river before going home, or to appointments in the city.  The experience engenders the same calm and clarity.  This walk is Paradise, and a constant reminder to me for those occasions when I am not in touch with the earth mother.  We do not need to walk on water, or over hot coals.

We simply need to walk on the earth and touch her deeply with our full awareness.  That is all that walking meditation is.

Dr Ian Prattis is an author, speaker and Zen teacher. His recent books are found at his website www.ianprattis.com

 

Book Signing at Singing Pebble, Ottawa, Jan 18, 11am – 2pm. 206 Main Street.

Shattered Earth: Approaching Extinction, Book signing with Dr. Ian Prattis Saturday January 18th, Singing Pebble Books, 206 Main St, Ottawa, Canada, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm

Singing Pebble Books in their January 2020 Newsletter had this to say from the Foreword by Michael B. Davie, Publisher.

“Author Dr. Ian Prattis opens Shattered Earth in the not too distant future with a futuristic analysis of Climate Change and “the inevitable fate provided by the suicide pact engineered by corrupt corporations for most of humanity.” From there, the award-winning writer examines destructive environmental trends and practices and explores ways to protect and preserve planet Earth.

Dr. Prattis employs a skillful blending of fiction, non-fiction and biographical narratives to effectively convey his message in a thought-provoking, reader-engaging manner. Shattered Earth provides both a big-picture look at our planet’s environment in crisis along with a more individualistic-personal perspective, evident in his own experiences shared throughout this book.

Shattered Earth is a joy to read with an underlying message that we need to treat ourselves, our neighbours and our planet with much more care and concern – if you weren’t an environmentalist on starting this book, you will be by the time you finish reading it. ”

  • If you are in the Ottawa area, Canada, would you be so kind as to post this blog to your friends and networks. Thank you so much. Ian

You can use the URL below to get further info and a FREE bonus of a prior book or CD with every purchase of Shattered Earth: Approaching Extinction. 

Go to the Order book Tag.

http://ianprattis.com/ShatteredEarth.html

 

EXTINCTION

I am embarking on my 18th book – perhaps the most difficult yet. It is titled BROKEN GLASS, which is about our broken world – particularly with respect to the impending Extinction brought about by Climate Change. The difficulty for me has been the darkness of Extinction and the pacifying alternative of Impermanence. Yet my writing so far has brought this steadily my way to document. I have drafted an Overview that sets the scenario. This will take a while with research, writing and persuading my publisher to run with it. http://www.ianprattis.com

OVERVIEW for BROKEN GLASS 

I Had a Dream                                                                                  

 I dreamed I was in a river running kayak, sitting quietly in a pool outside the swift eddies racing to the edge of a waterfall that was huge, sheer, with a vertical drop of 1,000 feet. The kayak was bright yellow, the short stubby craft an extension of my body. My wetsuit was black and I wore a red lifejacket tightly fastened. My helmet was also red. The shaft of the paddle was black, the twin blades a dancing red. I looked around at the high mountains and forest, noticing the mist rising from the swift flowing river. Then pushed the kayak into the racing eddies straight to the edge of the waterfall. As I went over I raised the paddle high over my head and leaned back. I did nothing to steer or guide the kayak. The descent seemed forever – timeless. Yet in a moment my craft had submerged into the river below and then I was bobbing on the surface paddling downstream. My first thought in the dream as I manoeuvred close to the river’s edge was “That was a really bad run. I didn’t do anything.” Then moments later in the dream I stopped my thinking, realizing that it was the perfect run, precisely because I did not interfere with forces greater than mine. My lack of insight had missed the surrender to the fierce current of the waterfall, to the awesome power of the stream of consciousness. The surrender to the stream of consciousness was far more important than I realized. The dream lingered in my mind long enough to reveal that my literary works were the stream of consciousness – just different pearls on the same thread.

I had flown into the small airport of Castlegar in the Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia for my son’s wedding in the summer of 2009. The short hop over the Rockies in a Dash 8 aircraft from Calgary was spectacular, especially the flight into Castlegar airport. The wingtips seemed to touch the valley mountains as the aircraft swerved sharply into the river fringed village of Castlegar. My son Iain, his bride to be – Nancy – and my grandson Callun were there to pick me up and deliver me to where I was staying that night in nearby Nelson. The wedding ceremony was the next day in the Tibetan Buddhist Gompa.

The unforgettable dream, vivid in every detail, took place that evening in Nelson. I shared this dream with Iain and Nancy next morning, so they could perhaps see for themselves the surrender to the other, necessary for their marriage to work well. They understood. Their dharma and mountain friends enjoyed an incredible wedding in the Tibetan Gompa. There was a mountain of alcohol at the reception and dance afterwards, bottles of wine, beer and whisky with a line of glasses for Mai Tais. Yet hardly anyone drank, as the “high” was the quality of celebration and surrender in the wedding ceremony.

I have thought about this dream a great deal over the past decades and the reflections were revealing, though difficult to address. Where was it taking me? I eventually realized it was into the dark space of Extinction of our species. That was a shock that went through me.

The creation of my 2008 book – Failsafe: Saving the Earth from Ourselves – was part of this surrender though I did not realize it at the time. It was written from an unusual place and was also the midpoint for two trilogies of books. Several years ago at the beginning of spring after a severe winter in Canada, I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony with respected elders from the Ojibwa, Dene and Mohawk First Nations. We made deeply personal and collective commitments to serve the Earth. At the end of the ceremony we emerged into the pristine beauty of a late snowfall under a clear star studded sky. There had been a two-inch snowfall during the ceremony. As we walked barefoot to where we were camping I turned round and saw our footprints in the snow. It seemed as though these were the first footprints on the new Earth. I gestured to my companions to stop and look. They silently shared the same insight with soft smiles. In that instant the stillness and silence renewed our commitments to serve Mother Earth with all our hearts and minds. That was the moment when I became integrated with the Wisdom of the Elders.

Failsafe was born from that moment at the end of winter in 2006. It was published in October 2008.  I was giving a talk about this experience to an audience in Vancouver and suddenly found myself talking about two previous books I had published and the next three books not yet written. Failsafe was the midpoint. All these books were writing me, although I was not aware of it. Each book had issued forth from the experience of profound silence, a life work writing me!  It took me years to wake up to this. The first book in this trilogy  Anthropology at The Edge was published in 1997, followed by The Essential Spiral in 2002 and Failsafe in 2008. They talk to you from the seasons of my life.  My insights, disasters and occasional breakthroughs are the basis for this abundant creation.

These books were university text books and the basis for two television courses. They investigated the necessity of changing the mindset of humanity in order to combat Climate Change. I wrote about a Failed Genetic Experiment, though did place a question mark after “Experiment.” I knew that if we continue to turn our beautiful rivers into sewers because of our endless greed and neglected ignorance, there is no place on Mother Earth to sustain our present civilization. It will join the trash heap collectively created by mindless generations of humanity. We have 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 consume mindlessly in the global economy without regard for ecosystem balance or our creation of vast inequality and poverty. Planetary care is not part of this agenda.

My deepest hope, however, was that our innate knowledge would somehow become manifest as we interconnect with a vast counter culture that is no longer a minority, no longer asleep or disempowered. Diligent mindfulness can change our brain structures in the direction that permits new paradigms of behavior to come into form. As cells in the ecosystem of Gaia, it is as though humanity can align their neuronal networks with principles of ecosystem balance, ethics and responsibility. The plan in my mind was that the critical mass would arrive and amount to a collective tipping point for our species. Once the ego-driven mind is reined in, then clarity and compassion are suddenly there to provide the basis for how we can be with the planet and with one another in a totally new way. This is what happens if we “Begin It Now” – the concluding words to Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves.

The following book – Earth My Body, Water My Blood – was co-authored with students in my last university class on Ecology and Culture. The students brought passion, insight and sheer hard work to investigate the basic components of a new social and economic form for the 21st century – eco-community. It was based on the Five Great Elements – Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space – inherent in all aspects of life. The driving force adopted by the students was from the feminine representation of enlightenment. I have always thought of the present millennium as the century of the daughters. Not so much as a gender separate phenomenon, but as attributes of a holistic, nurturing presence of mind. These principles have parallels with Vedic philosophy and are found in Indigenous, Chinese and Western Alchemical traditions. Circles within circles all interconnecting – beautifully expressed by the Oglala Sioux medicine man, Black Elk, as the interdependent hoops of all nations and traditions. The students had decided on a profound template for this collection. Their adventure to establish eco-communities reflects the shift in mindset required to salvage the global ecosystem for human habitation. Our present values and patterns are the architects of the present global ecological emergency. We are our environment. Whether we live in a rural or urban locale, in the industrial or developing worlds, our mindset has to be focused on living as one component of Gaia’s ecosystem.

The second trilogy after Failsafe begins with Redemption. It was a lost manuscript, first written in 1975. I rediscovered this heartfelt book in 2011. The narrative was vivified with hindsight from my writer’s eye forty years later. The story is an allegory for life difficulties I experienced at that time. I was a real mess, yet despite my desperate state of mind this novel about Awakening emerged. Laced with grim humor, the novel has nature’s harsh and beautiful rhapsody as the background for tragic human failings. Redemption is set in The Hebrides, islands off the northwest coast of Scotland, with startling cycles of maturing and downfall of the epic character, Callum Mor. He was a gifted child, master mariner and derelict drunk, who eventually gains wisdom from a hard life’s journey. Redemption reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and of human nature. The starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world. Redemption alludes to more than what is openly stated. Every scene provides a striking visual clarity that mystically slips into the realm of timeless storytelling. All of this provokes the tapestry for deeper, more subtle messages of compassion and faith to carefully unfold.

Book Two of the trilogy, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, is a Hero’s Journey – as if Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. Shamanic healing of childhood sexual abuse, guru training and near death experience in an Indian ashram has this author stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in his own sovereignty in the latter part. Past life memories collide head on with the present.

With a voice steeped in authentic experience, I navigate past and present lives over four centuries; from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century, to a decisive life moment of surrender to the Muse in the 21st century. These epic tales weave seamlessly to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers. The genre is legend mixed with autobiography.

In New Planet, New World, I bring the 18th century to collide with the 21st century. Time, culture, space and consciousness are fused across centuries to create the final book of this trilogy. New Planet, New World provides a counterpoint to the demise of modern civilization. I chart a Beginning Anew for humanity, a communal Hero’s Journey to reconstruct society based on ecology, caring and sharing, as power elites ignore their complicity in the destruction of life on Planet Earth. This adventure is not without risk or cost. The clash of centuries opens Chapter One with a lyrical and dangerous meeting on a distant planet in 2080. The protagonists are from different centuries and cultures. The dark episodes and lyrical passages move the story along with action, fear, resolution, death, execution, bravery and exile in a futuristic opportunity for humanity. This action packed book of intertwining plotlines arc into the epiphany of the final chapter, which muses about human survival anywhere. This end game is a philosophy for the future. The reader now begins to harken to the rip tides of this futuristic novel and anticipate just where I am going!

In my career as an anthropologist I was fortunate to encounter many First Nation story tellers across North America: Dene, Hopi, Ojibwa, Algonquin, Inuit – to mention a few. Their poetic recounting of myths and history had a deep impact on how I thought and wrote. I would say that without poetry cultures implode. Four extraordinary indigenous medicine people enhanced my process of remembering the power of the poetic voice. Through their mentoring, I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place and consciousness. I chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious.

This direction of my writing found its foundation in poetry. I made a radical turn to reconstruct anthropological methodology as the poetic voice was required for anthropological investigation of the cultural other. The language of the anthropologist could not represent raw experience about field work. therefor poetry is philosophically essential to the work of anthropology. I saw poetry as an uninterrupted process whereas field notes were not. I suggested to colleagues that the poetry of observation is what anthropologists are supposed to do.

To prove this, I called on forty brilliant anthropologists, many of them senior icons in the discipline, to send me the poems they wrote while studying the cultural other. Much to my surprise the American Anthropological Association (AAA) published the ensuing book I edited. In 1985 Reflections: The Anthropological Muse was released by the AAA at their annual conference and held up as a new direction for the next century of anthropology. Here’s why.

My basic contention, shared by many other anthropologists, was that something crucial was missing from field work. The study of other cultures had often become pseudo-forms, which were neither true to the cultural other or to the science of anthropology. I proposed a poetry of observation in order to close the epistemological gap between observer and cultural other. In this way the poetic dimension became a crucial part of the developing methodology of anthropology. It had the function of revealing what has been suppressed and ignored. Anthropological poetics at the level of “interiority” is a distinctive account that the accepted discourse in anthropology at that time did not convey.

I wanted a different kind of anthropology, one that will engage dialectically with the cultural other and express it in a way that is useful for the other culture and my own society. Reflections: The Anthropological Muse changed the manner in which anthropology is justified and practiced.  Anthropologists who commit themselves to poetry in order to say something different about field experience are the tricksters and shamans of the discipline. I have been described as much worse! Though do believe that  I am part of a basic radicalization of the discipline and an evolution into a different kind of anthropology. A continuation of this radical perspective emerged several decades later when I brought out a personal volume in 2018 – Painting with Words Poetry for a New Era. Some words from Five Star Reviews may bring that piece of the thread home.

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 emotional outcry in a raw and direct form, 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 the message they 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, feelings, 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 the beauty in the rhythm and 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.”

I also brought out four e books on Buddhist Dharma and placed them on Amazon Kindle, Keeping Dharma Alive Volume 1 & 2; Portals and Passages Book 1 & 2. I was assessing this path as a way to handle the incoming extinction I felt was so imminent, placing dharma and environment in sync with one another. In my television course on Ecology and Environment I presented the Five Mindfulness Trainings from Buddhism as being nothing other than Environmental Ethics. Our World Is Burning My Views on Mindful Engagement soon followed. The sixteen essays offered examples of how to respond to the most serious social, economic, environmental and personal challenges of the Twenty-First century. I thought Mindful Engagement would be a tenable tool to cultivate awareness as an ethical framework which would guide actions, create steadiness and equanimity, and furthermore replenish body, mind and spirit. The book was offered as a lightning bolt to singe incredulity and cynicism.

The reviews of this book reinforced my attempt to create an authentic tapestry about the state of the world and how we could best engage with it. I could only draw from my experience and hope that would be enough for the reader. My approach to life comes through experience, crises, difficulties and joys that may have common ground with many readers. To the best of my ability, I endeavor to follow Gandhi’s principles of ahimsa and the teachings on mindfulness. These are the guidelines and foundations for my peace and environmental activism. I live very simply as a planetary activist. I am a Zen teacher, also a recognized guru in India. My initial task is to refine my own consciousness – to be a vehicle to chart an authentic path. The focus on daily mindfulness from my Zen practice enables me to be still and clear. From this energy the poems, chapters and books emerge.

My activism is a result of my internal work. Steadiness, clarity and compassion are within me, rather than ego posturing from the lunatic fringe. Though there was certainly a “rush” from the latter, I prefer the still-point, uncoloured by the excess of ego and desire for recognition. Such a still-point permits me to be free in my own sovereignty, no matter what I am doing. It also propels me to serve the planet and humanity by creating bridges and pathways of harmony.

My writing delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become different stewards of the earth and society. In the Sixteen Essays of Our World is Burning, I offer reality-based information that is in high demand in today’s society, which provides the potential for my projects to become fresh, new icons for today’s hungry culture. Hungry, that is, for authentic transformation. It takes training, practice, intelligence and creative vision to find the drive to create a tangible spirit of co-operation, the willingness to share and be supportive, and learning how to cross the bridges of conflict. This thread of understanding finds a place in every essay in Our World is Burning.

However, my attempt to get mindful engagement across to society was not successful – very little changed. So I have to up my game, as it were, and steadily examine the Darkness and Extinction that is rapidly drawing closer to wiping humanity from this planet. In this present work – BROKEN GLASS –  I am developing a perspective to handle Extinction well – though I find it difficult to write about Darkness and Extinction. So I draw on sages, Wisdom of the Elders and attempt to face Extinction with bravery and a developed consciousness. I am encouraged by a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Someone asked me, “Aren’t you worried about the state of the world?” I allowed myself to breathe and then I said, “What is most important is not to allow your anxiety about what happens to fill your heart. If your heart is filled with anxiety, you will get sick, and you will not be able to help.”

This takes me to recognize the significance of impermanence, which could be deemed a pacifying response to ecological apocalypse and the Sixth Extinction. Protest and rebellion to a nation’s inadequate attempts about Climate Change are unlikely to succeed. Protest and rebellion may be thought of as the alternative to impermanence – but they will certainly be brutally dispersed by national police and military. Thus the outcome of Extinction remains unstoppable before our eyes.

There is a Sequence to unravel the competing outcomes, captured with difficulty, though logic may sustain a rally.

Part One: Broken Glass is candid and brutal. It opens the darkness. It begins with a futuristic analysis of Climate Change and the inevitable fate provided by the suicide pact engineered by corrupt corporations for most of humanity. The next essay is about the Children’s Strike for Climate instigated by Greta Thunberg. I admire this magnificent young woman as she impacts generations and perhaps some politicians. Yet, the corporate oligarchy will not budge from their greed and power. They have already bought and sold governments. They will certainly gut the possibility of restraint with respect to Climate Change, thereby dashing the bravery of children worldwide. The emergence of Extinction Rebellion – a global grassroots environmental organization – is a disruption I fully support. The target of Extinction Rebellion is the existing political establishment at the beck and call of corporate cabals. Such very powerful financial interests, creators of Climate Change, will not allow their power and control to slip away. Inevitably this escalates to the collapse of societies amidst violent revolution.

Part Two: Facing Extinction begins with an understanding of impermanence, drawn from Buddhist perspectives that make sense. I add three stories that provide different faces of Extinction. Only one of them is uplifting.

Part Three: All My Relations rests on indigenous wisdom. Four stories that bear on the wisdom holders who patiently taught me their lore about Mother Earth.

Part Four: Hello Darkness is a relief from the darkness. Four stories about bravery – from India, through the eyes of a terrified nine year old boy, a futuristic gift from the Hopi and a moment of awakening.

Part Five: The Muse. Three poems to provide a stamp on the whole offering. The final poem draws on Ancient Wisdom, appropriately defining an alternative way that may no longer be available.

I return to the dream of the waterfall with a vertical drop of 1,000 feet. This was where I surrendered to the awesome stream of consciousness pouring through me. One thing it has taught me – the many books created are one body of work that culminates in “BROKEN GLASS.”

Part One – Broken Glass

  1. A Candid Look at the Future
  2. The Children

Part Two – Facing Extinction

  1. Manifesto of Extinction
  2. Love Lost and Dark Shadows
  3. Solace of Winter
  4. Torched

Part Three – All My Relations

  1. Remembering
  2. Wolfie’s Life in Death
  3. Four Arrows
  4. Sacred Stalker

Part Four – Hello Darkness

  1. Through Nine Year Old Eyes
  2. The Transfer Particle
  3. Transformation in India
  4. The Ewe

Part Five – The Muse

  1. Vietnam War Memorial
  2. Cabinet of Bigotry
  3. Ancient Wisdom

Vesak in Ottawa, May 5, City Hall 10am – 2pm

The roaring beat of Cambodian temple drums opens the day with a bang.  They are followed in procession by the monastic Sangha walking mindfully to their places next to the podium, led by Bhante Savath from the Cambodian Temple in Ottawa. From the monastic chanting all the way through to the finale – the day unfolds in a majestic way. City Hall is decorated with beautiful artwork, food tables and booths for Asian embassies and other community groups for this celebration of Vesak Day. It is always a stunning day.

Asian Buddhist communities in Ottawa – from Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – created this Vesak Celebration with Visita Leelaratna organizing the many parts of the day. He is the founder of this celebration. The first Vesak Festival in 2014 received guidance from three spiritual advisors – Master Bon Dat, Bhante Rath Sam and Dharmacharya Ian Prattis. They each come from different Buddhist traditions in Ottawa and three different countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada. They established a common cause to spread the seeds of Buddha Mind across Ottawa by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness.

The Vesak and Asian Heritage nature of the event brings messages from the Governor-General, Prime Minister of Canada, and the Mayor of Ottawa. This is a wonderful support for multi-culturalism and interbeing from all levels of government in Canada. The vigorous Lion Dance from the Vietnamese Youth Group always lights up the crowd. A talk on Loving Kindness is offered by the Buddha Meditation Centre in Toronto. Lawrence Greenspon also talks about his tour of Buddhist World Heritage sites in Asia. Connections are made, bridges are crossed and the organizers and audience went home very happy.

Here is some background about Vesak and the Buddha.

Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived and taught in India ca. 2,600 years ago. 550 million people in the world identify Buddhism as their religion or way of life.

Vesākha Day is the day Buddhists remember the birth, the enlightenment, and the passing away of the Buddha. The United Nations marks Vesākha Day as an official holiday, worldwide. As Buddhism spread from India, it was adapted to many cultures, and consequently Vesākha Day is celebrated in many different ways in various countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, and Nepal, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama.

Some will visit their local temple before dawn, to raise the official Buddhist flag, which represents a rainbow. Some may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and incense, which serve as a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers will wither, and the candles burn out, so too is life subject to impermanence. In some countries, birds and animals are released in a symbolic act of liberation. Vesākha Day is therefore a time when we reach out across the various Buddhist traditions to celebrate, and to non-Buddhists to enjoy dialogue and harmony.

And that is what happens in Ottawa City Hall on May 5, 2019!

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”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness on Parliament Hill – July 30.

                                       

Happiness on Parliament Hill is a movement to bring greater happiness, love and community to the city of Ottawa and globally through accessible meditation and mindfulness events. Mondays during the summer.

WHERE: Parliament Hill, July 30, 12 noon – 1pm with Dr Ian Prattis, Zen Teacher.

WHY: You’re looking to infuse your day and life with a greater dose of positive vibes and happiness and be part of a community that fosters loving kindness in each of its members.

WHO: Why You of course!

My Bio – Poet, Global Traveler, Founder of Friends for Peace, and Spiritual Warrior for planetary care, peace and social justice. I studied Tibetan Buddhism with Lama Tarchin in the early 1980’s, Engaged Buddhism with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh much later, Christian meditation with the Benedictines, and was trained by First Nation medicine people and shamans in their healing practices. I also studied the Vedic tradition of Siddha Samadhi Yoga, and taught this tradition of meditation in India and was ordained as a teacher and initiator – acknowledged in India as a guru.

I presently live in Ottawa, Canada and encourage people to find their true nature, so that humanity and the planet may be renewed. I mostly stay local to help turn the tide in my home city so that good things begin to happen spontaneously.  My novel – Redemption – is being made into a movie – and my poetry, memoirs, fiction, articles, blogs and podcasts appear in a wide range of venues. The latest book is “Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement” – #1 on Amazon.ca for a while. Beneath the polished urban facade there 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. I choose to go there in my literary work. A stone tossed into the waters of life.

In my career as an anthropologist I was fortunate to encounter many First Nation story tellers across North America: Dene, Hopi, Ojibwa, Algonquin, Inuit – to mention a few. Their poetic recounting of myths and history had a deep impact upon me. I would say that without poetry cultures implode. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary aboriginal medicine people enhanced my process of remembering. Through their mentoring, I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place, consciousness, and re-write some of Carl Jung’s psychology. I chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious. My books weave together seamlessly to create inspiration. Global citizens are staring into the abyss. Instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them – “Awaken spiritually,” for that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. Turning on the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea right now. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of life to find the courage and determination to transform.

My purpose in life is to share my wealth of experience on how to live in harmony not just with ourselves but with the place we call home… Earth. The human race does not need to be stuck with maladaptive options and patterns. My writing delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become responsible stewards of the earth and society.

Description of Meditation offering

  1. Settling and stretching into the space of meditation.
  2. Then 15 minutes of chanting a Tibetan chant about wellness. In English. Accompanied by a shaman’s drum.
  3. Final 15 minutes – meditation on the breath

I will have a meditation CD and offer this at half price to anyone interested.

Facebook Author Page

https://www.facebook.com/IanPrattisAuthor/

A Manifesto for the Future

“A Manifesto for the Future” is the final essay in my forthcoming book, “Our World is Burning: Essays in Mindful Engagement.” As the planet’s life support systems erode due to Climate Change, do we seek guidance from spiritual ethics or are we trying to transcend an unsatisfactory world? The Mindfulness Trainings are there yet social, political and ecological engagements are devalued. Walk the Bodhisattva path not as a separate self but as an engaged self.

 

A Manifesto for the Future

 

As a Zen teacher I make a commitment not to cause harm. I am guided by spiritual ethics yet am aware that the current disastrous state of the planet will not bring forth strategic plans of how to fix things. I could go on and on about the terrible things taking place in society and to the planet – and will divert to that in a moment. Yet the bottom line for me is to remember and refine a system of ethical conduct. I go deeper into meditation and 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 and cannot be fully effective until the internal side is in place.

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. At present, we are totally out of sync with the earth’s resources. The fragile threads of ecosystems around the globe are severely compromised. We are in the position of either going down the collective sewer or changing our values in the direction of awakening.

Jane Goodall issued a dire warning in 2016 that ‘life is hanging by a thread,’ as all living things will be negatively impacted by rapid climate change. In particular, she advocates the necessity of creating programs that stop tropical deforestation by making rural communities custodians of the forests.

This is difficult when President Trump, an influential leader, has begun to dismantle environmental regulations, setting in motion irreversible consequences around the world. The United States is ignoring climate change, obstructing clean energy and many forms of conservation. Noam Chomsky in 2016 refers to Trump’s priorities as “…racing as rapidly as possible to the destruction of organized human life.”

Stephen Hawking’s thoughtful piece in the Guardian (December 1, 2016) places a focus on elite behavior creating further inequality as he examines Brexit and the Trump presidency. His question is how will the elites change? “We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality and people see only a slim chance at earning a living at all.” Hawking acknowledges this dangerous moment in humanity’s evolution.

Earth is like a giant living cell, all parts are linked symbiotically. Biologist Thomas Lewis created this metaphor with humanity just as one part of a vast system. This is not something that powerful and corporate people have paid much attention to. The reality is that the life support systems of the planet are severely threatened by climate change, aided by accelerating global consumerism. Our ignorance and neglect are destroying Earth, because we do not know how to respect ourselves, others, and the planet. Unless we radically change, there is no possibility of balance, environmentally or socially.

This became clear in my filmed distance course “Ecology and Culture” at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I wanted to connect the many levels of violence and fear we engage with to the environment, and to the everyday use of harmful speech and mindless consumption. With ethical guidelines rooted in spiritual practice, we do not generate the energy that enables terror and violence to grow. Comparing an everyday situation to an overall climate of fear, hatred and vengeance, I suggest that it is all the same. We just need to learn how to behave differently.

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. The Buddha taught the Five Mindfulness Trainings as a design for living. Thich Nhat Hanh reworked them to relate 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 or mind.

I asked the students in my Ecology and Culture class if anyone would care to read them out to their classmates during my lecture on environmental ethics. There were many volunteers. I did wonder if this borrowing from Buddhism would go over well with students and the viewing audience. Much to my surprise, students and the public viewers wrote in to tell me that this was a wake-up call, the first time they had been presented with specific environmental ethics. Let me be clear, the trainings are not there to judge others. They are an internal guide so that, as individuals, we wake up to love and compassion and take heed of the directions the mindfulness trainings take us in. The trainings are not a coercive design for conformity. They simply assist us to be more aware of what is going on, around and within us. They enable us to distinguish what is good for ourselves, our minds and the world and what is not. It is not necessary to complete the practice perfectly, as that is not possible. It is, however, possible to move in the direction of responsible and ethical living and make a difference to our society and environment. Do we bring to violence, indifference and terror a renewed application of the same or do we step back and consider these teachings?

There is a solution to our present situation. Our leaders have often become trapped by corporate and electoral agendas, following a similar script, seeking justification and in some cases, avocation for the use of violence. Large scale change is difficult to find within this system but the Buddha offers a path. The implications of his Five Mindfulness Trainings apply to the dangerous times we live in. Our world needs guidelines like these.

A flip side to global violence is the growing concern over the absence of love, decency and compassion in daily public life. This preoccupies and worries many citizens and scholars.  If there was ever a time to learn anew from these teachings, it is now. When we touch base with the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we are being reminded to wake up. Neglect, terror and fear are states of mind. Therefore, we need tools that reconnect us to a mind state driven by love, decency and positivity.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings are presented as an antidote to the contemporary crises. The ethics of the Five Mindfulness Trainings provide a necessary balance to find our true nature, while caring for all we connect with. In addition to addressing social and environmental crises, the building of inner spiritual strength through meditation and mindfulness is crucial.

However, I must point out that it is critical in the 21st century that necessary re-education also find a place in the Five Mindfulness Trainings. They are indeed a guidance system to encourage us to no longer participate in a non-sustainable economic system driven by greed and distraction. This global ethic is our protector as it helps us to stop, look deeply and throw away our harmful patterns of behavior. Crises such as Climate Change prompt us to refresh and refine the trainings but as we will see there were some awkward disconnects in their creation. This begs the question of how to relate to the trainings without a disconnect to their intentions?

The Buddha was clear about impermanence and new challenges. He created the Five Mindfulness Trainings for the lay community and told Ananda, his faithful attendant, that the minor precepts should be revised according to the culture and the time. But Ananda and the Buddhist elders were confused about which precepts were the minor ones and misunderstood what the Buddha was talking about. And so nothing changed for 2,600 years. There was no preparation or anticipation for modern realities, as monastic precepts have not changed very much and were not equipped to handle issues ranging from internet, terrorism, a world full of refugees, to Climate Change.

The seeds of disconnect are not just with the trainings but with dharma in general. The disconnect reveals itself in terminology. Minor precepts refer to the Five Mindfulness Trainings for lay people while major precepts define monastic ethics. This language creates a divide between lay and monastic with the latter considered as superior, which is certainly not the case. In the modern era it is the lay dharma teachers who are in society, working in the trenches of everyday life, creating transformation in alliance with many other groups of lay people. Whereas the monastic community is secluded, cut off from everyday reality and are not in a position to create transformation in the wider society.

This disconnect is a marker of modern Buddhism in the west and was noted by David Loy in his excellent article in Buddhadharma (Winter 2015.)  Loy addresses the current ecological crisis and questions the deep rooted ambivalence within Buddhism towards it. He asks “Does the ecological crisis have nothing to do with Buddhism?” I add a further enquiry, “Where are the Buddhist politicians, CEO’s, entrepreneurs in political, ecological and economic spheres?” There is a wide disconnect in Western Buddhism between playing the capitalist game, yet only being concerned with the so-called peace of the inner self. The latter is the refuge we so readily withdraw to. This can never be satisfactory. Loy points out that the issue is structural as well as personal, making the challenge that of changing the economic and political systems rather than remaining in blissful denial. He identifies the two main obstacles as:

  1. Changing the mind is where it’s at – self-absorption in the separate self – the deal we fall into.
  2. Beliefs of Buddhist practitioners that we do not waste time trying to reform the unsatisfactory world, just concentrate on transcending it.

Both obstacles are major dharma mistakes, traps about higher spiritual reality that reflect disconnect in modern times, preventing us from engaging fully with the trainings and the world. Social, political and ecological engagements are devalued as we place our backsides on the cushion, chant, drink tea and avoid the reality around us. Modern Buddhism in the West definitely needs a wake-up call. The basic premise of the Bodhisattva Path is to walk it, not as a separate self, but as an engaged self. Then an authentic sense of awakening naturally extends into political, economic and ecological spheres of potential action. I agree with David Loy that the reconstruction of our mind necessarily involves the reconstruction of our world – economic, political and spiritual.

I like his comment that “Bodhisattvas have a double practice – as they deconstruct and reconstruct, they also work for social and ecological change…….Such concerns are not distractions from our personal practice but deeper manifestations of it.”

Thich Nhat Hanh was able to overcome this awkward divide when he created the Order of Interbeing during the Vietnam War. Socially Engaged Buddhism was renewed in Vietnam by him and then extended to the West. Thich Nhat Hanh ordained the first six members of the Order of Interbeing in February 1966 during the Vietnam War. The Order’s foundation ethics for engaging with the wider society are the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings created by Thich Nhat Hanh. They contain the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the Noble Eightfold Path and are a renewal of the earlier Bodhisattva Precepts. Thich Nhat Hanh was up to date and in tune with our times. He ensured that the Fourteen Trainings of the Order are in step with modern historical, cultural and socio-economic developments yet rest on the foundation provided by the Buddha and 4th century expressions of socially engaged Buddhism.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Lotus in a Sea of Fire and the fourteen ethical statements that he carefully sculpted, presented a revolutionary statement of Engaged Buddhism. Since 1966, the revolutionary part has been diluted, particularly in the West where the disconnect noted by Loy is in full swing. The Order of Interbeing established by Thich Nhat Hanh seems in the twenty first century to have morphed into an ineffective bureaucracy.

To emphasize that it is not just me who is way out on a limb here, I refer to a senior Theravada monk and scholar – Bhikkhu Bodhi (Buddhadharma Spring 2017). This respected monk looked at Donald Trump’s “cabinet of bigotry” and at the same time noticed the absence of Buddhists on a petition of objection to it, which was signed by 2,500 religious leaders in America. He asked the obvious question; “why are Buddhists not visible as advocates for peace, sanity and social justice?’ Where are they indeed, given that Buddhism is the pre-eminent religion of peace and compassion? He stated forcibly that not to participate in active engagement with politics, environmental and worldly events runs counter to the Buddha path of enlightenment. He points out that Buddhists fail to realize that the battleground over power and position are ethical contests. Trump’s ascendancy to power shakes every Buddhist Mindfulness Training and this requires a strong push back from Buddhist leaders. So where is our agenda of collective resistance?

Bhikkhu Bodhi urges Buddhist advocacy in alliance with progressive leaders – religious and lay – to defend America’s embattled democracy and leads the charge of relating to the trainings in a way that has no disconnect with present global concerns. That is the point of this essay – for there is nothing wrong with the trainings, apart from some essential rewording. The disconnect lies with contemporary Buddhists in the West who do not engage with the intent of the Trainings laid out by the Buddha and Thich Nhat Hanh. The Trainings are right here! Do we engage with them from the vantage points of self-seeking and separate-self OR engage with them from an open and engaged heart?

Bhikkhu Bhodi struck a chord with Buddhist leaders in the United States. I quote from an article in the May 2017 edition of the Lion’s Roar magazine.

“ Thirteen leading Buddhist teachers, joined by over 200 additional signatories, called on Buddhists and all peoples of faith to take a stand against policies of the new United States administration that will create suffering for the most vulnerable in society……Feeling the reality of this suffering, we remember that peacefulness does not mean passiveness and non-attachment does not mean non-engagement…..The dharma is not an excuse to turn away from the suffering of the world, nor is it a sedative to get us comfortably through painful times. It (the dharma) is a powerful teaching that frees and strengthens us to work diligently for the liberation of beings from suffering…..While Buddhism has traditionally emphasized the personal cause of suffering, today we also discern how the three poisons of greed, aggression, and indifference operate through political, economic and social systems to cause suffering on a vast scale…….

As we resist the heightened threat of many of the new administration’s policies, we also recognize that under-represented and oppressed communities in the United States have long suffered from systemic greed, aggression, aversion and indifference…….While some argue that the principle of non-duality suggests that Buddhists should not engage in or take sides on political or social issues, we believe the opposite is true. It is because we and others are not separate that we must act……..It is true that our numbers are small, yet we can join with others who share our convictions and values. For those who are new to this, please remember that there are many people who have dedicated their lives to the work of social change. They have the useful skills of compassionate organizing and building sustainable movements. Find them, get involved and learn from them.”

This May 2017 Manifesto is a major step in relieving the disconnect problem in Buddhism. This brings me to the tricky role of Impermanence.

Impermanence

To change structures of elitism, greed and corporate dominance requires a mass change in consciousness. Mindfulness supports that outcome. The Buddha’s teachings on impermanence also spur such a radical change. Can we grasp the insight of extinction – of ourselves, our civilization – even of the planet? Without the insight of impermanence, we will not be able to change our mindsets. We have to find a way to adjust to our changed political and environmental circumstances. We can no longer hold on to a view of how it once was. Once we can accept that we have created the present global situation, then and only then can we find a respite, discovering insights that bring radical change to our values, habits and mindset.

It is very difficult in our western culture to accept death. The usual response 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 only find the courage to surrender and rely on our practice of mindfulness to provide a measure of safety. Instead of denial, a space opens in our mind for lucidity and steadiness to enter, which could propel our species to live differently. 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 true reality on the planet can alleviate the course of environmental collapse. The energy and power to avert the disaster facing us rests in our minds and in a new collective choice to live very differently.

Thich Nhat Hanh brings this home to us in a direct and challenging way, making it very clear that any view not based on impermanence is wrong. He shows how the Buddha provided meditations on impermanence 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 change 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.”

 

This brings a certain peace and clarity to our minds and perhaps we can implement ethics, structures and technology to ensure a niche on this planet. We have a job to do in terms of cultivating a transformation in our consciousness, bringing about a new way of living in harmony with one another and on Earth.

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 can become steady and full of resolve to live differently. We have to shift the tide of negativity, change our mindset and not squander our life. The Five and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings provide us with templates to do that, as 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. It is an internal transformation of consciousness at the core of our being.

I shape all of this into a simple personal mantra – “I refrain from causing harm.” I know that by refraining from one thing that causes harm, I then prevent other harmful things from happening. I arrive at my own insight, which is not imposed by any outside authority. It takes mindfulness to do this and the Five Mindfulness 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, to the best of my ability.

I issue a Call to Action and bring Bhikkhu Bodhi back. In Buddhadharma, spring 2017 he urges Buddhist advocacy in alliance with progressive leaders to defend the United States’ embattled democracy from President Trump’s “cabinet of bigotry.”

He states; “We can call in unison for a policy of global generosity in place of rash militarism, for programs that protect the poor and vulnerable, for the advancement of social and racial justice, and for the rapid transition to a clean-energy economy …….and bring the moral weight of the dharma to bear on matters that affect the lives of people anywhere – now and long into the future.”  His statement was followed by the stance taken by Buddhist leaders in the May 2017 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine

I also call out 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.”

For our part we can work with municipalities, conservationists and River Keepers to clean up our waterways and environment. Ensure that children in schools go with you and prepare them to handle cyberbullying and neglect. We hold politicians and corporations to account. Create coalitions with progressive organizations who share our love of kindness and decency.

Walk upon the Earth – Lightly. Be fully Here and Present – Lightly.