Category Archives: Mindfulness

MORE DEAD CHILDREN.

In the light of beautiful young people gunned down in 2018 I offer this essay from my new book – “Our World Is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement.”

http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

 More Dead Children

 The specter of children shooting children in high schools shocked North America, yet very little institutional change has been effected, once the platitudes of politicians receded. This essay examines the consumption of violence by our children through the media, video games, and internet. It can lead to the deadly carnage of high school shoot-outs and murder, particularly when mental illness is considered. Young people, their parents, and society at large are unaware of the necessity of guarding their sensory doorways and mental health.  I illuminate the very dangerous environment we have created, and offer practical measures of mindful engagement as a way out. Young people need simple tools to deal with their hate, anger and distress so they do not resort to guns.

The shock waves and horror of the 1999 high school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and the 2012 massacre at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut swept across North America and touched every community. Since then, massacres in schools and universities have become more common. As these shock waves receded, the greatest danger is that the public may distance itself from taking responsibility for the toxic environment it has created. High school students across North America, however, have not forgotten. On the anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School, many students across America refuse to go to school for fear of a repeat shooting spree. Their fear is that “IT” could happen in their school.

Personally, the specter of children shooting children in high schools shocked me deeply. I was offended by the carnage and angry at society for creating the causes and conditions for children to end up murdering other children. I also had meditation students who had settled in Colorado, and they phoned me in a panic. I knew I could be of little help to them, for I was not in the appropriate space to give counsel to anyone. I, first of all, had to find the bedrock of understanding and compassion within myself before I could communicate anything worthwhile to others. To come from anger and shock was not something I was prepared, or trained, to do. I requested that my friends focus on Walking Meditation, to calm themselves and others around them. I would get back to them once I had taken care of my own anger and distress.

After three days of silence and meditation I wrote this essay. I looked into the causes of the shootings, and saw that with the passage of time people would become removed from any sense of personal responsibility. There is the ready availability of guns and drugs that naturally collude with the problem of untreated mental illness. When individuals are raised without influence from parents, teachers and community leaders, the consumption of violence can become a large influence in their lives. It is readily available through the media, video games and the internet, influencing those involved in shoot-outs. Many of our children have become exiles, their voices unheard, and we have largely forgotten how to listen to them. Some find a place in cyberspace where violence, hatred and killing are readily available without any sense of consequence or responsibility. In the absence of clear ethical guidelines from parents and society, young people are creating their own identity from the very worst that media has to offer. This identity can be built through a drive to achieve instant fame through acts of notoriety.

Children who have built positive core values through the influence of parents, teachers and community leaders have an internal strength to resist this seduction. But children who have fallen through the cracks are without support and guidance. They live out their sense of exile through the cruel fantasies available to them and become desensitized to the consequences of violent acts.

I write about dead children and not just the twenty killed in an elementary school in Connecticut and elsewhere in North America, but for children killed as collateral damage in world-wide violence. We are all grieving parents to the world. The question is: What Now? In the face of grief we must feel it deeply, be hurt by it, taking time to feel the pain of the tragedy. Then come through, determined to make a difference. This requires calling in the support of wise friends, counselors and community so we can begin to see clearly and find ourselves. Stillness is needed, not social media distraction and drama, for we need a new direction from leadership. To reassess the 21st century, we must look deeply at the factors involved in the shootings.

In the United States there is a complex, intertwined tapestry with the easy availability of guns and drugs. This is compounded by societal tolerance of violent media, plus the very serious common denominator shared by the killers stretching back to the Columbine massacre. The self-delusion and mental health issues in predominantly pre-adult white males. They are caught in an identity trap that they escape from through violence and murder. Through killing, they gain five minutes of fame that enables them to be remembered. They occupy a toxic landscape of “not love”, “not connected.” And this is what requires the attention of our health system and mindfulness.  How do we begin?

It is time for the Bodhisattva to enter the 21st century as a paradigm and archetype for individual and collective action. This enables us to transform ourselves and our civilization. We nurture this paradigm by cultivating two aspects that lie dormant within us. The first aspect is interconnectedness, knowing that we connect with everything, the earth, oceans, forests and mountains, all species and most of all – with all people. Fostering interconnectedness creates harmony and unity and destroys the ego. The second aspect is non-discrimination, which carries the energy of compassion, and this combination threatens selfishness. Taken together, these buried aspects manifest from within us, opening pathways and bridges to build a better world.

How do we do this? We cultivate the energies of transformation: mindfulness, concentration and insight. At every opportunity we bring interconnectedness and non-discrimination to the forefront of our daily lives. In this way we shape the future of the 21st century as we begin to live differently. We should not be intimidated by present crises. We are certainly shocked and hurt by such circumstances but are much stronger than we think. Enter the Bodhisattva is the guiding paradigm for our lives. I allude to Bruce Lee’s classic, Enter the Dragon, which brings the fierceness of the warrior to the fore and the determination of a saint to overcome tragedy and set a new course. It takes practice, skillfulness and creative vision. Are we equal to the task?

 

Most young people, their parents and society as a whole, are unaware of the need to guard their sensory doorways, or eliminate their engagement with violence. One can easily see that violence in the external environment must be controlled. As an alternative, steps must be taken in schools and communities to deal with frustration, mental health issues and hatred without resort to guns. Our senses can be bombarded by so much damaging material. The violence that pours in feeds the consciousness that drives us. If we load our mind with toxins and violence we should not be surprised by what occupies the driving seat.

My body and mind are not individual entities that I can do anything I like with, such as filling them with drugs, alcohol, hateful attitudes, harmful identities, unhealthy foods, cravings or violence. My body and mind exist to provide for future generations therefore I must be aware of what I put into them. We also must exercise care and responsibility over what we allow into the minds and bodies of our children. This care and responsibility prevents young people turning their consumption of violence into violent acts on themselves in the form of suicide. We must say “no” to our children consuming violence through movies, video games and hate concerts. At the same time we refuse to engage in violent and toxic interactions with them. We must take steps to fill the ethical void and give our children the benefits of our full presence and learn to listen deeply to them.

But when was the last time anybody really listened to you? And when was the last time that you really listened to your children? Our listening is usually filled with judgements, and young people are deeply hurt by this. To listen requires that we find a way to leave our judgements behind, to be present. We may understand our children if we listen compassionately. When we are fully present, our energy can transform them and heal their deep hurts, erasing neglect. We learn about full presence through meditation. The teenagers who murdered their classmates at Columbine High School had no-one to listen to or be present with them. Nobody helped them or took care of the violence that flooded their consciousness.

The Rev. Dale Lang, who lost his son Jason in the high school shooting in Taber, Alberta, provided a wonderful example of leadership and forgiveness for his community, in the midst of his own personal grief.  He asked that his son’s death not be in vain, and that the community forgive the boy who killed him, that they practice compassion. From the families of children killed at Columbine and in Newton, there is the same plea. Let their deaths not be in vain. We can respond by recognizing that we are either part of the problem or part of the solution and must examine how we support and condone the culture of systemic violence. If time passes and nothing changes, if we sit on the fence and say “this is not my responsibility” then we are part of the problem. There are many parents, teachers and community leaders who are endeavoring to make a difference to the existing state of affairs in their homes, schools and communities, but their efforts may be too slow for our children.

The high school murders are not a teenage problem. They are a societal problem of systemic violence penetrating to the consciousness of young people through their sensory doorways. Thus a societal solution is necessary. One that deals with anger, frustration, mental health and hatred. It must also provide an alternative paradigm that impacts the internal environment of violence and transforms it. One reason there are disturbed young people is a lack of positive models. Neither group had adjusted in order to protect themselves from toxins and violence in the media. If we do not guard our sensory doorways, there will be negative effects.

After the platitudes of politicians and the media were delivered following the high school and university murders, not much has changed in terms of institutional structures or constraints on the production of violence in the media, video games and movies. Providing young people with mindfulness tools to take care of the energies produced by hatred and violence I suggest mindful engagement, the subtitle of this collection of essays.

There are parents and teachers everywhere who are desperate for a change of direction, recognizing the enormous crisis. The Chinese letter for crisis has two characters, the first is danger, the second is opportunity. We need to recognize the danger of violence combined with mental illness and seize the opportunity of mindful engagement to deal with it. In the space created by meditation, the toxic and violent consumption of every day life has no doorways to pass through.  It is not a total solution but it is a start.

To young people I recommend simple tools of handling anger, hatred, distress and mental illness. There are techniques of meditation that allow the person doing them to recognize their negative emotions and deal with it.  I tend to think that the most useful technique is walking meditation, simply because it is hard to sit and meditate when you feel angry or violent (further discussed in essay six).  We can literally walk ourselves out of crisis by taking care of the distress and releasing the energy of it into the ground. Recognize the danger of anger and hatred and seize the opportunity of walking meditation to deal with it.

I invite meditation teachers to take their skills into schools and community centers. Providing these methods can make an impact on the anger and hatred that affects our children. I invite young people to bring such teachers into their midst and see what they can teach. Remember that we are either part of the problem or part of the solution. As citizens we all have the capacity and the responsibility to change things for the better: at home, at work and in our public life. We have to take a stand not to condone violence. It is our actions, from a space of clarity that provides solutions. Our indifference to the dangerous environment we have created means that we perpetuate the problem. I ask everyone to choose wisely, and immediately.

This message was been sent far and wide, thanks to internet technology, and to good people everywhere who passed it on through their own networks.  It was used in many communities, particularly Colorado. In my own city, Ottawa, I gave workshops and retreats for students about violence in schools and mindful engagement and continue to do so.

 

Authentic Tapestry.

I was humbled by the reviews of “Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement.’ Critics 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 and chapters emerge.

My activism is a result of my internal work. Steadiness, clarity and compassion are within me. 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. As an anthropologist, I was fortunate to encounter many story tellers across North America – Dene, Hopi, Ojibwa, Algonquin, Inuit – to mention a few. Their poetic recounting of myths and history had a deep impact upon me. I would say that without poetry, cultures implode. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhanced my process of remembering the power of the poetic voice. Through their mentoring I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place and consciousness. I also chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious. This shows up in my writing.

My books are epic tales that seamlessly weave together to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers, environmentalists, Generation X and Y, feminists, students and academics alike. I recognized early on that global citizens are staring into the abyss – yet instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them: “Awaken Spiritually,” for that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. Turning the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea right now. That is the prod and direction of my poems and books. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of daily life to find the courage and determination to transform.

My writing 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 cooperation, 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.

You can order “Our World Is Burning” ($19.95) and receive one FREE autographed copy of New Planet New World; or Redemption; or Trailing Sky Six Feathers; or Failsafe; plus a Meditation CD as a thank you. Indicate which item you would like, though it depends on inventory what can be sent. http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

 

Our World is Burning – Even More Reviews

Barbara A. White, M

  • Barbara White
  • Ian writes with a monastic lyricism that is disarmingly invigorating, and ideologically and pragmatically (that is the point) empowering. Ian is a “meme” catcher, a “meme weaver” of cross–cultural and pan-generational challenges and continuities. Like Franklin with his fabled key on a high flying kite, Ian is standing in the rain capturing lightning bolts. Gird yourself! Our World is Burning is a lightning bolt and it will singe your Western incredulity and cynicism.
  • Michael B. Macdonald, Film-maker, Associate Professor at MacEwan University

I was introduced to Ian Prattis when he was founding Friends for Peace. I was deeply engaged in a personal struggle to articulate a way of living that was committed to ant-oppression, anti-war and anti-inequality. Ian helped me understand that fighting against injustices needs to be built around the cultivation of new ways of being, being together and being on the planet. I began to learn about the importance of consciousness in the struggle to want less, want peace, love. Ian’s vision is complex and important. His ideas are rich and rewarding if you take the time to sit thoughtfully with them. Ian is committed to changing the world, and unlike those who may wait for a new world to come, Ian has developed practices to bring a new world into being. My hope is that this book will be read widely, and ideally, in community.

  • Jana Begovic, Author of “Poisonous Whispers”

Ian Prattis’ essays reflect the essence of his character. A steward of Gaia, in his opening essay “Our World Is Burning” Prattis engages in a dialogue with a nine-year old boy who is terrified of growing up in a world that will burn up. With touching gentleness, Prattis assuages the boy’s fears and paints an image of the role the boy can assume in contributing to the forces of good in the world. Prattis shines the light on the path of mindful living by outlining a series of steps we could all adopt in our effort to reduce the negative imprint on Earth. His other essays exude profoundly inspirational messages and sound the alarm bell, but also light the torch of hope, and possible redemption of a landscape of potentially apocalyptic darkness. This book is a gift.

  • Tonya Pomerantz, Creator of Puddle Jump Coaching

Ian Prattis’ essays on mindful engagement are a crucial read.  Open, honest, down-to-earth and authentic, Prattis shares his stories of family and community. His style of writing is inviting; welcoming the reader on a global journey filled with love, compassion and growth. The reader embarks on a magnificent ride; one full of reflection, a strong support system and above all, mindfulness. I felt inspired after reading these essays. This book should be read by government officials and policy makers. His writing is accessible, not overpowering. We want to continue reading and being part of Prattis’ world. This collection of essays is a gift to the global community.

 

  • Ginette D’Aoust-Castonguay, Wellness Facilitator

After reading this rich collection of essays all conveying pragmatic life lessons, I found Our World Is Burning: Essays on Mindful Engagement to be a profound yet comprehensive guide. It is capable of igniting a spark deep within us as well as inspiring the reader to be present and step up to the challenge.

You can order “Our World Is Burning” ($19.95) and receive one FREE autographed copy of New Planet New World; or Redemption; or Trailing Sky Six Feathers; or Failsafe; plus a Meditation CD as a thank you. Indicate which item you would like, though it depends on inventory what can be sent. http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

Our World is Burning – More Reviews.

You can order “Our World Is Burning” ($19.95) and receive one FREE autographed copy of New Planet New World; or Redemption; or Trailing Sky Six Feathers; or Failsafe; or Meditation CD as a thank you. Indicate which item you would like, though it depends on inventory what can be sent. http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

  • Marianna van de Lagemaat, Herbalist Farmer

The words in these essays touch my heart deeply. For instance: “I don’t want to grow up and live in a world that is burning.” From the heartfelt cry of a terrified nine year old boy, Ian demonstrates in his thoughtful, gentle way how we can, through an awakened awareness, change ourselves as individuals, think mindfully, sustainably and globally as interconnected communities and thus heal our Earth and restore our humanity.

  • Koozma J. Tarasoff, Anthropologist, Peace Activist, Author and Photographer.

Ian Prattis’ new book is an urgent call for action in our troubled world. Environmental pollution, wars, violence, greed, ego worship and crass materialism are issues that urgently need to be resolved for the health of our Planet Earth and its inhabitants. Indeed, we need to release our bad thoughts to the soil and become informed. This is a book for the new generation who also need to nurture a respectful relationship to Mother Earth. Bravo, Ian, for helping to bring the tipping points of our consciousness closer to a critical mass for radical change. Master Story Teller and Healer with a vision for a new world.

  • Gayle Crosmaz-Brown, Master Drum Artisan & Spiritual Activator

Ian’s writing style keeps one motivated to keep turning the pages wanting to know more. His passion for sharing his insights and growth has no bounds, and triggers others to take action. May all who invest their time absorbing these pages find it in their own hearts to live the example being created within his prose. Ian is the stone being tossed into the waters of life. Let his ripple be felt on all shores.

  • Ute H. Webb

Ian has dedicated his life to engaged Buddhism, leading by example and guiding us to become guardians of the earth, always challenging us to reach beyond our comfort zone. Drawing on his deep respect for the teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, his long training as a Shaman, and his years spent as a Yogi in India, his knowledge, wisdom and reflections are timely and ever so pressing. He offers, and is, mindful engagement at its finest. In his brilliant conversation with young James in Chapter One he lays out the path we must choose. Failure to do so is summarized in his excellent Rant from the Future – Chapter Two. Rock on Ian!

  • Wendy Martin PhD

This collection of essays, dharma talks, and stories offers compelling examples of how to respond to the most serious social, economic, environmental and personal challenges of the Twenty-first century: inequality, climate change, addiction, consumerism, depression, violence, abuse.  Through integrating personal narrative with insights from Buddhism, anthropology, psychology, and ecology, Dr. Prattis examines the interdependent nature of the self, society and nature, as well as, the integral relationship between self-transformation and collective healing.   He illustrates how individuals can use mindfulness practice to cultivate awareness, as an ethical framework to guide actions, to create steadiness and equanimity, and to replenish body, mind and spirit.  This book offers effective tools and strategies to help identify and transform the causes, conditions and manifestations of our individual and collective fear, suffering and anger into compassion, courage, healing, awareness and mindful action.

 

 

 

 

Press Release – Our World is Burning.

Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement

OTTAWA, ONTARIO – This book examines our fragile future and offers an alternative way of living based on Mindful Engagement. In sixteen essays Ian Prattis offers examples of how to respond to the most serious social, economic, environmental and personal challenges of the Twenty-First century. He advocates mindfulness practice to cultivate awareness as an ethical framework to guide actions, to create steadiness and equanimity, and to replenish body, mind and spirit. This book offers a lightning bolt that will singe incredulity and cynicism. Our World is Burning is Dr. Ian Prattis’ life work.

Anita Rizvi, Therapist

Dr. Ian Prattis, with the vision of a Prophet, the heart of a Buddha and the mind of a master Story Teller, offers a timely gift to humanity, as our collective psyche, reflected in the deterioration of our ecosystem, is poised to burn on the pyre of global consumption. In the midst … a Teacher has come… Now, pick up a copy of Our World is Burning and watch evil leave the room.

Melissa Studdard, Author and Poet
Amidst the fear, greed, and pain of our burning world, there is a cool garden where you can recover hope for posterity and cultivate your best life. Ian Prattis’ words are one of the surest pathways to that garden. Both analytically rigorous and fearlessly honest, this book is a must read for anyone asking, “What can I do?”

Please visit http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html for more information.

Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement by Dr. Ian Prattis

Price: $19.95 CDN – published by Manor House, 192 pages.

ISBN 978-1988058 -24-5

Available at:  http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

Soon on Amazon, on Indigo/Chapters (Spring 2018)

About the Author

Ian Prattis, Zen Teacher, Anthropology Professor Emeritus, peace and environmental activist, was born in the UK. He has spent much of his life living and teaching in Canada. His moving and eye-opening books, essays and poetry are a memorable experience for anyone who enjoys reading about primordial tendencies. Beneath the polished urban facade remains a part of human nature that few want to acknowledge, either due to fear or simply because it is easier to deny the basic instincts that have kept us alive on an unforgiving earth. Prattis bravely goes there in his outstanding literary work. A stone tossed into the waters of life.