Our World is Burning presents sixteen essays which strive to teach the benefits of mindful engagement for individuals, communities, and the Earth. These essays are divided into four parts, each based on a different area which mindfulness can positively impact: global climate change, family and community, healing and transformation, and spiritual support. I show readers what mindfulness can do for them and the small ways in which readers can rewire their consumerist thoughts and become more present in the here and now.
I begin with three essays in PART ONE: CASCADE. Essay One provides the title of this collection – Our World is Burning. It is about Climate Change seen through the eyes of a terrified nine year old boy who wants to remain five so the earth does not explode into flames. His poignant discussion with me on his birthday obliterates any residue of Climate Change Denial. I spoke to him about the mindfulness community I created in 1997 – Pine Gate – and the deliberate steps taken for planetary care. We simplify, make do with less, share and adapt. Our intent is to create environmental leaders and that includes him. The drive behind Pine Gate is to foster a strong cadre of people in Ottawa to make a difference for the betterment of society and the Earth Mother. Women are in the forefront of this endeavor. They are the heart that holds the living waters and that heart is the dynamic epicentre of the mind/will/emotions that lead to effective action. He was taking it all in, including “Girl Power” and grasped what I said to him. 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.
The next two essays are hard core. Essay Two: Rant from the Future is taken from the futuristic book New Planet, New World. In this fictional moment in 2080 Dr. Tom Hagen’s blistering speech to an elite forum of political and corporate leaders at the United Nations changed the future of humanity. He looks back on the willful ignorance of the power elite on Planet Earth. He glares at his audience, “Did you not notice that degradation of the Earth’s ecology was the catalyst for radical Climate Change? Did you not see that food crops were destroyed by horrendous heat waves? Did you not realize that food riots and world panic trace back to one cause, the economic agenda of your energy extraction?” He continued, “Your collective agenda has destabilized world order. Your brand is a dysfunctional global financial system lurching from one disaster to another, ignoring the welfare of populations and the ecological breakdowns caused by the consequences of your actions. May I remind you that the economy is a mere sub-set of the mother lode of ecology and you have successfully destroyed most ecosystems on Planet Earth. Your willful ignorance of dire warnings served to discredit climate change scientists and oceanographers screaming that eco-systems were disintegrating. You silenced and jailed citizens with the integrity to save the Earth. But it was never about the unanimity of science or free speech. It was about the brand of economics favored by your collective cabal of extraordinary power that extended its reach to encompass all powerful corporate ventures. You know who you are.”
Essay Three: Are We Stupid ponders on two forks in the road: either a Failsafe in Consciousness emerges or our fate becomes that of resignation to being a failed genetic experiment. The necessary clarity to deal with Climate Change will emerge, once our thoughts, values and attitudes change and no longer sustain and feed our internal pollution. This is the radical internal Climate Change necessary to engage intelligently with the external Climate Change. The overwhelming terror of Gaia crashing down on us is unbearable. The restructuring of capitalism requires that social capital and community sustainability become just as important as profits – profits for sure, but within an ethical structure that provides a new direction for globalization. New structures and mindsets are required to eliminate the control exercised by international finance capitalists. If we continue to turn our beautiful rivers into sewers because of our endless greed and neglectful ignorance, it is obvious that there is no place on Mother Earth to support our present civilization. That too will join the trash heap collectively created by mindless generations of humanity. The ancient ecologist on Mars studying a million years of earth history would note a parasitic infestation on Planet Earth that was not very intelligent. An intelligent parasite would ensure the good health of the host that supports it. And so the Martian biologist would factor in an inevitable elimination date for our species in her star-date log and may well view our civilization as a failed genetic experiment.
Briefly – PART TWO: FAMILY AND COMMUNITY provides an unusual story of parenting in the drug underworld of Glasgow, Scotland in Essay Four: Punk Palace. The upbeat essays of Community Activism and Taking Refuge in Grandchildren in Essays Four and Eight are counter points to the dreadful impact of Cyberbullying and More Dead Children in school murders in Essays Five and Seven.
In PART THREE: HEALING AND TRANSFORMATION I do not shrink from documenting personal suffering and transformation – near death experience, sexual abuse and healing. I knew there was a boundless consciousness deeply hidden under the morass created by my patterns and habits of denial. I refer to this personal necessity in Essay Nine: Healing Journeys, Essay 10: Healing the Inner Child and Essay Twelve: Shattering of Concepts. Chapter 11: The Buddha at the Gate is a homily to park our suffering. Essay 12 – Chronicles of Awakening – places my concerns in a trilogy of books – Redemption, Trailing Sky Six Feathers and New Planet, New World. Peggy Lehmann in a testimonial to Our World is Burning states that through these three books “..readers saw glimpses of the author and his message both evolving and growing to new levels of spiritual understanding. At a time on Earth when hope is badly needed, Ian’s writings have universal appeal assuring us that a better world is possible and that each of us must contribute to its creation.”
In PART FOUR – SPIRITUAL SUPPORT – the essays lead up to the finale: “A Manifesto for the Future.” This places the issues in each essay into the sphere of action, politics and resistance. I also reveal my spiritual training from Shamanic, Vedic and Buddhist traditions, jostled together with quite a few life crises! My intensive training enabled me to better understand the processes of transformation. There was a lot of mud in my seasons, yet that mud provided the necessary compost to cultivate surprisingly beautiful flowers. From mentors in the desert, Essay Fourteen, to training with sages, Essay Fifteen, I then gravitate to Essay Sixteen: A Manifesto for the Future. And just why do I – do we – need all of this? It is so we may emerge as the new leaders for the 21st century.
I was humbled by the reviews of “Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement.’ They 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. If I can take steps along the spiritual path, surely anyone can. 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. If I did not do this, then I could not write the way I do.
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