Tag Archives: Consciousness

Sound of Silence

Sound of Silence

Paul Simon wrote “The Sound of Silence” in 1963 and with Art Garfunkel recorded this song with Columbia Records a year later. It totally bombed and led to the duo breaking up. Later on the song’s producer, Tom Wilson, did a remix of the original track, overdubbing electric rock instrumentation played by musicians from Bob Dylan’s band. It became a number one hit overnight all over the world and brought the very surprised Simon and Garfunkel back together. They were university students and part of the counterculture movement, yet Simon had no intent other than writing a good song in his bathroom while he played his guitar with lights off and the water running! He was all of twenty-one years old. Garfunkel provided a focus on the inability of people to communicate. But it seems as though the lyrics wrote them. It took the American heavy metal band “Disturbed” and their lead singer David Draiman in 2015 to add a sharper edge. Their rendition was not just great music and lyrics – it was a cry of pain for our entire civilization.   The poetic lyrics are insightful about society and the planet, hauntingly so. Simon’s imagery and Garfunkel’s insight shone light on humanity’s inability to communicate with any harmony. The “neon god” no less:

“People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share.”

Note the enigmatic ending:

“The words of the prophets

Are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls

And whispered in the sounds of silence.”

Does this sound all too familiar for our modern times? Whether Simon and Garfunkel recognized it or not, the song is highly provocative in the awakening process. The lyrics carry a steady context about the necessary expansion of silence. They provided a vocal crash landing that until there is silence there is no place for the wisdom of the prophets to penetrate human consciousness. The latest version of this masterpiece by the Heavy Metal band –Disturbed – rams it right into our current societal and planetary collapse.


Our World is Burning

This essay opens the conversation in a book I will be releasing in 2017.

Essay One: Our World Is Burning

My grand-nephew James was celebrating his birthday, yet he felt awful and very sad about being nine. He wished he could stay five years old forever. When asked why, he replied that if he could stay five then the Earth would not explode. His lips quivered and the tears welled up in his large brown eyes. He said, “I don’t want to grow up and live in a world that is burning.” In the silence that stretched between us I wondered what to say. I could not say that everything will be OK, that my generation will fix things. He was much too intelligent for such placebos. So 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. “Why not become a leader for your generation?” I asked him. He thought about that intensely and asked what else did Pine Gate do?

            I pointed out that Pine Gate encourages Voluntary Simplicity and Community Ethics as a way of life. We start with the Earth. Our organic garden produces an abundance of vegetables, apples and flowers that are shared with neighbors and community members. It is a solace for me to spend time with the Earth, observing bumblebees and butterflies while gardening with assistance from neighborhood children. I told James that the kids once went into hilarious laughter when they saw that the plant I had carefully nurtured turned out to be a giant weed and not a tomato plant! We had great fun returning it to the compost bin. At the back of the garden is a beautiful fountain that murmurs ‘midst the flowers, which are picked and sent to the elderly folk living on our crescent. A simple underground economy arises from the sharing. A solar panel on the roof fuels the hot water system. Everything else is as eco-friendly as we can make it for our fifty year old bungalow with a meditation hall in the basement. This eco-effort has become an example for other friends as they do the math on how much cash we are saving and implement something similar. Our focus is on mindfulness in schools, city environment, teens at risk and on the empowerment of women. I admitted to James that I am blown away by the results, for at the local level there were great women who helped make things happen.  “You mean girl power?” asked James incredulously. “Exactly that,” I replied.

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. That is how we get things done differently to create a different course of action and living. James was taking it all in. He knew instinctively that major changes were needed. I intimated that when enough of us change, then we will be in charge. I told him about a speech I gave about violent consumption. His sharp mind held on to every word as I pointed out that festive occasions like Christmas provide opportunities for the best and the worst within us to come out and play. Yet compassion and kindness are quickly overshadowed by greed, selfishness and consumer madness. We need to re-assess, as it is time to move on from being self-absorbed and distracted. “How?” he asked again, as he really wanted to know. So I gave him this list.

Locate in something bigger than oneself; a humanitarian cause, respecting the earth, making our thinking better, being kinder and more generous. How about examining our habits about gift giving and learn to give gifts that make a difference?  I pointed out to James that I no longer buy Christmas gifts, instead present gift certificates in the name of family, grand-children and young neighborhood friends. These gift certificates provide items like education for a girl in Afghanistan, micro-loans for female led families, rebuild forests in Haiti, literacy packages and mosquito nets where needed, support for Habitat for Humanity building houses for the destitute and so on. Such gifts are bigger than our self-absorbed egos and create happiness for less fortunate people.

I related to James that my grandchildren proudly take their Christmas certificates to school for Show-and-Tell periods. They play it forward with their class mates and teachers. One boy on the crescent where I live had received such gifts from me for several years. For his most recent birthday he asked all his friends not to give him presents, but to bring a donation for the Ottawa Humane Society that looks after hurt animals. All of his friends brought donations, a splendid sum of one hundred and eighty dollars. They all went together to the Humane Society and happily handed their bag of cash to the surprised staff. Other children in the neighborhood have followed suit. This resonated with James and he said, “I could do that with my ice hockey team. My dad is the coach and he would help.” He waited for me to continue.

I said, “James, the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others at this time of global crises is Sharing and Caring. It involves stepping onto what the Buddhists call the Bodhisattva Path.” (James knows that I am a Zen teacher.) I explained that a Bodhisattva was a person who stayed in the global mess and did their best to awaken the minds and hearts of people. I firmly stated that it is time for the Bodhisattva-within-us to enter the 21st century as the example for action. It takes training, practice, smartness and creative vision. “You mean like Jedi training?” he enquired. I nodded with a smile. I referred briefly to my years of training in ashrams and monasteries in India and France and with Native American medicine people. But I confided that the real kicker for me was the time spent alone in the Canadian wilderness. I promised to talk to him about this at some future time.

Then he asked, “So what is the big deal about violent consumption?” I replied that it totally dominates our planet, mind and body. I knew that James’ greatest fear was about the planet’s ecological crises, from mining disasters in Brazil and China, wildfires in Canada’s Boreal forests, Amazon deforestation – all the way to the Gulf Oil Spill where tons of toxic oil dispersants settled on the ocean floor contaminating the oceanic ecosystem. “How do we change this mad destruction of the planet?” James exclaimed. I wondered how best to explain matters to him, yet trusted his intelligence.

I said, “We must stop, locate ourselves in stillness and make different choices by examining our minds, consumption patterns and then see how we actually participate in creating these terrible disasters.” I noted that this kind of awareness takes us back to what we do with our minds. “Just how?” was his one line mantra. “Walking meditation is a good start,” I said. I explained that when we concentrate on our breath and focus on slow walking, we have a brilliant piece of engineering to quiet the mind and body and be clear. When we add a third concentration of being aware of how our feet touch the earth, we have a meditative practice for our troubled 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, make a contract with Mother Earth to leave a smaller footprint. The energy of wellbeing that arises from this practice of walking meditation is stronger than the stuff of our mental afflictions. We can then examine our consumption patterns and energy use with clarity. I told James that nobody requires a lecture from me, for we do know how to reduce our ecological footprint. We also know that taking care of the earth and the oceans takes care of ourselves. We must begin it now for the future, which is our tomorrow shaped by the actions we take at this moment.

I looked at James and indicated that was plenty for him to digest, but he yelled, “No, I want to hear more.” I could not turn away from his eagerness. I mentioned that if rampant consumption remains our deepest desire we will have a degraded planet that will certainly blow up. His fears were correct. Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day and so on are targeted by the captains of industry for optimal retail returns, and mindless consumerism is fuelled to the max. At Christmas we are far removed from remembering the significance of this spiritual celebration. Endless economic growth, the mantra of modern civilization, provides a promise of expectations being met without any awareness of consequences for our own health or the health of the planet. Our current non-sustainable energy and economic systems are subsystems of a global ecology that is disintegrating before our very eyes.  If we do not simplify, make do with less and change, then the vicious downward spiral to a burning world would definitely occur.

“Do you know that there is also violence to our bodies through the food we eat, and that it has disastrous consequences for our connection to all living beings?” He did not, yet his mind was a sponge soaking up every word. So I carried on providing him with a road map to investigate. The vast consumption of meat and alcohol constitutes an excessive ecological footprint. Industrial animal agriculture is not really farming. Animals are treated solely as economic commodities and subjected to horrible cruelty. The stress, despair and anger generated in the animals are the energies we consume when they end up on our plate. We are eating their suffering and pain, taking it into every cell of our bodies and consciousness.”

“That is so gross,” remarked James. I told him that we can change our minds and patterns of food consumption. We re-educate and retrain ourselves mentally and choose to support our body and planet by shifting deeply ingrained food habits.  It takes training but we step more lightly on the planet. It means reducing as much as possible the violence, destruction and suffering brought to living creatures and to the planet. If we bring violence into our own biological system and consciousness, then we inevitably bring violence to all the other systems that we engage with through our thoughts, speech and actions.  “Is this your Buddhism?” James asked.

I smiled, “The Buddha was very smart. He taught that the world is always burning, but burning with the fires of greed, anger and foolishness. His advice was simple; drop such dangers as soon as possible. What the Buddha taught was that it was the unskillful speech, selfish feelings, negative mental formations, wrong perceptions and badass consciousness that burned, and not the world itself. James laughed, “Did the Buddha really use the term badass?” I grinned and said that was my embellishment but pointed out that the Hopi people also referred to the burning as a state of imbalance known as Koyaanisqatsi. We are not the first people to experience this. The difference today is that without our commitment to wise intervention, we could be the last.

“Is climate change our basic problem then?” he asked.

I paused for a moment before replying. “The basic issue is whether we can adapt to climate change. You know about the 2015 Paris Accord on Climate Change as we have discussed it before.” James nodded. “It was an exceptional step by the international community, dedicating their intent to prevent global temperatures from rising a further 1.5 degrees. The signatories returned to their respective countries to find the wherewithal to “Change Climate Change.” What was missing from all the deliberations and press releases was a candid recognition of the “Cascade Effect,” a notion from ecological science. Tipping points in sea level rise and temperature connect to tipping points in air pollution, which connect to tipping points in polar ice melt, boreal forest wildfires and triggers further tipping points that create deforestation, desertification and so on in a relentless cascade that cannot be stopped. I reminded him of the wildfires in Alberta. It was not a singular disaster at Fort McMurray, as the entire Boreal forest in Canada is a tinder box due to the powerful forces of Climate Change. The reality in front of us is not the reversal of Climate Change. The question is about learning how to adapt to the consequences of Climate Change.”

I emphasized that the disasters all over the world interconnect and reinforce each potency to explode. Whether it is wildfires, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tsunamis, millions of aquatic creatures dead on beaches, it goes in relentlessly. The media and news reporters cast science to the wind when they report the drama and hype of terrible things happening world-wide but rarely tell the truth that, “Here is another manifestation of Climate Change.” News programs are just showbiz and journalists mere pawns to corporate interests that are culpable in the first place for creating the tipping points that cause the interconnected disasters. So the general public are not educated by the media about the calamitous realities happening on our planet. That is a big obstacle. The other obstacles preventing the general public taking wise action are a mixture of fear, despair, sheer laziness, disempowerment and a sense of hopelessness. “What on earth can I do to make a difference?” is a phrase muttered all over the world in countless languages. Followed by “So why should I do anything?” There is certainly global awareness, but also fear about our future place on Planet Earth. This is all understandable, which is why you wish to remain five years old forever. The difficult thing for you to grasp is the clear evidence that we are the primary cause.

I confessed to James that in my previous books I underestimated the impact of the carbon fuel cabal, a complex web of powerful corporate and government interests. This carbon economy extends into the manufacturing and servicing sectors, supported by insulated financial institutions that control the marketing and advertising sectors. This collective power, when extended into the media, has attempted to make science and ecology into public enemy number one. This powerful, intermeshed cabal can easily circumvent the Climate Change accords agreed to by the international community.  People everywhere are aware, but just feel helpless in the face of this power. So what are we to do? James shrugged in exasperation.

“Here’s the thing,” I said. “In terms of action, we have clear data-based evidence that we must cut back, make-do with less and implement a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity. So, where do we start? Of course we must think globally and be aware of the bigger picture and step beyond the smaller pictures of ourselves created by fear and disempowerment. But we can also act locally with great vigour in our families and communities. Our intentions then spread as ripples from a pebble dropped in still water. Then we can hold officials, politicians and corporate culture to account. We alert the political and corporate decision makers that we mean business as voters and consumers deeply concerned about the planet and our location on it. This is very important.

So James, the challenge for me is to be in society, but as a still island of mindfulness. Take small steps at first, then larger ones. We just need to make essential changes in energy use, diet, language, media and outreach. Voluntary Simplicity is a good starting place. It means making deliberate choices about how we spend time and money rather than living on the automatic pilot of busyness. We support environmental causes with the excess clutter in the basement, always thinking about whether we really “need” to buy something more.  Enjoy being simple and living modestly by shifting our perceptions just a little bit.  Just look deeply into what we do with time, money, clutter and our choices, and change.  Then see whether the consequences are peace and happiness for YOU. The world will follow.”

I told him I was writing a sci-fi book, located in the near future, which provides a counterpoint to the demise of our modern civilization. I chart a communal Hero’s Journey to reconstruct society based on ecology, caring and sharing. Intertwining plot lines arc into the epiphany of the final chapter, which muses about human survival anywhere. The drive is to create a tangible spirit of co-operation, the willingness to share and be supportive and intuit how to cross the bridges of misunderstanding. In this sci-fi novel my intention is to provide a scenario that reflects the disasters of the world today. The rich and uber-wealthy already inhabit armed, gated communities and will be targets for eco-militias and popular uprisings drawn from the impoverished masses – intent on revenge. “Have you ever seen Stanley Kubrick’s film The Clockwork Orange?” James had not and I told him it was a gruesome movie that could well emerge in the real world. To avoid this likely outcome it is wise to take training very, very seriously. All of this is to do an end run around the toxic mixture of fear, despair, sheer laziness, disempowerment and sense of hopelessness that I spoke about.”

“Wow,” exclaimed James. “OK, I get it about training but what does it look like?” I was relieved by his intelligence and proceeded to talk about “Gardening in the Mind.” I offered him eight simple steps to refine the mind then engage with the world.

  1. You – learn to be Silent and Quiet! Clear time and space for spiritual practice at home and throughout your daily schedule.
  2. Create a stress reduction menu and subtract the “weeds” in the garden of your mind.
  3. Be determined to meditate daily – do the weeding.
  4. Focus on and soften your heart – cultivate the soil of your mind’s garden.
  5. Water the seeds of mindfulness at home, work or in solitude.
  6. Simplify, make do with less, de-clutter your mind and home.
  7. Taste the fruits of your spiritual practice.
  8. Engage with the world.

James was typing all this down on his tablet as I continued talking. “Our ways of living together, caring for environmental, political and economic realms must all be re-constructed.” I assured James that we have the capacity to transform the mind. 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. The remedy is within reach. We unravel the knots of suffering and move from being mindless to being mindful. This is brought about by organic gardening in the mind.”

I paused for a while to find the words to bring our conversation to an end. “Why should we do all this stuff James? Here’s why. When you can be open and receptive you become an epi-center of light for others. When you can just sit with pain, come face to face with what hurts, breathing in and breathing out, you feel the sting recede as you calm. If you start to close down ask yourself, “Do I really want to take a pass on happiness?” Always let go once you feel you are closing down or clinging. Do you know that I have a fridge magnet – LET GO OR BE DRAGGED? I see it every day and take the message to heart with a quiet smile. It is essential to learn to be silent, to stop clinging and find the way to be present. As the Hopi advise us, never take anything personally and look around to see who is with you. As you do all of this the world changes as a consequence. Such a destination is well worth your effort.”

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 and 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.

The Sound of Silence

Essay Fourteen: Sound of Silence

           Paul Simon wrote “The Sound of Silence” in 1963 and with Art Garfunkel recorded this song with Columbia Records a year later. It totally bombed and led to the duo breaking up. Later on the song’s producer, Tom Wilson, did a remix of the original track, overdubbing electric rock instrumentation played by musicians from Bob Dylan’s band. It became a number one hit overnight all over the world and brought the very surprised Simon and Garfunkel back together. They were university students and part of the counterculture movement, yet Simon had no intent other than writing a good song in his bathroom while he played his guitar with lights off and the water running! He was all of twenty one years old. Garfunkel provided a focus on the inability of people to communicate. But it seems as though the lyrics wrote them. It took the American heavy metal band “Disturbed” and their lead singer David Draiman in 2015 to add a sharper edge. Their rendition was not just great music and lyrics – it was a cry of pain for our entire civilization.

The poetic lyrics are insightful about society and the planet, hauntingly so. Simon’s imagery and Garfunkel’s insight shone light on humanity’s inability to communicate with any harmony. The “neon god” no less.

“People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share.”

Note the enigmatic ending:

“The words of the prophets

Are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls

And whispered in the sounds of silence.”

Does this sound all too familiar for our modern times? Whether Simon and Garfunkel recognized it or not, the song is highly provocative in the awakening process. The lyrics carry a steady context about the necessary expansion of silence. They provided a vocal crash landing that until there is silence there is no place for the wisdom of the prophets to penetrate human consciousness. The latest version of this masterpiece by Disturbed rams it right into our current societal and planetary collapse. I extrapolate on the significance of this overlooked aspect of Simon and Garfunkel’s song and draw on two heavy hitters from the realm of prophets. I refer to the Buddha and to Ramana Maharsi and then follow on with my experience for good measure.

I take a more intense tangent on silence with a story about the Buddha and Yasoga. Ten days before the rainy season retreat Yosaga and his five hundred monks journeyed to where the Buddha held his three month retreat. They arrived in a boisterous way to greet the monks there with loud greetings and lots of talking. The Buddha heard this uproar and asked his faithful attendant Ananda, “What is that noise?” Ananda replied that the Venerable Yasoja and his followers had arrived and were greeting the resident monks. The Buddha asked for them to come to him, so he could send them away and dismiss them for their noise. The five hundred monks and their leader bowed to the Buddha and left the rainy season retreat in Jetta Park. They walked for many days to the east side of Koshala and arrived at the Vaggamuda River. Once there, they built small huts to begin their own rainy season retreat. Yasoja addressed his followers and told them that the Buddha sent them away out of compassion, so that they would practice deeply. All the monks saw this as true and practiced very seriously to show the Buddha their worth. The majority of them realized levels of enlightenment during their three month retreat. The Buddha’s rainy season had also finished and he remarked to Ananda that he could discern the energy of goodness and light emanating from the east. He realized that Yasoja and his five hundred monks had achieved something very deep and sent them an invitation to join him.

They arrived quietly in the evening after many days of silent walking to find the Buddha sitting in silence, in a state of concentration called imperturbability – free and solid. When they saw this, they decided as one body to sit like that with the Buddha and entered the same state of imperturbability. Ananda approached the Buddha during the three watches of the night and asked him to address the monks. The Buddha remained silent. After the third reminder he said, “Ananda, you did not know what was going on…..I was sitting in a state of imperturbability and all the monks did the same and were not disturbed by anything at all.” In this deep unshakable silence the communication between the Buddha and Yasoga’s five hundred monks was perfect so that a deep transmission of insight, freedom and joy went to them. No fancy ceremony was required as the monks experienced a natural awakening – all from imperturbable silence.

During my yogi years in India I had the privilege of training in Sri Ramana Maharsi’s tradition through Siddha Samadhi Yoga. I had been recognised as a guru and taught meditation in Mumbai and Bangalore. I made a point of staying at Ramana Maharsi’s ashram near the holy mountain of Arunachala in South India where he stayed until his death in 1950. I followed his footsteps up the mountain and meditated in the cave where he first took shelter and bit by bit I entered into his zone of silence, though he was long gone in body. Yet it was of the same nature of imperturbable silence as described for the Buddha’s welcome of Yasoja. Sri Ramana emanated the same force of freedom, which stilled the minds attuned to it. He offered a transmission of the state he was perpetually immersed in that could be directly experienced by those sitting with him.

This was his preferred method of teaching, though he would verbally address the issues and questions brought to him by students and followers from all over the world. His verbal teachings were there for those unable to understand his silence. He provided guidelines to practice a vigorous method of self-examination: “Who Am I”, “Whence Am I” – to help them step into the silence of their true nature and experience that consciousness alone exists. Also to give the thought tortured mind a rest. His simplicity, humility and sense of equality were legendary. He always shone like a beacon as he had realized that his real nature was unrelated to his mind, body and personality. He was accessible to everyone, shared in communal work at the ashram and rose at 3am every day to prepare food for visitors – always eating last after everyone had been fed. He lived, slept and held forth in the small hall of the ashram. I used to sit and meditate there a lot during my stay and could feel and imagine how he would address the questions of the constant flow of visitors and at the same time radiate his silent presence.

His spoken teachings all arose from deep in his heart – from his direct experience that consciousness was the only existing reality and it was through silence that his disciples would know the same. It was the depth of his heart that moved the other, which demanded only the exit of ego and trusting with patience the arising consciousness and wait for the flow. That threshold was what moves the other into the space of the origins. The other then feels authentic. We are surrounded by a modern, noisy world that opens so many avenues for disaster. Yet Sri Ramana Maharsi ably demonstrated that there are conditions to take such disaster into transformation. That is how I endeavour to write, speak and think these days.

When Thich Nhat Hanh ordained me as a dharma teacher he transmitted the Lamp of Wisdom in a ceremony at Plum Village in France. I was required to present a dharma talk to the monastics present on this occasion. I talked about waves and water and came around to the significance of silence. This is what I said.

My teacher Thich Nhat Hanh uses a wonderful analogy of waves and water to understand how the Historical and Ultimate dimensions of reality are interwoven. Waves rise, they fall and die when they wash up on a seashore or riverbank. This is the analogy for the Historical Dimension. The wave is clearly within the historical dimension of viewing everyday reality, our daily existential cycle of life full of crises and cycles of ups and downs. But no matter what attributes apply to waves there is always a constant. While a wave is about its business of being high or low, born or dying, coming or going, it is always water. The constant of water refers to the Ultimate Dimension. The idea is that if we touch the waves of life deeply with our insight then we can touch the water of life – the Ultimate Dimension that we can call Nirvana, the Kingdom of God.  This is a transcendent reality, a dimension outside of time and space, distinct from the time and space constraints of our daily existence.

I have heard Thich Nhat Hanh many times express the waves and water analogy, and the metaphorical qualities certainly made intellectual sense to me. But my experience was such that deep looking into my waves did not lead me to touch the water of the Ultimate Dimension. My “Waves” did not shoot me through to the “Water” as I certainly expected them to do, after listening to my teacher. I wondered for a long time about this disjunction between my intellectual acceptance of this notion and my lack of personal experience. There were three logical options to investigate.

  1. The first option was that Thich Nhat Hanh was incorrect.
  2. The second option was that Thich Nhat Hanh was neither correct nor incorrect. He was simply very generous in choosing not to chart the difficulties of transition from waves to water.
  3. The third option was that Thich Nhat Hanh was correct and that something crucial was missing from my practice.

I eliminated the first option as I have great trust and faith in Thich Nhat Hanh as a teacher. There may be something to the second option as I know how generous he is, that he may choose to encourage rather than chart the difficulties on the path. Yet, I realized very early on that the real investigation was the third option – to investigate just what was missing from my practice of mindfulness. I was aware that my waves were too small to carry me through to the Ultimate Dimension – too small in terms of insufficient concentration, insight and mindfulness – the three energies of transformation. What I needed was a tidal wave to make my waves full of concentration, insight and mindfulness so that this energy could provide the “voltage” to transition from waves through to water. I knew that a tidal wave has the properties of increasing energy and appears to disobey the second law of thermodynamics. It is described as a “soliton” in science with characteristics of both wave and particle. So my investigation was into my internal state for the causes and conditions that would make my waves into “solitons” – into tidal waves full of concentration, mindfulness and insight. As I pondered this deeply I stumbled across where I had to go.

It was into Silence. Deep Silence and stillness amidst the world I lived in. This is where I found the causes and conditions that would provide tidal waves of energy to my cells and consciousness. Silence producing Tsunami was the initial equation. I could truly look deeply into my suffering, into the dark areas that held hostage my mental formations of an unwholesome nature. And so over the past decades I have built more and more silence into my everyday life. On a daily basis I stop, look deeply and dialogue with the feminine seeds in my consciousness – a practice received from my Native American medicine teachers. Silence and skilful deep looking were certainly important yet the dialogue with the internal feminine was the key for me. My consciousness was guided by these seeds of awareness to transform difficulties and impediments in my life, enabling me to move on.

My home and sangha life, supported by the entire Pine Gate Community, enables me to retreat into silence on a regular basis. In this way – through silence and deep looking – my waves became bigger, more infused with concentration, insight and mindfulness.  Deep silence and dialogue with the internal feminine provided the causes and conditions for my waves to become Tsunami.  As I continued to stop in the silence and look deeply into my shadows, there emerged the distinct experience of touching the water. Thich Nhat Hanh was correct. I had to discover for myself the significance of silence, skilful deep looking and consulting with the wisdom of the internal feminine.  The fruits of this practice of silence and non-action were many and particularly manifest in my study of the Lotus Sutra.

I applied myself to study the Lotus Sutra, particularly Burton Watson’s 1993 translation from the Chinese version done by the Central Asian scholar-monk Kumarajiva in 406 CE. Prior to this intensive study I was much more comfortable with accepting the Buddha in Historical form. The story of the Buddha’s life, awakening and ministry was enough for me and I had not paid too much attention to the Buddha in the Ultimate Dimension. That changed radically through reading the Lotus Sutra from my practice of silence. For in the Lotus Sutra the Buddha in the Ultimate Dimension is revealed in no uncertain terms. In its beauty, grandeur and compelling intimacy with all that is, ever was, and ever will be, my scepticism about the mystic Ultimate Dimension of the Buddha disappeared. As I read different chapters of the Lotus Sutra I was transported to the worlds and dimensions described. I would read a little then put the book down as I felt myself going deeply into meditation. I was profoundly moved by the words, the dimensions, by the energy that I experienced through the series of translations into Chinese then into English. And I would remain in a trance like state for hours.

My direct experience of the energy of this Mahayana masterpiece brought home to me so many insights. The most pertinent one was that I would not be able to experience the Lotus Sutra in this way if my waves were still too small – lacking in insight, concentration and mindfulness.  Over the years I took steps to remedy my small wave syndrome as best I could, through protracted periods of deep silence and skilful deep looking. I still continue with this practice.  Without the silence and what it enabled, I am sure I would have had a superficial reading of the Lotus Sutra that would not have allowed me to touch its depth and magnificence. The Lotus Sutra is full of the activities of bodhisattvas, sages and holy beings, and of how we may understand their role. The bodhisattvas are described as being immersed in the Ultimate Dimension, and from there they return to the Historical Dimension to transform suffering. As “water” bodhisattvas live the life of a “wave.” Their example in choosing to do so encourages us to come face to face with suffering, to step away from fear and take our own steps into freedom. This is the task of the true revolutionary of the twenty first century. Not to pick up a gun and shout hatred, but to penetrate “Water” from the “Waves” of life. There are so many bodhisattvas from all spiritual traditions who are choosing to do this.  In a way this ushers in the end of Religion – of being attached to the identity gained from one’s religion.  The task before us in the 21st century is to step out as Spiritual Warriors and not be caught by our religious identities but to connect and walk hand in hand with friends from other spiritual traditions who are doing the same. I am expanding the term bodhisattva so that it embraces far more than Buddhism.

I came through this process with waves that are not so small anymore and a full heart to share with everyone. I also experience a distinct cycle of internal interconnectedness.  Empowered by my study of the Lotus Sutra, I institute yet more silence into my life even when I am talking to someone or even offering a dharma talk. I became available in a manner I was not before. My waves carry more voltage and are filling up rather than being half empty. My activism for peace and the environment rests on a foundation of silence and the initial necessity of non-action. The true art of doing nothing! It all weaves together like a spider’s web glistening in the morning dew. It is so lovely. I offer my insight gatha when receiving the Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh in  Plum Village, France. It is much like a swift river running through it all.

Lotus Sutra sings.

Fresh dharma rains penetrate

My heart – wide open.


The Sound of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of music


In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone

‘Neath the halo of a streetlamp

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence


“Fools” said I, “You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you”

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence


And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made

And the sign flashed out its warning

In the words that it was forming

And the sign said “The words of the prophets

Are written on subway walls

And tenement halls

And whispered in the sounds of silence”


Consciousness Podcast and Review

Consciousness Podcast and Review about Trailing Sky Six Feathers Book


It’s Official – my interview is now “LIVE” on the all-new 7-Day-A-Week Consciously Speaking and is up and running on iTunes. Here are the links: Season 1, Episode 118:   Dr. Ian Prattis – Poet, Author & Spiritual Warrior Available on iTunes: http://bit.ly/CS2015-118

Available on Conscious Speaking website: http://bit.ly/MN-CS2015-118 

Here is the review by Blue Ink – significant voice in Indie Publishing 

Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse

by Ian Prattis

Xlibris, 199 pages, (paperback) Order a signed copy at http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

Click on Order Book tab

In this spiritual exploration, a highly educated man becomes a humble seeker, works painstakingly through the events of two fascinating lifetimes, and emerges with a message for humankind. British/Canadian author Ian Prattis has taught university-level religion and anthropology, but even with this impressive intellectual grounding, his journey was incomplete until he contacted Trailing Sky Six Feathers, a powerful female shaman to whom he believes he was wed, in the 1700s, in Arizona. In 1777, her final vow as he lay dying was, “I will find you, my husband.”

Prattis, whose childhood was marred by sexual abuse, set out to comprehend his present life through his study of religious beliefs of indigenous peoples. This led him to encounters with several contemporary Native American sages who forced him to drop his intellectual approach and accept his lustrous spiritual experiences as real, not dreams or self-induced visions. The merging of the parallel spirit world of Native American religion into his current incarnation put many disparate elements of his life in perspective and facilitated his reunion with Trailing Sky Six Feathers, “the greatest medicine woman the Southwest has ever known.”

Though this fantastic tale leaves room for skepticism, most who read Prattis’ latest work will be swept up in this saga of self-examination, revelation, and indeed, exhilarating global adventure. Prattis writes with erudition, charm and humor, ridiculing his own blunders as much as he praises his teachers. Now a spiritual retreat leader, Prattis presents a unique viewpoint hewn from hard-won exploration of traditional wisdom, offering all of us the overarching advice to “awaken spiritually” so that we may “create a stable economy and way of life” and save Mother Earth.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Why I Wrote Trailing Sky Six Feathers

I share a personal journey and advocate spiritual awakening and empowerment in this new book: Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse. Climate change, ecosystem collapse and anarchy are just some of the current issues that propelled me to widen advocacy of empowerment and change. Through this book I shed light on issues that affect and will continue to affect the generations to come. I illuminate a path for others to expand their consciousness and chart the course for a future beyond the abyss. The human race does not need to be stuck with maladaptive options and patterns, we can and must transform. Our culture needs to awaken spiritually if humanity wants to ensure survival. Insightful and illuminating, this story follows the exciting journey of a hero which is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. Trailing Sky Six Feathers shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own.

When I talk to folk about Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey With His Muse the first question is usually “Why did you write this?” Here is my reply:

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. Rumi’s wise words are cogent: “Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.” We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. 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.

I like to consider Trailing Sky Six Feathers the real life version of James Redfield’s best-selling fictional book The Celestine Prophecy.  I have nine chapters, loaded with Insights and adventure. Trailing Sky Six Feathers is drawn from my actual lived experience.  Reality based information is in high demand in today’s society, which provides the potential for this project to become a fresh, new icon for today’s hungry culture. Hungry, that is, for authentic transformation. Trailing Sky Six Feathers delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become different stewards of the earth and society. Extensive shamanic training is highlighted, as it was the instrument to overcome my childhood sexual abuse. The journey of remembering childhood wounds and past lives will draw in people searching for interior solutions. In Trailing Sky Six Feathers I show that we can transform the damage and limitations of the past and step onto a path of enlightenment for all who suffer from road blocks in the mind. People around the world are overwhelmed by distraction, fear, suffering and violence – all of which keeps them frozen in a state of inaction – deeply wounded and unable to make changes within themselves and for the planet. The inner journey that occupies this book demonstrates that we do not have to be caught by our suffering, fear and maladaptive responses to Climate Change and Violence.

The book will also attract the attention of people interested in Shamanism, Jung, Religion, New Age, Alternative Medicine, Meditation, Consciousness, Buddhism, India, Native American Culture and Wisdom of the Elders. The Sky People who mentored Trailing Sky in medicine lore will certainly pique the interest of Trekkies, given this extra-terrestrial component of the book. Ever since the Star Trek series captured the public imagination with time/space crossovers, there is an intense interest in how past realms and dimensions impact our present reality. That is the very fabric of Trailing Sky Six Feathers.

My life as a global traveler certainly stretched my attention beyond any limits I could have placed on it. From teenage volunteering in Borneo with Britain’s Peace Corps to being a yogi in India and a Zen teacher in Canada – expansion of mind was inescapable.

My challenging journey navigates shamanic healing of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. From this vast range of experience I found an ability to sculpt narrative in a novel way. I certainly stumbled through the first part of life, but then stood strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. In India, Arizona, France and Canada’s wilderness, I went to extraordinary lengths to transform karma. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhanced my process of remembering. I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place, consciousness and re-write 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.

In Trailing Sky Six Feathers readers may be inspired as they watch my intention and strength of purpose to transcend patterns carried since childhood. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the Muse who refused to give up. Karma is reversed; the internal battles are over as I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past.

This books cap my long-term fascination with consciousness. As a Professor of Anthropology and Religion I taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Engaged Buddhism and Meditation Systems. I am a healer, mentor and educator, able to encourage people through example to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed. I am a Zen teacher, also a recognized guru in India. My initial task is to refine my own consciousness, so that I can be an authentic vehicle to chart a path for spiritual friends. Trailing Sky Six Feathers is a screenplay-worthy epic that weaves together seamlessly to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers, environmentalists, generation X, feminists, students and academics alike.Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Available at www.Amazon.com  and www.BarnesandNoble.com   Autographed Book – Order Through: http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

Touching the Earth

Touching the Earth Ceremony at Pine Gate Thursday April 2, 7.00pm – 9.00pm

Details below. The ceremony provides a safe environment for releasing the “hooks” from ancestors – genetic, spiritual and land. We choose to retain the virtuous, noble seeds passed on to us, but direct all abusive, negative seeds to pass from our consciousness into the Earth, where they will be composted.


This practice connects you in a loving way with both the positive and negative aspects of all your ancestors – biological, spiritual and land.  “I see that my ancestors suffered, and their suffering spilled over to others including me.  With this steady acceptance I am ready to transform the suffering and to cultivate the positive virtues of my ancestors in my daily life.”

1.Blood Ancestors
Pain/Suffering may be strong with this contact especially if there was parental abuse/neglect – so also think of parents/ancestors as 5 yr old children – innocent and who also suffered, rather than just as persons who may have caused us deep harm.
2. Spiritual Ancestors
Perhaps those who taught us in our spiritual tradition made mistakes, discriminated, abused us and were not able to transmit the teachings well or did not live up to their calling.  Allow this to pass through and retain the positive qualities of Buddha, Jesus.
3. Land Ancestors
Those who built our homes, hospitals, the original inhabitants in tune with mother nature.  People who offered refuge for peoples of other countries.  Present friends who work so hard to preserve the Earth. Also acknowledge bigotry, racism and cruelty passed on to us that we choose to release from our consciousness.

Retaining the positive qualities from these three roots fills us up with love and wholesome qualities.
1. Extend this energy first of all to those we love – including ourselves.
2. Last step is tricky – extend our wholesome, loving energy to those who have caused us harm or are difficult to be with.  This really makes our hearts more spacious.
3. Each person’s experience will be different.  Truth is in our own experience, not in duplicating the experience of others.  Provides a doorway to reconnect/ fill up with love/ forgive and understand.
4. Part of a timeless flow of life, connect to the no birth no death nature of yourself.  In the Touchings of the Earth we use our body to touch the Ultimate Dimension, to touch the ground of our being, to touch Nirvana and to heal and transform
5. We renew ourselves because we renew Buddhism, for we are applying the Diamond Sutra, The Discourse on Right View and the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing.  In this exercise the teachings of the Buddha come alive in us as experience.

Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Right View and the Four Nutriments

The Noble Eightfold Path is the Buddha’s methodology to lead us out of suffering. I will offer dharma talks on the entire spectrum for the remainder of Pine Gate’s Winter Study Session – beginning with Right View and the 4 Nutriments.  This will be a series of foundation teachings, as everything in Buddhism comes around for this visit to the Eight Fold Path. Recommended reading is Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” Part Two: The Eightfold Path. The dynamic nature of the Eightfold Path will be highlighted by emphasising how Mindfulness and Concentration are crucial to kick start the process by transforming Views into Insight. The views we hold strongly are often attitudes, perceptions and attachments that are capable of cascading through the other components of the Eightfold Path so that Thinking, Speaking and Action are modelled on wrong views. Right View is no view – rather it is insight, which is why Mindfulness and Concentration are required to start the engine of the Noble Eightfold Path.


“Heads up from Lisa!

Please see from minute 17:30 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfPJ6T-5Z9w

I think Thay was sending you a message!”

Local and Global

I have been musing about this topic, particularly reflecting on the annual Ottawa Friends for Peace Day – now in its 13th year. See my blog on community activism: https://ianprattis.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/community-activism-at-work-in-ottawa/

I realized 15 years ago, when I founded Friends for Peace as the engaged arm of Pine Gate, that I was making a conscious choice to focus my energy and work on the local, my home city of Ottawa.  My focus was on mindfulness in schools, city environment, youth at risk and other local causes. On reflection I am astonished by the results – more true to say “blown away.” For at the local level there was continuity with great folk who helped make things happen.  There is now a two week Peace Festival in Ottawa that precedes the Friends for Peace Day – which is the final bookend of the Festival.  It has grown in ever increasing concentric circles. All have adopted some form of the Friends for Peace mandate – peace, planetary care and social justice. The foundation of mindfulness at Pine Gate trickles through the 50 some organizations we partner with.  All spontaneously brought about – no intention to do so.

sticker v41

At the same time I realize why I have resisted the pull and lure to go global.  There are folks who do this very well, some are good and some not so much – yet I decided to stay local so that deep powerful roots were put down that could well serve as a global example for other localities.  I offered a gracious decline to the many opportunities to travel and teach globally, as I felt that was not the arena that would make the difference I wished to see. There have been people from many cities around Canada and the world who accessed the Guidelines on the website www.friendsforpeace.ca  Of course the local and global inter-are, yet for me there was a conscious decision to place my energy at the local level, knowing full well that it would trickle through to the global. There is certainly a global aspect to our activities in terms of the projects actively supported elsewhere. Each year Friends for Peace presents Peace Awards to Canadian citizens who have devoted their lives to securing peace, planetary care and social justice.  That’s the mandate at www.friendsforpeace.ca  Past recipients include Grandfather William Commanda, Michael Monner and Tone Magazine, Marion Dewar, Max Keeping, David Smith, Irwin Cotler, Elizabeth May, Douglas Cardinal, Bruce Cockburn, Maha Rath Sam, Jack Layton and many others since our first Celebrate Peace Day in 2003.

Jack Layton with Dalai Lama

The funds raised from the day are used to issue Peace Grants to organizations, in Ottawa and internationally, that are making a real difference. Current projects in the city supported by Friends for Peace are the Multi-Faith Housing Initiative of Ottawa’s Interfaith Council, the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre, Child Haven International, and Peace Camp Ottawa, which brings Palestinian and Israeli teens together.  This is in addition to supporting the Physicians for Global Survival initiative to expand the mandate of the Canadian War Museum to include the creation of a culture of peace.  In Africa, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, the Congo Education and Schools project plus the Morungatuny Resettlement Program in Northern Uganda are also supported. In India a school, orphanage and medical centre was supported at the Ram Yoga Centre north of New Delhi. The major planetary care project was the campaign to make the Dumoine River watershed a protected conservation park. Friends for Peace also co-operates with other groups in Ottawa for the annual Ottawa River clean-up.  In particular we have supported youth organizations to burst on to the local scene.

For instance Orkidstra – www.leadingnotefoundation.org  – established in September 2007 gives children from under-served communities the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and sing in a choir. They are creating a quiet social revolution in the city. The Dandelion Dance Company – www.hannahbeach.com/dandelion – an Ottawa based youth dance theatre company explores social issues through movement. Their repertoire is driven by the experiences, reflections and passion of young women who range in age from ages 13 to 19, and include children’s rights, hunger, authenticity, bullying, stereotypes and inclusiveness. Both youth organizations perform regularly at the Friends for Peace Day.

The drive is to foster a strong cadre of people in the locality of Ottawa who can make a difference.  I talked about this when introducing the film “Fierce Light” to Pine Gate Mindfulness Community.  The film is pretty good but somewhat lacking in that it does not make clear that activism without spiritual depth and mindfulness soon runs out of steam. The activists burn out and become overwhelmed. The place to develop such depth of mindfulness is the local community and the continuity of inter-connecting with our partners across the city. And then noticing the many changes and transformation.

I remember the sage Krishnamurti – a true globalist – being in tears in San Francisco when he realized that his audience for the nth time were still asking the same questions – not having moved an inch from where they were the first time he spoke to them. I also wonder just how much our great teachers move the global sangha from where they were ten years ago. They certainly provide impact, yet that diminishes without a local energy focus to take the experience deeper.

I will reflect further on this – just giving you a heads up.

Some Recent Dharma at Pine Gate

First Saturday Mindfulness Gathering February 7, 2015

“The Better Way to Live Alone.”  Your homework is to study this interpretation by Osho, and do a reality check on your streams of habitual thought.

“There is a teaching on “The Better Way to Live Alone” which defines “living alone” to be the experience of having one’s mind free of thoughts about the past and future, but is instead focused on the “present moment.”  But I can live physically alone but not be alone at all. If my mind is full of memories of the past and thoughts of the future, I can live physically alone but not be alone at all. If my mind is full of memories of the past and thoughts of the future, I can live physically alone while dialoguing with the deceased, reliving a past conversation or some painful (or joyful) incident or experience. Or I can be mentally rehearsing or imagining some future conversation, some future event.

All of which is the antithesis of “living alone” if I am lost in these thoughts. On the other hand If I am aware and watchful of these thoughts, realizing I am having these thoughts in the present moment, then I am truly “living alone” – even if I am living with 100 other beings. And this leads me to my own “deepest core” of who I am. If I know this, I have the capacity to love.”

–        Osho

Pine Gate Meditation Hall


This Moment Heals All Moments, Thursday Jan 29 & Thursday Feb 5, 2015

Crises of History require a similar response – be mature, present, steady and above all – do the necessary internal work. Develop “impermanence” and “signlessness.” The Buddha provides instruments, practices and teachings to get there. As do the Wisdom of the Elders. We cannot tame the mouth until we have tamed the mind. We cannot adapt to Climate Change until we change our mindset. Put into reality the Art of Deep Listening and find the way to be present with our consumption. Are we even aware of the toxins pouring through our senses OR are we trapped by self-absorption and distraction? Need to Let Go Big Time – organic gardening in the mind. Listen to the Ocean – Universal Consciousness.


Putting Foundation Teachings into Action, Thursday, January 22, 2015 .

The last two weeks provided a review of Buddhist foundation teachings. What do we do with them now? Come out on Thursday February 22 to see how the foundation teachings have been placed in education, medical care, social services. And ask why not in government, business, police, community. This evening is about turning the Dharma Wheel of Action.  Mindfulness and Concentration provide the insights for Right View, which then guides Thinking, Speaking and Action. The why and how of making the Noble Eightfold path alive in everyday life.

Thay Bowing (2)

Pine Gate Volume 14, Issue 1: Winter 2015

…….is a blockbuster, in a new format created by Br. Yves. It is in blog form on Word Press to encourage feedback and interaction. Each article is a blog from Article 1: Sacred Moments through to Article 16: About Pine Gate. A different navigation process but well worth the while.  A deep bow of gratitude to Yves and all the contributors.

Go to: http://pinegate.wordpress.com/pine-gate-newsletter-volume-14-issue-1-winter-2015/

2014 New Year’s Eve – Wednesday, December 31, 2014

You are invited to the most meaningful New Year’s Eve party in town. On New Year’s Eve there is a special tradition at Pine Gate.  We welcome the new year of 2015 with a recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. This is a complete map of ethics to navigate the difficult times we are in. The trainings are a guiding light to pierce through the darkness that threatens humanity and the planet. How do we choose to behave towards one another when things begin to collapse? Will we be steady and generous or think only of ourselves?  Pine Gate’s response is –  ” Enter The Bodhisattva. ”  There is homework – write down all you wish to move on from and what do you wish to move to. Then whoosh it into the fire with community support to make it so!

Date:  Wednesday December 31, 2013

Time: 9.00pm – midnight

Place: Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Purpose: Ethical Dance for 2015

Program: Gather at 9.00pm, Recitation Ceremony 9.30pm, 11.00pm snacks and whooshing homework into the fire, mid-night Auld Lang Syne with fake champagne.

Righteous Anger, November 8, 2014 at Fish Lake Sangha, Orlando

Righteous Anger: Gaza and Israel. All such conflicts require the active and intentional cultivation of Zen Mind. Chop Wood, Carry Water motif to navigate the pitfalls of hatred, distraction, violence, past wounds. We deal with the fundamental pollution – in the human mind. Making the world better requires that we make our minds better. The task is to make our thinking better – stop running around so we are seen to be doing good. Navigate more skillfully. The Four Brahmaviharas meditation a good tool. All children’s songs an effective antidote. Chop Wood, Carry Water – stillness and clarity.

A recent protest in Antigonish, N.S. supporting Gaza produced yelling hate, violence and anger. There was a woman standing apart with a list in one hand and purple chalk in her other hand. She was carefully and quietly writing down on the edge of the sidewalk of Main Street, Antigonish, N.S. the names and ages of every child killed in the Gaza bombardment.  Question: Which protest do you think had the most impact?

Collapse and the Bodhisattva, November 1, 2014 at Fish lake Sangha, Orlando

Breakdown of Industrial Growth Society. Staring into the abyss. No limits, no maturity. Newton, CT massacre and gun control, pre-adult males with mental illness – the Carry Movement and “ammosexuality.” Immaturity – NOT defense of 2nd amendment rights.

STOP; RE-ASSESS; ENTER THE BODHISATTVA – NOW. Interbeing, non-discrimination. No Time To Lose. Shantideva’s unwavering encouragement from the 8th century. Buddha Mind. “Ego” is very disappointed with Awakening – so let us all disappoint the ego.  Heed the Hopi Prophecy of 2008.



Zen Practice at Pine Gate, October 23, 2014

Zen Practice has a very practical nature – Chop Wood, Carry Water – and being aware of precisely doing it. The cultural origins from China and Japan do not necessarily travel well to western countries, so I have adapted the form somewhat and kept the essence. Total silence for three rounds of – sitting meditation, walking meditation, stretching meditation. We listen to the bell calling us back to our true selves for guidance, listen to our breathing and through the disciplne of this practice we settle into a deep calm and harmony with everything around and within is.  The deep silence during three rounds of sitting meditation, walking meditation, then stretching meditation. The silence deepens as we settle gently into the quality of our mind. Nowhere to Go, Nothing to Do. The simplicity and elegance of silence. The cadence of sitting with breathing in and out, the flow of walking with breath – in and out, the joy of stretching with breath in and out. Then repeat the entire cadence three times. Planting seeds.

The Dharma and the Sangha October 16, 2014

The Dharma And The Sangha begins with the conditions leading to the Buddha’s first dharma talk and the intention to offer the dharma through appropriate vessels that are skilfull instruments to guide understanding – with a clear emphasis that the Raft is not the Shore.  The talk ends with a story about levels of deep listening inspired by an adventure Ian and his son experienced in the drug underworld of Glasgow, Scotland.  In between, a tapestry unfolds of skilfully creating sanghas as the masterpiece of your life in the manner of the Buddha, so that we may touch the original artist of the masterpiece through sangha building.  The emphasis is on creating sangha cornerstones and the concrete example of Pine Gate Sangha and Friends for Peace in Ottawa is a reference point for activism based on sangha cornerstones.

Screenwriter’s Recommendation for Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Trailing Sky Six Feathers by Ian Prattis is the tremendous story of Ian’s modern day spiritual awakening and discovery of his past life as Native American Eagle Speaker during the 18th century. Only through the intervention of his spirit wife Trailing Sky is Ian able to defeat his past vices and personal struggles to become the man he is today.


It’s important to recognize the film adaptation will be “based on true events” and not a documentary or biopic. The novel’s incredible scope of events – from the 18th century Indian struggles to contemporary political movements – is fertile territory for great drama and will be adjusted and adapted to best serve the themes of the novel while creating a gripping film.

With all novel adaptations, it’s important to focus on creating a compelling beginning, middle and end that can be captured in two hours of screen time. The film treatment will condense the novel’s amazing depth of detail, life stories and lessons about politics, anima, Gaia, Buddhism, and much more to create a linear filmic narrative.

In the novel, the first chapters set in the 18th century will now be interspersed throughout the rest of the narrative, mirroring challenges Ian faces, culminating in his death in the 18th century and his discovery of his true self and relationship with Trailing Sky in the modern day.

Additionally, like other real life film adaptations, characters and events will be condensed, combined or expanded to serve the narrative of the story. The Native American sequences will be expanded considerably while Ian’s contemporary life will be streamlined to highlight certain important events.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers by Ian Prattis can be an excellent and exciting film with a unique Native American spiritual angle rarely seen on screen.

Order Book: http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html