Tag Archives: Mind

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

 

Reviews of Our World is Burning.

The book has been hovering around #1 in Environmental books in Amazon.ca over the past week. Thrilled and blown away by that. https://www.amazon.ca/Our-World-Burning-Mindful-Engagement/dp/1988058244/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Here is a sample of early reviews that were quite humbling. The critics liked the authentic tapestry I was creating.

  • Jacqueline Schoemaker Holmes, PhD

Dr. Ian Prattis is a visionary and leader in the world of engaged Buddhism. This book reads like an invitation. Ian provides what we need in troubled times – clear guidance, practical steps to take, and a warm and open hand in a world that so many fear is becoming too cold and distant. Ian’s writing gifts us with the impossibly perfect teachings of interconnection and heart opening. In this book, Ian makes an excellent contribution to existing commentary on world change and inspires action through the wisdom of his engaging story-telling.

  • Jim Ebaugh, Founder of Water in the Wave Community

Dr. Prattis has been a voice, a teacher, a passionate advocate for the earth and all her species for decades and long before the word eco-dharma entered our vocabulary. His books transcend time and space. Ian Prattis was at the forefront of awakening to the threat that climate change posed to our home and our mother – the Earth. Ian’s books are a creative, imaginative read as we struggle to find a new paradigm for our culture – away from rampant, unfettered consumerism and global corporate oligarchies demanding ever increasing short term profits at the expense of earth and all her species. Prattis leads the way in this collection of essays.

  • Peggy Lehmann, Author and Medium

Ian’s essays on mindful engagement are an overview of a lifetime’s work that started with a younger version of himself and a goal of saving the world. Through his books Redemption, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, and New Planet, New World readers saw glimpses of the man 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 essays have universal appeal, assuring us that a better world is possible and that each of us must contribute to its creation.

  • 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?”

  • 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 poisoned collective psyche, reflected in the deterioration of our ecosystem, is poised to burn on the pyre of global consumption…. In the midst of it all… a Teacher has come… Now, pick up a copy of Our World is Burning and watch evil leave the room.

 

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

Dharma Detective Investigates Great Difficulties

TOOLS: Center in Mindfulness
: Taking Refuge: Deep Looking/ Deep Listening
: Skills to Garden in the Mind
STAGE ONE: Locate Difficulty in Time & Space
: Sangha Eyes: Deep Looking/Deep Listening
STAGE TWO: Remember Feelings
: Use of Teachings & Practice
STAGE THREE: Deep Looking into Blaming and Complicity
: Understanding, Impermanence and Transformation
STAGE FOUR: Deep Reflection
: Learning Curve

Start by recognizing the mind-state that causes suffering, be prepared to stop and skilfully look deeply into suffering by placing it within a practice of mindfulness. Just these initial steps can prevent us from being hooked and taken down by strong emotions and wrong perceptions. The tools are not those of intellectual self-analysis where we rationalize our suffering away. To recognize the significant elements of our suffering we need mindfulness, concentration and insight. Above all else we need to locate in heart consciousness – that still place of calm that is available by first of all stopping and then centering in mindfulness. This is so your mind-state is calm and grounded for the investigation.

Your time of great difficulty – locate it. What happened, where and when? What was the time frame? What do you think caused it – was it something in you or were the causal elements also around you? Do your best to establish the nature of the different factors that caused you to suffer at this difficult time in your life. Know also that your perceptions and recollections of the situation may well be skewed, so it is wise to take refuge in sangha eyes, to find out from dharma brothers and sisters just how you were at that time in terms of your actions and reactions. In this first step of being a dharma detective there is the importance of being grounded, of deep looking and of relying on sangha eyes to remember clearly.
Christmas Dharma Talk

Stage Two takes the process deeper. You have recognized your suffering but do you remember how you felt at that time? Did you become overwhelmed by it all or did you apply the practices and teachings in any way? Were there dharma friends available to help you or did you not seek help because you had lost faith? We need courage with this part of the inquiry, for it leads to the very difficult next stage of looking deeply into how we tend to take refuge in blaming instead of taking refuge in the Three Gems. We have to be a “Hercule Poirot,” truly a dharma detective, for now in Stage Three we list in our notebook how we blamed – the other, the situation, the Buddha, Jesus – even God! How did you lash out during your suffering? How did you try to harm and discriminate against the one you hate and any one else who got in the way? Did you shut them out or run away? Did you seek complicity with someone to help share your hate?

We all love our dramas, so much so that we tend to seek out someone to agree with our suffering – but there is no support in that, as only deeper suffering ensues. Were you lucky enough to find true support, someone steady to direct you to a greater understanding of the particular hell you are investigating? Did you come to an understanding that blaming, punishment, shutting off, running away, seeking complicity – none of these are motivated by understanding and compassion? Did you begin to realize that suffering is impermanent and that understanding and compassion illuminates impermanence, that this is the way out? If you have these realizations then progress is surely being made.

The Fourth Stage is a process of deep reflection on what would you do now, if faced with a similar situation. From the investigation of your time of great difficulty can you identify a learning curve that will enable you to not repeat the same mistakes? You may see for yourself the value of taking refuge in sangha eyes to guide your perceptions; of taking refuge in the practices, mindfulness trainings and sutras for guidance in order to apply the energy of mindfulness to the energy of suffering. This exercise is a wonderful one that all of us can do. The practice of mindfulness comes alive as a highly strategic set of tools and skills to produce transformation of the suffering caused by difficult and painful circumstances. Life is full of crises, curve balls and disasters. But even so, we do not have to be overwhelmed, hooked and crushed by them. Mindfulness practice helps us. Understanding and compassion hone our skills so that we become excellent gardeners of the mind.

The importance of taking refuge is to make fully alive the reality that we inter-are. We are never alone once we realize that Interbeing is a basic law of nature and of the Universe. Our scale of difficult circumstance runs through a vast range. The suffering and pain can be from a divorce, a son addicted to drugs, loss of a job, the death of a loved one, childhood abuse or brutal discrimination. The suffering can also be there from the situation in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israelis. The dharma detective operates well in all domains – personal, national, international – providing an instrument to focus our mindfulness, concentration and insight to whatever difficulty we suffer from.

Ian is the resident Zen teacher at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community in the west end of Ottawa, Canada. Teachings and dharma study are offered on Thursdays 7.00pm – 9.00pm.
Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Flush The Internal Toilet of Your Mind

Flush the Internal Toilet of Your Mind

Earth My Body - Front Cover

 Stepping out on the environmental stage is one part of the Global Warming dance.  It cannot be fully effective until the internal choreography is in place, which is why I address global issues of environmental pollution and degradation through the discipline of meditation.  That is my initial responsibility and rests on key spiritual qualities of responsiveness grounded in responsibility.  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince was explicit about this:

Now there were some terrible seeds on the planet that was the home of the little prince; and these were the seeds of the baobab.  The soil of that planet was infested with them.  A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late, it spreads over the entire planet.  It bores clear through it with its roots.  And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many they split it into pieces…  “It is a question of discipline,” the little prince said to me later on.  “When you’ve finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care.  You must see to it that you pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rose-bushes, which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth.  It is very tedious work,” the little prince added “but very easy!”

 

We flush the internal toilet of our mind by pulling up regularly all the “baobabs” and garbage of our inner ecology through meditation and self-healing; then attending to the toilet of the planet will be very easy.  Although the excerpt from the Little Prince is not a good translation – it does serve well.  The phrase “faire sa toilette” means to wash up and get ready for the new day and includes the whole process of morning hygiene to getting dressed.  It is a polite phrase that readily lends itself to taking care of the planet.  To neglect care for the planet by sitting on the fence, and resisting the radical and costly change to a carbon neutral economy, ensures that the “baobobs” from our mind and habit energies will create an uninhabitable planet for our species.  If there were an ancient biologist on Mars studying a million years of earth history, she would note a parasitic infestation of 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 elimination date for our species in her star-date log.

 

But there is such a thing as higher intelligence – a level of knowing that emerges from diligent meditation and the practice of awareness.  Our goal in meditation is to heal and transform not only our selves, but also our place on the planet.  Meditation is a progressive movement towards wholeness and integration, and requires that we look deeply into the environment we are located in, and the environment we create with our thoughts, attitudes and values.  In the process of meditation we liberate ourselves from internal blockages created by maladaptive patterns of inner ecology, and are then able to enter a state of clarity and compassion. Thus we transform by personally experiencing different cognitive and perceptual levels that enable us to transcend internal “baobabs”.  This inward step to refine consciousness enables us to create adaptive solutions for Global Warming from a foundation of wisdom and confidence in our clarity.  What we do now has consequences for our future.  The consequences of not acting now are much more costly than the massive investment in an alternative economy and way of life.  The Future is Now!  We prepare for the future through present mindfulness and astute awareness about the consequences of our actions.  This ripples through to future generations and to Mother Earth, enabling a sustainable earth culture to emerge.  Just flush the internal toilet of your mind.  “It is a matter of discipline………very tedious, but quite easy.”

Gardening in the Mind

Gardening in the Mind

Stillness and inner silence is a necessary part of taming the wild mind. We have to find a way to create the conditions for this to happen. Yet, in our modern world of fast paced lifestyles we rarely stop running. There are so many distractions that we quickly become outwardly dependant, un-centered.  We fail to find the time or discipline to access the store of mindfulness just waiting to be cultivated. The external restlessness amplifies the internal restlessness in a feedback loop that ignites our wild mind. The problem is that we have closed the doors to taming the wild mind due to wrong perceptions, ignorance and continual suffering. Also because our hearts are not fully open and the tapestry of our consciousness is limited. When our consciousness is narrow, we hold on tight to all our self-imposed dramas and suffering – slamming the door shut on our internal strength and keeping our dysfunctional habits well fed and alive. And so we remain wounded, driven by our scars, anger and fears; suffering all our lives. The remedy is, however, within reach. We can unravel the knots of suffering through the practice of mindfulness and move from being mindless to being mindful. The knots of suffering are then not so tightly held once the tapestry of our consciousness expands and we can truly throw away strongly.  This is brought about by organic gardening in the mind.

Gardener

When I retired from teaching at Carleton University, a dear friend asked with some concern just what was I occupying my mind with these days. Here is my reply to her:

“I have enjoyed the time and space to play with Mother Earth as a diligent and slightly crazed organic gardener.  The blaze of flowers at the front of the house is a testimony that I am doing OK so far.  An experienced gardener would no doubt wonder what on earth I am doing in the back yard of the house.  The back garden is surrounded by trees so it is as though one is in the middle of a forest.  I plant vegetables in between flowers.  Veggies have such a dull life struggling to poke their heads above ground, then taking in rain, sun and soil nutrients to end up on some human’s plate.  So to make them happy I plant them between gorgeous flowers so they have some jazz and elegance around them while they are alive.  Just imagine a carrot waking up in the morning to see a beautiful pink hibiscus in full bloom on one side and multi coloured snapdragons on the other.  They are bound to be happy and grow really well before they end up on some human’s plate.  And on it continues with beets, tomatoes, lettuce, arugla, swisschard, kale, rhubarb, beans, asparagus, cucumbers, peppers, peas all planted between beautiful clumps of flowers. 

 There is also a herb garden in amongst the peony bushes.  Some herbs are very nice and well behaved, but others are just downright unsociable.  I had to separate a green basil plant from a red basil plant as they were always quarrelling.  Now that they are at the opposite ends of the garden in their own solitary tubs – they are thriving.  An experiment I tried was to move a small juniper tree from the front garden, as it was dying there, to the back garden where there is a tall cedar hedge.  I think it will be much happier in the back yard – cedar language is a bit different to juniper language but a lot like French and Spanish – so they can communicate a bit.  I have welcomed the juniper into the backyard with much compost and water but will leave it up to the cedars to encourage her to live – and she has decided to do so and thrives in her new environment.  And on it goes with much weeding and then much more weeding to keep both the veggies and the flowers happy.  Sometimes I am not aware of the difference between a weed, veggie or a flower – so I just leave whatever it is to grow before taking any action. My garden is a still place, yet buzzing with life and joy.

 All of this is a metaphor for the organic gardening I do in my mind every day.  That blooms also – with the diligent daily watering of the beautiful seeds and the careful pruning and transformation of the negative and harmful weeds. The still place in the garden is the still place in my mind.  Once there I stop, reflect on my patterns and habits of energy use that can be changed and ensure that appropriate action is taken.  Simple yet surprising!  

 I thought you really needed to know this, if only to make you smile.

Mindfulness and the Gulf Oil Spill

Mindfulness and the Gulf Oil Spill                                                                 Ian Prattis

 

It is time to examine our minds, consumption patterns and personal culpability in the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The plugging of the oil well is not an end to the crisis, merely the beginning of identifying our part in it.  Guidelines are necessary. They are available from Thich Nhat Hanh in the shape of the mindfulness trainings – a welcome relief and antidote to the unending spin we are surrounded by on a daily basis.

It is no surprise to discover that BP deliberately underestimated the amount of oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from its destroyed Deepwater Horizon oilrig. Any surprise is caused by the powerful PR arm of not only BP, but also of Haliburton and TransOcean – its partners in this ill fated venture. Their spin has not, however, fooled the stock market, as the share values of these corporate giants have plummeted down. Yet BP ads touting their environmental sensitivity continue and can no longer be taken seriously by any thinking person. But do people actually think? Or do they prefer to be caught in a whirlwind of spin from business, government and other stakeholders in an environmental disaster, the like of which the US has never before encountered? BP is in high level spin mode, while directors of the company are off loading their stocks in the company and blaming their partners!  So many lies are being told by BP and the government about the multiplier effects of the oil spill and deny journalists access to see the clean up process or from photographing the devastation readily visible from satellites.

The truth is that not only are ocean ecosystems and wetlands at risk, vital economic sectors – fishing, tourism and real estate – are also at risk in all Gulf states. This has a mainstream impact on all related industries throughout America. The tons of toxic oil dispersants used to break up the surface oil slick has settled on the ocean floor. There, it contaminates the oceanic ecosystem. Not only are fish, marine mammals and other wildlife being killed – the industries their harvest supported are also being killed. The entire Gulf of Mexico may well become a dead zone, and this will extend to the human populations that depended on its vibrancy.

The US administration’s threats to put its foot on BP’s throat and even take over the operation to halt the oil flow into the Gulf is further spin and quite ludicrous. The federal agencies with a stake in offshore drilling permits and environmental protection are scrambling to deflect their culpability and “cozyness” with oil giants. The use of the term “cozyness” is a White House deflection from the true name of the relationship between government agencies and oil giants.  The correct term is corruption.  “Cozyness” is further pointless spin, particularly, as the US federal government does not have the technology or the expertise to cap the oil spill. If the US administration was truly serious, why do they not freeze the financial assets of the three corporations in order to foot the cleanup bill?

CNN, FOX and other media have their own spin-doctors to amplify the volume, so spin becomes a norm for everyone.  But neither government nor the media are asking the deeper questions.  It is clear that BP is running the operation in the Gulf while the federal government huffs and puffs with importance in the chain of command, yet does not occupy the driving seat.  The question of government/corporate complicity is a serious one. Questions are not being asked about the loss of cultures dependant on harvesting sea products. This is extant in the now obsolete Louisiana Oyster fisheries. A thriving and unique culture is threatened by the closure of the oyster beds.  Upbringing, culture, and family history now stand for nothing, whereas they were the fabric that held this part of the US together.  The closure of oyster processing factories and the consternation that has filled the nation’s maritime food chain do get media space because the knock on economic consequences have created multiplier effects that damage regional and national economies.  Yet the media investigation stops short of examining the killing of centuries old cultures and ways of life.  The mantra of “It’s the economy stupid” has never before been revealed as so much nonsense. There is no economy if there is not a culture to implement it. There is no post environment economy.  The culture will not return while the oyster beds are dead. Whatever life they still hold will be fatally damaged by the clean up.  Questions are not being asked about Corexit 9500, the dispersant used abundantly to restrain the oil spill – over one million gallons of this poison.  This chemical is outlawed in the UK in the event of an oil spill – as it kills everything in the marine ecosystem.

How do we get off this mad carousel? Is there any equanimity or intelligent life to be found in decision makers? How about us – do we change our part as consumers in creating the demand for oil and oil products? Another deep question that CNN and FOX conveniently ignore. It is evident that we must stop, locate ourselves in the present moment, pause, and make different choices – examining our minds, consumption patterns and personal culpability in the creation of such a huge disaster. Guidelines are necessary. They can be found in the Mindfulness Trainings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh – particularly the Fifth Training about mindful consumption. Here it is:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.  I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or any other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in such a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

It takes us right back to what we do with our minds. I apply this to walking meditation, taught to students and friends who come to Pine Gate Meditation Hall, where I have the privilege of being the resident Zen teacher. 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 present.  When we add a third concentration – aware of how our feet touch the earth – we have a meditative practice designed for our times.  We focus our mind on the mechanism of each foot touching the earth – heel, then ball of foot, then toe.  We slow down even further and with our body – not our intellect or ego – we make a contract with Mother Earth to walk more lightly and leave a smaller footprint. We examine our consumption patterns and energy use and commit to decreasing the size of our ecological footprint.  All this arises from walking with awareness. Conscious breath co-ordinates our steps as we notice how our feet touch the earth. The energy of wellbeing that arises from this practice is stronger than our habit energies and mental afflictions. And so the latter fall away.  The insight and clarity that also arises guides us in the direction of what to do. Nobody requires a lecture from me about that. We know what to do. We know how to reduce our ecological footprint. We also know that taking care of the earth and the oceans takes care of ourselves. Begin it now, for the future is not some way ahead – it is shaped by the actions we take at this moment.