Tag Archives: Mind

I HAD A DREAM.

I had flown into the small airport of Castlegar in the Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia for my son’s wedding in the summer of 2009. The short hop over the Rockies in a Dash 8 aircraft from Calgary was spectacular – especially the flight into Castlegar airport. The wingtips seemed to touch the valley mountains, as the aircraft swerved sharply into the river fringed village of Castlegar. My son, his bride to be – Nancy – and my grandson Callun were there to pick me up and deliver me to where I was staying that night in nearby Nelson. The wedding ceremony was the next day in the Tibetan Buddhist Gompa. I was expected to wear my Buddhist duds as I was there not only as a Dad but also apparently as a Zen teacher!

That evening in Nelson I had an unforgettable dream, vivid in every detail. I dreamt I was in a river running kayak, sitting quietly in a pool outside the swift eddies that raced to the edge of a waterfall that was huge, sheer, with a vertical drop of 1,000 feet. The kayak was bright yellow. The short stubby craft was an extension of my body. My wetsuit was black and I wore a red lifejacket tightly fastened. My helmet was also red. The shaft of the paddle was black and the twin blades a dancing red. I looked around at the high mountains and forest. I noted the mist rising from the swift flowing river before pushing out into the racing eddies straight to the edge of the waterfall. As I went over the edge I raised the paddle high over my head and leaned back into the kayak. I did nothing to steer or guide the kayak. The descent seemed forever though timeless. Yet in a moment my craft had submerged into the river below and then I was bobbing on the surface paddling downstream.

My first thought in the dream as I manoeuvred close to the river’s edge was “That was a really bad run. I didn’t do anything.” Then moments later in the dream I stopped my thinking, realizing that it was the perfect run, precisely because I did not do anything. My lack of insight was that I missed the surrender to the fierce current of the waterfall, to the awesome power of the stream of consciousness. I had to share this dream with Iain and Nancy next morning, so they could perhaps see for themselves the surrender to the other necessary for their marriage to work well. They received it and understood. Their dharma and mountain friends enjoyed an incredible wedding in the Tibetan Gompa. Although there was a mountain of alcohol at the reception and dance afterwards, hardly anyone drank, as the “high” was the quality of celebration and surrender in the wedding ceremony.

I have thought about this dream a great deal and the reflections are revealing. The creation of my 2008 book – Failsafe: Saving the Earth from Ourselves – was part of this surrender though I did not realize it at the time. It was written from an unusual place and was also the midpoint for two trilogies of books. Several years ago at the beginning of spring after a severe winter in Canada, I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony with respected elders from the Ojibway, Dene and Mohawk First Nations. We made deeply personal and collective commitments to serve the Earth. At the end of the final round of the ceremony we emerged into the pristine beauty of a late snowfall under a clear star studded sky. There had been a two-inch snowfall during the ceremony. As we walked barefoot to where we were camping I turned round and saw our footprints in the snow. It seemed as though these were the first footprints on the new Earth. I gestured to my companions to stop and look. They silently shared the same insight with soft smiles. In that instant the stillness and silence renewed our commitments to serve the Earth with all our hearts and minds. Failsafe was born from that moment at the end of winter in 2006.

It was published in October 2008.  I was giving a talk about this experience to an audience in Vancouver and suddenly found myself talking about two previous books I had written and the next three books. Failsafe was the midpoint. These books had all been writing me, although I was not aware of it. Each book had issued forth from the experience of profound silence. There was a life work inside that was writing me!  It took me twelve years to wake up to this. The first book – Anthropology at The Edge was published in 1997, followed by The Essential Spiral in 2002 and Failsafe in 2008. These books talk to you from the seasons of my life.  My insights, disasters and occasional breakthroughs are its basis.

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

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

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

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

            This brings me back to the dream and wedding in Castlegar. If your mindfulness and discernment have done their job, they have brought you to the point of trust and surrender to the realities that have been there throughout your journey. It does require, however, surrender to the awesome power of your consciousness.

YouTube video with Jennifer Jane Clark about the dream I had that lead me to my destiny.

 

BOOKS:

http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

http://ianprattis.com/NewPlanet.html

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

http://www.ianprattis.com/Redemption.html

http://www.failsafebook.ca/

http://ianprattis.com/EssentialSpiral.html

http://ianprattis.com/DharmaAlive.html

http://ianprattis.com/PortalsPassages.html

 

 

 

                                                                      

 

Happiness on Parliament Hill – July 30.

                                       

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

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

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

WHO: Why You of course!

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

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

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

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

Description of Meditation offering

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

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

Facebook Author Page

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

More on Mindful Engagement.

Our World is Burning presents sixteen essays which strive to teach the benefits of mindful engagement for individuals, communities, and the Earth. These essays are divided into four parts, each based on a different area which mindfulness can positively impact: global climate change, family and community, healing and transformation, and spiritual support. I show readers what mindfulness can do for them and the small ways in which readers can rewire their consumerist thoughts and become more present in the here and now.

I begin with three essays in PART ONE: CASCADE. Essay One provides the title of this collection – Our World is Burning. It is about Climate Change seen through the eyes of a terrified nine year old boy who wants to remain five so the earth does not explode into flames. His poignant discussion with me on his birthday obliterates any residue of Climate Change Denial. I spoke to him about the mindfulness community I created in 1997 – Pine Gate – and the deliberate steps taken for planetary care. We simplify, make do with less, share and adapt. Our intent is to create environmental leaders and that includes him.  The drive behind Pine Gate is to foster a strong cadre of people in Ottawa to make a difference for the betterment of society and the Earth Mother. Women are in the forefront of this endeavor. They are the heart that holds the living waters and that heart is the dynamic epicentre of the mind/will/emotions that lead to effective action. He was taking it all in, including “Girl Power” and grasped what I said to him. He came up to me as I was leaving and whispered in my ear that my chat with him was his best birthday present ever.

The next two essays are hard core. Essay Two: Rant from the Future is taken from the futuristic book New Planet, New World.  In this fictional moment in 2080 Dr. Tom Hagen’s blistering speech to an elite forum of political and corporate leaders at the United Nations changed the future of humanity. He looks back on the willful ignorance of the power elite on Planet Earth. He glares at his audience, “Did you not notice that degradation of the Earth’s ecology was the catalyst for radical Climate Change? Did you not see that food crops were destroyed by horrendous heat waves? Did you not realize that food riots and world panic trace back to one cause, the economic agenda of your energy extraction?” He continued, “Your collective agenda has destabilized world order.  Your brand is a dysfunctional global financial system lurching from one disaster to another, ignoring the welfare of populations and the ecological breakdowns caused by the consequences of your actions. May I remind you that the economy is a mere sub-set of the mother lode of ecology and you have successfully destroyed most ecosystems on Planet Earth. Your willful ignorance of dire warnings served to discredit climate change scientists and oceanographers screaming that eco-systems were disintegrating. You silenced and jailed citizens with the integrity to save the Earth. But it was never about the unanimity of science or free speech. It was about the brand of economics favored by your collective cabal of extraordinary power that extended its reach to encompass all powerful corporate ventures. You know who you are.”

Essay Three: Are We Stupid ponders on two forks in the road: either a Failsafe in Consciousness emerges or our fate becomes that of resignation to being a failed genetic experiment. The necessary clarity to deal with Climate Change will emerge, once our thoughts, values and attitudes change and no longer sustain and feed our internal pollution. This is the radical internal Climate Change necessary to engage intelligently with the external Climate Change. The overwhelming terror of Gaia crashing down on us is unbearable. The restructuring of capitalism requires that social capital and community sustainability become just as important as profits – profits for sure, but within an ethical structure that provides a new direction for globalization. New structures and mindsets are required to eliminate the control exercised by international finance capitalists. If we continue to turn our beautiful rivers into sewers because of our endless greed and neglectful ignorance, it is obvious that there is no place on Mother Earth to support our present civilization. That too will join the trash heap collectively created by mindless generations of humanity. The ancient ecologist on Mars studying a million years of earth history would note a parasitic infestation on Planet Earth that was not very intelligent. An intelligent parasite would ensure the good health of the host that supports it. And so the Martian biologist would factor in an inevitable elimination date for our species in her star-date log and may well view our civilization as a failed genetic experiment.

Briefly – PART TWO: FAMILY AND COMMUNITY provides an unusual story of parenting in the drug underworld of Glasgow, Scotland in Essay Four: Punk Palace. The upbeat essays of Community Activism and Taking Refuge in Grandchildren in Essays Four and Eight are counter points to the dreadful impact of Cyberbullying and More Dead Children in school murders in Essays Five and Seven.

In PART THREE: HEALING AND TRANSFORMATION I do not shrink from documenting personal suffering and transformation – near death experience, sexual abuse and healing. I knew there was a boundless consciousness deeply hidden under the morass created by my patterns and habits of denial.  I refer to this personal necessity in Essay Nine: Healing Journeys, Essay 10: Healing the Inner Child and Essay Twelve: Shattering of Concepts. Chapter 11: The Buddha at the Gate is a homily to park our suffering. Essay 12 – Chronicles of Awakening – places my concerns in a trilogy of books – Redemption, Trailing Sky Six Feathers and New Planet, New World. Peggy Lehmann in a testimonial to Our World is Burning states that through these three books “..readers saw glimpses of the author and his message both evolving and growing to new levels of spiritual understanding. At a time on Earth when hope is badly needed, Ian’s writings have universal appeal assuring us that a better world is possible and that each of us must contribute to its creation.”

In PART FOUR – SPIRITUAL SUPPORT – the essays lead up to the finale: “A Manifesto for the Future.” This places the issues in each essay into the sphere of action, politics and resistance. I also reveal my spiritual training from Shamanic, Vedic and Buddhist traditions, jostled together with quite a few life crises!  My intensive training enabled me to better understand the processes of transformation.  There was a lot of mud in my seasons, yet that mud provided the necessary compost to cultivate surprisingly beautiful flowers. From mentors in the desert, Essay Fourteen, to training with sages, Essay Fifteen, I then gravitate to Essay Sixteen: A Manifesto for the Future. And just why do I – do we – need all of this?  It is so we may emerge as the new leaders for the 21st century.

I was humbled by the reviews of “Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement.’ They reinforced my attempt to create an authentic tapestry about the state of the world and how we could best engage with it. I could only draw from my experience and hope that would be enough for the reader. My approach to life comes through experience, crises, difficulties and joys that may have common ground with many readers. If I can take steps along the spiritual path, surely anyone can. To the best of my ability, I endeavor to follow Gandhi’s principles of ahimsa and the teachings on mindfulness. These are the guidelines and foundations for my peace and environmental activism. I live very simply as a planetary activist. I am a Zen teacher, also a recognized guru in India. My initial task is to refine my own consciousness – to be a vehicle to chart an authentic path. If I did not do this, then I could not write the way I do.

Order Book: Amazon, Indigo, Author Autograph – http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.