Being unafraid of this world’s pain

mindfulness-meditation-quote

This month I’ve been deep in contemplation about the world and about myself. Old questions have arisen with new urgency, such as Who am I? What is my reason for being here now? How may I best serve the world, and alleviate the suffering which seems to be everywhere? Some days I only crave solitude and stillness in order to listen deeply within. Other days I’ve sought the wisdom of other voices in order to help make sense of what feels utterly insane and incomprehensible.

Tonight I listened to a program by Bioneers, which was a conversation between several well- known wise women as they explored how Women and women’s innate knowing is a crucial piece to the process of healing our broken world. The speakers included Alice Walker and Joanna Macy, who both spoke passionately and eloquently on this topic. Joanna Macy is an activist, author and Buddhist scholar who has worked tirelessly for decades to support people in their journeys towards healing themselves and the planet. She has long taught a method called The Work that Reconnects. The gist of the method is that a person must be willing to dig into the pain which they carry (whether they are conscious of it or not) in regards to the state of our world. We must allow ourselves to feel the sorrow, anguish, rage, and despair that lives inside us which we usually stuff way inside and do not allow to consciously surface. It is through this allowing, Macy states, that we begin the process of healing both our individual and collective selves, and from there, our beloved, ravaged planet.

Clearly, this is difficult work on all levels. None of us wish to dig into our hearts and souls and dredge up painful emotions and memories. Speaking for myself, I admit that to consciously choose to look at the terrible tragedies playing out across our earth at this time is just about more than I can bear most days. It’s too big, too horrific, and too overwhelming to gaze with steady eyes and heart at what humanity is doing to itself and to our planet, our home. How can I possibly bring myself to take Joanna Macy’s advice and allow myself to feel the great weight of despair residing inside me? After all, I have to get up and go to my job, interact with other human beings on the daily, and if I truly allow myself to see what is happening in the world and to feel the suffering of those experiencing it, there is no way I will be able to function.

Yet, Macy understands deeply the Buddhist path to end suffering. She advocates that we acknowledge and feel the suffering, but that we don’t dwell there. Just as the Buddha did, we must work to find the place of peace and stillness within our soul that is untouched by the world and its vast drama. This is the most difficult and rewarding work we can do while incarnated. To be in the world and yet not of it means exactly this—we acknowledge the world’s suffering, understand that suffering is caused by mistakenly believing the illusion to be reality, and then stilling the mind and emotions enough to experience the truth—reality is not this three dimensional story of separation we’ve been telling ourselves for thousands of years. In fact, the earth itself is on a journey of ascending into a higher plane of existence, and those of us who are awake to it, are here to help it arrive safely, much like an army of midwives helping to birth the new age of Earth and of mankind.

I have a saying taped to a wall in my kitchen. It says,

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do Justly Now.
Love Mercy Now. Walk Humbly Now. You’re not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

When I become very quiet and still and can go beyond my ego mind’s chatter, then  I understand what the Buddha, Joanna Macy and many other wise teachers teach. Then, I acknowledge the pain and immense suffering of this world, while also calmly seeing that it all stems from the false belief that we are separate and discreet entities from each other, unconnected to Earth or to Divinity, the Great Spirit that dwells within each being. We have lost our way because we have forgotten our inherent connection to everything else. It’s so very easy to forget as we go through our daily routines. Other people are annoying, rude, ugly and every other negative adjective we can come up with. Why should we care about them? Why should we be kind or smile when they don’t care to return the favor? How can we bring ourselves to love those who are purposefully destroying all we love and wish to protect? To forgive those who bring pain and suffering to others and then lie, cheat, dominate and destroy? I mean, this is VERY big, and difficult work.

Coming back then, to Joanna Macy’s words that rang through my soul tonight, I get it. As unbelievably painful and hard as it is to see, acknowledge, and feel it, I know that the only way out of our global predicament is through. We cannot, we WILL NOT change our world until enough of us can do exactly this. Business as usual is destroying our planet bit by bit, fire by fire, melting ice cap by melting ice cap. We are all so busy running around our lives, failing to stop long enough to truly listen to Earth-Gaia-Madre Tierra, crying out for us to Stop, Look and Listen. To see what we are doing to our only home. To cry for what we have all done to Her. To find better, healthier, cleaner ways to live upon her, in harmony with her great cycles. Until we can collectively get on our knees and ask for her forgiveness, we will continue to teeter on the brink of extinction.

For those of you who would like to hear Joanna Macy, here are more links to some of her talks. Joanna Macy- Embracing Pain
Active Hope Show 1_ Prophecy of Shambhala Warriors

The real heroes in the hall

 

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Greta Thunberg and her colleagues at Monday’s UN Climate Summit. image via Deseret.com

The weekend of September 21 and this week of September 23-27 are biggies in our world. The United Nations holds its annual General Assembly and debate each year at this time, and this week is its 74th meeting. Most of the world’s leaders and national spokespeople come from all corners of the planet to this highest-level meeting to discuss what is important to them, and to hopefully make or strengthen commitments they’ve already made towards supporting the work of the United Nations in many directions.

This year is an even more special one for the United Nations and world, due to the Global Youth Climate Strikes that were held the Friday before the General Assembly. On Saturday, Sept. 21, the UN hosted a Youth Climate Summit, and on Monday, a General Climate Summit for all interested parties to come together and give their practical ideas and action plans for how to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invited youth activists to speak at Monday’s Climate Action Summit. (Watch here)

In his opening remarks, Guterres spoke enthusiastically of the young people who had come to the summit demanding accountability and action by world leaders and actors. He proclaimed, “they are right.” Guterres said his generation has failed in its responsibility to protect our planet, and that must change. He claimed we have the tools we need, including the knowledge of how to reduce emissions and achieve the goals of the Paris agreement. We have the roadmap, in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. And, he continued, we have the imperative, irrefutable science, according to the IPCC report of 2018, that confirms we must stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise, or face irreversible and terrible consequences for humanity in this century. He went on to say that the IPCC report also shows it is still possible to create a future world that is livable, but only if we make drastic and fundamental transformations away from a world based on burning fossil fuels for energy. It will entail transformation in all areas of life, including land use, agriculture, economics, and transportation. The transformation also requires changes that will create “less suffering, and more justice and harmony for people and planet.” Guterres reiterated that there is a cost to doing everything, but the biggest cost is doing nothing. The biggest cost is subsidizing a dying fossil fuel industry, continuing to build coal power plants, and in order to change, we must admit that “we are in a global climate hole, and to get out we must first stop digging.”

Three young people came on stage after the Secretary General spoke. One was a young activist and lawyer from Brazil, who is fighting for the rights of indigenous tribes and youth in the Amazon from the continued exploitation and destruction of their lands by foreign oil and gas interests. Another was a young entrepreneur from India, now living in Singapore and asking for world leaders’ help to back and support youth start ups for inventions and innovation platforms to help those in countries where the digital divide remains, such as African farmers. And the third young person on the stage that morning was the invincible Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who is the person mainly responsible for sparking and mobilizing the global youth #ClimateStrike movement.  When the MC asked Greta what was her message to the world leaders, this was her response.  (Watch here)

My message is that we’ll be watching you.

This is all wrong.

I shouldn’t be up here.

I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.

Yet you all come to us young people for hope?

How dare you!

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.

And yet I’m one of the lucky ones.

People are suffering.

People are dying.

Entire ecosystems are collapsing.

We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.

And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.

How dare you!

For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear.

How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

You say you “hear” us and that you understand the urgency.

But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to believe that.

Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil.

And that I refuse to believe.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C degrees, and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

50% may be acceptable to you.

But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice.

They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us –we who have to live with the consequences.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just business-as-usual and some technical solutions.

With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than eight and a half years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures today.

Because these numbers are too uncomfortable.

And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

You are failing us.

But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.

The eyes of all future generations are upon you.

And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you.

We will not let you get away with this.

Right here, right now is where we draw the line.

The world is waking up.

And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

After Greta delivered her powerful and emotional speech, for a moment it seemed the audience was stunned, then broke into enthusiastic applause. Secretary General Guterres then followed up with his own reaction to their speeches. He thanked the three young people for their eloquent testimony, and remarked that “it is amazing and fantastic that young people around the world are not only standing up and speaking truth to power to ensure the world becomes committed to climate action, but they themselves are taking action towards providing solutions to the enormous challenges we face.” Guterres said it’s the duty of decision-makers around the world “to not only listen to the voice of young people, and to do what they ask us to do, but also to support them in their own actions for climate action around the world.”

As I continue to watch the world’s youth waking up, standing up, and literally shouting to world leaders to finally listen to the scientists and Take Action Now, I am more convinced than ever that truly the ONLY thing that gives humanity a chance for a future that is not utterly catastrophic and unlivable is their energy, determination, creativity and will to change how we are collectively living on this beautiful, damaged planet we call Home. The real heroes in the hall of the United Nations Monday are these young people who are telling the truth about the imminent danger we face. Greta Thunberg’s passion, frustration and emotional appeal to them encapsulated what many millions of us feel every day. Simply put, there is no magic bullet or savior who will come to save us all from the changes all around us. It is up to us, especially the world’s political leaders and power elite, to make the urgent and necessary change of weaning ourselves off of dirty energy and the global economy derived from it. Not in twenty or thirty years, but NOW.

Greta is absolutely right: Change is coming. The world is waking up, and the changes will continue. The flooding, fires, volcanoes, ice caps melting, and animals going extinct will continue. Those feedback loops are baked in our common cake at this point. Yet, as was so clearly repeated during the past days, weeks, and months, there is still time for us to get onto a less catastrophic trajectory if we make radical, and immediate changes to our mode of living. From the looks of things on YouTube, (millions of views of her speech since Monday, Sept. 23), and all the news stories generated from her speech, it seems she has hit a raw nerve with the collective. If Donald Trump is taking the time to mock her for her speech, it’s clear she is a threat to the global status quo, and that is a very good thing.

Confusion, contradiction and turmoil

cognitive-dissonance
image via https://askaboutworkerscompgravytrains.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/cognitive-dissonance.jpg

Have you been hyper aware of the continuing split between your inner and the outer world lately? I know I sure have. We are at the tail end (I hope) of the hottest summer ever experienced by humans on Earth. For me personally it was perhaps the most uncomfortable and often miserable summer of my life. I’ve been so far out of my comfort zone, in fact, that at this point I no longer really know where my comfort zone even is or how to find it. These are the times we are living in.

As many of you probably did, I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as the news media showed daily and hourly updates of Hurricane Dorian’s path through the southern Atlantic, culminating in its plowing through the Bahamas as a category 5 storm. The whole scenario had an eerily familiar ring to it, being so similar to last year’s Hurricane Maria that wiped out most of Puerto Rico. These extreme weather events have become a kind of dystopian reality show for millions of watchers around the globe. I watched a short video from a reporter who spoke with a man who watched his “little wife” get hypothermia and then drown in their home as the water rose all around them. He was able to swim out and to his crabbing boat, thus saving his own life. One story of thousands showing human misery amidst our current world conditions.

Scanning through news articles from the New York Times, The Guardian and now CNN (I succumbed to their phone app this week so I could watch the Live Town Hall on Climate Change with the Democratic candidates), I hardly have words to describe what is being reported. Mostly it can be summed up with these three: confusion, contradiction and turmoil. It’s pretty hard to argue the fact that our world is in chaos on most fronts: the natural world, society, economics, health, education, agriculture and land management, and of course, politics. In a word: dissonance.

What’s really happening here?, a thinking person will ask. Many of my blog posts are in some way attempting to find answers to this question. I would say that humanity is currently undergoing the biggest test of our existence and we are in the eye of the needle, or hurricane, or pick your own metaphor. Both personally and collectively we are being stretched to the limits of our endurance on all levels—mental, emotional, physical and etheric. Some with strong traditional Christian beliefs could argue it’s Armageddon time, folks. Others explain it in more neutral terms, such as the scientific community acknowledging we are reaching Earth’s planetary boundaries for life’s carrying capacity. Some are fast asleep through all the changes, and hardly even notice all the chaos around them. Others prefer to stay in denial, wanting their world to simply continue as it has been during their lifetimes with no real changes to their lifestyle.

greta-thunberg-t-online.de
via https://www.t-online.de

Then there are the activists, who are growing in numbers and strength all around the world. They are the ones who are standing up through their speech and direct actions to hold those responsible for bringing humanity and Earth to the brink of destruction, accountable for their actions. The tension between those who are holding onto their power at all costs and those who are shouting, staging die-ins (Extinction Rebellion), marching in the streets and in front of the world’s government centers has become extreme. Look at Hong Kong during the past months as one prime example.

Charles Eisenstein, whom I love, released a short YouTube video today, in which he tells of his six month media fast. He said that when he finally resumed catching up on the news media, he was struck by the constant spin of war mentality with Us vs. Them implied in nearly all of it. He commented that for someone like him, living outside of the matrix of mainstream culture and refusing to take sides, it is even more dangerous than if he were the enemy of someone or something. This is so because those of us who refuse to engage in the Us vs. Them game aren’t easy to understand or peg in a definite way. The world of duality despises those who refuse to see the world as either/or. This also reminds me of Marianne Williamson, the self-help guru cum Democratic presidential candidate who briefly rose to media prominence this summer, then just as quickly was squelched. There is a fascinating long read on her campaign in the New York Times magazine. Williamson is in the same camp as Eisenstein, that of refusing to engage in Us vs. Them; instead she built her platform around the idea that Love is stronger than hate and warmongering, and she would win the presidency from the current POTUS via a David and Goliath strategy, hitting the American goliath in his third eye! Although clearly America is nowhere near ready to embrace the idea of Love being the foundation for a new kind of political leadership, I give her kudos for being so audacious and brave as to suggest that it’s what is needed and possible.

Like many, I laughed at Williamson’s campaign. But then there was the debate: “If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.” This one quote was breathtaking in its simple recognition of what Trump actually is, and how he has destroyed all he can of what we believed our country was, or might be. And it addresses the fact that standard political strategizing is not going to win this election. This insight alone validates her campaign. I am very glad she is running. But we really need someone with political experience in the White House.

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from Readers’ comments on the Williamson article, Sept. 3, 2019

This was a bit of a rambling tonight, dear readers. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read my observations and thoughts. I am admittedly at a low ebb at the moment. Perhaps, like some of you, I’m hoping for some glimmer of any good news to appear. We humans have an amazing capacity for resilience and compassion when up against the wall. In the meantime, my prayers and love extend to those in the Bahamas who are in such great need right now.