climate change, ethics, Right Action, Uncategorized

Readers suggestions for taking action in relation to climate change

Many thanks to all the people who sent in suggestions in response to my last newsletter.
Below are a few highlights, and I plan to keep updating this from time to time.

pink bike path 2

Bike path, Auckland, New Zealand


Speaking of New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand is on the ‘right side of history’ as MPs pass zero-carbon bill

2019-11-07 This landmark climate legislation has passed in New Zealand parliament, with historic cross-party support, committing the nation to reduce its carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and meet its commitments under the Paris climate accords.


MS NSW Australia

Our XR harbour project went very well – astonishing police presence for a picnic – 2 vans of riot squad police, a helicopter and a patrol boat just for little old us on some picnic blankets with babystrollers, the odd mermaid, a bit of hand-holding & banner waving at the harbour wall.


WN NSW Australia

Food: I shopped for items not packaged in plastic, were organic, and needed rather than wanted. Buying without plastic reduces your options substantially. The stuff is everywhere. I found a food coop where I take my own containers and volunteer to get a discount. I’ve given up dairy milk and make oat milk.

Travel: My neighbour gave me her electric bike. I know it’s run on electricity which is not perfect but it makes getting everywhere really easy. One neighbour swapped the car for ebikes which changed her family’s life. A keen cyclist friend said that since ebikes came on the scene there are many more bikes on the road – yay!.

Clothes: I buy black, white and grey clothes. Everything is effortlessly colour-coordinated. I buy men’s undies because they’re thicker and better made (the joys of the pink premium). An article said washing on the delicates cycle is the worst for plastic microfibres into the ocean so definitely don’t do that!

Socialising: I suggest to friends to meet at home or the park for pot-luck instead of cafes and restaurants. It’s more relaxing, too.

  • Put the timer on when having a shower – 4 mins is actually quite a long shower.
  • An online horticulture course to learn to grow my own fruit & veg.
  • If I get a stain on a piece of clothing I find a natural way to turn it into a pattern (e.g. soak it in mulberries).

But I think the most useful way of working with the climate crisis is to imagine how many people are involved with making my morning cuppa – from how did the water get to my kettle, to how did I get a kettle, to how did I get the tea, mug, milk, electricity, building, and how do I pay for all these things? and then what happens when the kettle doesn’t work – do I throw it away, get a saucepan instead, what do I do with the tea leaves, the tea leaf packet, the milk container – and what are the labour conditions for all the people involved? That’s what keeps me motivated… 🙂


GC QLD Australia

New book by Ajahn Sucitto

Recently I have been listening to Ajahn Sucitto and reading his blog and other articles as well as some of his online books. This is a recently published one about the environment that others may find interesting.

Some recent blog posts on the topic too: http://sucitto.blogspot.com


SR New Zealand

Wanted to also let you know about the new most ethical KiwiSaver that has been set up in NZ if you haven’t heard about it. Caresaver. There’s a great website.  I’m switching.


AK Massachusetts USA

I am part of a group of practitioners working to take action and raise awareness about the climate crisis. Several of us practice at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center (CIMC), although we do not have any official affiliation with CIMC. Our plan is to do regular “Sitting for Survival” events in front of the Cambridge City Hall beginning next Thursday November 7. Below is a description of our action:

“Join us in holding meditative space to raise awareness of our planetary emergency. We will sit or stand in silence, bearing witness to the destruction of the Earth we love and our holding hope for a better future. Come for 5 minutes or 50 minutes, as long as you can. Show up for our children, families, ancestors, and for all living beings.”

My good friend Brother Fulfillment (Phap Man), a monk in the Plum Village tradition, has been very active with Extinction Rebellion in NYC. He has written a few articles, which I found moving and inspiring:

My Time in Jail with Extinction Rebellion: One of the Most Meaningful Experiences of My Life (Oct 23)

 

anxiety, climate change, community, freedom, retreat, Retreat practice, Uncategorized

Retreat as rebellion

mens shirts 7

Resisting the tyranny of productivity

Over the last few months, I’ve been having conversations with students – and with myself! – about what feels to be the increasingly relentless busyness of our lives. People often say to me that they don’t have time to meditate every day, and they certainly don’t have time to go on retreat, because of work or financial or family pressures. There are just too many other demands on their time, energy, and resources.

Sometimes there are genuine obstacles that get in the way of making time for formal practice. But sometimes, the busyness is a convenient rationalisation, one that allows us to avoid looking at what might be underneath the frenetic activity. On top of our own individual conditioning, most of us are impacted by the dominant values of mainstream society, which demand us to be constantly productive. As a result, we often develop  a compulsive need to be doing; doing; doing; almost as a way to justify our existence. Capitalist values tend to define us by what we DO, so unless we’re constantly busy, we’re no-one. For many people, the idea of simply BEING – even for a few minutes at a time – is terrifying. As a society, our flight from stillness and solitude has gone into hyperdrive.

wrong way 1

Resisting time-pressure

One of the side-effects of this speeding up of everything, is that time spent meditating or on retreat is easily devalued, because it’s not productive. More and more, there’s pressure to achieve the same meditative “results” – whatever they may be – in shorter and shorter times.

We can even see a shift in the retreat schedules of some insight meditation centres around the world. The nine-day retreat has shrunk to seven days, the seven-day retreat to five days, the five day retreat to three days, and so on, so that more retreats can be fitted in to each calendar year.

Retreats should be getting longer, not shorter

Yet if anything, retreats should be getting longer, not shorter, because most people come into retreat chronically stressed and tired. Much as we might like to deny it, we are organic beings. We’re made of meat and bone, flesh and blood. We’re not machines or electronic devices that can just be plugged in, switched on and kept going 24/7. But more and more, this is what we expect of ourselves, and it’s often not until we go on retreat and do stop, that we realise just how exhausted we are.

This means that the first one or two days of the retreat are spent in recovery mode, catching up on sleep and giving our fried nervous systems some time to recuperate. Then, because of our achievement-oriented striving, we feel like we have to make up for this lost time during the remaining days of the retreat, otherwise we’ll fall behind, won’t measure up, won’t achieve anything, won’t make any progress …

Our drivenness damages our own health, and the planet’s health

This drivenness is bad not only for our own health, but for the planet too, as we try to alleviate the stress of our over-full schedules by consuming more and more resources. Constant busyness gives us an excuse to ignore the damage we’re doing to the world – and each other. So in some ways, going on retreat and taking time to not be productive is an act of rebellion.

When we are able to take some time to slow down, the shift from DOing to BEing is often uncomfortable at first. It brings us face to face with the powerful conditioning that tells us we’re worthless, unless we’re involved in fifty different activities simultaneously. But as we start to see through that conditioning, we begin to taste moments of deep ease, peace, and freedom, and the insanity of our old way of being loses some of its appeal.

Every moment of meditation is a moment of resisting the tyranny of productivity

It still takes courage to resist that conditioning and prioritise living a more contemplative life, so we need the support of others who are oriented in a similar way, to help us maintain confidence that we are heading in the right direction. Each time we go on retreat, we’re strengthening our own intention to live a more sane and healthy life, and we’re helping others to do the same. In that way, every moment of meditation can become a moment of resisting the tyranny of productivity.

May our collective efforts to live with more ease, sanity and peace be a contribution to the welfare, the happiness, and the freedom, of all beings on our planet, and the planet itself.

Lake Freestad reflection

 

community, freedom, Insight Meditation Society, love, Sangha / Community, spiritual friendship, Triple Gem, Uncategorized

June 2016 full moon – Inspiration and taking refuge in sangha/community

graduation group by Ben MarshallGraduates of the Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock four-year teacher training programme, 10 June 2016 – photo by Ben Marshall

In my last international newsletter back in April, I wrote about inspiration, an aspect of spiritual practice that surprisingly, doesn’t seem to be talked about very often.  As I discovered back then,

“… the root of the word “inspiration” comes from late Latin, and it’s related to the act of breathing, specifically breathing in, in the sense of giving life to, or animating – just as expiring is related to breathing out, and dying …
Inspiration, then, is literally life-giving.  When I feel most inspired, I feel most alive, in touch with some kind of life-energy that feels much vaster than just my own individual human vitality.”

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been appreciating the power of community to help kindle that sense of inspiration and connection to an energy bigger than just my own.  And I feel to have understood a little more clearly why the Buddha referred to sangha or community as the third of three jewels, three treasures that we can “take refuge” in.  Continue reading “June 2016 full moon – Inspiration and taking refuge in sangha/community”