I have recently been hit by a tidal wave of grief. My 14 year old son asked me just before bed "Mom, do you think we can stop climate change?" The question hung in the air like a pollution cloud that I feared would choke us all if we inhaled the likely answer too deeply. Yet that is what I did, I took a deep breath of all the pain that question brings, and remembering my Tonglin meditation practice, I exhaled the pain of it out through my open heart with a breath of compassion for all of us who will eventually have to face that question and especially for the children who now forced to contemplate it.
A few more breaths later, I found my voice and reassured him that we would do all that we can, and that there are many, many people in the world working tirelessly to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The next day while my son was away at school, I sat on the couch with my husband and let loose a deep wail of grief, followed by sobs and many tears. Then I just rested, just watched as the snow fell outside. Just watched my breathing, and felt deep gratitude for life, for the life that this planet has given me, my family, my community and all beings on earth. I felt the mothering energy of Gaia, reassuring me that my emotions are received by the universe as an act of gratitude and love. That no matter what happens, a great beauty is unfolding and has been for billions of years, and will continue to arise and pass through an infinite continuum.
In these darkest nights before the Solstice in the year 2019, we have much to contemplate and grieve as the voice of Gaia moves through us. Our tears will make space for the new sun to rise, as we rise in our sacred work of rebalancing our planet's bio-system, building compassionate communities, and dancing, singing, and creating a new world based in love and gratitude, trusting that the unknown has potentials far beyond our imaginings.
Let in the Love Mr. Trump.
Dear Mr. Trump,
What happened to you that you would willfully bring about the end of the world? We’re you harmed as a child? Did someone violate you so deeply that you can’t even remember you were harmed? Did your father hate you? Did your mother leave you to cry until you collapsed?
I know some of what this is like. I am the daughter of a white man who told me many times that I was stupid, who did not trust me, and in the end never said goodbye.
I know how it feels to walk around feeling like an empty shell because there is no one there to remind you of your innate value as a child of the earth. But I was lucky, I have also known great love and compassion from my mother, my sisters, my partner, my child, my friends, my community, and from Mother Earth.
I know what it is like to cry to the point of retching as I let go of my anger, grief and shame. I know what it is like to be witnessed and cared for by loving people who do not judge.
I know what it is like to receive the miraculous gifts of the earth, given freely, in exchange for my willingness to plant seeds, to water them, and sweat beside them under the baking sun. Or to take in the breathtaking beauty of the land and sky with no price tag on it.
In fact, my emptiness has been filled by the very earth itself, and this is wealth that can never be bought or sold. I want you to know this kind of wealth too. For if you did, you would stop hating and could perhaps become a leader who helped heal the world.
Mr. Trump, we can tell that you are scared. We are all scared. We always have been. Life on earth is a dance in the unknown. There are no tweets that can change that profound truth, no amount of guns or things, or T.V. shows can change the channel on the core reality of our existence here on this planet. We are living on a thin crust of earth on an immense ball filled with molten rock spinning through space around a sun. We are here because we have a fragile biosphere full of gases that are affected by everything we do. Especially what we do to our trees. Trees and plants and animals keep us alive.
There it is.
There are sadly many men and women along side of you who believe in the fantasy of endless supply, and endless destruction, endless riches, and endless pleasure. That believe that people with dark skin don’t feel pain. That stealing, murdering, raping, enslaving and hating are all part of God’s plan. Twisted fantasies that serve the purpose of alleviating the terror they feel inside because someone harmed them, hated them, and left them alone in the unknown. All of us understand why at times it is easier to reach for the junk food, the caffeine, the alcohol, the pot, the sex, the internet, the gun, than to reach for another person and ask for help in being with the deep down agonizing terror of the unknown. But I can assure you that reaching out brings about the greatest riches. To be seen and connected to others and to share love transforms the terror into joy, laughter and contentment.
Oh dear Donald, you desperately need help. We all do. The irony is no amount of money will stop our terror. It is up to us to allow love in. Only loving kindness to ourselves and others and a deep responsive listening to Mother Earth’s natural laws can bring peace to the terror of the unknown.
Mr. Trump we are at the tipping point of certain extinction. You sir and your supporters are way out on that tipping point wobbling more precariously than anyone else, as you let go of your moral tether; betraying love, mocking kindness, and defiling the sacred ground of our Mother Earth.
But you are fortunately not really alone, there is a unified field of love that is shared by most of the population of the Earth and we are rising up and sharing this love. We are responding to the laws of Mother Earth, and are trying to help her regain balance. May you feel this love and respect, even if only in your dreams. We are with you. You are not alone. We are together, as we spin at great speed through space, held by mysterious gravity, and breathing in the grace of trees.
In the summer of my 20th year, I went to New York City to study film making at NYU. I was living in the Bowery in a huge artist’s loft. I rented from artist's who had lived there for many years and had never locked their door. The only person, they said, who came in without an invitation was a homeless man on a bitter winter night, who quietly snuck into the kitchen, cooked a dozen eggs and ate them, washed his dishes, and then fell asleep with his head on the counter. When they found him in the morning he said, “Please call the police, so I can have a warm place to sleep tonight.”
There was honestly nothing in the loft worth stealing, except perhaps the wind chimes all across the ceiling made from found objects, that rang sweetly in the noisy street wind flowing east to west through the length of it. So that summer, I learned not to mind the unlocked door, even though at the time the streets in the East Village had become home to countless people struggling with mental instability, recently released from the deregulated hospitals under President Reagan. The man with Turrets syndrome who screamed profanity at me on Broadway several times rattled my confidence, but I stayed there for the whole summer learning that what I feared was not an enemy but was instead an expression of a very serious lack of love and compassion.
There are multiple ways in which our mind is like this too. If we lock our mind off to the world because we are afraid of it, our fear will grow, and we will see others as the enemy, and we will even see parts of ourselves as the enemy. This is where the war begins, why so many people feel that they need guns. Why on a subtle psychological level we feel we need to make ourselves better. We fear and hate the parts of ourselves that don’t live up to the unseen but immensely powerful social forces that tell us to keep our doors locked!
But what if there is no enemy? What if there is no-one to blame or shame? What if our thoughts and our deeds are like the wind blowing the chimes? Sometimes wildly, sometimes utterly still? Yet with flow through all windows and doors. Welcoming any visitor, as long as they are respectful of the space as a place for everyone.
The issue that we are dealing with in our time is that there are people who are so fearful that they are ripping the chimes from the ceiling, locking up the doors, and planning to detonate the world outside the room.
How do we help them to trust that they can open their doors again to being cared for? How do we approach the parts of ourselves that burn with self loathing, and send daggers out at the world for hurting us?
Excerpt from Beth's upcoming book: The Way of the Joyous Warrior.
This March 15th, 2019, my 13 yr. old son and I packed up our big Sun puppet, Love and Justice hands, and a banner that reads "Declare Climate Emergency Now" and with painful irony, drove our fossil fuel van to Boston with 6 students from Northampton high school. We went to join the Sunrise Youth Strike which was concurrently happening all over the world.
These young students and my son are without a doubt what I would call: Joyful Warriors. Arriving at City Hall in Cambridge in the bowels of a parking garage, I handed them my aging activist art, and they immediately took up the challenge of being big and unusual in a world where "normal" is constantly being emphasized. Yet what is normal about being a child having to protest to save their future?
With giggles we carefully maneuvered the giant face of the Sun puppet on a tall pole, into the elevator. "It's like a dream" I said. And I think we all wished that Climate Change was just a dream. Yet smiling and laughing we rose up to street level and popped out onto the sidewalk with our eye catching objects. Crossing the history filled Boston commons, the Declaration of Independence monument, the docents in costume giving history tours, leaning against the wind, we climbed the steps of City Hall and joined the throngs of children and teens, speaking truth to power.
My impromptu ensemble followed me into the crowd to the top of the stairs against the iron fence which separates the people from the halls of power. We turned and faced a crowd of beautiful, young, earnest and worried faces. Raising the Sun, hands and banner high we took our place in this profound moment of history. Our tableau was strong and beautiful, bringing the power of the puppet to the protest. Declaring with our art and our hearts that something big is happening here, bigger than life, and that nothing less than magic can turn this catastrophe around.
Young voices boomed out through megaphones, some cracking with the strain of all that they had to say. But the crowd loved them, listened, chanted, held their hand made posters high and you could feel the rising power. A collective power where difference no longer mattered. A new declaration emerged, not whitewashed by selective justice, but by a clarity of purpose that comes only when you face mortality head on. These children, few amongst the billions of people on earth are rising to address the collective mortality of life on earth with all the light of awakening that can be mustered. Their courage is astounding, but we have left them no choice. This may in fact be the first time in human history when children are having to shake humanity to it's senses.
They are doing the work of the Joyful Warrior~Becoming aware, listening into their intuition about what is right, and taking creative action.
Now we adults need to do the same thing. May it be that the children and teens can go back to the dreams of their future which are as long and as big as life itself.
Here are some things you can do:
Tell the EPA to stop denying Climate Change
Volunteer with 350.org
Learn everything you can about the Green New Deal:
Fund MuZen Theater's activist art actions!
Climate Dharma-Embodying Our Interconnectedness.
I have an achingly clear memory of being a child, around 7 years old, lying in bed and looking out my window. It was spring time and I became enamored of the pale green aura of our giant Maple Tree just outside my window. As I stared into the familiar branches, the realization of the seasons landed in my being. The seasons danced out before me, I could name them: winter and the bare branches framing meadows of snow, warm fires, presents and songs in the dark. The winds of March, The green shoots and exuberant birds of spring, the buzz of the crickets and shade and water in the deep green of summer and the melancholy falling of brilliant leaves, and then again the snow. A deep joy and excitement rose up in my child body as I sensed myself growing and changing within the embrace of this rhythm and return.
My relationship with nature has been this intimate ever since. I have run an organic market garden, moving with the daily call of the needs of each plant as they grew, harvested and died. I have spent hours designing landscapes full of flowers and watching as the birds and bees came to meet them. I have ridden warm ponies through the dark of the night meeting with friends around fires and sleeping on the ground under blankets. And I have lived through many winters in a yurt snuggled next to the wood stove as storms raged just outside my 2 inch thick walls.
The embrace of rhythm and return has soothed me day in and day out, until 1990 when I sensed a slight shift and heard about Global warming. The planetary climate, as all of us know is changing and changing fast. The quality of the heat of summer is far more intense, the humidity more gripping. The storms, the fires, the rains all are expressing extremes. Here in Western Massachusetts a drought has come to plague us. No snow, and little rain for almost a year now. Literally unprecedented in our climate history. I say these words knowing that anyone reading this already has their version of this knowledge in their being.
This knowledge touches a grief and a terror so deep and wide my throat chokes and my body shakes with the tidal wave of it. For me this Climate Change feels as though the mother planet is letting go of her embrace of rhythm and return and is saying I cannot hold you any longer, you must go back to the fiery elements of the stars. Perhaps you'll realize what you are doing soon enough or you will find your way back in a million years, but it is truly up to you now. She is saying: You must take all you know of me and make your own embrace, and fill it with conscious intention and love. For I have given myself unceasingly to you thus far, and you have squandered my gifts.
I believe humanities free will has never been more truly presented to us. What do we do?
I began meditating when my heart's grief became so heavy I could no longer stand. As more news came in globally about the destruction of our rain forests and the myriad creatures who live there, and our rich farm lands becoming malls and corn and soybean crops, and nuclear bombs proliferating, and the world fisheries collapsing and the oil tankers spilling into pristine waters, and the acid rains poisoning lakes and streams, a depression settled into me that stunted my will, drove me to addiction, and for a time destroyed my sense of life having meaning.
I tripped and fell to the ground, and it was grief and rage that spilled out. At the same time I began my studies in Buddhism and Body Centered Psychotherapy. With the brilliant guidance of my teachers I dropped through what we called "death layer" in order to find my life on the other side. Hours and days of grief and rage for the pains of my childhood interwoven with the agony of witnessing our world be severely abused flowed out from me. Out of this process a profound compassionate energy emerged. From stillness flowed my life. I was no longer in anguish trying to stop bad things from happening. I was instead finding a deep love for myself and all beings, and with that a guiding purpose to my life.
We humans have been striving. Striving to know everything and to own everything. We have even reached out beyond our biosphere in profoundly heroic attempts to know more about the universe. Yet what we have ultimately proven is our total vulnerability. This is the only habitable planet we know of and we are now fully responsible for its well-being. That is the truth and we cannot deny it. We have reached a moment in human history where our willful outward striving is pointing us strait towards extinction.
My journey through death layer brought me to the same conclusion. We are all deeply vulnerable and are part of a vast universe, Each one of our breaths in this lifetime meets the world with the deepest intimacy imaginable. We are inhaling the expression of all green living things, and our exhale feeds the leaves, the trunk, the root of all thriving greenery. It is only our eyes and curious minds that can sustain a relationship to the universe beyond our biosphere. We are green earthlings at the core of our being, and for us to keep breathing here on earth we MUST our last breaths will be taken in deepest if remembering and awakening to the task of living in harmony with nature
I woke up this morning and asked myself, who do I want "to be" today? My first reflection was to be loving, my second was to just keep it together. My pile of to dos is two pages long, but at least for now they are on a piece of paper rather than spinning around in my head. But to truly ask myself who do I want "to be" today, I needed to touch into the places inside myself that are either lurking in shadows, or are desperately clawing for attention.
My meditation cushion calls me. I am grateful for it, at this point immeasurably. I sit. First, bowing to my ancestors, then to my teachers, then to myself, this self that has been with me for 51 years but who I am just beginning to know.
I have been many things in this life, dancer, photographer, horseback rider, actress, puppeteer, traveler, teacher, mother and wife, and now for the past ten years I have studied and explored within myself what it means to be a human from the inside out. This path has taken to me to the most simple and yet most profound action of my life. To Stop. To stop and sit on a daily basis and let go of even the processes of thinking, planning, musing, inventing, imagining, designing and ultimately controlling my life with my mind. I have discovered that my mind is tired and ready for this rest. When I sit and ring the bell, and light the candle, and take in and let out three deep breaths, I am letting my mind know that now is the time for rest, and it no longer has to work to keep me safe, mull over the terror of doing something wrong, obsess about old family issues, or plan the next meal. Now my mind can be in service to my heart and body. I ask it to notice this moment.
What is in this moment? My breath and the ocean like flow of its expression and my body and the myriad calls its making about how it feels to be still and suddenly get some attention. I say to my mind, let's listen. My heart soon starts to share and often unburdens a longing, a grief, or a joy, or elicits from me an immense sigh. Full of I don't know what, but then there is more space, and the sounds of the day break into my consciousness. The birds, the wind, the cars going by, the rustle of my sleeping child.
I feel awake, as if out of a dream, and my being is vibrating with the life that it is, that is right now, nowhere to go, nothing to do. Now here is the miracle, I feel love, My heart feels big and full in my chest. My body is vibrating with love. I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of this life that has been given to me. Then my sit is over. I ring the bell again, my mind gets back on line for business, but now my heart is in the lead. It may lead me to things harder and more complex than I have ever wanted to face, but it does not require of me anything more than full, relaxed, mindful attention. This is who I want "to be" today.