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 it will be our last collective breath that reminds us of this, if we continue to allow unconscious behavior to overtake the planet.
We can say that unconscious behavior is influenced by the limiting stories we tell ourselves, therefore blocking out the truth of the power of the present moment and our role in it. For instance, the dominant story of our time, and in the United States in particular, is that industry and the pursuit of things is the only path, and comfort, indulgence, and fanaticism are our nationalist rights. This story is created in a vain attempt to avoid death layer, and the ultimate conclusion of our vulnerability in the face of our mortality. We are kept from our grief with a kind of violent insistence on avoidance. In the face of this oppressive story we feel an inevitability about our having to swallow this bitter pill that is leading us to ultimate extinction. Being oppressed is nothing new to the human mind. As most of us have experienced, our inner voices can be profoundly harsh to varying degrees depending on our early conditioning, and so we may feel that we have no choice, because when we were children we did not have a choice.
But we do as adults, and this is vitally important for us to understand, no matter what the outcome of our civilization. In fact, this United States was founded by people who embodied this choice fulness and established with their moment to moment actions the basis for human rights that has empowered and transformed our world. But our rights are maintained by our actions, and our actions are dictated by what we tell ourselves, and what we tell ourselves is based on an inner dialogue that is occurring in our minds relentlessly until we stop and drop through our grief to stillness.
When we stop, even for a small amount of our busy day, to find the quiet rhythm of our breath, the bird song, the furious reach of our minds, and the quieting of it as we let go of “doing” we will begin to feel the presence of our love and broken heartedness emerging in the perfection of this moment. Our beautiful precious life is miraculous and this truth is at the core of our being. We can rest in the assurance of our basic goodness in these moments of quiet. No striving required. The unconscious voices that pressure, yell, criticize, manipulate, rage, and blame us or others for our powerlessness, are merely vestiges of stories not yet told and felt from our past.
When we sit and let pass the initial resistances and discomforts of not moving on our impulses, our stories emerge and we may find ourselves weeping as we sit there in the quiet, seemingly, doing nothing. Our understanding from the Buddha is that there is suffering in life, and that there is a way to be liberated from it. Yet like steps into the underworld we must descend down from our minds into our bodies and touch the earth with the salted water of our tears. We are feeling beings, and our world is literally dying right now. This is the time in human history when we must reach out to each other and say goodbye to many things, and many ways of being, both internally and externally, And in so doing we may find that what we are left with is love. A simple clear love to give each other and to give to the earth and her myriad inhabitants who are suffering.
The wind, the trees, the stones, the river, they do not judge us. They are just calling us back to the dream of this world. We are the sentient voice of the planet. And our role is to speak her truth for the sake of all beings. When we see something out of balance it is our responsibility to act and to bring it back into harmony. All of our ancestors at some point were a part of cultures that expressed their intimate gratitude filled dependence on the rhythm and return of their particular part of the world's gifts.
We find a hopeful story emerging from the actions of wise elders and conscious youth heralding in a new global experience based on renewable energy systems, permaculture and shared rights and commons for all living and inanimate things. In pockets all over our planet people are remaking the way humans live on earth based on their in-depth awareness of interdependence with the earth, the air, the fire and the water. "Powering down" from our dependence on fossil fuels will slow down our rat race, and reorient humans towards their local economies and ways of being that are more expressive of each of our individual talents, as farmers, artisans, craftsmen, healers, teachers, writers, designers, architects, builders, singers, dancers and more. Along with that reorientation will come the regrowth of forests and the healing of the oceans, water ways and soils. We have seen time and again that nature will quickly reestablish her diversity and balance when given a chance.
Our actions in this lifetime are more potent than I believe humans have ever experienced. Each one of us who has the ability and means to speak up and take actions to further this vision needs to do so. And for many that will mean dropping through an innermost grief that is so deep and intense that we may feel like we are dying. In fact we have created a whole culture to avoid it, Avoidance as we all know will only increase the intensity when we are finally forced to face what is true. But once we have we can begin to form a shared Declaration of Interdependence that accounts for the unified well being of our whole planetary system. When we take time to rest in our basic miraculous selves and our interwoven connection with all things, everyday, we will have the clarity of mind to choose with our actions the world we love and want to keep.
Beth Fairservis, MPC