Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh: only love can save us from climate change [The Guardian]



"When we understand that we are more than our physical bodies, that we didn't come from nothingness and will not disappear into nothingness, we are liberated from fear ... fearlessness is not only possible but the ultimate joy.

Our perception of time may help ... For us it is very alarming and urgent, but for Mother Earth, if she suffers she knows she has the power to heal herself even if it takes 100m years. We think our time on earth is only 100 years, which is why we are impatient. The collective karma and ignorance of our race, the collective anger and violence will lead to our destruction and we have to learn to accept that.

And maybe Mother Earth will produce a great being sometime in the next decade ... We don't know and we cannot predict. Mother Earth is very talented. She has produced Buddhas, bodhisattvas, great beings.

So take refuge in Mother Earth and surrender to her and ask her to heal us, to help us. And we have to accept that the worst can happen; that most of us will die as a species and many other species will die also and Mother Earth will be capable after maybe a few million years to bring us out again and this time wiser.'"

Degrowth in Movements: Buen Vivir [Resilience.org]





"The good life should be considered as something that is undergoing a constant construction and reproduction process. It is not a static concept, and certainly not a backward one. Buen Vivir is a central element of the philosophy of many societies. From this perspective, it is a design for life that has global potential despite having been marginalised in the past.

In some indigenous communities, there is no concept analogous to the ‘modern’ Western concept of development. There is no concept of a linear life with a former and subsequent state (in this case underdevelopment and development). Nor are there concepts of wealth and poverty based on the accumulation or lack of material goods.

As such, Buen Vivir entails a world view that differs from the Western world view in that it has community and not capitalist roots. It breaks both with the anthropocentric view of capitalism as the dominant civilisation and with the different manifestations of socialism to date. The latter must be rethought from a socio-biocentric position and cannot be updated by simply changing the name.

The good life entails a process of decolonisation, which should also involve depatriarchalisation (see Kothari et al 2015). This necessitates a profound process of intellectual decolonisation on political, social, economic and cultural levels.

Ultimately, Buen Vivir is highly subversive. It is not an invitation to return to the past or to an idyllic but otherwise non-existent world. It should also not become a kind of religion with its own commandments, rules and functions, including political ones. We can understand Buen Vivir to be persons living in harmony with themselves, with other people in the community, harmony within the community and between humans and nature.

...

If we are moving beyond the exploitation of nature for the purpose of accumulating capital, there are even more reasons to stop exploiting human beings. We will have to recognise that human beings are creatures that are not individuals by nature but rather part of a community, and that we are that community. These communities, peoples, nations and countries should live in harmony with one another.

This dual solidarity – with nature and within the community – requires that we take the civilising step of recognising applicable human rights and the rights of nature without restrictions."


Read the whole article here.

Life Without the Internet [Medium.com]

Art by Elena Chimaera

Yes, you may laugh at my hypocrisy. However, I am now happily social-media-free and rediscovering the joys of books and face-to-face conversation, so I'm getting there.

~ Catie





"When friends come to my apartment, they’ll often ask for the WiFi password. Most are baffled by my response:


'I’m really sorry — but I don’t have any WiFi.'

One of my earliest memories with my dad — I was probably five or six years-old — was him loading up disney.com on Netscape Navigator to show me stills from my favourite movies. I was electrified with amazement.

My dad was a tech-obsessed software engineer, so we were one of the first houses in the neighbourhood to have dial-up internet. Years later, we were one of the first to have high-speed broadband too. Trips to disney.com were eventually replaced with MSN conversations, visits to Habbo Hotel, and marathon sessions of video game mayhem on Xbox Live.

While these days, I probably wouldn’t fit the profile of a “tech nerd” (I don’t own many gizmos and, unlike my father, I can’t code), as a child, I was enthralled with the World Wide Web and its eminent vastness. I remember downloading my first MP3 on Kazaa, I remember the magic feeling of opening my first Hotmail account, I remember creating my first website and going on my first binge watches on funnyjunk.com. I remember the social-life-shaking effects of getting my first Webcam, and of creating a Facebook account as a high school freshman.

Somewhere along the line though, I became disenchanted with my old pal, the internet. Today, we see less of each other than ever."

Staying Safe While On Retreat: Trauma, PTSD, and Overwhelming Emotions in Group Meditation Settings


This post was first published on Elephant Journal on April 26, 2017


"When I imagine life in a chaotic, collapsing world, I sense the challenge such a world will present for men and women who have lived most of their lives in accordance with logical, linear thinking. Unless they have developed emotional literacy and have learned how to manage their emotions, such individuals will be totally unprepared to cope with the emotions that industrial civilization’s demise will evoke.

Malidoma Somé notes that for his Dagara Tribe in West Africa, emotions are sacred ... he suggests that they are conduits from the divine to the human. At the same time, the Dagara believe that emotions must be ritualized  -- held within the container of the community, blessed, and allowed to flow within ritual space.


...

What is most essential to grasp is that emotions come to us from the sacred, but our job is to work with them---to utilize them in order to move from fragmentation to wholeness, from paralysis to dynamism, from being overwhelmed by emotion to being empowered by it."

~ Carolyn Baker, Collapsing Consciously





My Story


Like far too many of us, I experienced some childhood trauma that never got fully resolved. I won't go into details since privacy is involved, but suffice it to say that I emerged from the experience with some PTSD -- something that I have only recently begun to take seriously, 40+ years after the fact.

My family is blue collar working-class, largely English and Scotch-Irish, so we valued hard work, stoicism, and independence. If we couldn't fix it, we learned to "grin and bear it". Emotions were kept carefully under wraps except for periodic episodes of rage in which dishes were thrown and doors slammed. Tears -- other than my own -- were extremely rare; I spotted them maybe once or twice in my parents over the 18 years I was a resident.

By the time I discovered Buddhism in 2000, in addition to the childhood trauma I had been through a divorce, several periods of unemployment, a lifetime of financial hardship, and was currently in a situation in which I was being re-traumatized on a regular basis (although I didn't know this at the time).

When I attended my first 30-day meditation retreat, all of that space allowed excruciatingly painful, raw emotions to begin to float up and ask for integration ... only I had no clue how to do so. I did my best to follow the instructions of "touch and go," but instead of diminishing, the emotions got more and more intense, and often they didn't subside until after I was distracted by mealtime, chants, or the evening talk.

I took my concerns to my meditation instructor. They listened attentively and instructed me to "just sit with it". Another time, I was told that the goal of meditation wasn't to feel better, so just stay with the feelings. So I gritted my teeth, sat with my emotions, and didn't talk about them to my meditation instructors any more.

Each subsequent retreat became more and more painful. There was nowhere to go, nobody to turn to for comfort or help. The pain was unrelenting. When I couldn't take it any more, I either beat myself up for not being strong enough to sit with it or lashed out at my husband in rage. I felt completely helpless.

Finally, during the last retreat I ever attended, I spent a whole day drinking, then dressed up in dark clothing and waited for the sun to go down with the intention of going out to the road and lying down in the middle of it so that I would be run over by a car.

Unfortunately, upon learning about this, the teacher treated it as a shameful act and banned me from my position as their attendant (an honor bestowed on the closest and most devoted students).

I didn't attend any more retreats after that.

On the one hand, I agree that it is important to sit with difficult emotions during meditation so that we can make friends with them, and trying to make "feeling better" a goal of  meditation is nothing short of disastrous.

On the other hand, I'm afraid the "just sit with it" instruction can be turned by people like me into a form of self-aggression, one in which emotions are endured instead of respected as indicators that something is amiss and needs to be dealt with in the "real world", not just on the cushion.



Working With Emotions and Traumatic Triggers In Retreat Without Harming Ourselves.


Group meditation retreats can offer potent opportunities for healing and transformation as space is created for painful emotions to float up and ask for integration. However, trauma triggers aren't your everyday, run-of-the-mill emotions, and their integration takes a lot more skill and guidance.

Unfortunately, as of a little over 10 years ago, which was the last time I attended a large group retreat, there were no resources for trauma survivors to help them identify and deal with traumatic triggers; if you were a trauma survivor and you went on retreat, you were on your own.

I hope this has changed, but if you are a survivor, if you have PTSD, please be careful when signing up for retreats. Make sure there is a mental health professional available, and that you have someone to reach out to for support.

If you are on retreat right now and are feeling overwhelmed, here are some suggestions that have been helpful for me while working through my own trauma. ***Important: I am not a mental health professional; these are simply some things that were either suggested by my therapist, or things that I've researched, tried, and found helpful at home. They haven't been "field-tested" by me in a retreat situation.***

1. Become familiar with the difference between your garden-variety emotional response and a trauma trigger.

Here are some "red flags" to watch for:
  • the emotion comes on quickly
  • the emotion comes on frequently
  • the emotion is intense
  • the emotion lasts a long time
  • it takes a long time to calm down

In my own case, a sense of panic seems to be key. My thoughts start tumbling faster and faster. I feel tightness in my chest, my heart starts beating a little more quickly, and there is a general sense of "winding up" as my body prepares to go into fight-or-flight mode.

If I can catch myself at this stage and step back to a place that feels safe, all is well. Once I'm calm, I can tiptoe toward the trigger and investigate. If, however, I start spinning stories and escalating into full-blown fight-or-flight, I enter another cycle of panic and dissociation and make no progress.

If you're not sure whether or not you've been traumatized, here's a link to an emotional trauma questionnaire that might help you sort this out:

http://www.healingresources.info/prof_invent_adults.htm


2. If you find yourself triggered while in a group retreat

I want to take a moment to express very deep appreciation for the work of Tara Brach (https://www.tarabrach.com). Her teachings on "radical acceptance", have been extremely helpful in my own recovery thus far.

You Are Safe

If you catch yourself  beginning to "wind up" while sitting, pause, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that right here, right now, you are safe. You might search for a place in your body that feels safe, or think of people or situations where you feel safe and just hang out there for awhile.

The Six-Second Breath

Normally, at least in my tradition, the instruction is to follow the out-breath and leave a gap for the in-breath. However, in this circumstance, it's okay to begin to follow both the out- and in-breaths, using them as a way to ground you in the present moment. Gradually extend each breath to six seconds -- six seconds in, six seconds out -- and fill in the "gaps" between out- and in-breath so that the breath is more "circular" in feel. This helps physiologically soothe the sympathetic nervous system.

Hands on Heart and Tummy

Put one hand on your heart and another on your tummy. Both of these parts of the human body contain nerve bundles that are also physiologically soothing to our sympathetic nervous system (the part that "winds us up" to get ready for fight/flight/freeze). You might try switching hands to see if one feels better than another.

Take a Break

If you feel yourself tipping into overwhelm, get up and take a break. This doesn't mean just get up and walk out every time something gets a little uncomfortable, but if you're really going into fight/flight/freeze, stop and allow yourself to decompress. If you have a friend who give you a hug or listen to you, even better.

Unfortunately, in some retreat settings the teacher or the gatekeeper may give you a hard time for "breaking the container". But the gatekeeper or teacher does not live in your body; you do. Triggers are serious business, and this is one situation when, for the sake of yourself and others, your needs must come first.

The RAIN Technique

If your emotions are in a workable state, you might try the RAIN technique as described by Tara in many of her videos. The acronym "RAIN" stands for:
  • Recognize
  • Allow
  • Investigate
  • Nourish
Recognize: Pause in the moment and notice what you're feeling. Is it anger? Fear? Frustration? Sadness? Depression?

Allow: Notice any judgments you're having about your feelings. If you're angry with your child, you may be telling yourself that you shouldn't be angry. Just notice the judgment and gently let it go.

Investigate: Stay with the feeling and see if any secondary feelings come up. Under the anger, is there fear? Embarrassment? Shame?

Nourish: Ask your feeling what it needs. Sometimes feelings just need to be noticed. Lately, my feelings have needed to be safe. Then offer your feeling whatever it needs. Sometimes, if you're really feeling stuck, it might be helpful to imagine asking a loved one, a teacher, a supportive friend, or even an enlightened being to help you.

Here is a very good introductory video to watch if you're not familiar with Tara's work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6OQNYAqL5E

By all means, sit and work with your thoughts and feelings as much as you can, but do so gently, with intelligence and kindness.You cannot bully yourself into enlightenment; trying to do so results in an escalation of aggressive energy that can either be directed inward, resulting in depression, or outward, resulting in lashing out and hurting others.



How Retreat Planners Can Help.


I think most of us can agree that we are living in very tough times right now -- perhaps tougher than anything we've ever been through as a species. I suspect that more and more people will seek solace in meditation retreats as they deal, not only with traumatic histories, but personal issues such as unemployment or divorce, or even global issues such as the extinction of species, hate crimes against vulnerable populations, or imminent war.

Meditation retreats aren't a panacea for everyone. In cases like mine, it could even be argued that they are potentially harmful or retraumatizing.

I propose that program creators try to make sure that at least one mental health professional trained in trauma work is available at longer retreats. Perhaps meditation instructors should also be trained in the basics of spotting trauma symptoms so that they can refer sufferers to professionals for extra support.

Also, perhaps it would be possible to offer opportunities for participants to participate in facilitated discussion groups, where they can feel safe being vulnerable about what is coming up for them, and where hugging or other nurturing touch is encouraged.

Giving participants permission to take a break from sitting practice, or offer an alternative practice such as chopping vegetables or working in the garden could act as a "release valve" in cases of extreme stress.

In addition, while "turning up the heat" on retreats -- "noble silence", sleep deprivation, and so on -- might be beneficial for those who are relatively healthy, for trauma survivors whose stress tolerance is already maxed out, this might actually cause more harm than good.

Finally, maybe we could take a page from the Dagda and figure out ways to actually bless the expression of emotions in the temporary meditation communities created by retreats. This could include the use of  "ritual space," with the understanding that not all healing takes place in linear, logical ways that can be grasped by the intellect.

Do you have additional stories or suggestions? I look forward to your discussion.


Additional resources:

http://www.academia.edu/426785/Meditation_Trauma_and_Contemplative_Dissociation
http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/03/14/when-meditation-worsens-depression-or-anxiety/
https://beyondmeds.com/2013/11/25/meditation-and-trauma/
https://beyondmeds.com/2012/03/12/meditationandtrauma/
https://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/08/the-dark-side-of-meditation/


Is It Time to Ditch Your Car? [Resilience.org]



The average car is stationary 96% of the time. That’s a fairly consistent finding around the world, including in Australia. A car is typically parked at home 80% of the time, parked elsewhere 16% of the time, and on the move just 4% of the time. And that doesn’t include the increasing time we spend at a standstill in traffic.

Bill Ford, executive chair of the Ford Motor Company, says we’re heading for “global gridlock”. And he’s not alone in saying we cannot simply keep adding more cars to our roads.

The funny thing is that while we own more cars than ever, we’re actually using them less. You might think that’s a good thing; that we’re responding to worsening congestion and health, debt and environmental damage by opting to drive fewer kilometres.

But the problem is, we’re still choking our cities and harming our health, finances and environment by continuing to waste our resources on these increasingly dormant vehicles.

It’s not just the car itself that’s wasted. Consider the resources and infrastructure – both private and public – needed to design, mine, manufacture, ship, sell, fuel, move, store, secure, insure, regulate, police, maintain, clean, repair and dispose of all these cars.

David Owen, a staff writer with The New Yorker, has called cars “consumption amplifiers”. They are emblematic of a hyper-consumerist lifestyle that doesn’t really make us any happier.

Our declining car use gives us an opportunity. If we can adjust our car ownership patterns to match our actual needs, we can plan our lives and cities in ways that don’t revolve around a mode of transport that no longer serves us like it used to.

Fast cars?


By default, we still think of cars as fast and convenient. It might appear that way on the street, but the overall reality is quite different...