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Book Release: CLIMATE SENSE

Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.

                                                                                  ~ Marianne Williamson

This book is a Clarion Call to Awakening, reaching out to all the hearts and minds of all the people who are rightly concerned about the future of life on Planet Earth. The time has come for us to rise up in response to the existential challenge we are facing – for our children’s and their children’s sake, and for the sake of all sentient beings living in the world today.

The premise of this book is quite simple. The Climate Crisis we face is not an environmental problem, and there is no environmental solution. It is not a political issue, and there will be no timely political solutions forthcoming. It is certainly a moral issue, as recognized by Pope Francis, and every religion should treat it as such. But given the deep psychological roots of our behavior, moralizing about climate change is also not the solution. No, this is a crisis of spirit, a crisis in relationship, raising the question who we humans really are. We can think of it as a kind of collective identity crisis – one that will only be resolved when a critical mass of human beings heal the split between our Psyche, or collective soul, and nature, the soul of the world.

Fortunately for us, though it’s tendrils sink deep into the fields of human endeavor, this split is still of relatively recent origin. As you will see in these pages, it can actually be traced back to the splitting of the atom in 1945, which involved humans taking over the reigns of nature and which triggered a seismic shift in the human psyche itself – a splitting apart that we have yet to fully acknowledge and come to grips with. This disruption in our Psyche manifested as a new way of life, the so-called “modern” (or atomic) age, and coincided with the emergence of the nuclear family inhabiting a materialistic, hyper-consumer culture that was seductively labeled The American Dream

In gaining mastery over nature, asserting unimaginable control over the very forces of creation and destruction, we seem to have severed our connection to nature at its very root, objectifying the Earth and each other, commodifying our lives, designing artificial living environments called suburbs, and creating an entirely new, virtual reality to soothe our aching souls. In the process, we unintentionally isolated ourselves from our own true nature as earthlings – creatures of the Earth. We created a social and cultural matrix of isolation, and then we proceeded to act out this story of separation, objectification, commodification, and alienation in increasingly harmful ways, until now we are unraveling the very fabric of life and assaulting the global ecosystem that has nourished and supported us, and all beings, since beginningless time.

Why have we subconsciously externalized this fundamental split between Psyche and nature in such alarming ways? Because it is an untenable situation. Because we as a species cannot exist apart from our mother for very long. This is called ‘Ecopsychology’ – the psychology of placing humans back in their natural “being” state, as earthlings. Ecopsychology is a shared social and cultural undertaking that humanizes psychology by recognizing that we, too, are part of nature and – just as critically – nature is a part of us. They cannot be split up and analyzed separately. That has been the fundamental error of Western psychology. Ecopsychology is the necessary corrective for our climate in crisis, the final piece of the puzzle that can lead us back to a natural state of wholeness and balance.

Make no mistake – this crisis is calling us home. It is nature’s way of awakening us from this deluded dream – so that we may reintegrate our selves with our world, our human nature.

From the perspective of Americans of European descent, we who have dominated this culture for so long and have largely defined the dominant global culture of subjugation and consumption, this split from the natural world and from our own human nature was admittedly the end of a long and inglorious path. I do not mean to naively suggest that we only recently left ‘the Garden.’ Far from it! We had already long been on this crazy path of manifest destiny, of man against nature rather than in or with nature, before we successfully split the atom. What was ‘achieved’ in the Trinity Test over the white sands of New Mexico was the culmination of that wayward path.

This unhealthy split actually goes all the way back to Rene Descartes – “I think, therefore I am” – and it only kept picking up steam throughout the feverish pursuit of riches in this, the ‘new world.’ That locomotive force of ignorance and greed rolled right over and through the ancient inhabitants of this new world, and quickly laid waste to the natural abundance that they had been caretakers of for millennia. Certainly it would be difficult to imagine a more traumatic war against nature than the genocide that Europeans visited on the Earth-based cultures of the indigenous tribes of Turtle Island, or a more heart-breaking ecocide than reducing the dominant species here when we landed, the majestic and socially developed American Buffalo, bison bison, from 60 million to fewer than 6ooo today – a thousand-fold reduction via slaughter.

Nevertheless, this book is by design ethno- and Euro-centric, because the fact of the matter is that it is our culture that has become the planet’s problem, a chronic dis-ease that has spread across the globe, gobbling up species and habitat at an alarming rate. And it is this culture that now demands a cure before it lays waste to the entire biosphere. Since the traumatic culmination of this long path away from nature, with all its terrible consequences, happened in very recent memory, it can still be called up in our collective consciousness and healed.

As the Pulitzer prize winning poet James Agee noted in TIME magazine at the end of WWII, splitting the atom brought us “inescapably into a new age in which all thoughts and things were split.” While we see the result in the extreme polarization of society, this split is not irreparable, we humans are not irredeemable, and the truth and reconciliation process that needs to happen is not all that complicated. To become whole again, to restore the natural part of ‘human nature,’ requires only that we hear the deafening call of the natural world, and recognize that something is terribly amiss within, as well – as reflected without. Only then can we actively engage in a concerted, conscientious effort to heal the psychic wound we can all still feel in our hearts whenever we stop numbing ourselves to the dreadful pain inherent in our present predicament.

This book is an attempt to facilitate the individual process that needs to be undertaken for each of us to heal, and for all of us to awaken to our incredible human potential, in direct response to the greatest crisis we have ever faced. Because that is what we do. That is what makes us human. We rise to the occasion no matter how long the odds. We never give up.

While it would be lovely if we would all awaken together, the truth of the matter is that we can only do this one mind at a time. No one will lead us out of this crisis to some new promised land. We will only emerge from the climate crisis by taking responsibility for it upon ourselves — by assuming authority for our own psychological state of well being, and by reconnecting to this amazing planet through our own very personal connections to the natural world – no matter where we live – and to our collective psyche, which will look different for each one of us.

That’s how it will work. And it must work. We will make it work.

Just before his passing in 1975, noted British historian Arnold Toynbee cautioned us that the “present threat to mankind’s survival can be removed only by a revolutionary change of heart in individual human beings” – a sentiment now echoed by Pope Francis, and before him by our wise American elder, the psychotherapist, mythologist, and teacher Ralph Metzner:

It is in the hearts and minds of human beings that the causes and cures of the ecocatastrophe are to be found.

There is a school of thought that the true religion of America today is self-help psychology, and that all mythology is individual now. I think there is some real merit to these ideas. I have great faith in our ability to heal through our relations. Mainstream psychology has largely failed us, however, by creating an industry that is too wedded to scientific materialism and Western medicine (and thus the pharmaceutical industry), perpetuating our problems by profitably treating their symptoms without ever getting to the root dis-ease of our culture.

In response to this institutional inertia, Ecopsychology seeks not just to reform psychology, but to displace it. We do this by acknowledging and elevating a natural phenomenon that is both ancient and radically subversive to consumer culture – the spiritual connection between human beings and the living planet. In the recent past, such talk has been subject to ridicule. But what is perhaps most notable about this natural phenomenon in the modern context is that it has now been effectively proven by the equally subversive modern science – quantum physics – precisely at the time when we of the dominant culture are most in need of recovering that inner-dependent and inter-penetrating connection.

We are ‘one flesh,’ as the influential Ecopsychologist Andy Fisher puts it, by our very nature inseparable from nature. And so we also are all afflicted by the same mental illness, like a viral strain of deluded awareness. It does little good to mask the symptoms with spirit-numbing drugs, the dehumanizing approach of modern medicine. The aim of Ecopsychology is not to isolate individuals and treat them as identical with their pathology, but rather to awaken us to our true nature and transform society in the process – thus averting (un)natural catastrophe to whatever extent we can. In other words, it is a form of psychosocial activism on behalf of the natural world; or, as Dr. Fisher puts it, “psychology in the service of life.” That is actually considered radical!

After a lifetime of advocating for wildlife and wild places in courtrooms, I am now forced by circumstance to advocate for mother nature herself in the court of public opinion and social media, as part of an epic struggle many are waging over the heart and soul of humanity – a battle in which my country and my culture happens to be ground zero. The American Dream has become the natural world’s worst nightmare. We must rouse ourselves from this suicidal slumber…

As one of my long-time teachers likes to say, “the workshop is the mind.” This book is intended to be a catalyst for psychological catharsis that takes place in the reader’s mind. Catharsis refers to “a psychological technique used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing repressed feelings and fears to consciousness.” That is my promise to you. The process of reading this book is itself intended to induce a kind of “climate catharsis,” leading to a heightened climate sense. I myself experienced this in the writing of the paper that led to this book, and have since confirmed that the ideas set forth here can readily have this same psychological impact on you.

Over the course of our lives, we have all repressed natural feelings of grief over our lost connection to nature herself, our true nature, and we all harbor deep fears as a result. When we get in touch with these feelings and fears, there is a tremendous release of tension, anxiety, and  depression. If we have an appropriate spiritual container for processing this natural grief, then we will be transformed by the expression of our repressed grief. We will have greater joy. So…

Do not be afraid.

By acknowledging the losses we have experienced in relation to nature, by embracing our fears and seeing them as intelligent guides along our spiritual path, we have nothing more to lose, really, and everything in the world to gain. Awakening from the nightmare that has been mis-labeled the American Dream does not happen in everyone all at once by some miracle. And yet, it is already happening — one by one. After you read this book, you will no longer be heard to ask meekly “What can I as one person do about the climate crisis?” In fact, you will be able to answer others when they ask this same question.

Who knows, maybe you will be the one whose awakening brings about critical mass, at which point we’ll call it a social awakening. But it doesn’t really matter whose awakening brings us to critical mass, because once awakened the illusion of separation itself fades. Then we know what to do without being asked, without being led. So, as the Christian Goddess Pistis Sophia herself urges us in the psalm “Thunder, Perfect Mind”:

Awaken and remember…

Is Bernie Sanders Mother Earth’s Last Chance?

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Many years ago I cut out a cartoon of Chicken Little sitting at a bar, drink in hand, and commenting to the bartender “Man, it’s really coming down out there…” I don’t drink anymore, but I still identify with that cartoon, especially of late with frequent FB postings about how and why Hillary is going to be taken down by FBI Director Comey shortly after Bernie wins the California primary. A wise old Buddhist friend and political operative in the Democratic Party who disagrees asked me the other night “Why is it so important to you?”

“Because I think it could very well be our last chance,” I said.

Here is what Chicken Little knows about the climate crisis that most non-scientists in America do not fully appreciate, and that almost never gets mentioned in the press. There is a forty-year lag time between Greenhouse Gas emissions and climate uptake. What we’re seeing in the world right now is the consequence of all Industrial Age emissions up to 1976 – and we’ve matched all those emissions since then. That’s the real Inconvenient Truth. So while the world’s leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, has found that we need to begin somehow removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere right now, we instead continue to extract fossil resources and burn them at a record pace.

So this election is not about what happens in the next 4–8 years. It is about what the state of the planet will be like in 2056 and beyond. In fact, if we blow right by 3–5 degree Celsius (average global temp beyond baseline), which we will if we implement either Hillary’s or Trump’s energy policies, this election really ends up being about what the world will look like for the next ten million years — because that is how long it takes to recover from a mass extinction event.

Pretty high stakes!

At more than +3C degrees, scientists say we lose our ability to grow food crops. The United Nations Food & Agriculture Office tells us that the soil will not support crops in any case by 2060, if we continue allowing Monsanto to dictate agricultural practices (chemical monocultures that kill everything else, eventually transforming soil into inert dirt). Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture the last 8 years? A Monsanto cheerleader. And why did Hillary orchestrate a coup of Ukraine’s democratically elected government? Because it wouldn’t give Monsanto access to Eastern Europe’s breadbasket. Combine this with her continuation of Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy, replacing coal-fired powerplants with gas from fracking, and you can kiss your grandchildren’s future goodbye.

This is why I tell my neoliberal friends that Hillary scares me more than Trump. Because the only candidate who has a plan to keep fossil fuels in the ground, the only candidate who will take our Agriculture Department and the FDA back from Monsanto and Dow Chemical, and the only candidate who will take our federal land back from the fracking industry, is Bernie Sanders. And Hillary is the only candidate who will prevent Bernie from becoming president. Because Donald Trump cannot. The only person Donald Trump can, and probably will, prevent from becoming president is Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump does not scare me. Our shared future, without President Bernie Sanders, scares the living daylights out of me. Because it is a future without elephants, lions, and tigers. A future without penguins, dolphins, and bears. A future of dead oceans and, for humans, mass migration, starvation, and mortality. This according to experts, not Hollywood movies! Like the International Energy Agency and Oceanographer Sylvia Earle (watch Mission Blue on Netflix). A future of more Fukushimas and Chernobyls. Maybe a billion people could survive into such a future. Or maybe all higher life forms will be snuffed out by the lack of oxygen produced by life in the ocean. It’s all connected, unfortunately for us.

My Buddhist friend and I had just seen Josh Fox’s touring documentary How To Let Go of The World & Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change. There is a brilliant young Chinese innovator he interviews, someone who is trying to help China transition away from fossil fuels (and we think we have it tough!), who speaks of “moral imagination.” We have to turn to our own moral imagination if we are to transform our society in the way it needs to be transformed right now for a future to be possible. Pope Francis echoes this wisdom when he says the climate crisis is calling on us all to remember what it means to be human.

And that is what the Sanders campaign embodies. He is not a Democrat, and he is not a Social Democrat. He is a humanist. An advocate for the Earth at the one time she needs us most. And, like Naomi Klein, Bernie understands that in this interconnected, interdependent world, you cannot separate climate justice from social justice. We are the world. We are both its biggest problem and its best hope. But we cannot afford to kick this can down the road any longer, because it is already 2056. We have a lot of catching up to do.

While I am now a Climate Psychologist, out of necessity, I also happen to be a former government attorney. Because there is so much at stake in this election for my present client, Mother Earth, I’ve been following all the legal issues surrounding HillRod’s FBI investigation very closely. I can tell you without equivocation that she committed felony crimes, the least of which is intentionally concealing public records. The State Departments report this week confirmed the existence of these crimes, added obstruction of justice and perjuring herself before Congress, and even provided conclusive evidence of her motive. Because of the ongoing FBI investigation, the report was very careful to limit itself to proof of Hillary’s violation of rules and regulations. What most non-lawyers fail to grasp is that rules are there to comply with regulations, and regulations are required to implement laws. So all that is left now is for FBI Director Comey to place these same violations in the context of the laws at issue, in a much more comprehensive manner.

Here is what the Earth demands of us. Bernie will win California, as Hillary is taking on water now. Director Comey will then present his findings to Attorney General Lynch. Given the political implications, she will have no choice but to ask Obama to appoint a Special Prosecutor. Hillary will step down, and the DNC will attempt to foist Joe Biden on us. There will be a YUGE battle in Philadelphia, and in the end enough Super Delegates will defect to give Bernie the nomination. He will trample Trump and rout the Republicans in a historic election.

And then… the revolution will begin.

Talking Cure for the Climate Crisis

(Originally published at TruthOut.org, April 14, 2016)

CALIF.- Hollywood action star and environmental advocate former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cameos as Bill Nye’s climate change therapist in Explorer: Bill Nye’s Global Meltdown, premiering Sunday, Nov. 1, at 8/7c on National Geographic Channel. (Photo Credit: National Geographic Channels/Gina Cholick)
(Photo Credit: National Geographic Channels/Gina Cholick)

When it comes to the climate crisis, what nobody wants to talk about is precisely what everybody needs to be talking about. Up until now, the climate debate has been premised on a false dichotomy between climate science deniers and everyone else. What the Paris accords have revealed is that this overweening emphasis on the science of anthropogenic climate change fails to answer the real question: Why the disconnect between what we know to be the threat and how we are choosing to respond to it? 

If it were simply a matter of recognizing the scientific consensus, as the signatories to the climate accords clearly did, then we would not have been put in a position of celebrating an accord that puts us on the path to a 3-6 degree Celsius average temperature increase — a virtual death sentence for tens of thousands of species and billions of humans. 

As Bill McKibben points out, we are leaving an uninhabitable planet to our progeny.

Let’s face it. When it comes to climate change, we are all in denial. The very term codifies denial. CHANGE? Really? Weather changes. In fact, everything changes. Change is good! Our climate is not simply changing; it’s in turmoil. The scientific term is “climate disruption,” not climate change. To characterize the climate crisis as mere change is like calling a Bengal tiger a “kitty cat” as it is leaping through the air toward your throat. 

The science is settled. The issue is not denying science. The issue is ignoring the scientific imperative — our collective dissociative behavior. 

“Dissociation” refers to a psychological defense that reflexively occurs when we’re confronted with an overwhelming threat — we dissociate ourselves from the experience of the situation as much as possible. Witness the disconnect between the stated goal of the Paris climate accords — limiting the increase in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius — and the much more detailed commitments agreed to, which will ensure at least a 3 degree Celsius rise. In fact, we know that 2 degrees Celsius is already “baked in” to our climate, because of the amount of greenhouse gases already emitted which have yet to be taken up by the climate (a process that takes 30 to 50 years).

Dissociative behavior is a natural, emotional reaction to present trauma. It is also a pattern of behavior that results from past traumas. And there’s the rub. Our collective dissociation from the natural world, which enables the objectification and commodification of nature as something apart from us, is the root of the climate crisis. At the same time, even thinking about the magnitude of the threats from climate chaos is traumatic in itself, preventing us from seeing collective trauma as inhibiting our ability to act, and prompting us instead to reflexively find something to take comfort in. One way of avoiding the unsettling feelings that are induced by considering mass mortality, migration and extinction is to take refuge in some sense of scientific certainty. 

That may seem counterintuitive, but we humans crave certainty about the future. Where else can you find any certainty about the future in a world that is suddenly imperiled? One reason it’s perversely comforting to focus on the science of climate chaos is that it reinforces the divide between our heads (intellect) and our hearts (feelings). This Cartesian split is what gave rise to modern science — the monstrous idea from René Descartes that we humans are separate from our environment, that the subjective world we experience “in here” is somehow split off from the objective world “out there.”

You can appreciate how “scientific materialism” — which is the closest thing to a consensus worldview in the modern age — provides some comfort when contemplating climate chaos. We gain the sense of being removed from the threat, like watching it on The Weather Channel, or enjoying yet another dystopian movie.

In a paper in the professional journal Ecopsychology, Benjamin White points out that the “residue of traumatic experiences from our [past becomes] present when we encounter anything that may be traumatic or threatening. As such, trauma is quite alive in our relationship to nature itself and to climate change.” What we need to be talking about is not how all the pieces of the climate puzzle fit together into our objective model of scientific externalities, but rather how the cycle of trauma and dissociation implicit in our exploitive relationship to the natural world is preventing us from collectively responding to climate chaos like rational inhabitants of earth, implementing readily available, rational solutions. 

What might such a conversation sound like? 

It’s called truth and reconciliation. It is only when we overcome our fear of vulnerability to examine the deep, open wound from past traumas that reconciliation, a form of cultural healing, becomes possible. To engage in this at the collective level, we must learn to appreciate what social psychologists call “cultural trauma.” 

Cultural trauma refers to a dramatic loss of identity and meaning associated with an unhealed wound in the collective memory of a social community. For example, 9/11 gave rise to cultural trauma. When such a wound is not healed, and is instead covered over by aggressive acting out, then it festers and grows, and can result in the kind of loss of cultural identity that would prompt a nation of immigrants to seal off its borders and ban a fifth of the world’s population from entering our country — especially if they lost hundreds of friends in the World Trade Center attacks. 

“When an inner situation is not made conscious,” Carl Jung said, “it appears outside as fate.”And with unresolved trauma, the victim can eventually become the perpetrator. Witness Israel’s current oppression and dehumanization of the Palestinian people.

The United States is built on a foundation of trauma: from Jamestown to Valley Forge; from slavery to genocide; from the Civil War to the Great Depression sandwiched between two world wars; and from assassinations, the repression of the civil rights movement and Kent State to 9/11 and the endless war on terror. Our dissociative behavior is broadly labeled the American dream — the same consumptive fantasy world we find consolation in when confronted by the overwhelming threat of climate chaos. 

It is entirely possible that the reason we have not been able to rouse ourselves to collective action is because of our failure to recognize how traumatized we’ve become as a culture. Once we become collectively aware that the real “denial” of the climate crisis is our own psychic numbing, whether through endless distraction (including electoral politics) or through the use of alcohol or drugs, then perhaps we will be in a better position to reconnect with our own human nature. In his encyclical on the climate crisis, Pope Francis says we must begin a conversation to reconsider what it means to be human — that’s the “truth” component. By resuscitating human nature, we will be able to reform social values and “reconcile” our lifestyle with the natural world. Truth and reconciliation. 

Then the appropriate responses to the climate crisis will become “second nature” — because in the end this is a crisis of relationship: the way we relate to one another and to the planet. Solutions like growing food naturally, and wondering why we ever accepted anything less. Solutions like “humanely” acting on our natural compassion for farm animals, and greatly reducing the meat in our diet in exchange for ending the mass murder of animals. Solutions like insisting that rain forests be allowed to recover, along with the soils, savannas, wildlife and oceans. And, of course, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, and decommissioning nuclear power plants.

We know all this in our heads, but we still don’t feel it in our hearts and in our bones. We do not act on this simple, natural knowledge, because we’re numbed to our own human nature. When suffering from trauma, the cure can be found close to the wound — which takes courage. The first step is simply to acknowledge that we in the United States are currently contributing more to global climate disaster than any other country. That is the kind of American exceptionalism the rest of the world is ready for.

It is time for us to talk about our unnatural way of life. It is time to remember who we are, and decide what we want the world to look like in this, the Anthropocene. The Human Age. We have broken the world. Now is the time to own up to that.

Note: An excerpt of this article previously appeared in the Idaho Mountain Express.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Trauma & The Climate Crisis

Trinity Lotus

Here is episode No. 1 of the series “Climate Grief” on Extinction Radio. A new episode will appear every other week. In this episode, I summarize the basics of our cultural trauma induced climate crisis, including where we are now in the process of repressed climate grief as a culture, and what the cure for this crisis is.

And here’s episode No. 2, where we explore human nature and its role in the climate crisis.

NEAR TERMINAL HUMAN NATURE (a rant)

Orangutan

There’s lots of spectacular

chatter of late

from the hyper-activated

world-eyed web masters

about — “NTHE” —

Near Term HUMAN Extinction

(as if that’s a big thing)

Anthropocentric

Anthropogentrific

Non-cosmic poppin’ jays

tweeting “oh – it’s much too

late, a fait

accompli woe is we…”

To which I say to you now

What about NTEE?

elephantasmagorical wheels

fading to grey ground dust

particles TODAY in the

NOW term.

What of NTOE?

Oranga-tango dancing

to palm-tree swaying

oblivian fire?

And what of 7 billion

that’s 7 thousand million

migratin’ anthropods shooting methane

bullets at only 600

Sumatran tigers?

Is that a fair fight?

For far too long now

planetary hospitality

has been all about me,

my, mine and

mountain top removal

fillin’ in those streams.

Centuries old tree families

fallen fellaheen like

on beat down daddy Earth

while Mother is drained

of Plutonic tar sand blood

and injected with

electro-convulsive injections

of anti-bio-illogichemikills till

eyes like hungry ghosts

haunt oceanic graveyards

washing whale bones ashore…

All the while we the chosen ones

dream our American dreams

in asphalt jungles devoid of

dream lions and

cacophonic canopies.

How bout we drop the

self absorbing horror shows

and dystopian pleasures on

silver screens cracklin’

with super heroic exploits?

Let us talk of Near Term Human

Nature and no longer

extinct world soul,

no animal porn, either.

As the world lies dying on

Chrysanthemum bed red

with mother’s bleeding heart –

show me that you care

about more than human art

and immortality.

Drop all Hallmark Card

references to NTHE

if you REALLY love me…

And here’s some late breaking news:

THE SUN WILL EXPLODE IN

A RAINBOW BURST OF LIGHT

IN EXACTLY 979 MILLION YEARS!

Oh what a sight that will be…

 

WITNESSES TO EXTINCTION

Extinct Javan Tiger
Extinct Javan Tiger

On this bleak winter day in the city of bare trees, northern rocky bioregion of Turtle Island, I joined a global community of Buddhist practitioners sounding out 108 bell chimes in sacred remembrance of those species already claimed by anthropogenic climate mayhem. Of the roughly 200 species that go extinct every day now, compared to a natural rate of one species every few days or so, I am particularly fond of remembering the Javan Tiger, the Baiji River Dolphin, the Black Rhino, the Bubal Hartebeest, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the Pyrenean Ibex, and the Tasmanian Tiger, to name just a few of the more charismatic characters we’ve lost. Grieving is in itself a powerful practice that brings us into relation with those whom we’ve lost, taking them into our beating, broken hearts. And tantric meditative practices, especially the Kalacakra – or wheel of time – sadhana, are also quite powerful methods for coming into relation with all of creation in all three times (past/present/future). Combining these two experiences with rhythmic, shamanic bells ‘vibrating in splendor’ proved to be a source of real inspiration and insight for me, in addition to the therapeutic value.

The first insight gleaned from this communal meditation – and by communal I mean not just those in community today ringing memorial bells, but the extinct species themselves – is that, from the perspective of great compassion, ‘species’ is just a conceptual label we attach to a particular group of migratory sentient beings. It is tempting when thinking about the finality of species extinction to fall into the despair of “they are gone forever” by reifying the concept “species” – making solid and real something that is, after all, just a linguistic device. For example, take my totem animal – the Javan tiger. In fact, lets take that particular Javan tiger in the picture above. That divinely beautiful animal is no longer with us, but his mind-stream continues to flow throughout time, from one life form to another. That is the meaning of “migrating” sentient beings. The Tibetan word we translate as “sentient being” is, more literally, a “mind holder.” Look at the picture of that tiger, and you will feel his presence. The tiger’s awareness almost comes through the screen. That fierce light still burns today, in some realm, some world, in some other body. So when I grieve the loss of the Javan tiger, what is it, exactly, from my Buddhist perspective that I am grieving?

From both a Jungian and Tantric perspective, these mind-holders are still with us. According to the eminent scholar and translator of Jung’s Red Book, what he characterizes as a modern book of the dead, Jung believed that “the dead are alive, the dead are animated, and in a certain sense the living are the dead… Our task is living with the dead. What we take to be our individuation, in a personalistic sense, or our quest, or however one frames it, is not such. It is taking up the unredeemed dead, or taking up the tasks left by the dead…” As the recently departed Jungian psychologist and scholar James Hillman put it: “We’re living in a world which is alive with the dead – they’re around us, they’re with us, they are us… we are already in the afterlife. The afterlife is all around us.” According to Jung, we are intimately connected with these departed mind-holders at the level of our collective unconscious, which Buddhism knows quite well as the subtle conscious realm. While Jung felt the only place we could experience that connectivity was in dreams, Buddhism has in fact been exploring the realms of subtle and extremely subtle consciousness for millennia.

Tantra means ‘thread’ – referring to the continuity of certain mental states across time and space. When we drop down into the non-conceptual realms of subtle consciousness, we lose our self (which of course is only a construct) among all that otherness, that clear light nature which embraces all mind-holders in an oceanic non-temporal, non-spacial realm of spiritual emergence. According to the Wheel of Time, the cosmology that underlies the Kalacakra tantra, and according to Buddha himself, all three times are equal. It is only by conventional appearance that we perceive linear time. Even Einstein saw through that illusion. The actions we take in the perceived present affect the entire continuum – yes, including the past. We might not be able to resurrect extinct species, but we can affect the individual mind holders that once defined that species.

Because mind holders continue to migrate across time and space, the loss of a noble species like the Javan tiger is not the tiger’s loss. That tiger is already in another body, experiencing another life. Intstead, it is our loss. While they are transmigrating into other realms, worlds, and bodies, we are losing that tissue by which our collective body is held together in all its astounding biological diversity. It is not just the species that are going extinct – half of all wildlife has been wiped off the planet in the course of my lifetime. We are diminished by the loss of our collective biodiversity, and we are losing our wildness as well – that which defines the ‘natural’ in human nature. At some point, as our ‘flesh’ falls away, in the form of these interpenetrating interdependent arising species that we have evolved in connection with, we not only become less ‘human,’ but lose our humanity altogether. For what is it to live in a world without tigers and lions, rhinos and elephants, polar and grizzly bears, bison and butterflies? In such a world, created by our ignorance, we lose the right to even call ourselves ‘earthlings.’

By grieving these painful losses, we come into relation with the migrators themselves, wandering through the bardo perhaps, looking with confused mind streams for a familiar womb to inhabit. We hold them tenderly in our mind’s embrace, knowing that they were once our mothers, and we theirs. By taking the Javan tiger into my broke-open heart, my own karma is enhanced by virtue of this connection which spans time and space. The tiger becomes me, and I become the tiger, as artificial boundaries between self and other dissolve in the warm amniotic fluid of great compassion and heartfelt love.

And at a deeper, non-conceptual level of luminous awareness, something else happens that is hard to put into words, really. There is a shamanic shift by which that once-fierce Javan tiger now looks out through my own eyes in the world, this bardo alive with the dead. Perhaps in my dying a little inside, I carve out some sacred space for him to live and to have a say in the affairs of this degenerate age. This is the spirit of tonglen practice, by which I exchange my (priveleged) self with other. I take on the immense suffering of my four-legged, winged and finned friends, the darkness of extinction, extirpation, and migration. I allow it’s cumulative sadness to explode the dark shell of ignorance that encases my heart, and from the vast, open expansiveness that is generated by this explosive psychic energy, I give up this life in my mind, let go of that which gives rise to suffering on such scales, and make a humble offering of my vitality and tears. And in that exchange, there is some measure of atonement (at-one-ment) and reconciliation.

And for now, that is enough to sustain me in these dark times. May all migrating mother sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes, and may they never be separated from higher rebirth and sorrowless bliss.

Chapter 7: HEALING OURSELVES, HEALING EARTH

animal farm evolution

When enough individuals are carriers of the ‘consciousness of wholeness’ the world itself will become whole. ~ Edward Edinger

Just as the resolution of the psycho-spiritual crisis must happen at the level of the individual, so too is the solution to our climate crisis individual. It’s all about how we humans relate to the natural world. In recovering the ‘nature’ in our human nature, we are impelled to reconnect to that natural world in more satisfying ways.

Herein lies the cure for ourselves and our ailing mother Earth.

The biggest problem to date with the climate movement is that it has continued to play the game by the outdated rules established by the Oligarchs, pretending that somehow the solution to a problem posed by the way the world’s largest corporations operate involves raising money for political capital and getting people into the streets — as if somehow our politicians are going to have a crisis of conscience and stand up to their corporate controllers.

This is madness!

We’re not really thinking strategically, at least not outside of the political box they’ve placed us in, and we’re not really listening with all our heart. Here’s the good news: “Attention Earthlings: do not be concerned with the corrupted and broken instruments of your corporate overlords.” We simply need to think outside that broken boom box, and co-opt the system, subverting it with the very power it surreptitiously cedes to us: consumer power. The power to create demand(s). Not presenting our demands in writing, or pretending that participating in a broken political process with voting matters. No, we will vote with our mouths.

You see, we the people have all the tools we need right now to reverse climate change. Isn’t that shocking? To paraphrase the Mexican bandits from Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “Leaders? Leaders?! We don’t need no stinking leaders!” Once we get in touch with our grief over what we have lost, what has been taken away from us, then we are able to see what is really still possible, what is still within reach. And it is remarkably simple at this particular time in history, because the other power we already possess is the power of manifest reality: the power that comes from being completely interconnected instantaneously, via social networking on the world wide web.

It is vitally important to see the solution to runaway climate change in relation to it’s cause, because it is such a systemic problem. Treating symptoms will not do. The fatal disconnect that occurred when we split the atom and traumatized our collective psyche was the disengagement from the ground beneath our feet – the fertile Earth. The one intimate connection we still retained to our mother was through the umbilical chord by which we received her nourishment. Our once-healthy food chain, which had sustained us for over ten millennia. When that was severed, we were cast adrift and the age of increasing alienation, dis-ease and dissociation began.

And now she is calling us back to reconnect in the very way that was lost to us. This is why we are so drawn to farmer’s market – even if we find we do not purchase a great deal of our food from them. We crave that connection to our food-growers. It’s natural.

And there is nothing that defines us more than what we eat. We underestimate the power of our food choices at our own peril, both personally and collectively. The dietary revolution is already well underway, though we just have yet to really figure out what it is really all about. You could even say it is emerging ‘organically.’

What this food revolution is about is restoring our connection to the natural world, resurrecting our own human nature, and healing the planet we’ve so grievously harmed. And all it requires is making a moral choice about what we will put inside of us, and what we will not.

The inherent beauty in the food movement is that in doing the right thing, in making the moral choices available to us, we not only altruistically benefit the planet, all its inhabitants, and all future generations – we selfishly benefit as well. Once we throw off the shackles of the unhealthy, unnatural, manufactured food chain that enslaves us and is killing the planet, then our hearts and minds naturally regenerate.

The experiment in better farming through chemicals and monoculture, like the American Dream itself, seemed like a good idea at the time, but has proven to be a planetary disaster. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the world on average has just 60 more years of growing crops in this way. Why is that? Because over time, it destroys the very soil we require to grow food and survive.

Now, switch from this failed and civilization-threatening agribusiness chemical monoculture model to regenerative organic agriculture, with soil that is not chemically ‘enhanced,’ and guess what? Not only can we produce more food per acre, not only do we remove the poison from our food chain, but the soil itself is regenerated. And regenerate soil actually removes carbon from the atmosphere, creating the potential for a solution to climate change from the disease itself – as the current agriculture model of chemically intensive monoculture, along with factory farmed livestock, is the primary driver of climate change. 

 According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, 45% of Americans already seek out organic foods in their diets! And a 2013 Public Policy Polling survey surprisingly found that 13% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian, with over half calling themselves vegan!

So what would happen if the American people suddenly began choosing en masse organic produce and whole food diets supplied by local farms over commercially grown, chemically enhanced and processes foods shipped from who knows where? And what if they stopped supporting the ongoing animal holocaust of factory farming? It would be like the Berlin Wall falling with the overnight collapse of the Soviet Union!

If properly wielded, consumer power is actually an awesome force of social transformation. We don’t need pols or corps or Big Greens afraid of standing up to livestock interests in order to effect the change that needs to happen now. That the beauty of supply and demand, isn’t it? This is what the American Spring will look like. People waking up to the connection between their stomachs and a healthy, living planet suitable for passing on to their children (not to mention healthy children!). Organic farmers taking over failed Agribusiness plantations and transitioning back to a culture of community-connected family farming with humane treatment of animals. And during what promises to be an unsettled transition period, the conversion of urban landscapes to food-scapes, with people growing healthy food in their yards, on their roofs, and in public commons. This, too, is a growing trend.

As Vandana Shiva says, “The only way to build hope is through the Earth.” Amen.

The Dawn of Anima Mundi

earth as goddess

We human beings inhabit a meaning saturated continuum of conscious manifestation which we participate in through intention and intuition. According to the developing systems theory of archetypal astrology, our mind is embedded in and expressive of the interiority of nature and the cosmos itself, such that what we think of as our own creations are in fact brought forth by nature herself through us. This includes the names we have ‘created’ for the planets and constellations whose synchronous movements help define the reality in which we ourselves move.

As the leading proponent of this theory, Richard Tarnas, puts it, our myths emerge from the wellspring of nature herself, from “the universal unconscious that is bringing forth through the human mind and the human imagination its own gradually unfolding reality.” As Keiron Le Grice points out in his revelatory book The Archetypal Cosmos, “myths express objective archetypal patterns of meaning in which we participate, patterns that inhere within both psyche and cosmos.”

This explains the uncanny synchronicity between the ancient archetypes which we humans have projected onto various planets and constellations and our own individual and collective experience in relation to those cosmic wheels in which we are embedded. For example, Tarnas’ brilliant manifesto Cosmos & Psyche painstakingly shows how each time throughout human history that the planets Pluto, representing the primordial archetypal forces of upheaval, breakdown, decay, and fertilization – a kind of purifying fire that exposes corruption – and Uranus, representing the archetypes of fiery rebellion and technological breakthrough (think of Prometheus stealing the fire of the gods), come into hard aspect to one another (conjunctions, squares, and oppositions), the world experiences upheavals, sudden technological breakthroughs, and revolutions aimed at overthrowing corrupt forces.

We have been in such a period since about 2008, when the financial system collapsed, and it is about to climax with the last of 7 exact squares between these two powerful outer planets. The last time we experienced such a hard aspect between Pluto and Uranus was in the late 1960s. And in the past few years, we’ve seen the Arab Spring, hundreds of self-immolations by Tibetan monks and nuns, the Snowden and Wikileaks revelations, the Occupy Movement, and more recently the Black Lives Matter Movement. These two slow-moving planets have been moving back and forth in relation to one another, explaining the unusual number of exact (90 degree) squares, though the final step on March 17 will find them finally moving in the same direction — which many astrologers believe may indicate a time of break through after several years of breaking down. At the same time, Saturn will be stationing perfectly still for days before and after the exact square. Saturn is not only the Lord of Karma, but also Time – so it will be as if cosmic time itself will be standing still for the Seventh Seal of this Promethean procession, planting powerful seeds that will grow in the coming decades in very fateful ways (much the way that seeds planted in the 60’s are only now bearing fruit).

So I am writing this at a very auspicious time. And yes, we humans are participating in this cosmic dance. Quite remarkably, the probe New Horizons that we launched toward Pluto seven years ago will arrive almost precisely at the time of this seventh square. Pluto is often associated with the underworld (which the Greek God Pluto ruled) and our own primal unconscious, or Freud’s ‘id.’ So we are probing both our own unconscious and the underworld itself at the very time this critical aspect is reaching its climax, almost literally planting our own technological seed above as Pluto sows its own seeds of destruction, death and rebirth below, here on Earth.

But that’s not all!

As I write this, yet another probe, Dawn, is closing in on the dwarf planet Ceres, and this is much more than just a sideshow to the main event. Ceres is none other than the Goddess of Earth, the planet alternatively called Demeter in Greece and Hera in Germany. In other words, she embodies the archetype of the world soul, Anima Mundi, up above in the heavens. However, far from elevating the world soul, during the course of the Industrial Revolution — which, of course, began during a conjunction of Pluto and Uranus — we have subverted, denied, and denigrated Anima Mundi with our zealous pursuit of manifest destiny and our ‘stealing fire from the gods’ in the form of the atomic bomb – in which humans for the first time assumed control over the primordial forces of nature herself. All to disastrous effect, as it is turning out. Because of our disrespect of nature and the consequent alienation from our own true, human nature, Anima Mundi has become a scorned woman. We find ourselves in desperate straits now, with life as we have always known it now ending, and the fate of our own species (and all others) hanging precariously on the proverbial Sword of Damocles.

And yet here we are about to make actual initial contact with the heavenly body of Anima Mundi! The wonderfully named space probe Dawn is set to arrive in just a few days, March 6, and will proceed to circumambulate her (a.k.a., orbit) and venerate her (a.k.a., photograph) for the purpose of sending images back to us. Curiously, on the approach, Dawn sent back a photograph of Ceres that reveals two bright lights inside a crater, almost as if she is watching us with bright eyed anticipation. NASA’s own scientists termed this a mystery they couldn’t explain.

As we learn from Archetypal Astrology, there are no coincidences. So how can we who are aware and awake to what is happening in the world, we who have already re-connected with Anima Mundi, participate in this cosmic dance unfolding in the starry expanse above our heads?

We live in a conscious universe. Quantum physics teaches us that intention is everything in a universe defined by relations, not objects. What was once conjoined can never be entirely separated by time and space, and of course all we think of as ‘objects’ have their conjoined origins in the stars.  As inferred by Archetypal Astrology, we are mere referent points for all that is other in the cosmos. Therefore, our intentions can have immediate effects non-locally, what Einstein referred to as ‘spooky action at a distance.’

So to all who are reading this, let us charge Dawn with our intentions for Anima Mundi. In our prayers and meditations, let us tell her on behalf of all humans (since we are the only ones who will be doing this!):

“We’re sorry. Please forgive us. We love you.”

You might recognize that intention as coming from the Ho’oponopono, an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. It has been known to work miracles. We could use a miracle about now.

So in this time when the powerful seeds of death and rebirth are being sown in our collective psyche, in this time when we are on a path that will lead to our own demise and has the potential to end all higher forms of life on the planet, let us take advantage of the Promethean knowledge we have received from Quantum Physics as well as the timeless wisdom of Archetypal Astrology, and use the technologies of social media, Indra’s world wide web of interconnected consciousness, and the miracle of a space probe named Dawn approaching a dwarf planet symbolizing the Earth Goddess to plant the intentional seeds of our human nature in the cosmic womb of anima mundi with the hope of regenerating life on her planet, our only home. We have the advantage of a full moon’s light to illumine our intentions and beam them up to Dawn, which happens to coincide with the Buddhist Day of Miracles – in which all virtuous intentions and actions are multiplied by a hundred million!

These are auspicious times. The best of times, the worst of times. As Pluto teaches us, from death comes new life. Please join me in this fervent intentional action of sowing the intentional seeds of new life to grow and bear fruit in the coming decades. This is spiritual activism of the highest order, and all it requires is your heartfelt imagination. 

May all beings benefit from our collective merit.

CH. 6: THE GREAT AWAKENING: Finding Redemption Through Natural Grieving

Anonymous Awakening

What would it mean to really take grieving onto our path as a constant companion? Would it make us gloomy and foreboding? That’s the fear. But the reality is that with active grieving as part of our daily life, we stop taking things for granted, and begin appreciating the miracle of existence. Grief has a lot to do with appropriate gratitude, seeing things as they really are, and the natural law of compensation.

Everything we gain comes from loss. Most of our successes are built on failure, and every gift we receive from this living universe leaves a hole in its interpenetrating, interdependent, interconnected fabric somewhere else. Just think about where the clothes you have on right now come from, or the food that you are currently digesting. Once we adopt this balanced view of give-and-take, this realistic view of impermanence and incremental loss, then the ‘grief of being alive’ completes our love of life and for others. 

The flip side of grief is our capacity for giving praise. Going through each day praising this miracle of life, appreciating all the causes and conditions that have to continually come together and fall apart just for us to continue living, looking deeply at the suffering in the world by which we ourselves profit, and reminding ourselves that literally hundreds of species are going extinct today because of the burgeoning human population. All of this roots out the ingrained feelings of entitlement we have been conditioned with our whole lives here in the West, and replaces them with attitudes of gratitude, appreciation, awe, and wonder.

Can you begin to see grief in a positive light now?

Grief + Praise = Love of Life.

We have all this repressed grief stored up in our body, the unbearable tension of implicit memory of losing our toehold in life, and so when it finally comes it hits us like a tsunami wave. The great Indian pandit Shantideva put it like this:

Don’t you see how one by one/ Death comes to claim your fellow man?And yet you slumber on so soundly/ Like a buffalo beside its butcher.

Contrast this experience of living with that of a cancer survivor. These people know intimately the value on living that comes with the knowledge of mortality, don’t they? 

Life as we know it is ending. We are day-by-day losing the rich diversity of fish and animals and reptiles and birds and insects and plants that was our inheritance. These are real and profound losses. If you are not deeply saddened by this ongoing unraveling of the web of life, then you are as if already dead. Let’s stop running away from all this. There is no escape.

Instead – let us own it. Let’s start courageously grieving these losses today and everyday (or so) for the rest of our days on Earth.

The other side of grieving is loving. The more we grow in our practice of actively grieving those aspects of the natural world we are losing, the greater our affinity becomes with the natural world we still inhabit. Which is why it is so important to balance out our grieving these losses with practices of enjoying the bounty we have gained through healthy processing our natural depression – such as gardening, nature walks, stargazing, poetry, or simply sitting on earth under a particular tree in our immediate environment. These two kinds of practice go hand-in-hand, keep us in balance, and help restore human nature at the deep level of collective psyche – where we reconnect with the world soul. 

We are redeemed by grief, recovering our lost sense of what it means to be human. We cannot help but feel increasingly connected to the natural world once we begin actively grieving what is happening within it. And there is solace there.

It is like planting our psyche in the Earth. We sink our roots deep down into her fertile soil, we reach way up into the sheltering sky, we grow strong, and in time we bear fruit.

Once we begin to open our hearts to the suffering of all sentient beings – not just humans and pets – once we begin to see the connections between our diet and the devastation that is happening beneath the ocean’s waves and to the planets lungs (rain forests) and even on our own public lands, then quite naturally we do what we can to alleviate the suffering in the world, without anyone browbeating us. 

And in all of this, we begin to become citizens of the world again, rather than just culturally conditioned consumer clones waiting to be exploited by omnipresent corporate media. We are no longer just thinking of ourselves, but thinking and feeling for ourselves, and about our relations to all that is ‘other’ –  awakening to a more sentient existence. We are living and loving and grieving in the world, and the tears are balanced out by our increased capacity for joy, a larger sense of connection and meaning, and ever-widening spheres of compassion. As the Indian guru and sanysassin Satyananda Saraswat said:

“Transformation comes not from discussing our problems and looking for alleged culprits. Transformation is only possible if a critical mass of people make the leap from unconsciousness to awareness. If we – you and me – ask ourselves what part we are playing in any present problem.”

What part will you play?

(c) 2015 Zhiwa Woodbury: No reproduction of this and related pieces without express authorization from the author

TRINITY TONGLEN MEDITATION

Trinity Lotus

While we can never put the genie of the White Sands desert back in the bottle, we still carry in our political body the implicit memory of the horrors that it unleashed in the Land of the Rising Sun. The deep inner wound in our collective psyche that resulted from this cosmic rupture is a wound we share with the soul of the world (Anima Mundi). In cases of developmental trauma, therapy involves calling that implicit memory stored in our soma, the patterned tensions in our body, up into active consciousness to be held in open spacious awareness like a mother holds her child. The experience of that trauma is accessible to us still because we did not fully experience it in the moment it first arose. As Psychiatrist Mark Epstein puts it: “Experiences of trauma become freeze-framed into an eternal present in which one remains forever trapped…”

Let us assume we as a culture, the culture of the American Dream, remain forever trapped in the eternal present of the atomic age, and that it is the dysfunction arising from this cultural trauma that is preventing us from responding emotionally to the unfolding climate crisis – the dying seas, the disappearing species, and the impoverishment of nature for all future generations. What can we as individuals do to heal this deep fissure in our collective psyche that serves to separate our culture from human nature’s world soul?

We as a culture need to overcome the symptomatic distraction of our climate depression in order to accept our grief over what has been lost already, and what we are in the process of losing forevermore. But there are millions who are already at this final stage in the climate grieving process, who are no longer suppressing their natural (healthy) depression. What can we do now to facilitate the truth and reconciliation process that has to become enculturated in the very near future? We can take on this responsibility for all our fellow citizens of the world right now by going deep within to a place of stillness where the awareness of our psyche connects with the collective psyche and is encompassed by the psyche (lit., ‘soul’) of the world. Once we are there, in our meditation, we can assume the role of our own, and the world’s, therapist.

Here is a meditation that I have been doing in response to the call of Anima Mundi in this unified field of awareness in which, and by which, we are all connected. It is based on the powerful tong-len practice of Tibetan meditation in which we take on the suffering of others in the form of black smoke, which then collects at our heart and detonates, shattering the hard shell made of common suffering that encases it, and then from the vast open spaciousness of that detonation we send out our own happiness to others in the form of white light. We carry this visualization on our breath, breathing in black smoke, holding it in to spark the detonation, and releasing the white light on our out-breath, imagining those whose suffering is the object of our taking-and-giving meditation to be transformed in bliss by the white light, due to our willingness to take on their suffering.

We can see how easily this can be adapted to the wounds associated with the Trinity Test, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For the sake of this meditation, we imagine all the consequent suffering wrapped up into that first detonation in the White Sands. We are going to actually imagine ourselves at the test site, in that eternal moment, taking that mushroom cloud, which will contain all the suffering of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and yes, climate change, into our left nostril in the form of putrid, black, dense smoke – quite as if we are a superhero whose super power is having a heart that can expand infinitely into a spiritual container for the suffering of others. And even though in this meditation we will actually be imagining the horrible suffering of the women and children (and animals) who tragically died in the hell realm we created, there is no reason to be afraid here, because as the Tibetan lamas constantly remind us, the human heart really does have this unlimited capacity for expansion in the practice of great compassion.

So recall for our purposes the eyewitness account of the Trinity Test by Isador Isaac Rabi:

Suddenly, there was an enormous flash of light, the brightest light I have ever seen or that I think anyone has ever seen. It blasted; it pounced; it bored its way into you. It was a vision which was seen with more than the eye. It was seen to last forever. You would wish it would stop; altogether it lasted about two seconds.”

The bright light is neutral – the creative/destructive force of nature. It is the black smoke of the mushrooming cloud that we take into our left nostril, filling our lungs and concentrating at our heart. When we get to the top of this deep breath, we hold in all this suffering of the world, our mother Earth, and because of the expansive potential in our heart, the hard black shell of our own grief and lamentation that encases our wounded heart explodes just like Trinity, blasting every cell of our physical being out into the infinitude of the cosmos. It is a vast white open spaciousness, a meaning-filled continuum free from suffering, filled instead with blissful wisdom nectar. All of this happens in a flash. It’s a feeling, not a story. And in that eternal moment, we release all this on our out-breath, and it brings instant peace and reconciliation to all the old men, young mothers, and infant children who perished at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who themselves have been trapped in the confusion and chaos of that eternal moment all this time. They are released, they forgive us out of gratitude for our compassionate act, and the fissure between us and our mother, the rupture that is separating the collective human psyche from the soul of the world, is healed. Our great compassion transforms this rupture into rapture. We can also imagine this healing white light going out to all those who currently are suffering from ignorance in relation to the climate crisis, awakening them to their true human nature and the wonder of the natural world by which they are nurtured.

That’s the meditation. We cycle through it with our breathing. Not every breath, but whenever we feel the inspiration of compassion rise in us from our unresolved grief over the untold suffering that is there in the collective psyche. The meditation follows this same format of inhalation, explosion, and exhalation; darkness, liberating light, and reconciliation/transformation. But the visions that occur to us are unique in the moment and to our psyche, according to our own karmic connections. Whatever come up, hold it, honor it, transform it, and release it. To conclude this meditation, I want to suggest a simple kind of mantric ‘tong-len’ in which we take on Oppenheimer’s famous thought on seeing the result of the Trinity Test, which became manifest according to his own worst fears a few weeks later, and transform it’s energy into the form the world soul and human nature needs most right now:

In breath: ”Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Out breath: Now I am become Life, the creator of worlds.

Repeat this a few times, imagine all beings in all three times (past/present/future) benefiting from that powerful intention, and then dedicate the merit of this practice to all those trapped in the eternal present of the American Dream, that they may wake up to our collective climate grief, awaken to the interpenetrating interdependence of all life on this miracle of a planet, and assume responsibility for this existential crisis. If everyone, or at least a critical mass, awoke in this way and began to see things as they really are, we could reverse climate change tomorrow – by the simple expedient of drastically reducing and eventually eliminating meat from our diet. We do not need any political leader to empower us to do this. We can do it ourselves just by being more mindful with every mouthful.

(c) 2015 Zhiwa Woodbury: No reproduction, except for non-profit or personal use as an aid in meditation practice, without express authorization from author.