Meditation & Climate Change

image credit: Jamie Brelsford/ World War II bunkers along the east coast of England have begun sinking as the land beneath them erodes

Original article by Gibran Rivera, posted in IISC  (Interaction Institute for Social Change) blog, February 1, 2011.

If you want climate change to stop, meditate. In this article by Gibran Rivera, changing the world around us starts with changing us. Changing us means making a shift in consciousness. Here’s how.

Yesterday I was privileged to participate in a full day of learning about Climate Change and EcoJustice with the Boston’s Barr Fellows Network.  Gopal Dayaneni of Movement Generation and Doyle Canning of SmartMeme, did a phenomenal job of painting a much richer picture about what is at stake for humanity than tends to be available in the sound-bite politics that pass for political discourse in our day.  I expect to share more about what we learned, but I’m still doing a whole lot of processing.

Today I’m writing to make connection between the choices ahead and the practice of meditation. Today is “Day 1” for our 28 Days of Practice community, a sort of “habit building support group” –

A group of friends supporting each other through 28 days of meditation practice. Some are just starting to meditate, others are meditation teachers. The point is to meditate every day, whether you commit to 5 minutes or to 60, something in between or even a progressive plan – start at 5 and end at 10. We do this to practice, and to grow together.

I experienced despair yesterday, my heart broke as I came to terms with the irreversible damage we have already done to our planet.  It is a deeply challenging reality to contend with.  I felt what Bill McKibben calls “body blows… mortar barrages… sickening thuds.”  One of a number of reasons why I meditate is precisely so that I can contend with this reality.

A common misconception is that people meditate in order to transcend into another realm, an effort to escape a material world that is understood as illusory.  But meditation serves the opposite purpose; it is a practice that trains us to be right here, right now, to look reality in the face and contend with all its fullness.  Yesterday, right when I was at the peak of my despair, Doyle reminded us that it is difficult to make wise choices when we are in a crisis mindset.  She pointed out that this is what allows us to settle for solutions that sound too good to be true.

Meditation helps me to look more clearly at what is and to move forward from a clear-minded place, and a deeper understanding.  This recent NY Times article points to How Meditation May Change the Brain.  Integral philosopher,Ken Wilber, continually points to studies explaining how meditation is a proven technique for moving more effectively across stages of development in our consciousness.  Here at the Interaction Institute, when we speak of the love that does justice as one of our three lenses for collaboration.  We seek to include the inner side of leadership and the encouragement of a diversity of practices that help to develop our interior condition.

Humanity is indeed at a choice moment; it may be an “evolutionary crash or an evolutionary bounce.”  If we are going to make that bounce, if we are going to take the adaptive leap that will allow us to shift into a different way of being-here and being-with, then a shift in consciousness becomes our true imperative.  If we are to change the way change happens, social movements will have to make room for this sort of development.  Meditation is just one approach; it happens to be my favorite – but we must make room for more, room for our diversity of traditions.  It will not be easy to make these changes in our rationalist and secular world, but this is the work ahead.

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