Meeting the world’s deep hunger

First appeared as blog post by Jane Negrych for the Weekly Challenge blog from the Mindfulness Association

After Jane wrote about The Final Straw challenge on creating and cultivating an ‘outer’ practice,  she thought it might be a good idea to change up the format of our challenge this week and record a conversation between me and her on ‘outer’ practice and how we might start moving towards Engaged Mindfulness…

 

click here to watch

 

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The final straw

Blog post by Jane Negrych for the Weekly Challenge blog from the Mindfulness Association

A few days ago, I was speaking with my dear friend and colleague Kristine Janson about straws. Yes, you read that right: straws. Kristine had asked me if I used straws and I didn’t think that I used straws, but then when I really thought about it, I realised that I actually use straws all the time.

Whenever I go to my local coffee shop and order a smoothie, I am given a straw. Or when my children order slushes (which in the summer is ALL the time), they get the fattest straws possible. And lately on my drive home from teaching, I have been stopping for a chocolate milkshake and I drink that milkshake with a STRAW. In my head this is my weekly act of self kindness 😉

However, while this is an act of self-kindness for Jane, is it an act of kindness for the planet?

Well, my conversation with Kristine reminded me that it’s not. In fact, in the U.S. alone, there are 500 million straws used per DAY!!! And what happens to those straws? They just sit there and pollute. They do not biodegrade. In fact, according to Jackie Nunez who wrote “The Sipping Point”, every piece of plastic ever made is still in our environment in some capacity (for full article click here).

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When I thought about this, I felt a bit overwhelmed. I mean we are talking about straws. If this one teeny tiny item could cause so much havoc for our earth, what other mindless consumption habits do I have?

Kristine and I spoke about this overwhelm and of ways in which we can engage and act to counter mindless consumption in ways that do not feel like we are being completely engulfed and dragged down by the enormity of the issue: the destruction of our environment at the hands of humans. How can we move forward in a way that is helpful, but also in a way that one can maintain a sense of hope?

One thing that Kristine has taken on is some advice from the late Akong Rinpoche, past Abbot and Founder of Samye Ling. In the film ‘Akong – a Remarkable Life’, Akong Rinpoche talks about the importance of not just practising for ourselves and our own benefit, but also of acting in society. He calls this acting in society ‘outer’ practice, to complement our ‘inner’ practice of meditation. Akong Rinpoche did much charity work with one of his project being ROKPA, an international relief organisation that is represented in 17 countries world wide! His ‘outer’ practice was robust.

Kristine has been focusing her ‘outer’ practice of environmental issues. She’s been inspired by the work of Joanna Macy, the eco philosopher and author of “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy”, as well as Thich Nhat Hanh, who considers and encourages mindful consumption in a way that honours all generations. His teachings stress the interconnection between all living beings, and in his book “For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life”, he states that “[w]e have to eat, drink, consume, but if we do it unmindfully, we may destroy our bodies and our consciousness, showing ingratitude toward our ancestors, our parents, and future generations”. Therefore, it is no surprise that these principles have come together to shape and influence Kristine’s teaching practice; and in 2018, she will be co- leading (with Fay Adams) a course on Engaged Mindfulness, or a course that helps mindfulness practitioners really develop their own ‘outer’ practice in a way that does not overwhelm, rather nurtures and supports well-being (for more information on the Engaged Mindfulness course, please click here).

In the meantime, I have decided to give up using plastic straws and I have pledged to continue to find small ways in which I continue to transform my consumption from mindless to mindful. So this week’s challenge is to find your own small modification to your consumption habits that might help nourish rather than deplete, not only you but this planet!

How profound grounding can bring experiential interconnectedness with life on earth

A glimpse into the practices we’ll be exploring on the Engaged Mindfulness course led by Kristine Mackenzie and Fay Adams in Samye Ling in January 2018

– By Fay Adams

Profound Grounding

Those who have completed the Mindfulness Practitioner training will be familiar with the concept of grounding. The first stage of grounding is about dropping into the body, which is held by the earth. For many years it never occurred to me that this experience could be deepened, that it wasn’t just something you touch into as a foundation for working with the mindfulness support. Then I tried a practice called Earth Descent (led by Reggie Ray) and I was stunned by an experience of grounding that could only be described as grounding multiplied by a hundred! I realised we can drop our awareness down into the earth itself. This might sound like a strange concept – surely it’s impossible to drop into the earth! However we work with our imagination here. We imagine that our awareness keeps dropping down further and further down. Whereas in basic grounding you feel like a mountain, now you feel like a mountain with a huge foundation merging into the deep, wide and vast expanse of planet earth. This feels to me like a very primordial experience, there’s a sense of reconnecting with an ancient affinity or even unity, with the earth, my home. It can almost feel like I become earth, strange as this may sound.

It can help if we remember a fundamental truth which indigenous societies knew well, but which much of humanity in the contemporary world seems to have forgotten. Human beings are born – are children – of the earth; the archetype of Mother Earth is found in original cultures on every continent.

There is a Native American saying which says: ‘’The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth’’. What a different orientation is required to go from thinking we have dominion over the earth, to feeling our belonging as one small manifestation of the vastness of life on earth! How different does this feel in the body?

Sacred Earth Awareness

It’s only relatively recently that human beings live without an awareness of the inter-dependence with the earth as a sacred reality. The level of disconnection from the beauty, intelligence and formidableness of nature is acute in the modern world. How else would human beings be able to be so destructive of the earth? We see the earth as something we can dredge, use and manipulate, rather than relating to her with wonder, awe and devotion and working in submission to her laws of balance. So these practices are a way of beginning to heal the earth by healing our experiential disconnectedness from her. We are reminded that we are more than individuals in bubbles, we are tiny, tiny life forms amongst the teaming, diverse grandeur of life on earth. If we deeply feel that we are the earth, then we will not exploit our planet and instead we will naturally want to tend, serve and love Mother Earth as an expression of our humanity.

Practicing Earth Descent has, for me, been a way to naturally find this earth connection. It has felt like experientially finding my umbilical cord back to the earth, like coming home to a home I didn’t know I was missing. My heart and body feel more embedded in the interdependence of life supported by our majestic planet. The unexpected response to this is spontaneous love.