“If this world is to be healed through human efforts,
I am convinced it will be by ordinary people
whose love for life is even greater than their fear.”
– Joanna Macy
Teilhard de Chardin
Climate and Security Report – see links below
Courage, Compassion, and Climate Change
Seattle’s HumanKind All My Relations Sangha
by Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey
(This is a greatly expanded version of an article that we originally wrote for our colleagues in the contemplative community and was published in the 2020 summer edition of Northwest Dharma News.)
Note: The Leveys’ HumanKind All My Relations Sangha is a unique and thriving Dharma community in that we emphasize developing community and the personal and collective wisdom, compassion, creativity, courage, and resilience we need to keep our wisdom eyes and true hearts open as we step into each moment of our lives and world. We draw insight for Dharma teachers from many traditions as well and inspiration from contemplative science. (More info at: https://www.wisdomatwork.com/allmyrelations/ )
We often remind our Dharma friends of wisdom shared by a teacher in our lineage who noted, “We have tears in our eyes when we are close to truth.” Some years ago, the respected Tibetan yogi, Lobsang Tenzin, visited Harvard as a contemplative science ambassador at the request of the Dalai Lama. During an interview he was asked to describe his daily meditation practice. The venerable monk, who had dedicated decades of his life to solitary contemplative retreat for the benefit of all sentient beings in a small hut in the Himalayas above Dharmsala, responded by saying that he began his practice each day by contemplating the suffering of sentient beings throughout the six realms until he was moved to tears. When tears welled up and moistened his eyes it was a sign for him that he was then ready and properly attuned to begin his formal meditation practices.
In our sangha there are many tears of truth these days as we sit in the fires of these complex times. As we remind our Dharma friends, mindfulness and Dharma practice are not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage to wake up and keep our eyes, hearts, and minds wide open – open to the tenuous beauty and to the raging suffering in our world, open to profound goodness and to grief in response to the injustices at play in our world, open to the profound uncertainty of these times and to the tsunamis of data showing that humanity is in the midst of a growing and largely ignored existential crisis of climate disruption that is arriving with increasing intensity and severity decades sooner than previous assumptions and data had estimated. For us, great courage arises through faith in a multidimensional sense of refuge and a deep dedication to realizing our highest potentials for being a force for good in our world (bodhicitta).
Last year we devoted a number of months to a gut-wrenching contemplation of the interphase of climate science and Dharma teachings and practice. This exploration has also been nourished by study of Joanna Macy’s timely teachings on “The Work That Reconnects,” Jem Bendell’s inspired Deep Adaptation community, dialogue with colleagues involved in our European Learning Expedition, the Extinction Rebellion, British Parliament’s Mindfulness Initiative, and social change leaders seeking social justice and harmony in Catalonia. This led to our first explicitly climate-centric Dharma Salon exploring, “Wisdom, Compassion, and Deep Adaptation for Times of Global Climate Change.”
Through meditations, videos, and teachings we explored how previous climate change simulations supported the delusion that climate collapse was avoidable, and IF it happed it would likely occur in the lifetimes of our children or grandchildren. Yet, many recent studies with more current and realistic data indicate a myriad of critical climate thresholds have already been exceeded beyond tolerable limits leading to an acceleration of climate disruption and its devastating impacts on the inhabitants of our world. Climate disruption is here, arriving far sooner and stronger than anticipated, disrupting the lives of billions of people, with increasing frequency and ferocity in every region of our world.
The courageously compassionate engagement of our Dharma friends in embracing the complex mandala of these times has moistened many an eye, and our sangha is grateful for an ongoing forum that welcomes open discussion of the profound implications of the existential threats of climate chaos within a mandala of Dharma teachings and practices.Our experience has been that taking both the science and the Dharma to heart is supercharging our motivation to fathom the Dharma teachings and practices of mindfulness of change and impermanence, interdependence, refuge, bodhicitta, metta, karuna, tonglen, phowa, and deity yoga leading to a deeper realization of our Buddhaful clear presence and great compassion for all. These studies also translate into embodied engagement in social justice, environmental and climate activism, regenerative agriculture, human kindness, and a myriad of other noble endeavors.
We continue to explore skillful ways to weave more climate science and social justice teaching into our Dharma classes and retreats, both at our All My Relations Seattle home-sangha, with other communities we work with in the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and into meditation and work parties at our ecodharma learning center, Dorje Dechen Ling, on the Big Island of Hawaii. We have also integrated these themes into our Meditation and Medicine Sangha, which has been meeting monthly since we launched it after seminar we presented at University of Washington Medical School more than 15 years ago. Recognizing the profound power of sacred music, poetry, visual arts, and movement in helping people embody the Dharma in inspiring ways during these times of upheaval and crisis, we have also woven these themes into our teachings and retreats with the ArtMonastery Project. Recent travels and teachings opened the way for us to guide numerous adventures with Dharma friends exploring the thriving Dharma kingdom of Bhutan, and visiting our beloved Geshema, the nun that our sangha sponsors at Dolma Ling nunnery, while attending teachings with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India,
In response to the unexpected initiation and extended meditation retreat offered by the “COVID lama,” we’ve been exploring ways of transforming quarantine into sanctuary…social distancing into physical seclusion, simplicity and gratitude…FOMO into sheltering in grace…and expanding zoom meditations to connect a vibrant community of Dharma friends around the world. In the process we have found that the profound practice of “responsive gratitude” has been extremely accessible and relevant. This has three steps: 1) Resting in open awareness, being mindful of whatever arises; 2) Taking to heart anything, anyone, or any qualities of being, that arise in the mind that you are grateful for; 3) Going deep enough into the experience of gratitude that it overflows back to whomever or whatever you are grateful for in a responsive outpouring of metta-karuna-blessings. This continues with wave after wave of gratitude overflowing into blessing…. In this way we can meditate on the union of wisdom and compassion, letting gratitude expand our consciousness into a field of profound and intimate streams of interrelatedness and impermanence, while blessings open our hearts in widening circles of metta-karuna and dedication… This contemplation opens our wisdom eyes, dissolving the illusion of separateness, and opens our hearts to deeper intimacy, love, compassion, equanimity, and joy. This practice also reflects the wisdom of Joanna Macy’s sage advice to “always begin with gratitude” lest we be overwhelmed by the suffering of the world.
On this journey of collective awakening, we often remind our Dharma friends of teachings we have received from the Dalai Lama many times over the past four decades of study with him. His Holiness has taught that the highest goal of Dharma practice is to realize our capacity to be a boundless source of benefit for all beings. The means to realizing this goal he says is to awaken fully to our True Nature. The means for realizing our True Nature is to open our heart to boundless compassion. And the means of realizing such great compassion is to expand our consciousness and open our hearts to be resonantly attuned to the suffering and vulnerability of all sentient beings in their countless forms inhabiting many dimensions.
In closing, we are reminded of Vimala Thakar’s wisdom: “In this era, to become a spiritual inquirer without social consciousness is a luxury that we can ill afford, and to be a social activist without a scientific understanding of the inner workings of the mind is the worst folly. Neither approach in isolation has had any significant success.” Echoing this wisdom in a moving interview exploring climate crisis and deep adaptation with Jem Bendell, Joanna Macy, offered the following inspiration saying, “In Buddhafields around the universe beings are lining up to be born on earth right now, because this is a moment of such exquisite potential for realization.”
Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey, Founders of the HumanKind All My Relations Sangha
Dr. Joel and Michelle Levey are Co-Founders of Wisdom at Work and the HumanKind All My Relations Sangha (Seattle and Hawaii, est. 1982). They are two of the first people to translate contemplative science teachings into mainstream medicine, business, higher education, sports, and government arenas on a global scale beginning this work in the 70s and have worked with leaders and teams at hundreds of leading organizations around the globe including: NASA, Google, World Government Summit, British Parliament, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Intel, Travelers Insurance, Boeing, Microsoft, and World Business Academy. They have served as faculty at University of Minnesota Medical School, Indian Institute of Management, Mahidol University (Thailand), Antioch University, Bastyr University, and the World Business Academy. Joel started the first vipassana/mindfulness center in Seattle in 1975 and helped launch numerous other Dharma centers in the NW over the years. Their non-sectarian Buddhist sangha draws inspiration from many different lineages and teachers including: The Dalai Lama, Gen Lamrimpa, Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, Chagdud Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe, Zong Rinpoche, Dipama, Sakya Dagmola Kusho, Geshe Nwang Dhargye, Karmapa, Dudjom Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Robert Thurman, Dipama, Norbu Rinpoche, Ram Dass, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Kilung Rinpoche (with whom they have co-led meditation workshops in the Seattle area). In this time of sheltering in grace, our sangha meets four times each week for meditation on line. For more information and to receive their inspirational newsletter contact: https://www.wisdomatwork.com/contact/
“A human being is part of the whole called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest ~ a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty… We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humankind is to survive.” – Einstein
“Our sorrow is the other face of love, for we only mourn what we deeply care for…The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel is a measure of your humanity and your evolutionary maturity. As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.” – Joanna Macy
“Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe towards which this world is headed – be it ecological, social, demographic or a general breakdown of civilization – will be unavoidable. . . The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and in human responsibility.” ~ Vaclav Havel, President of Czechoslovakia in his address to the U.S. Congress
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. Our hope for creative living lies in our ability to reestablish the spiritual needs of our lives in personal character and social justice. Without this spiritual and moral reawakening we shall destroy ourselves in the misuse of our own instruments.” ~ Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Let’s take a moment to remember why we are here.
Let’s remember our love for this beautiful planet.
Let’s remember our love for all humanity in all corners of the world.
As we act today, may we find the courage to bring a sense of love and peace and appreciation
to everyone we encounter and every word we speak. We are here for all of us.”
“Declaration of Solemn Intent” from the Extinction Rebellion #ExtinctionRebellion
- “The world has only six months in which to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe, one of the world’s foremost energy experts has warned…The world has only six months in which to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe, one of the world’s foremost energy experts has warned.” ~ IEA Report, June 18, 2020
Then in May 2020, twelve climate scientists, working with institutions such as the University of California and University of Exeter, wrote the following in a public letter to the Guardian: “It is game over for preventing dangerous climate change now that governments are planning the cheapest and quickest return to consumption [which is…] incompatible with keeping the average global temperature rise below 2C, let alone 1.5C… It is time to acknowledge our collective failure to respond to climate change, identify its consequences and accept the massive personal, local, national and global adaptation that awaits us all.”
In November 2019 seven leading climate scientists, including Professor Timothy Lenton of the University of Exeter and Professor Katherine Richardson of the University of Copenhagen published a review in the journal Nature which said: “If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping point cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization.” In their article they said that a collapse of society may be inevitable because 9 of the 15 known global climate tipping points that regulate the state of the planet have already been activated. Therefore, as 2019 came to a close, Professor Aled Jones, of Anglia Ruskin University, and Australian National University emeritus Professor Will Steffen, detailed the evidence for why “it’s time to talk about near-term collapse.”
Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a former lead author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told Voice of Action “there is a very big risk that we will just end our civilisation. The human species will survive somehow but we will destroy almost everything we have built up over the last two thousand years.” In Bendell 2020
“Inhospitably hot regions on Earth occupy about 0.8% of the globe now. New research by an international team of scientists indicates that – if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated – these regions may expand to something more like 19% by 2070…By 2070, this large expansion in uninhabitable land could affect 30% of the projected human population. While some form of adaptation could occur in terms of new cooling technologies for homes, factors such as crop growth, livestock health, and water availability would all contribute to constraints on the livability of these super warm regions. Thus, the pressure for people to migrate would be very high, though the scientists caution that the complexity of migration makes such trends difficult to predict.” – Earth and Sky News
Learn More About the Climate Crisis: Where to Begin
The following articles by our beloved and respected friends, teachers, and colleagues Roshi Joan Sutherland, Vicki Robins, Catherine Ingram, and Jim Bendell offer a vivid, deep, sobering, timely, and comprehensive overview of our global predicament and the preciousness of this time in our lives. They are well-referenced for anyone interested in inquiring more deeply.
A very astute and sobering summary of the research findings and warmings from climate science research 2019 -2020:
Toward a Somatic Understanding of Climate Change, Trauma, and Transformative Healing — A Series
Reading these works we are left with a rich mix of profound gratitude, humility, and concern…
Click the image below for a potent, guided Tonglen compassion meditation.
Tonglen is one of the most effective and profound methods for opening our hearts and minds to embrace and transform suffering that may otherwise overwhelm us. This is a method that the Dalai Lama often teaches.
For an excellent and succinct summary of recent research, this article from the Guardian is quite comprehensive:
Countries from Siberia to Australia are Burning: The Age of Fire is the Bleakest Warning Yet – It is time not only to think the unthinkable, but to speak it: the world economy, civilization, and maybe our survival as a species are on the line: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/29/countries-from-siberia-to-australia-are-burning-the-age-of-fire-is-the-bleakest-warning-yet
UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2019 – Showing the rising levels of green house gases and calling for radical and immediate action to mitigate our climate crises on a global scale. Full report is available at: https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/emissions-gap-report-2019
UN: Climate Change Will Create “New Great Divergence” Between Rich and Poor https://truthout.org/articles/un-climate-change-will-create-new-great-divergence-between-rich-and-poor/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=b1adb585-072b-4ca3-87bd-fee8d8ef5e2e
Nature Article: Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against – The growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes must compel political and economic action on emissions. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0
An Excellent Resource Library – Choosing Earth and Facing Adversity – From Duane and Colleen Elgin:
Download the new deep book by Duane Elgin- Choosing Earth (A guide to navigate the decades to come…) at http://ChoosingEarth.org
Original Paper by Bendell – Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy http://lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf
Compendium of Research Reports on Climate Chaos and Impacts (July 2019): http://iflas.blogspot.com/2019/07/compendium-of-research-reports-on.html
Deep Adaptation Linkedin group – https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12091253/
Jem Bendell and Toni Spence – This presentation, to 300 people in Bristol, UK, was Jem’s first recorded lecture on Deep Adaptation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daRrbSl1yvY&list=PLZtwXwfaROqJqcyED69KJ29PbH53QPM5i&index=21&t=1432s
Jem Bendell “Hope in a time of climate chaos”
Jem Bendell – This is not a drill!
Jem Bendell – Grieve, Play, Love
Jim Bendell – The Wave
“What we want to do is save humanity from extinction”, Prof. Kate Jeffery, Behavioural Neuroscience | XR
Deep Adaptation Q&A with Charles Eisenstein hosted by Jem Bendell
Joanna Macy – The Hidden Promise of Our Dark Age – At Bioneers – 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzmjF1jE2K0&t=577s
Jem Bendell – The Love in Deep Adaptation – https://jembendell.com/2019/03/17/the-love-in-deep-adaptation-a-philosophy-for-the-forum/
Deep Adaptation Page on the Scientists’ Warning website:
“Apocalypse Got You Down? Maybe This Will Help: Searching for a cure for my climate crisis grief” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/15/sunday-review/depression-climate-change.html?fbclid=IwAR3O1mVZi1-wxAkAfIDvFEyVmgCNdnn3h1kHCb75D12ITCckTOASz_YHnC8
World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency (11,258 SCIENTIST SIGNATORIES FROM 153 COUNTRIES) https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biz088/5610806?searchresult=1
U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Climate Change says Pentagon Report: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbmkz8/us-military-could-collapse-within-20-years-due-to-climate-change-report-commissioned-by-pentagon-says
Full Report: Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army – https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/implications-of-climate-change-for-us-army_army-war-college_2019.pdf
See more information and inspiration for opening your heart and mind to this profound contemplation:
An excerpt from: Jem Bendell’s
“That modern humans have been oppressing and destroying life on Earth is the most obvious and salient observational fact of our time. I am interested in the deepest reasons for that, beneath the injuries from colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, anthropocentrism and such like. The core ‘why’ that is found within the collective psyche of modern humans, albeit to varying degrees. I call it the ideology of e-s-c-a-p-e, where each letter of the acronym describes a way of thinking and feeling, which co-produces our (now empirically-observable) omnicidal culture. The ideology expresses itself through us due to our understandable, but problematic, aversion to impermanence and death.
Entitlement involves thinking “you must make me feel better.”
Surety involves thinking “I will define you and everything in my experience so I feel calmer..”
Control involves thinking “I will try to impose on you and everything, including myself, so I feel safer.”
Autonomy involves thinking and feeling “I must be completely separate in my mind and being, because otherwise I would not exist.”
Progress involves thinking and feeling “the future must contain a legacy from me, or make sense to me now, because if not, then when I die I will die even more.”
Exceptionalism means assuming “I am angry at this world because much about it upsets me and so I prefer to think I’m better and/or needed.”
Modern humans, like me, and probably you, are addicted to these patterns of thought, and therefore this ideology of e-s-c-a-p-e. We will never be cured but can seek support to enter constant recovery. The patterns give rise to attitudes like individualism, nationalism, fundamentalist religiosity, and selfish spiritualities, as well as systems like capitalism, neoliberalism, and nationalism.”
Joanna Macy’s brilliant format for embracing and working with intense and overwhelming circumstances:
Explore more deeply at – https://WisdomAtWork.com/DeepAdaptation/