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Engaged Buddhism: Bringing Our Practice Into the World

29 Oct 2018 12:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

With gratitude to Patty Meyers for this sharing

Despite no professional connection to or background in the climate change issue, I’ve felt a strong calling to get involved.  But with a lack of expertise and living on a small island near the tip of Florida, what real difference could I make upon this massive global issue? 


But the reality of global warming was hitting too close to home to ignore.  Our little island was one of the first and most impacted towns hit by Hurricane Irma.  Two of our neighbors’ homes had to razed and we sustained over a foot of water in our garage.   The ongoing toxic proliferation of both red and blue/green algae blooms has seen our beaches littered with dead marine life and the subsequent economic, environmental and health fall-out.  So despite this lingering feeling of hopelessness and impotence, when the opportunity arose to be in San Francisco during the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), I booked my flight.

The experience turned out to be far more rewarding and inspiring than I could have imagined.  Through information gleaned from my sangha friends at the Florida Community of Mindfulness, I was introduced to GreenFaith, a global interfaith coalition of religious traditions sharing concern for the planet.  I contacted them and they immediately put me to work making phone calls to various Bay Area religious organizations soliciting participation in the RISE UP for Climate, Justice and Jobs March.   As a volunteer parade monitor, on a beautiful cool sunny morning, I escorted a spirited yet respectful 30,000 person-strong contingent down Market Street in a united show of concern and action.   The week ended on a quieter more reverential tone with an all-day symposium entitled “Loving the Earth,” held at Spirit Rock in the pastoral hills of West Marin, a fitting finale to this life-affirming week.

 In between, I attended numerous activities mainly organized through GreenFaith and Interfaith Power and Light.  The official GCAS conference was reserved for high-ranking government officials, climate experts, policy wonks, businessmen and environmental advocacy groups but free affliliated events and seminars were happening all over the city.  One in particular was an all-day forum entitled Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice, which highlighted the moving stories of tribal and indigenous women leaders and the tactics they are using to halt the takeover and destruction of their sacred lands primarily for fossil fuel extraction.  There was focus throughout the conference on these proud bearers of traditional culture and wisdom who are leading the movement to reclaim Mother Earth's rightful place as provider and protector.   One evening, there was a powerful multi-faith service at Grace Cathedral featuring a grand procession, uplifting music and thoughtful words from clergy representing all the major religions as well as emissaries from the Holy See and a livestream shout-out from H. H. Dalai Lama.  The universal message was clear -- it is our duty as people of faith, as caring communities that respect and honor the sacredness of Planet Earth, to stand up, speak out and actively work for her survival.

I chose to participate in these faith-sponsored events because it’s become increasingly clear, that for me, any activism must be steeped in the grounding of mindfulness.  It is only now, with my deepening practice and the inspiration of so many, do I feel prepared to face my fear and consciously turn towards it… to move beyond paralysis into a place, a space, of well… healing.  Joanna Macy, Buddhist lioness and environmental activist, spoke of fear as only one side of a two-sided coin, the other being love.  They are inseparable.  By confronting one, I am touching the other.  This can be my practice, my “living on the razor’s edge,” as Kristen Barker of One Earth Sangha likes to describe it.

As Buddhists, we believe that at the heart of every emotional, existential and environmental meltdown there is an opportunity for great transformation where anything and everything is possible.  I was continually reminded how great insight can arise from great suffering -- not to actively create it, but to recognize and embrace it, understanding the opportunity it presents as a doorway to ultimate liberation.  Christiana Figueres, past executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, asked us to harness the rage and despair and “use the energy of pain to transform.” 

Figueres, who became an adherent of Thich Nhat Hanh after turning to his teachings in the midst of an emotional breakdown while organizing the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, is quoted as saying “This had been a six-year marathon with no rest in between.  I just really needed something to buttress me, and I don’t think that I would have had the inner stamina, the depth of optimism, the depth of commitment, the depth of inspiration if I had not been accompanied by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.”

This path of confronting climate change will take real courage and fortitude. I now realize there is a growing coalition of committed eco-warriors, teachers and sisters and brothers out there who will support me with encouragement, resources and wisdom.  As Thay has stated, “It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. And the practice can be carried out as a group, as a city, as a nation.”

This was the resounding message of my week… it will take a community, a powerful congregation of like-minded individuals to turn this tide.  Not just the dedicated folks of Plum Village or Florida Community of Mindfulness or Marco Island or the US, but a global awakening, a slow but persistent shift of consciousness, a world Sangha… and, as our teacher Fred reminds us, the inner peace, strength and love that is required starts with me.

Patty Meyers

Source of Unceasing Commitment

Marco Island, FL

Florida Community of Mindfulness/Naples Sangha


  • 01 Dec 2018 10:42 AM | Anonymous member
    this is an inspiriting and uplifting and message to be heard by everyone.
    thank you Patty
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