Environmental Activist and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy at Naropa University


>>Hello, I want to welcome
you all to Naropa University. My name is Chuck Lief. I’m the President at Naropa. [ Applause ] Yay! [Laughter] And it’s really
a pleasure to have so many people from the Boulder community joining us
for the return engagement of Joanna Macy. This is a moment in Naropa’s life each
cycle that we really look forward to. I’m going to introduce Joanna’s introducer so
I won’t say much more about that right now. What I want to do, I mainly
wanted to do welcome you all. I also want to let you know because
we have such a wonderful large and captive audience about
some upcoming events here. Principally coming up next month in March,
Naropa is going to welcome Meredith Monk, a remarkable performer and teacher
who will be coming back to Naropa. She’s going to be our Lenz
Foundation distinguished lecturer. She’s going to be in Boulder for about
a week of events which will start at the Boulder Theater actually on Wednesday,
March 13, and you can check that out online. There should be — it should be
an amazing performance there. And then, Thursday, an interview that will
be facilitated by one of our faculty members, Lama Sarah Harding on the
Contemplative Artist, American Buddhism and Creative Expression in the 21st Century. A lecture the next day on Friday on the
archaeology of an artist, and then concluding with a weekend workshop with three
teachers, Meredith, Lanny Harrison, another remarkable performer living in New
York who was part of the Naropa arts community from the very beginning, and Judy Lief,
who I’ve known for a while [laughter]. The three of them have actually
— this is a roadshow. They’ve done this three-teacher
event in other cities. It’s a really wonderful interactive weekend and
you would all be welcome to attend that as well. So you can look at the naropa.edu website and
get information about that whole week of events. So I’d like to introduce Christopher
Hormel, who is a member of our Board of Trustees, and has been for a long time. Christopher has played an incredibly
important role on the board. He’s been the person that has kind of
maintained real consciousness among the members of the board around the issues of sustainability
which culminated in the board’s adoption of a pretty robust sustainability statement. Which is now been followed by an
incredible work plan that was done by Naropa’s Sustainability Committee made up
of students and staff and faculty commitment that we all have here at the university to continue our work toward becoming
a more sustainable place to be. And Christopher has — deserves much of
the credit for keeping that flame alive. So it’s fitting, I think, for us that
Christopher would introduce our speaker. Thanks. [ Applause ]>>Thank you. Can you hear me? [ Laughter ] Hi, my name is Christopher
and I’m a Joannaholic. [ Laughter ] I first met Joanna two years ago, when she
came here to be the Lenz distinguished speaker which is a wonderful series
that we have here at Naropa. So thank you for the Lenz folks for that. And she was a real cheerleader for
us that first evening that I met her. She came in this room and spoke to the
senior staff and faculty and said, “I get it. I get what Naropa is trying to do. And nobody else is doing it.” And so that touched me very deeply,
so I’m very grateful to Joanna for seeing what it is that
we all want to be seen for. And speaking of seeing, I
can’t see anybody [laughter]. I’m not used to this. So a couple of things, I’ll — for those
of you who don’t know who Joanna Macy is, I’ll give you a brief, dry, few
words about that [laughter]. She has earned a PhD in Religious
Studies from Syracuse University. That was back in 1978. She’s authored many books on ecology, Buddhism,
systems theory, and has been very active in a lot of environmental
movements around the country, in particular, the anti-nuclear movement. In particular, the psychological and
spiritual issues of our present nuclear age and the resonance between Buddhist
thought and contemporary science. So tonight’s lecture is calledActive Hope,How to Face the Mess We’re
in Without Going Crazy
rmal.” That is the name of her latest book that
she wrote along with Dr. Chris Johnstone. And hopefully, there are plenty of copies
available in the back for people who might like to bring them home with them tonight. And I encourage you to read it. I’ve read it and it really helped me
especially after the last couple of years after the Fukushima disaster which
deeply affected me personally and a lot of people that I know. So again, how to face the mess
we’re in without going crazy. That’s a real challenge. And Joanna Macy has a lot of things
to say to help us to do that. And it’s not just an academic opinion
or simply just a fervent passion. It’s those things plus being a real woman, a real human being who’s lived
a real life, a long life. She’s a mother. She’s had a very long marriage. She knows the difficulties of all the
things that we experience in our lives. So I think that it’s easy to talk
but it’s harder to walk the talk. And Joanna has done that and
she can show us how to do that. So I’d like to ask Joanna to come
up here so I can stop talking. [ Applause ]>>I see what you mean about being blinded. Oh, thank you. So go on, safe that you’re out there [laughter]. Thank you for coming out. I’m so happy to be here in this room again. I have many memories of it. There was that time associated with the
Lenz lecture that Christopher mentioned. But before that, there were a
number of years, I remember being — doing a workshop in the work
that reconnects here and the environmental leadership
program [laughter]. And it’s a big room and we were between
20 and 30 and we could really romp. And we were [inaudible] full footage
of this square meters of this room and the stillness and the movement, the dance. So I have wonderful memories of other parts of
Naropa too and of being here also in relation to the Rocky Flats Guardianship
Project that we had [applause], that we had a workshop on
that last time I was here. You know, it is so — it is very moving
to me to be received by an institution that has such respect for the mind. For what the mind can do
in apprehending our world. For what the mind can do in communicating
and in expanding its perceptions of reality through nonlinear thinking is
what is linear through the arts, through using the tools of psychology. And this respect for the
mind is what gives me hope. You know, it’s so funny that I would
never have thought in those early years. If any of you were maybe working with me
when I was here eight to 10 years ago, you might have heard me say,
“Oh, don’t try that on hope. Hope’s a killer, don’t.” [Laughter] And because I saw hope and
hope takes you out of the present moment. Did the Lord Buddha ever talk about hope? No, come on! We taught us how to look at things very — without wiping away as much as we possibly can
any projections and dreams and fantasies to see if things — [inaudible] just as they are. And now I’m writing a book about hope
[laughter] with my — and I wish he were here. I wish you could see my colleague, Chris
Johnstone, a physician from the United Kingdom and who is a colleague of mine for the
last 20 years in the work that reconnects which is the [inaudible] work that
has grown out of my passion for peace and justice — a peaceful and just society. It has grown out of my interweaving of the
teachings of the Buddha with systems thinking. And I found this adventure of the mind
and the heart so strong that I can’t do it without experiential interactive work. We’re not doing that tonight. But some of us are going to be doing it this
weekend in the environmental leadership program. So why am I writing a book about hope? Well, the thing is you redefine hope. [ Laughter ] And it became clear as Chris and
I were kind of horsing around. And I just had to stop a minute, it was, I
think, of my collaboration with Chris Johnstone. I want to pause and give thanks
to the invention of Skyping. [ Laughter ] That’s how we did it. At any rate, we kept trying to dodge around. I said, “Can’t use hope in the title.” But then he challenged me and we began to look
at what it is and what it isn’t and we decided that actually, hope isn’t something you have. It’s something you do. Like so much in life and
particularly in the Dharma way and the systems way too, you
shift from a noun to verb. It’s what you do with yourself as
well, from being a noun to a verb. And so hope is something that
you find is in the looking. It’s in the one who see things as they are. It’s in the taking a stance to
look at things courageously. It’s in the intention to act. And from this book which I think is very pretty
and I will sign copies for you, should you wish, we made a list, a little ways in of what a hope
isn’t and what it is, at least active hope. Active hope is not wishful thinking. Active hope is not waiting to be rescued
by the Lone Ranger or any other savior. Active hope is waking up to the beauty
of life on whose behalf we can act. We belong to this world. The web of life is calling
us forth at this time. We’ve come a long way and
we’re here to play our part. With active hope, we realize that
there are adventures in store, strengths to discover and
comrades to link arms with. Active hope is a readiness to engage, a
readiness to discover the strengths in ourselves and in others, a readiness to discover the
reasons for hope, and the occasions for love. A readiness to discover the size and
strengths of our hearts, our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose, our
own authority, our love for life, the liveliness of our curiosity, the
unsuspectedly deep well of patience and diligence, the keenness of our
senses, and our capacity to lead. None of these can be discovered without risk. I think that my greatest source
for hope, what I identify it with and this is growing stronger every
day and since this book was written, it just came out just almost a year ago. But we’re all changing very fast, aren’t we? The pressures are so big. The acceleration of developments,
of what’s happening to our country, what’s happening to our government,
what’s happening to industry, what’s happening to our money, what’s happening
to the oceans, to the forests, to the seas, to our brother-sister beings, all of that
is pulling us into such a [inaudible]. Don’t you feel that? Don’t you feel how swift the changes are? And just in keeping up with that and just being
with that, something can flower within us. And one of the things that’s flowered for me is
a recognition of the absolutely exquisite gift that we have been given with our
mind which is the capacity to choose. That’s sort of a definition
of the self-reflexive mind. That we can choose not how things are out
there, we can choose where we put our mind. We can choose what we’re
going to next step we take. We can choose how we’re going to see something. We can choose what we’re looking for. So this book starts with a recognition that,
and this is perhaps the greatest source of hope for me, is that with our — we can choose
how we understand the time we’re in. And we present it as three stories. Three stories of our moment in history, in
these early years of the third millennium. And it seems to me that there are three stories. They’re all happening at the same time. One is we call business as usual. The other is the Great Unraveling and
the third story is the Great Turning. So let’s look for a moment
together at the first story. Now this story, business as usual, is a story of the industrial growth
society and what it requires. And what it gives us. And this is the story that you’ll hear
from our political and corporate leaders. It’s the story in the mouths of the
politicians and the CEO’s and the generals and the corporate-controlled media,
is that everything’s pretty much okay. This is an economic system with a fruit of
tremendous progress harnessing the riches of the natural world as well as the
geniuses of the human mind and science. And look at what you’ve got! Look at how tall the buildings,
look how swift the information, look how dazzling the entertainments. Look how fast we can move and deploy and look,
we don’t even need to send our boys anywhere, we can just send unmanned aircraft in order to extend the reaches of
our beneficent civilization. Oh boy, that sounded sarcastic. [ Laughter ] And I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I slip into that sometimes [laughter]. My beloved husband, Fran and it was
a long marriage and a wonderful one, when I would slip into sarcasm,
he’d say, “There you go again. That isn’t quite tasteless.” So I apologize [laughter]. You see, it’s all in — I love that phrase
that I just said, industrial growth society because — and I borrow it from a Norwegian deep
ecologist Sigmund Kwaloy, because it’s driven by industrial power and it sets its goals
and determines its success by growth. Growth in what? Wisdom? Health? Kindness? Learning? It’s felt in one thing only and that’s
corporate profits and market share. And that is where the tragic
flaw of this system is that it has been organized
in order to maximize that. That’s one variant. If you take that any system,
biological or social or economic, and you try to maximize one
variable, it can’t stay in balance. So it goes into oscillations
which accelerate and goes into what’s then a runaway system toward,
if it’s not correct, it starts to collapse. And that maximization of corporate
profits is built into the legal and tacit understandings of
the way our economy works. So it yields us a very comfortable
lifestyle and it leave — uses a lot to keep our minds occupied. What else can we say about it? And its costs are great. So that’s the first story. The majority of people that we seem to see
and hang out with in the world and certainly that are featured and are on
the air, that’s the story. Business as usual. But there’s a second story and that
story is happening at the same time and you can choose not to open your eyes to it. And that’s the story that most scientists
and activists would see as operative and that’s what you see when
you peel back the carpet under the industrial growth society
and see what it’s costing us. And you see what’s it’s costing us in terms of
water, in terms of air, in terms of the forest, in terms of cultures, in terms of the
blinking out of cultures and languages, in terms of the spasms of extinction of our
brother-sister plant and animal species. This is what we call this story;
we call it the Great Unraveling. And this is a term that my friend,
David Korten coined and I like it a lot because that’s what systems social —
social systems and living systems do. They just don’t fall dead all at once. They just begin to — and they don’t die all at
once but that they begin to gradually unravel. And that unraveling begins to accelerate. So that’s happening to the world around us,
it’s also happening to our culture, I think. I see — I invite you to look at a culture
that needs to grow in the products it produces. Because produces the profits, of
course, are goods that you make out of the materials you draw from the
living earth and turn them into goods in a one-way linear direction and then you
don’t want them to last too long, of course, because that’s where the profits are in the
sale and then they — at the end — and weapons. Oh, that is really a good profit
making production and then waste. And so we have, over the last, you know this. I’m just saying what we already know so that we
can be with that together in our heart mindset. It has been several decades already that we
have been taking goods out of the living body of earth faster than they can renew. And at the other end, dumping the waste into
the earth, into the atmosphere, into the waters, into the soils faster than they can be absorbed. And so this — I’m just thinking
about what Chuck Lief was just saying about the sustainability program here at Naropa. You know, I’m thinking that that
would be one of the paramitas when if this had been happening back 2500
years ago when the Buddha was teaching, he would have seen that along with dana, and
viria, and shila, and all the others who were at the dinner there — and wisdom, there
would be sustainability [laughter]. That it is indeed, a spiritual
strength and a spiritual virtue. [ Applause ] I also like the word very much when
it came along because I realized that it didn’t have a moral overtone. You’re either sustainable or you’re
not, then you’re out [laughter]. You don’t have to believe, get it all
souped up about being kind or being noble. You just, clean it up or you’re out [laughter]. I’m thinking also on this story of the Great
Unraveling what’s happening to our culture. And as I think of particularly what
is happening, what has been formed to bolster the industrial growth society,
now there’s been nothing like a war on terror because then you can just keep pouring the
money into defense industries and there’s no way to say no to that, because
then you’ll be soft on terror. I’m remembering in Australia,
meeting Benny Sable. He was an activist and went in the
great rallies and some of them I’d go to and I’d see pictures of him too. He never said anything. He just stood there but the way he stood
there, he’d stand there on a pile, for example, of radioactive drums, you know,
with this radioactive sign on it. And he would just stand there. He’d be in a black wetsuit with a white
death mask painted on and written in white on the wetsuit were four commandments,
consume, obey, be silent, die. I think we’re getting closer and closer to that. This means we’re getting more — he
knows we’re getting more obedient. This morning in the airport at Oakland,
I was the only one I saw not going through that that scanning thing. You don’t have to, you know. They’re outlawed as unsafe to your
health in many European airports. But they make it very hard for you to be in
any way different and I was thinking how — and not only that, you just — how — what
encouragement do we have to speak our minds when the Supreme Court this week ruled that
a vast extension of the government’s powers of surveillance is perfectly fine. I don’t know, don’t worry about the
First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. And I go, I’m being sarcastic again [laughter]. I’m sorry. Sorry, Fran. [ Laughter ] Yeah, more of what’s happening in this Great
Unraveling, I’m thinking of the unraveling of our — up until now, and in this [inaudible], we’re talking about what’s
happening to the natural world. But now, I’m thinking of
what’s happening to our soul. I’m thinking of Bradley Manning. I’m thinking of what that young man dared to do. It’s okay if I don’t say he’s the alleged
[inaudible] of sharing the videos that he had, and the letters that he had that were classified
that showed what we were really doing in Iraq and the video of the helicopter
gunning down the people in the street. The men with their children taking them
to school and the language being used by the people manning the
guns in the helicopter. And you know that he knew that he was
going to get in trouble something big. You know that and he hesitated. It wasn’t cheap but he took that risk. Because he wanted his people
to know what was happening. He thought this is not going to stop unless
people know so I’m going to show them. I’m going to release these. And you know what? Most of what I hear from my country people,
from Congress at any rate is that he’s a traitor and deserves — even that he deserves to die. Have you heard that too? Something is happening to our
soul in this Great Unraveling. So it seems almost as if there’s a being ready
to support this consumer society at any cost and this war-making society at any
cost, to be afraid to open your mouth, to be afraid to be seen as a
troublemaker and a dissident. And I know that’s not true of all of us. But there’s you can know that
there is this tide in our country. It’s like a readiness to not only
consume — oh, what am I going to say? An irate rapacious consumption of everything we
can get our hands on as a nation from the oil, even the terrible dregs of crude that
we’re willing to do or willing to — from the Tarzans and that’s an American
operation, mainly, you know, that we are willing to use up everything that’s there. We’re willing to blow up mountains
if there’s a layer of coal. We’re willing to drill deep into
the offshore, how many millions — I mean, thousands, hundreds
of these deep well rigs. We’re willing to use it up and not leave
anything for the people coming after us. And what we don’t use up, we contaminate. So this Great Unraveling brings you a
soul-shattering vision of how ready we are to forget the future, to kill the future. So it takes us to the second story of
what we’re, what’s happening in our time. And the third story is one
that who knows how many? I think there must be millions
and millions of us who have decided yeah, we see the first story. Business as usual, that’s right, it’s going on. But we also see the Great
Unraveling, that’s going on. And now with the story we’re going to
make is a story made by we don’t want to get behind the Great Unraveling. That’s not going to be the end of the story. We’re not going to let that have the last word. And so, we take part in a phenomenon
that is really unprecedented. It seems to be in our human history and this
is what Paul Hawkens called the largest social movement in human history, of people from
all walks of life and all backgrounds, in many different ways of approaching
it, taking part in a transition to from the industrial growth
society to a life-sustaining society. So that transition is happening in our time. And we are so lucky to be alive in
a time when we can take part in it. So a lot of us call it, the Great Turning. It’s amazing to think of how big it is. You see, it is large, a watershed
in human experience. Many of the social thinkers that have been
teachers to me compare it and say is it at least as momentous as the agricultural
revolution that started 20,000 — 10,000 years ago when we settled
down, the plan changed everything. That took several centuries
but it changed everything. And it’s as big a movement, what’s going
on now as the industrial revolution that started just 300 years ago in England
changed everything, our relation to each other, to the earth, how we understand our needs, how
we understand and divide our work and now right on the heels of that, this phenomenon. Our first EPA director, you know,
Environmental Protection Agency, William Ruckelshaus, this was 25 years ago. He said, “What is needed now and
beginning to occur is a revolution as big as the agricultural revolution
and the industrial revolution. And the difference now is that it
has to happen faster and consciously. That is up to our choice.” Again, we find that we’re capable of choice. We can take that choice like take it as a most,
most precious gift and refuse to give it up. It’s so little I’m reminded of the — my Buddhist friends and teachers talking
about the intention to act for the wellbeing of all our brothers and sisters of all
beings and that intention so precious. Oh my, this — I can remember saying
like [inaudible], “This is so precious!” And you have it! So you have to protect it. It’s like a little flame in your heart and you
have to protect it so it doesn’t get blown out, so it doesn’t get starved for oxygen. It just occurs to me too, that I think
that the oxygen we need to keep the flame of [inaudible] alive, that intention is
the oxygen we make by truth speaking. So a lot of the work I do and I bet — and
a lot of what you’re doing here at Naropa is that you are taking part in the Great Turning. You’re choosing that. There are other things you could do. You could go get rich with the
industrial growth society although, that’s getting harder [laughter]. Or you could go and get crazy with the
Great Unraveling and only see that. It’s over, it’s over, ashes and you’re
acting to choose what can be done with the gift of life and with your mind. Yeah, and the — that choice
gets kind of interesting because it is totally uncertain
now which way it’s going to end up. There is no guarantee. There’s no guarantee we’re going to make it. But there never is in life. If you dare to be alive, when you fall in
love with somebody, is there a guarantee that you’re going to have
an enduring relationship? [ Laughter ] If you go into labor, is there a guarantee
you’re going to have a healthy delivery? If you plant a garden and put seeds in the
ground, is there a guarantee there’s going to be enough warmth and moisture
for a bumper crop? No, but you do it anyway because
that’s how life lives through you. That’s what it’s like to be alive. And of course, that’s totally necessary
for our — I need a word, for our stamina, for our vitality, because if someone were
able to give us, it may be a little pill, a little tablet that would assure
you it’s going to be all right. Just believe me, it’s going to be okay. It’s going to work out. Everything’s going to be fine. Oh yes, it is. I have word from above. Everything’s going to be fine.>>That’s good [laughter].>>With what? [ Laughter ] Would that bring out, would that bring out
your full attention, courage and creativity? Now, would it? No, it’s just that — that knife
edge, that razor edge of uncertainty and my favorite chapter in this book is
the last one which is called “Strengthened by Uncertainty” where we see bringing together
— the recognition of our impermanence and frailty, and the immensity
of that to which we belong. We’re here for just a moment. It’s so swift and yet we’re part of
a story that’s so long and so grand. And when I’m finding at this time in the
Great Turning that those two realizations, those two experiences, I’m
feeling very impermanent — — is married to a sense of
participation in a very big story. So the story of the Great Turning, if we
choose that, it opens us up to perceive a — for many of us, that this story that has
surrounding our breathing presence here in this moment is a story that is immense. They call it the new cosmology. Theologian Thomas Berry has written
wonderful books about it, as has Brian Swimme and Sister Miriam MacGillis and many, many others who are tracing our story
back, back to the beginnings of time. And seeing that our true story is much
bigger than our — little lifetime. Now, here’s an exercise for you. I’d like you to take the
hand of someone next to you. And give your hand either to the same
person or to someone on your other side. This is — I’m going to offer
you a hand meditation as a glimpse of the immensity of this story. We swiftly fleeting impermanent
selves are part of this vast story. Okay, you got your eyes on that hand? Now if you’re embarrassed to hold
hands with somebody you don’t know, you can look at your own hand [laughter]. Because and I can’t tell, oh yes, you
can see your hands, yes [laughter]. Okay, so here we go. Now this is an amazing object. Notice how flexible are the fingers and thumb, all those little bones in
there so delicately hinged. And notice that this hand doesn’t
have a shell, or heavy carapace, or hide [laughter] but it’s naked. Oh, the shell, the armor that
protected that hand has long since fallen away over the millennia. Now, if you were to see this hand in time
lapse photography through evolutionary time, we would want to know that every particle, and
every atom, and every molecule, and every cell, of this hand goes back, back, back
to the beginning of space and time. To that primal, flaring forth which is
how Father Berry refers to the Big Bang. And we would note that this hand was a fin once
in the Mother Seas in which life took shape. How over the millennia with changing
circumstances, it moved up on earth, these fins propelled itself,
turned into paws to claws to hands, learned to reach, to grasp, to climb. Oh, look at this, see how the thumb can
touch the fingertips of the same hand. I see that. Wow, of course! That’s an opposable thumb [laughter]. And you see that opening there, the
gap, that’s just the right size to hold onto a branch strong enough to hold your weight. And then that hand, this evolutionary journey
filled with so many chapters that restructured and reshaped this hand and this hand carries. It was shaped by all those adventures, chipping
rocks into tools, gathering seeds to plant them, weaving reeds into baskets,
taking a reed and making a flute. All those adventures are in
that hand, shaped that hand. This hand shows you how old your life really is. This could suggest you’re something
like four billion years old. It makes being 83 just nothing. [ Laughter ] And as you look at this hand, you see or
imagine, you see with your mind’s eye, all those with whom we’ve connected, realizing
that there are people in this world who know that they are worthwhile, who know that they’re
lovable because of what that hand told them. You know that there are people living
now in this world whose last touch in this life will come from this hand. And these people will be able to go into
there dying, know they’re not abandoned but still connected in the
web of life [inaudible]. And you know that there are time, people in
the future who will be guided through hard and scary times perhaps in this great adventure
of the Great Turning, who will be reassured, who will be encouraged, who will be guided
by this hand for the healing of our people. So now, you just give that
hand some last greetings. You give it a little kiss. [ Laughter ] So there are ways to — it’s been such
an adventure for me the last three, four decades of finding my way
with activists of all stripes, particularly the nuclear
activists but not just that. They — meeting with people, putting our
minds and our hands together and linking arms for the sake of something so big as moving
our people through this very tiny bit of time which is the industrial growth period. Future beings will hardly be able to take it
seriously that we had these ideas about using up the world and contaminating it. So that we’re alive now and although we
probably back then, in many forms and we’ve been through many birthing’s and dying’s, but
we’re alive now on this cusp of time. And so, we learn how to strengthen
ourselves by gladness. That’s an important part of that act of hope. You’re so glad every minute that you’re alive. And we got wonderful teachers in that. We have teachers in the native
people of this country. And I, coming from New York, feel very
indebted to the Haudenosaunee people, the Iroquois Federation with
their thanksgiving address. At every meeting, they — really where
any decisions were going to be taken, they took the time for what they call
those words that come before all else, to give greetings and thanks to the trees and to
our older brother, the sun, to grandmother moon, to the waters, to the fish, to all that makes
our planet a living healthy web of life. Then you can get down to business. But you have to receive the gift and
you receive the gift of being alive by a — an — a glad and open heart. There is no time in your life; no matter how
bad things are going that you can’t just turn to that because the open secret is that gratitude does not depend
upon external circumstances. I used to think that. I used to think things had to be just so. I approved of it for me to
feel grateful or not at all. It’s a gift of life of the breathe in your
throat, the feel of the air on your face, the incredible, beyond any words,
the sense of presence and with that presence always there’s the choice. There’s a choice to be in it and to be glad. In the Buddhist, in the Tibetan tradition as
many of you know, that’s the first reflection, preliminary reflection when you’re going
into a session of good meditative hard work and there’s nothing harder but to remember
to stop and know that what you have is a life and now what could be more rare
or precious than a human life? Just too constantly think of that, how
rare and precious is this human life? And there are wonderful ways of
imagining and sort of narrative metaphors of how rare it is with all the microbial life. When you think of that, that
you’re a human right now, wow. [ Laughter ] And precious, why is it precious? Is it because the Buddha taught and the
Buddhist think that humans are superior? Is that why is this a precious life? It’s no, it’s not because we’re better
but because we received a great gift. We can change the karma. We can choose. We can choose and not for others higher or low,
but we choose where we’re going to put our mind. Oh! We can choose that step to take. We can choose that breathing to give. We can choose where we place ourselves. Yup, and we learn how and this book
tells about how central in our work, the work that reconnects deep ecology work. We’ve had so many names for it, for
helping us take part in the great journey, how crucial it is to not be afraid of
the suffering we feel for our world, for the pain we feel for our world. Because their grief is huge, is it not? The losses are so — unspeakable and huge. The stupidity is so colossal where these
organized forms of greed, hatred and delusion, the suffering that they can inflict on our
world and what comes up in us, the sorrow and the outrage and the fear and the overwhelm. And we will not be afraid of them. We will remember that these responses from
us inside us are wholesome and natural. Why? Because this world is our larger
body, because we are not separate. And the industrial growth
society and the culture to which it has given rise is busy telling
us that these feelings, oh, you’re so dull. You’re trying for people
you don’t even know, oh. Yes, well, I guess you really had problems
with your father when you were little, and I guess that — yes, well I can see and
you look back into the thing and of course, it could just be that time of
month, but at any rate [laughter], it’s just reduced to a private pathology. And we will not fall for that! I do not want you to fall for that! [ Applause ] The wonder is that you’re able
to suffer with your world. What do you think of those in Guantanamo, when
you think of those in the detention centers, when you think of those who pass
laws about the detention centers, when you think of the great plastic
garbage patch in the Pacific, when you think of the radiation still
spewing and leaking from Fukushima? Of course, when you feel that grief,
you are suffering with your world. And that is good news indeed. Because to suffer with is the
literal meaning of compassion. You are a compassionate being. You are a bodhisattva. The bodhisattva is the one who knows that
there is no private salvation but we’re in this together and it’s
our realizing that is what and perhaps the only thing
that can save our world now. Wow! What a time to have a mind that can choose. And so we choose to embrace
our connections with each other and I’ve got to wrap this up [laughter]. The next, this weekend, I am so glad that I’m
with the environmental leadership class course. I will be working with Deep
Time and that is what we need. We were just doing that with our hand. We were just doing that when we remember
how long is the story that we are part of. Momentary as we are, impermanent as we
are, and thanks to that very impermanence, we are woven through into this very long story. And so, we can — are called now to make that
real for us and to escape from this time, this hurry trap, this compression of time
that is characterizing our dominant society where we hardly have time for anything. Time is accelerating thanks to technology
and the market forces in a growth society. So this is the moment where hurried as we are,
scared as we are, as powerless as we often feel, we can allow ourselves to feel the
presence of the past and future generations. Those ancestors are in our body. They gave us our bodies and we’re becoming
ancestors for those who are coming after us. But those who come after us are already here
even as we poison the life that they will, the earth and water that they
will need, they are in us. One of my teachers, Sister Rosalie
Bertell, is a radiologist of great genius. She died this last year. A wonderful expert witness at many a
trial, a nuclear activist and she said, “Every being who will ever
live in earth is here now.” What, where? Where? In our ovaries, and in
our gonads, and in our DNA. And the choices we make now will have
everything to do with whether they have a chance to have clean water, and air, and food,
and minds, sound minds and bodies. Isn’t that so? So the work that we’re going to be doing
which is my favorite now is the Deep Time work where we let the past and
future generations become real to us using ancient and new practices. So I love this because — and this
was a gift actually to me from working with the nuclear guardianship work that
once you see how long that poisoned fire, that radioactivity, those materials
will last [laughter] and that is in the thousands and thousands of generations. That’s longer. That’s in the billions of years. Radioactive nickel from the containment vessel,
that’s radioactive for the two million years. And you know that the depleted uranium
that we’re using in our battlefields and in the weaponry, you
know what that half-life is, 4.5 billion, that’s with a B, years. So we are called our karma, the consequences
of our actions, extend until limitless time. If you dare to see it, you can see that
we are at this center point of choice. And the future ones and the ancestors,
we can summon them by the power of our moral imagination because the value
and actually existence of their lives depends on our holding it together and
getting over this slightly period of demented organization
that we have now [laughter]. Yeah, so in doing that, what we will
be realizing our capacity to interact, to enter time in a much more
expansive way, and — we borrow from the Hua-Yen Buddhism
which is really, they had excellent — talk about moral imagination, wow! And the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Flower Garland
Sutra, all those bodhisattvas out there, they were able to embrace, bring together, the
interdependence of past, present, and future. Just as the Buddhist teachings of
dependent co-arising which helped us to recognize our interdependence in space, so
they also can through time and that we find that we are here thanks to the and
supported by the beings of all three times. So I’d like to give a taste of this
through poetry and then through song. Fortunately, it’s not me singing [laughter]. So — — here is an — here is an American —
is it okay if I take another 10 minutes?>>Yeah.>>Well, how are you going to —
how can you say no [laughter]. Yeah. Okay, well you’re here [laughter]. So this Kentucky farmer who’s a poet, Wendell
Berry, he has seen how our capacity to create with our imagination, to envision a
future can then come back and mobilize us. We can imagine that and then
it begins to show us the way. If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow growing trees on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it. If we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven, then a long time after we are dead, the
lives our lives prepare will live here. Their house is strongly placed
upon the valley sides. Fields and gardens reaching the windows, the
river will run clear as we will never know it. And over a birdsong like a canopy, on the levels of the hills will be green meadows,
stock bells, and noon shade. On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut
down the old forest, an old forest will stand. Its rich leaf fall drifting on its roots. The veins of forgotten springs will have opened. Families will be singing in the fields. In their voices, they will hear
music risen out of the ground. They will take nothing from the ground. They will not return whatever
the grief at parting. Memory native to this valley will spread over it
like a grove and memory will grow into legend. Legend into song. Song into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and these birds will be health
and wisdom and indwelling light. This is no paradisal dream. Its hardship is its possibility. You know, I’ve read that
before and in another version, I have I [inaudible] — word is reality. Its hardship is its reality. Let’s take that one [laughter]. Then when you let the future in, because that
comes with that intention, that choosing to work for life to go on then your life isn’t the same. And the young poet, Rainer
Maria Rilke, who wroteLettersto a Young Poetrmal, he mentions this. He was writing over a hundred years ago but
he knows, as you can tell from his other poems that this 20th century was going to be hard. So he, but his — I love the way
he talks about what it does to us when we dare to care about the future ones. It seems to me that all our
sadnesses are moments of tension. When we feel as a paralysis because we can
no longer experience our banished feelings. Because we are alone with the
unfamiliar presence that has entered us. Because we feel momentarily abandoned
by what we believed and grown accustomed to because we can’t keep standing
as the ground shifts under our feet. So this is why the sadness passes like a wave. The new presence inside us —
so this is what I want you — Joanna talking, this is what I want you
to invite, a new presence inside you. It comes with being alive so
it’s already there, of course. The presence is the future
and the future’s stake in you. The new presence inside us, that which
has come to us has entered our heart, has found its way to its innermost chamber. It’s no longer even there. It is already in our blood
and we don’t know what it was. We could easily be persuaded that nothing
happened and yet something has changed inside us as a house changes when a guest comes into it. We cannot say who has entered. We may never know but there are many indications
that the future enters us in just this way, to transform itself within
us long before it happens. A poem by Rilke. Also one of my Deep Time inspirations. This time as it passes really destroy? It may rip the fortress from
its rock but can this heart, that belongs to God be torn
from him by circumstance? Ah, the knowledge of impermanence that
haunts our days is their very fragrance. We in our striving think we should
last forever but could we be used by the sacred if we were not ephemeral? Ah, the knowledge of impermanence that
haunts our days is their very fragrance. Oh, the pleasure of it and he’s
looking back at the first humans. Oh, the pleasure of it always
emerging new from the loosened clay. Those who dared to come first
had hardly any help. Nevertheless, cities arose on sun-favored
coasts and pitchers filled with water and oil. We are one generation through
thousands of years. Mothers and fathers shaped by children to
come, who, in their turn, will overtake them. We are endlessly offered
into life, all time is ours. And what anyone of us might be worth,
death alone knows and doesn’t tell. And lastly, I close with a prayer. It’s a prayer I wrote to the future beings. They were coming to be so insistent in my mind. They often located themselves
behind my left shoulder. They’d pipe up if I was discouraged. So I’m talking to them. You live as — you live inside
us, beings of the future. In the spiral ribbons of
our cells, you are here. In our rage for the burning
forests, the poisoned fields, the oil-drowned seals, you are here. You beat in our hearts through
late-night meetings. You accompany us to clear cuts, and toxic
dumps, and the halls of the lawmakers. It is you who drive our dogged
labors to save what is left. O you, who will walk this Earth
when we are gone, stir us awake. Behold with our eyes the beauty of this world. Let us feel your breath in our
lungs, your cry in our throat. Let us see you in the poor,
the homeless, the sick. Haunt us with your hunger;
hound us with your claims, that we may honor the life that links us. You have as yet no faces we
can see, no names we can say. But we need only hold you in our
mind, and you teach us patience. You attune us to measures of time where healing
can happen, where soil and souls can mend. You reveal courage within us we had
not suspected, love we had not owned. O you, who come after, help us
remember: we are your ancestors. Fill us with gladness for
the work that must be done. So be it. So now — [ Applause ] I’d like to introduce Kathleen
Sullivan, a blessing in my life, a colleague over the last 25 years in
anti-nuclear work and in many adventures. You name it. And I was talking a little bit ago about Hua-Yen
Buddhism and the Avatamsaka Sutra and there, the bodhisattva’s capacity to embrace the beings
of the three times, past, present, and future and to let them widen and expand life
and intention is given a beautiful play. And in them, is the notion of in doing that,
there are meditative spaces waiting for you and you can enter them and so these are known
as the Ten Enterings of the Bodhisattva. And I asked Kathleen and a
friend of hers to [inaudible] — these teachings were so important to me to
put them to music so you’re going to hear it.>>Oh, thank you. Thank you. [Singing] When a bodhisattva — when
a bodhisattva tames the 10 wisdoms, she can then perform the 10 universal enterings. What are they? To bring all the universes into one hair
and one hair into all the universes. To bring all sentient beings’
bodies into one body and one body into all sentient beings’ bodies. To bring inconceivable kalpas into one moment,
and one moment into inconceivable kalpas. To bring all the Buddha’s
Dharmas into one Dharma, and one Dharma into all the Buddha’s Dharmas. To bring an inconceivable
number of places into one place, and one place into an inconceivable
number of places. To bring an inconceivable
number of organs into one organ, and one organ into an inconceivable
number of organs. To bring all organs into one non-organ,
and one non-organ into all organs. To make all thoughts into one thought,
and one thought into all thoughts. To bring all voices and languages into
one voice and language, and one voice and language into all voices and languages. To make all the three times into one time,
and one time into all the three times. This is the Supreme Samadhi. [ Applause ] Thank you. [ Bell Ringing ]

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