Monthly Archives: October 2009

scriptio divina

in a guest post at alison’s blog writing mental illness, i discuss the idea of scriptio divina, or spiritual writing. here is a little excerpt:

i don’t think it’s possible to truly connect with ourselves and with the divine (whatever you want to call it; from the traditional christian god to the new age universe to the values held dear by atheists) without connecting with what’s going on in the rest of the world and engaging in some sort of social activism, however modest.

you might also enjoy a little poetry in that post.

blog action day: buddhists and climate change

once again, blog action day and the october buddhist carnival fall on the same date. let me present to you, then, a few colourful strands from that corner of the blogosphere where buddhism and climate change intersect.

icebergs are buddhist monks
we always start that buddhist carnival with a poem. here is an excerpt from yann martel’s long poem that was part of guy laliberte’s poetic social mission which he broadcast from space. it features a water drop speaking:

icebergs are buddhist monks i send forth,
released into the world from the great monasteries of the poles.
their mantra is the blue light humming within their frozen cores.
their message is peace and oneness,
but alas they simply vanish.
every year monks leave me and never return.

read the rest here.

how much impact?
one of the criticisms that guy laliberte received was that he frivolously spent millions on his space trip, money that could have been spent much more wisely down on earth. the next article is in a similar vein. one city is one of beliefnet’s buddhist blogs. the next post is a discussion of colin beavan’s no impact man. paul griffin, the author of this blog entry, mentions another review of the book by elizabeth kolbert

kolbert, a seasoned environmental reporter (her 2006 three-part series “the climate of man” was terrific), sharply criticizes beavan’s project, calling it a “stunt” and “shtick.” she compares beavan’s book, along with alisa smith and james mackinnon’s “plenty: eating locally on the 100 mile diet” and vanessa farquharson’s “sleeping naked is green: how an eco-cynic unplugged her fridge, sold her car, and found love in 266 days,” to thoreau’s “walden.” she claims that all of these books, thoreau’s included, are mere stunts.

griffin uses this criticism to muse on the perhaps false dichotomy between personal and political activism. is the no impact man, who spent a year leaving as small of an ecological footprint as possible just middle-class cute? or does his influence reach deeper? it’s a question that most of us bleeding-heart-do-gooders often ask ourselves. i don’t think there is an easy answer bit i also think it’s an important question to revisit once in a while.

buddhist declaration on climate change – walking the noble eightfold path
towards froglessness discusses the buddhist declaration on climate change and points out how the noble eightfold path lays out ways in which it can be walked in an environmentally conscious way, for example

right mindfulness – we have a responsibility to use the world’s resources carefully, with gratitude, and to share examples of good practice

right concentration – we have a responsibility to focus on the issues at the heart of our modern malaise, both spiritual and material

who is nature?
andre from belarus – it’s nice to have a voice from outside north america – gives a general overview over a buddhist answer to the climate challenge, citing thich nhat hanh:

we classify other animals and living beings as nature, acting as if we ourselves are not part of it. then we pose the question ”how should we deal with nature?” we should deal with nature the way we should deal with ourselves; we should not harm nature… human beings and nature are inseparable.

the vancouver buddhist fellowship, a socially engaged local group, also talks about nonduality – the nonduality of ecology and economy, pointing out that

what motivates our economic system is the drive to use anything and everything (now “natural resources,” including “human resources”) to create something that is really nothing. we don’t usually notice the absurdity of this because we are preoccupied with the more and more that the system produces. the fact that so many of us already have more than we need is addressed by manipulating our awareness, in increasingly sophisticated ways, so that we always want something else that we don’t yet have. it’s always the next _______ (fill in the blank) that will satisfy us.

max frisch said that technology is the knack of arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it. that’s why modern technologies fit so well with consumer capitalism, which works to transform the whole biosphere into consumer goods. together they are making mother earth into a gigantic walmart.

paul gilding at ecobuddhism, on the other hand, talks about duality – the crazy-making experience of looking at what science seems to clearly indicate on the one hand, and what happens in many boardrooms on the other hand:

it is very clear when you listen to these scientists and read their peer-reviewed reports that, on any calm and rational analysis, we should be preparing for a carbon reduction war. yes, a war – with all that implies about focus, effort and sacrifice. the threat posed is, after all, a “clear and present danger” and the response should be strong, global and immediate. this should be a ‘whatever it takes’ moment.

then i shift into the parallel universe. i spend time in corporate boardrooms and listen to the analysis of business executives who explain how we mustn’t damage the economy by “over-reacting”. they explain their concern about protecting jobs and economic growth, how we must not jeopardise “our” (insert india, china, south africa, USA, australia etc) national competitiveness by acting “early” because, after all, without a global solution what difference will our actions make anyway?

(thanks for reminding me of this blog, george!)

the himalayas, part 1

apa sherpa , the world record holder for mt. everest ascents, has once again scaled the world’s tallest peak, but this time as a member of WWF nepal’s climate for life project.

apa reached the summit on the 21st of may as part of a ten person team, six of whom made it to the top. the idea behind this project was twofold. one to highlight climate change and place a holy bhumpa at the peak personally blessed by the venerable rinpoche of tengboche (buddhist spiritual leader). (the bhumpa is an eight-inch tall copper-made sacred vase which contains 400 elements including precious metals, buddhist relics, shreds of robes worn by venerated monks, holy water and soil, among other things).

the rest of the article is here

the himalayas, part 2

[in december of 2008,] high up in leh, ladakh, one of the most remote and mountainous areas of india, over 1,500 people gathered for a beautiful display of their concern for climate change and their call for a world returned to less than 350 ppm co2.

ladakh, like more and more places around the globe, is already facing real challenges in face of climate change ” unpredictable weather, floods, and the prospects of diminished water supply from glacial melt. all this and more, is reason enough for the people of ladakh to stand up and call for bold action around the world as they did today.

a bit more wisdom, please
the wisdom quarterly american buddhist journal features a number of articles on climate change. while they are interesting (for example, an article on climate change in canada’s nunavut, formerly known as northwest territories, and another article on how climate change nurtures the growth of diseases) they are reprints from news services, not original articles. it would be interesting to have a commentary on the wisdom quarterly’s buddhist views of these world events (i’m thinking of the good work alexander does in this area with his commentaries from a baha’i view.)


what do you/i/we take from all this? nonduality and duality; the personal and the political; water and ice; mountains, higher than most can imagine, and stuffy, air-conditioned boardrooms. what would buddha do? what IS buddha doing?

canadian thanksgiving: 20 things i’m thankful for

i’m thankful for

the smell of the blanket my daughter likes to use on the sofa
the dimples in my older grandson’s cheeks
the sweet little voice of my younger grandson
the particular shade of purple of the asters on my front yard

i like thinking about the specifics, somehow it gives my gratitude more texture and colour.

the way my husband wears his jeans
my middle eastern spices
my little yoda figurine
giggling at the way my son’s gray temples make him look distinguished

gratitude makes me feel good, especially when i look at all these little things. will my feel-good-ness spread to others?

my daughter-in-law’s proud profile
my brother-in-law’s cool little emails about his twin sons
my mother-in-law’s lemon chicken
how fluffy our IKEA blankets are

i like my in-laws! how lucky am i? despite a few hiccups here and there (some of them painful at times), i am blessed with an exceptionally harmonious family. am doing enough to take this harmony out into the world?

my friend katana’s cool fashion sense
the banter with my twitter friend @barkingunicorn
the neat new hairdo of one of the cashiers at my neighbourhood supermarket
the way the fraser river mirrors the sky at the canada line crossing

noticing a lot of “my’s” and “i’s” there. is that because i’m looking at the particular and not the general? the little world around me, not the big universal picture?

my red toenails
the softness of my favourite stuffed animal
the sun-and-moon blanket in my office
how healthy and hard my fingernails are

(and i’m thankful to sukanto for taking this beautiful picture)

mental illness awareness week 2009

today marks the end of mental illness awareness week. here are some bloggers who wrote about it, and a poem

and here’s my contribution, a poem i wrote about 15, 16 years ago. you’ll be happy to hear that the suitcase has been emptied.

i’ve been carrying around with me
for all these years
a hidden suitcase of despair

once in a while
i go and open it
inspect it
under the covers of my
sheltering bed

i am delighted at its contents:
colourful puppets and leftover trinkets
spill out
and one or two caterpillars, brillant in the half shade
of what little light pierces
the soft, warm clouds of my duvet

then, when i hear footsteps
i close it
camouflage it
so that no-one
can steal
not even with a glimpse
my precious suitcase
brimming with exquisite anguish

blog action day

october 15 is blog action day.

blog action day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. the aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.

the goal

first and last, the purpose of blog action day is to create a discussion. bloggers are asked to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.

by doing so on the same day, the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.

out of this discussion naturally flow ideas, advice, plans, and action. in 2007 on the theme of the environment, we saw bloggers running environmental experiments, detailing innovative ideas on creating sustainable practices, and focusing their audience’s attention on organizations and companies promoting green agendas. in 2008 we covered the theme of poverty, and similarly focused the blogging community’s energies around discussing the wide breadth of the issue from many perspectives and identifying innovative and unexpected solutions. this year we aim to do the same for climate change, an issue that threatens us all.

how you can help

from the smallest online journals to huge online magazines, blog action day is about mass participation. anyone is free to join in on blog action day and there is no limit on the number of posts, the type of posts or the direction of thoughts and opinions.

how it all started

blog action day was founded by collis & cyan ta’eed in the summer of 2007. with the support of their team at envato in australia as well as numerous volunteers, they recruited over 20,000 bloggers to write about the issue of environment on october 15, 2007 – making the first blog action day an immediate and quite unexpected success.

in 2009, collis and cyan asked the team at, the world’s leading blog network for social issues, to take over responsibility of blog action day and expand its reach. we were honored to accept the offer.

want to participateÉ click on the image at the beginning of the post.

the dalai lama in vancouver

last week i had the pleasure again to see the dalai lama. the topic of the talk was women and peacebuilding. i’d like to share with you my notes, taken down as closely as possible in his delightful language.

this is the third time i’ve seen the dalai lama. one of the things that i enjoy about these talks is that they always underscore the same message, but from a slightly different angle. also, simply being in the presence of the dalai lama (even when he falls asleep partway through the session, as he did this time, so exhausted from his super demanding schedule) is inspiring. not because he is grave and religious. he is the funniest head of state i’ve ever encountered; a trickster, really. you know that smile that he always shows? it’s the smile not only of happiness but of someone who delights in having fun and making jokes, and that comes through all the time in his talks. and like any true comedian, he is irreverent, he always looks at the status quo and says, “hmmmmmmmmmm ….”.

another thing i absolutely love about him is the ease with which he says, “i don’t know.” wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people in authority would simply say “i don’t know” when they don’t have an immediate answer to a question? no spinning, no ignoring the question and talking about something totally different, no pretending you know … so refreshing!

the quotes below reflect in a small way, i hope, the dalai lama’s commitment to compassion, his view on the role of anger, the importance he places on motivation, his urging us to take action, his deep respect for diversity, his global thinking, and his deep passion for the environment, the alleviation of poverty, and the central place of education.

the dalai lama will be back next year, i hear. we here in vancouver are very lucky to have been chosen by him as the dalai lama center for peace and education.

compassion practitioner

some anger also have role

harsh method does not mean we feel anger towards the person

anger immediate motivation

be content and still outraged

serious concern for wellbeing of humanity

anything that is harmful, you oppose

“what is your greatest fear?” “environment. gap between rich and poor, not only on international level but also on national level.”

frustration creates anger, sometimes violence

the female? good talk, i like it

they call me many things. god king, living buddha, monster, feminist – don’t matter

if no more dalai lama – no important

in case female dalai lama can be more effective – why not?

where is compassion? in the slums

media should pay equal attention to the positive things

“do you feel optimistic about the world?” “oh yes! our life starts with compassion! our life begin with lovingkindness”

this body go well with peaceful mind

we need motivation

compassion really also from the beginning to the time of death

human nature gentleness

whenever i meet young people, i give them hope and importance

peace starts within ourself. then that creates a certain atmosphere

will we be an extremist for love?

the facts should be written down, and then there will be a change in consciousness

everything tight, fear, distress: no creativity

there must be opportunity to express human potential

different country, different situation

whole world become like one community, then implement local situation – but same goal

i want to say yes to everything!

research and education very essential

image by elton melo