Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mary Oliver: To Live In This World

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
 is salvation,
 whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
- Mary Oliver, In Blackwater Woods

Friday, November 28, 2014

Rachel Naomi Remen: Acting Compassionately

Photo by Molly
When we know ourselves to be connected to all others, 
acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do. 

Tara Brach: Seeing With an Open, Kind and Loving Heart

Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance. If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustain the trance of unworthiness. Radical Acceptance directly dismantles the very foundations of this trance.

Pema Chödrön: Learning How To Be Kind

Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important. The reason it's important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn't just ourselves that we're discovering. We're discovering the universe.
Pema Chödrön

If We Could Look Into Each Other's Hearts

Photo by Molly
If we could look into each other's hearts
and understand the unique challenges each of us faces,
I think we would treat each other much more gently,
with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.

 Marvin Ashton

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Meister Eckhart: A Prayer of Thanks

If the only prayer you said was thank you, 
that would be enough.

Thanksgiving Day Reflections On Gratitude

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

On this Thanksgiving Day I am drawn to reflect on gratitude. I could write a book on gratitude, the great teacher and gift that it is, but will confine myself in this space to what comes most spontaneously to me in these few precious morning moments. 

I am grateful that nearly 30 years ago I first heard someone speak of the value of having a "gratitude practice," something I had never heard of before but which took root in my heart and has since grown stronger with each passing year. Amazing how this seed planted in my being decades ago has changed my life. On Thanksgiving - and every day - I remember and practice and give thanks for gratitude.

I am grateful for Mother Earth. She nourishes and sustains all life. I am grateful for the Earth's beauty, including that which is out our back door. I give thanks for the abundant gifts which Mother Earth offers to us all.

I am grateful for my family - the family I was born into, my beautiful family of today, my ancestors, my family of friends and loved ones, the family of all beings to which I am a part of. Our amazing sons, my beloved husband, and others have nourished my heart, mind, spirit, soul. My gratitude is infinite.

I am grateful for the consciousness and experience of the Sacred. I experience this Mystery as woven through myself and all of life. I am aware of our Interbeing, this amazing connection that weaves us all together. I am grateful for the experience of the beauty of my true nature, which empowers me to see yours.

I am grateful for James Garbarino who first gave me the idea - and planted the seeds - of how we each have a "circle of caring," and how that circle can intentionally and mindfully be expanded. This has been such an organic process of moving from a place of pervasive disassociation, disconnection, and perception of separateness to opening to an ever more deepening sense of how we are all related, we are all part of the Sacred One. Over time I have come to stop killing spiders, to no longer eat anything with a face, to bowing to others in the recognition of the beauty of the Sacred within. And fear and shame, addictions and distortions, trauma and triggers, perceptions of aloneness and separation have grown to have an ever diminishing hold on me. Wow. This has been such an amazing transformation, for which I am eternally grateful. And it's ongoing! Yay!

I am grateful for all the teachers, mentors, healers, wise, courageous and compassionate ones whose paths have crossed mine. The list is far too great to even attempt to name here. I am grateful to have been blessed with the courage to open to the teachings and transformations that have come from the many teachers who have graced my life. I bow to you.

I am grateful for the power of intention, of mindfulness, of beauty, of humor and laughter and love.

I am grateful for joy and sorrow. Both have carved my heart deeper and brought me greater humility, empathy, compassion, tenderness, wisdom and love.

I am grateful for each precious moment of life. My heart overflows with gratitude and thanks for this path of Mystery, of Heart, of Compassion, Healing, and Love that has served to grow my heart bigger and support me in becoming more wholly who I am.

My gratitude list could go on and on, but I will stop here...

My prayer on this Thanksgiving Day is for all the blessings and gifts that most nourish you and bring you joy and beauty, strength and courage, healing and understanding, compassion and love. Bless you. Bless us all.

With a heart full of gratitude and blessing,


Satish Kumar: Why My 8,000 Mile Walk to Meet Martin Luther King Was Worth It

martin luther king

 Martin Luther King: ‘The power of non-violence is the supreme power to bring peace and harmony between blacks and whites.’ Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Image
Satish Kumar walked 8,000 miles to spread the message of peace around the world. Here he gives his recipe for a better world.
W hen I set off on my 8,000-mile long walk, I thought that peace was a political issue. I walked from New Delhi, from the grave of Mahatma Gandhi to Moscow, Paris, London and Washington DC, delivering packets of peace tea to political leaders. Some 50 years ago, I stood at the grave of John F Kennedy thinking that if only politicians could see the point of peace, all would be well. But now I have realised that peace is as much a matter of economics as it is a matter of politics.
Wars are about power and control over resources. Political power is part of it but what drives the politics of war is greed for greater and greater profit derived from the possession of natural resources such as petroleum, uranium, rainforests and land.
If the overarching aim of the economy and business is to strive for higher living standards and ever increasing economic growth, then access to and ownership of natural resources becomes an imperative. In such a context national interest, national defense and national security becomes dependent on acquisition of natural resources wherever they are. More powerful countries such as the US or China spread their military bases around the world. As long as societies are driven by ever-increasing consumerism there can be no hope for ending wars and establishing peace among nations.
The biggest challenge for our time is to create a new kind of economics, business and politics that can be rooted in the soil of ethics and spirituality. To get there, we need to move towards more local businesses and economies, as well as more human-scale companies, rather than global multinational corporations that are heavy on the environmental resources. We need to create successful examples of businesses that integrate sustainability with profit and we have to inspire companies to look at the triple bottom line: environmental profit, social profit and financial profit.
Peace is not merely absence of war. Peace is a way of life; a life based in voluntary frugality and elegant simplicity. Instead of an unlimited search for material prosperity peaceful societies need to seek personal, social and environmental well-being. As the example of Bhutan shows, instead of seeking gross national product peaceful societies seek gross national happiness.
Wars are always good business for those who are engaged in the manufacture and trade of arms, and thus the jobs of a vast number of decent citizens become dependent on the research, development and sale of arms. Huge investment is devoted to innovating technologies that can be used effectively and efficiently for militaristic adventures. Thus the control of natural resources on one hand, and the arms trade on the other, become twin causes of international conflict.
In order to satisfy human greed not only do nations go to war against other nations but they wage war against nature itself. Animals are treated with horrific cruelty in huge factory farms where thousands of pigs and cows are no more than a means of profit. The over-fishing of the oceans, the destruction of rain forests and the poisoning of the land are no less than acts of war against nature.
If humanity is genuinely to pursue the path of peace then we have to change the way we do business. There is always some room for moderate profit but the purpose of business and the motivation of those involved in business has to arise from a mind of caring, sharing and sustainability.
Such motivation cannot be imposed by government, it has to emerge from within each and every person and it has to be an integral part of social and political culture. The seeds of greed, consumerism and materialism are there in every human mind. In order to establish peace in the world we have to start by making peace within ourselves. A greedy mind cannot be a peaceful mind. A peaceful mind is a mind of contentment and fulfillment.
After my long walk I traveled to Atlanta to meet Martin Luther King. At that time black men and women could not vote, could not use the same school, the same hotel, restaurant or bus as the white population. In our conversation King said, “racial discrimination is violence, a kind of war on the blacks. The response to this violence has to be non-violent and my non-violence cannot be merely superficial and purely a technique of protest. My non-violence has to come from deep within the heart. The power of non-violence is the supreme power to bring peace and harmony between blacks and whites.”
King’s reference to racial war is relevant to all wars. His method of bringing racial peace is a method to bring peace at every level.
My 8,000 mile long walk to meet Martin Luther King was worth every step.
- Satish Kumar
Please go here for the original article:
Satish Kumar’s autobiography, No Destination is published by Green Books, Cambridge (2014).

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happiness and Well-Being Trump Material Growth

Monks play volleyball at Rabdey Dratsang in the southeastern district of Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan

 Monks play volleyball in Bhutan, where the Gross National Happiness Framework was developed. Photograph: Str/REUTERS

Happiness is more important than GDP. This will not be a surprising statement for many, but what is surprising is that the statement comes from the former head of the civil service, permanent secretary to the Treasury and UK member of the IMF, Lord Gus O'Donnell. The statement coincided with the launch of the Wellbeing and Policy Report, commissioned by the Legatum Institute.
The idea of putting happiness at the heart of our economy is not new, but is not the focus of mainstream policy or culture in western economies. We have long been led to believe that GDP growth is ultimately the measure of a country's progress, creating jobs, investment and production of goods and services. However, our focus on spending our way to happiness is not borne out either by people's experience or by the statistical evidence.
The Legatum Report calls for a new policy direction that puts wellbeing at the core of economy and society. It shows that people are much happier in strong communities where trust is high and that mental health is the single biggest factor explaining cross sectional variation in life satisfaction. The core message that money does not buy happiness is borne out by many other studies. For example, a YouGov poll recently commissioned by Action for Happiness revealed that the majority of British people (87%) would choose happiness for their society rather than money (chosen by only 8%).
According to the same poll, when asked to choose the three most important factors for personal happiness, "relationships with my partner/family" came out top (80%), with "my health" in second place (71%) and "money" third (42%). "My possessions" polled a mere 4% of votes.
This is not a purely a British phenomena. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their highly acclaimed book, The Spirit Level found that behind the economic growth statistics lies a more important trend. We now know that "economic growth and increases in average incomes have ceased to contribute much to wellbeing in rich countries". What is far more important in indicating level of happiness is the level of income inequality. Across countries and over time, they revealed a consistent finding that reducing inequality is the best way of improving the real quality of life in developed economies.
This shift in focus from material growth to equality and wellbeing goes to the heart of the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH is more than a concept, it is a living experiment in an alternative development path pursued by Bhutan. Dr Tho Ha Vinh, programme director of the Centre of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan was invited to share the country's experience in GNH with participants at a recent course in the economics of happiness at Schumacher College in South Devon.
The definition of GNH from the first elected prime minster of Bhutan is clearly different from our popular understanding of "happiness", in our popular culture linked to feeling good, leisure and pleasure.
"We have now clearly distinguished the 'happiness'… in GNH from the fleeting, pleasurable, 'feel good' moods so often associated with that term. We know that true abiding happiness cannot exist while others suffer, and comes only from serving others, living in harmony with nature, and realising our innate wisdom and the true and brilliant nature of our own minds."
So, what is the Gross National Happiness Framework initially developed in Bhutan that is now having influence all over the globe? The Framework is based on the four pillars of preservation of the environment, preservation and promotion of culture, sustainable and equitable socio-economic development and good governance. The pillars are further refined into nine domains and a weighted index of 33 indicators.
Please go here to continue this article: 
 Julie Richardson is a senior lecturer in economics for transition, a postgraduate programme run in partnership between Schumacher College and Plymouth University

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Joanna Macy: Passionate Love For Our World

You're always asked to sort of stretch a little bit more, and actually we're made for that. But in any case, there's absolutely no excuse for making our passionate love for our world dependent on what we think of its degree of health, whether we think it's going to go on forever. This moment, you're alive. 

– Joanna Macy

Satish Kumar: The Link Between Soil, Soul and Society

We are losing connection with the soil. Satish Kumar wants us to understand the connection between soil, soul and society and drop ego in favour of eco 

Warming worry over soil microbes

 Soil is the source of life but we are losing connection with it. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

Many historical movements in the world have three key words that express their spirit. During the French Revolution the words were "liberté, égalité, fraternité", in the American Declaration of Independence they were "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".
The implication of both phrases is very similar. It is human life, human liberty, human equality and human happiness. Even the words adopted by the New Age movement - "mind, body, spirit" - refer to the human mind, human body and human spirit. It's an anthropocentric worldview - the view that human beings are at the centre of the universe.
This worldview is no longer valid - we are utterly dependent on other species and we have to take care of them. We are members of one Earth community and need a new trinity that is holistic and inclusive, that embraces the entire planet and all species upon it. So I propose a new trinity of soil, soul, society. Soil represents the entire natural world. Without soil there is no food and without food there is no life, trees, forests, animals or people.
In our education systems, we have come to think that soil simply means dirt and that dirt means dirty. But dirt is not dirty; it is the source of life. Without it there is no life.
We are related to and dependent on the soil. If somebody grows food, we think: "Oh poor man, peasant, labourer - he is not educated so he has to grow food." If you are educated you don't grow food - you manufacture cars, televisions, computers or work in a bank or office. We sit at our computers and our food comes from somewhere.
The word peasant itself has become a term of an insult. I want to change that. I want to reinstate a respect for soil. We must touch the soil. How many times do we touch our mobile phone every day? Maybe 100 times. How many times do we touch the soil? Hardly ever. We must give dignity to peasants, farmers and gardeners.
We are all part of this healthy web of life maintained by soil. The Latin word humus means soil. The words human, humility and humus all come from the same root. When humans lose contact with soil, they are no longer humans.
Trees, animals, plants, rocks, mountains, rivers, worms, butterflies, honeybees – all have intrinsic value. They have the right to be as they are. We talk about human rights, and that's fine. But nature also has rights. The trees have a right to exist. We have no right to cut them down without proper purpose. When we recognise the rights of nature, then we have understood the meaning of the word soil.
The second word in my new trinity is soul. Soul is something we cannot see. The human body we can touch, hug, kiss and admire, but in order to touch soul I have to close my eyes. Everything – trees, animals, worms and humans – has a soul. Soil is the outer landscape and soul, the inner landscape.
We need to take care of the soul, as we take care of the soil. But we can only take care of the soul when we slow down. Take time for ourselves. Meditate on the fact that you represent the totality of the universe. There is nothing in the universe that is not in you, and there is nothing in you that is not in the universe. The universe is the macrocosm and you are the microcosm. You are earth, air, fire, water, imagination, creativity, consciousness, time and space – you have all this in your soul, in your genes and in your cells. You are billions of years old.
Please continue this article here: 
Satish Kumar is the editor-in-chief of Resurgence & Ecologist. His new book Soil, Soul, Society is published by Leaping Hare Press.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Interdependence of All Living Beings

We need to embrace all of society. We need to solve social problems of poverty and wars with imagination, compassion, creativity and forgiveness. All problems can be solved by negotiation, friendship, giving in, letting go of ego and going into eco. Let us make a shift from from self-interest to mutual-interest of whole human society. If we can have a holistic view of soil, soul and society, if we can understand the interdependence of all living beings, and understand that all living creatures – from trees to worms to humans – depend on each other, then we can live in harmony with ourselves, with other people and with nature.

- Satish Kumar 

Dr. Tho Ha Vinh: True Abiding Happiness

"We have now clearly distinguished the 'happiness'… in GNH - Gross National Happiness - from the fleeting, pleasurable, 'feel good' moods so often associated with that term. We know that true abiding happiness cannot exist while others suffer, and comes only from serving others, living in harmony with nature, and realising our innate wisdom and the true and brilliant nature of our own minds."

Dr Tho Ha Vinh, programme director 

Satish Kumar: A Mind of Caring, Sharing, Sustainability

If humanity is genuinely to pursue the path of peace then we have to change the way we do business. There is always some room for moderate profit but the purpose of business and the motivation of those involved in business has to arise from a mind of caring, sharing and sustainability.

Such motivation cannot be imposed by government, it has to emerge from within each and every person and it has to be an integral part of social and political culture. The seeds of greed, consumerism and materialism are there in every human mind. In order to establish peace in the world we have to start by making peace within ourselves. A greedy mind cannot be a peaceful mind. A peaceful mind is a mind of contentment and fulfillment.
- Satish Kumar 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

David Richo: The Human Heart

Enlightenment can only be embodied in the world by people who love one another. So relationships are not about how two people can survive each other but about how the whole world becomes more capable of love, with all its dim anguish and glowing rapture...

The human heart holds much more love than it can ever disburse in one lifetime.

- David Richo, How To Be An Adult In Relationships:
The Five Keys to Mindful Loving

An Interview with Satish Kumar at the New Story Summit

This is a fabulous, rich, beautiful interview. Deeply spiritual, moving, enlightening. Another world is possible. Bless all beings ~ Molly

Kosmos: Satish, what is your perspective on the New Story?
Satish Kumar: The New Story will be a story of reunion, reconnection. In the last couple of hundred years, we have come to believe that nature is separate from us and we are separate from nature. Nature is out there, and we can do what we like to it. We can cut down the rain forest. We can put animals in factory farms and slaughter them as we like. We can over-fish the oceans. We can pollute the rivers. We can pollute the water and change climate. We are somehow superior to nature. We are somehow rulers of nature. That’s the old story. The new story is that we are part of nature. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist master says, we are interbeings. Nothing is separate. The New Story is that we are all interrelated. We take care of each other. We are dependent on each other. Therefore, replenishing the soil, replenishing society and being part of one continuum—that’s the new story.
The scientific world, the materialistic world, the world of commerce, the world of business, the world of individualism, the world of capitalism, world of communism—all these worlds are the old story now. Where we think we exploit nature, we exploit people. Market rules, profit rules, money rules. We work for name, fame, power, money, profit. That’s the old story.
Kosmos: Where do you see The New Story being lived right now?
SK: The New story is emerging. It is emerging in communities, like Findhorn community, like Schumacher College, like ecovillages. The New Story is being played out through art, culture, music, and communities. And through the ecological movement and ecovillages movement. We are waking up. We are not slaves of the market. Our human life has a greater meaning than making money, making profit, and working for the market or for multinational corporations. Multinational corporations and a market economy have transformed human beings into instruments of making money. Human beings should be the end. And money should be the means to an end. Caring for nature should be the end and money should be a means to take care of nature. The New Story turns that around, and makes money into means. And nature, humanity, and human welfare, human well-being, human happiness—these are the ends. So, these are the kind of transformations that we are creating. And this is happening now.
Large numbers of young people are waking up. And they are saying, “We are not here just to work for multinational corporations and make money for them. We are here to live. We have to find the meaning of life.” The old story is a story of measurement. And the New Story is to bring measurement and meaning together. You cannot measure meaning.
Kosmos: So, an economy that serves meaning, and serves our inner being, and serves ecology, the rest of living creation. What does that really look like on the ground level?
SK: It’s an emerging story. And in this emerging story, people are are moving away from the fossil fuel-based economy, to a more renewable economy. That is what is called the ‘transition town’ movement. There are three hundred towns in Britain that are making this transition. Taking energy from solar power, from wind power, from water power—all this is part of the New Story.
Then there is the old story of food. It doesn’t matter where or how it is grown as long as it is packaged in plastic, put on the supermarket shelves, and bought as a commodity. In the New Story food is not commodity. Food is sacred. We need to be connected with soil, with animals that we take care of. So, the relationship between food and humans is the emerging story. We respect food, and we participate in growing it. Earth is a living entity. And if it’s a living organism, then we have to have a reverence for all life. Food should be local, organic rather than grown with chemical fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. And then, we should also have natural food, rather than consuming genetically engineered food. So, New Story is a story of wholeness, relatedness, connectedness.
To continue this interview, please go here:
 This interview appears in the current Fall/Winter issue of Kosmos Journal.