Diversity and Selfness

"We don't have to surrender our individuality to experience the world as an extended self and its story as our own extended story. The liver, leg, and lung that are 'mine' are highly distinct from each other, thank goodness, and each has a distinctive role to play. The larger 'selfness' we discover today is not an undifferentiated unity. As in all living systems, intelligence depends on the integrative play of diversity. Diversity is a source of resilience. This is good news because this time of great challenge demands more commitment, endurance, and courage than any one of us can dredge up out of our own individual supply. We can learn to draw on the other neurons in the neural net and view them with gratitude. The acts and intentions of others are like seeds that can germinate and bear fruit through our own lives, as we take them in and dedicate that awareness to the healing of our world."
World as Lover, World as Self

Cultivating Reverence

"Spiritual exercises for cultivating reverence for life arise now out or many traditions and are welcomed by people regardless of their religious affiliation. I have found adaptations from Buddhist practices particularly helpful because they are grounded in the recognition of the dependent co-arising or deep ecology of all things. Similarly, Native American prayers and ritual forms, evoking our innate capacity to love and respect our Earth, are increasingly adapted and included in gatherings for work and worship. This is a prayer from the Laguna Pueblo people:

"I add my breath to your breath
that our days may be long on the Earth,
that the days of our people may be long,
that we shall be as one person,
that we may finish our road together."
World as Lover, World as Self

The Three Beings

"We call first on the beings of the past: Be with us now, all you who have gone before. You, our ancestors and teachers, who walked and loved and faithfully tended this Earth, be present to us now so that we may carry on the legacy you bequeathed us. Aloud and silently in our hearts we say your names and see your faces. . . .

"We call also on the beings of the present: All you with whom we live and work on this endangered planet, all you with whom we share this brink of time, be with us now. Fellow humans and brothers and sisters of other species, help us open to our collective will and wisdom. Aloud and silently we say your names and picture your faces . . .

"Lastly we call on the beings of the future: All you who will come after us on this Earth, be with us now. All you who are waiting to be born in the ages to come, it is for your sakes too that we work to heal our world. We cannot picture your faces or say your names — you have none yet — but we feel the reality of your claim on life. It helps us to be faithful in the task that must be done, so that there will be for you, as there was for our ancestors: blue sky, fruitful land, clear waters."
World as Lover, World as Self

Distress Signals

"Life on our planet is in trouble. It is hard to go anywhere without being confronted by the wounding of our world, the tearing of the very fabric of life. We are assaulted by news of tornadoes and hurricanes, fleeing refugees, an entire village buried in mudslides, thousands of bodies under the rubble, another species lost, another city bombed.

"Our planet is sending us signals of distress that are so continual now they seem almost normal. Reports proliferate about the loss of cropland and the spreading of hunger, toxins in the air we breathe and the water we drink, the die-off of plant and animal species. These are warning signals that we live in a world that can end, at least as a home for conscious life. This is not to say that it will end, but it can end. That very possibility changes everything for us."
World as Lover, World as Self

Living the Dance of Life

"I consider myself fortunate to live in these times. To be alive in this wonderful self-organizing universe, involved in the dance of life with the senses to perceive, with lungs to breathe, with organs that can obtain their nourishment — this is a miracle for which there are no words. Furthermore, it is an incredible privilege that we have been given human life with a self-reflective consciousness that makes us aware of our own actions and enables us to make decisions. Now is the time we human beings can decide to consciously and actively participate in this dance of life."
Pass It On

The Long Haul

"When anger arises over stupid, destructive policies, and the pollution of our world tempts me to hopelessness, I remember Tulku's smile on the parapet of Khampagar. And when I catch myself looking for a quick fix of inspiration, or assurances of success, or simply a mood of optimism before doing what needs to be done, I think of him and hear words that he never spoke. Don't wait, just do it. A better opportunity may not come along. Place one stone on top of another. Don't waste your spirit trying to compute your short-term chances of success, because you are in it for the long haul. And it will be a long haul, with inevitable risks and hardships. So just keep on, steady and spunky like a Khampa pony crossing the mountains, because in the long run, it's our perseverance that counts."
Pass It On

The Practice of Active Hope

"Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather thanhave. It is a process we can apply to any situation, and it involves three key steps. First, we take a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we'd like things to move in or the values we'd like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction.

"Since Active Hope doesn't require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is intention; wechoose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide."
Active Hope

Active Hope

"Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued
by the Lone Ranger or by some 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 are 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

Thank the Plants

"Next time you see a tree or plant, take a moment to express thanks. With each breath you take in, experience gratitude for the oxygen that would simply not be there save for the magnificent work plants have done in transforming our atmosphere and making it breathable. As you look at all the greenery, bear in mind also that plants, by absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing the greenhouse effect, have saved our world from becoming dangerously overheated. Without plants and all they do for us, we would not be alive today. Consider how you would like to express your thanks."
Active Hope

Risk and Grace

"Those who risk their lives to protect marine mammals, and those who risk jail to stop paying taxes for weapons, and those who risk their jobs to 'blow the whistle' on corruption and deception &mdash they also draw on vaster powers of life. . . . Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world."
Coming Back to Life


"On the last afternoon of a two-week intensive workshop, Joanna was out walking and met a young monk from the retreat center hosting the event. 'Well,' he said, 'I expect now on your last day you'll be giving people vows.' Joanna told him that wasn't something she did. 'Pity, ' he said. 'I find, in my own life, vows so very helpful, because they channel my energy to do what I really want to do.'

"Continuing on her walk, Joanna looked at her hand and thought that if we were to have vows, they should not number more than the fingers and thumb of one hand. Almost immediately, the following five vows came to her:

I vow to myself and to each of you:

To commit myself daily to the healing of our
world and the welfare of all beings.

To live on Earth more lightly and less violently
in the food, products, and energy I consume.

To draw strength and guidance from the living
Earth, the ancestors, the future generations,
and my brothers and sisters of all species.

To support others in our work for the world
and ask for help when I need it.

To pursue a daily practice
that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart,
and support me in observing these vows."
Active Hope

Beings of the Future

"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 clearcuts 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 through 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."
Widening Circles

Receive Your Ancestors

"Receive the creativity of your ancestors, making tools, weaving cloth, building homes.

The compassion of your ancestors, caring for the injured or praying with the dying: that, too, is for you.

Know their love of beauty, music of a flute coming from the hills, hands carving jewelry, feet dancing to the rhythms of drums. Receive that celebration as their gift to you.

Know the intelligence of your ancestors as they track the movements of stars, learn the ways of the plants and animals, hold councils to choose the wisest action. Receive that intelligence as their gift.

Can you sense the love that burns in your ancestors, their devotion to their families, their land? Receive that love as their gift to you.

Relish their wit and humor, too. Your ancestors' jokes and jibes as they work together, the banter of young couples, the merriment of festivals. Receive the laughter of your ancestors as their gift to you.

Your ancestors have gifts from their suffering, too: courage, endurance, resilience, stubborn perseverance. Receive these as their gifts to you."
Coming Back to Life

The Injunction to Love

"For us to regard the bomb, the dying seas, or the poisoned air as monstrous injustices would suggest that we never took seriously the injunction to love. Perhaps we thought all along that Gautama and Jesus were kidding, or their teachings meant only for saints. But now we see, as an awful revelation, that we are all called to be saints — not good necessarily, or pious, or devout — but saints in the sense of just caring for each other.

"In that possibility we take heart. Even in confusion and fear, with all our fatigues and faults, we can let that awareness work in and through our lives. Such simple exercises as those offered here can help us do that, help us to see ourselves and each other with fresh eyes.

"Let us close with the same suggestion that often closes our workshops. It is a practice that is a corollary to the earlier death meditation, in which we recognize how threatened now is each person we meet. Look at the next person you see. It may be a lover, child, coworker, bus driver, or your own face in the mirror. Regard him or her with the recognition that:

"In this person are gifts for the healing of the world. In him or her are powers that can redound to the joy of all beings."
Coming Back to Life