Home     Contact Us         Log in
Jul 26

A Review of “We are the Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island on the Changing Earth” - 1 comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Touching the Earth Collective review by Gregory Webster


I first encountered the work of Dahr Jamail in his brilliant treatise on climate breakdown, The End of Ice. Towards the end of that book we are introduced to Stan Rushworth, an elder of Cherokee descent, who offers some traditional insights to help Jamail wrestle with what his personal response might be when faced with the heartbreaking knowledge of spiralling ecological derangement. 

We are in the Middle of Forever picks up the baton to explore this question further from the perspective of Indigenous wisdom. Jamail and Rushworth interview twenty Indigenous people from around Turtle Island, across a spectrum of ages, communities, places, cultures and experiences. They ask them questions such as: How did we get to this point, and how might we comport ourselves faced with such overwhelm? 

Initial themes emerge from the stories told; the vital importance of ceremony, of sweat lodge, talking circles, sun dances, and vision quest; but as the interviews unfold, the horrors of the Indigenous experience in North America since first contact come into view. We hear repeatedly of native children in the school system being told their people are extinct; the deep horrors of the boarding school system – a vicious premeditated attempt to destroy the cultures of native communities by breaking the generational links of wisdom exchange; and we hear of whole communities decimated by ecological collapse caused by invasive industrialisation and development, rendering land unworkable, leading to epidemics of addiction and despair.

These stories puncture the delusion that ecological collapse and climate change are a problem that emerged in the mid to late 20th century; this has been going on for hundreds of years, almost annihilating the very cultures with the tools to mitigate the damage. It is also clear that the invader civilisation remains deeply hostile to the original peoples to this day, albeit using different, more subtle, methods.

It is striking that throughout the interviews, despite all the provocations, hurt, and trauma, there is a sense of dignity and resilience in the face of unforgiving circumstances. The desire to maintain and restore traditional ways of living in relation to the land is obvious, as is the difficulty of doing so in the face of dispersement, mass privatisation of land, and development on sacred sites. The work continues unbowed, and is profoundly inspiring. 

We hear of ceremonial burning in the forests of California, hampered by the dead weight of bureaucracy, but pointing towards the potential restoration of ecosystems made impoverished tinderboxes by drought and decades of ill judged fire management; of pioneering sweat lodges established within the penal system when religious freedoms were restored to native communities back in the seventies; and of the battles to protect sacred land from corporate extractionism against long odds. Many of the interviewees are storied academics and community leaders, who must balance maintaining traditional ways of being in the face of the seemingly unending demands of the time poor dominant culture.

Jamail and Rushworth are credited as editors of this collection, but this underplays their contribution in creating the safe container for these stories to be told, for personal histories to be shared within an environment of deep care and listening.

So how should we comport ourselves as we navigate the rapidly changing world around us? Perhaps we should talk less of our individual rights and more about our obligations. Stan Rushworth’s father offered him wise council in the final pages of The End of Ice; “We have to do our best every day. Even if it all goes down, it’s a matter of personal dignity to do everything we can to turn it around.” This theme persists in We are the Middle of Forever. Doing the right thing without expectation of outcome. Surely a mantra for our times.


Gregory Webster is a Trustee of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, the Chair of ecological consultancy Future Nature WTC, and a Shambhala Touching the Earth Collective steering committee member. He lives and works in Oxford, England. https://shambhalaonline.org/touching-the-earth/ 

COVID-19 Resources on the Shambhala Times

From the Editorial Team— Many resources have been shared by the Shambhala leadership and Community members to help us all through this moment of isolation and uncertainty. Your editorial team has gathered them together here so that this page can be a resource for everyone. We will continue to update this page with resources as […]continue

- 2020-08-04 - 1 comment

Release of New Code of Conduct Policies

Release of New Code of Conduct Policies Dear Shambhala Community — We, as the Board of Directors of Shambhala, are pleased to ratify and introduce  to the Shambhala Community the new Code of Conduct consisting of the following documents: Shambhala Code of Conduct Child Protection Policy Policy for People Holding Positions of Authority Policy to Address Sexual Misconduct Policy on Diversity, Inclusivity and Anti-Discrimination Together, these five policies comprise the new Shambhala Code of Conduct, known as “the Code.” Access the new Code of Conduct: Click Here to Access a PDF of all five Policies continue

Community Articles - 2022-07-19 - comment

The 2021 Shambhala Annual Report

The 2021 Shambhala Annual Report Dear Shambhala Members and Friends, We are pleased to share the 2021 Shambhala Annual Report with you, which outlines the activity of ... continue

Community Articles - 2022-07-15 - comment

What Needs Our Attention in Shambhala Practice and Education? Report on Phase One Community Conversations

What Needs Our Attention in Shambhala Practice and Education? Report on Phase One Community Conversations “Curious”; “inspired”, “heartbroken”; “skeptical” – these are some of the attitudes expressed in check-ins during the nine P&E Refresh Phase One ... continue

Community Articles - 2022-07-08 - 1 comment

A Solar Coming of Age Story at Dorje Denma Ling

A Solar Coming of Age Story at Dorje Denma Ling By Catherine Neill Reprinted with permission from The Shambhala Touching the Earth Collective Summer 2022 Newsletter Over the years, there has been ... continue

Community Articles - 2022-06-24 - 1 comment

The Problem with Problems

The Problem with Problems By Judy Lief As we go through life, we face many joys and discoveries and many problems and difficulties. We have continual ... continue

Uncategorized - 2022-06-14 - comment

World of Wonders: A Shambhala Touching the Earth Collective Book Review

World of Wonders: A Shambhala Touching the Earth Collective Book Review By Irene Woodard My friend Paul tutors teenagers and so he has his hands in it so to speak, on latest literature. He ... continue

Community Articles - 2022-06-10 - comment

Come Home to Karmê Chöling!

Come Home to Karmê Chöling! A conversation with Karmê Chöling Executive Director, Betsy Railla Written by Natasha West, Director of Communications, Shambhala Global Services Summer at Karmê Chöling Community has ... continue

Community Articles - 2022-06-06 - comment

Touching the Earth Newsletter: June 2022

Touching the Earth Newsletter: June 2022 June 2022 Newsletter   The Sangha and the Farmer, Coming to Agreement While it sometimes can seem like a drop in the bucket, the bucket ... continue

Community Articles - 2022-06-02 - comment

Sharing Our Gardens

Sharing Our Gardens By Mimi Valiulis Although I garden, I don’t consider myself a gardener. I plant tomatoes and herbs, and sometimes lettuces, beans, and ... continue

Dharma Teachings

The Fundamental Ambiguity of Being Human

How to live beautifully with uncertainty and change By Pema Chödrön As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground—something predictable to stand on—seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not. What a predicament! We seem doomed to suffer simply because we have a deep-seated fear of how things really are. Our attempts to find lasting pleasure, lasting security, are at odds with the fact that we’re part of a dynamic system in which everything and everyone is in process. So this is where we find ourselves: right in ... continue

More:Dharma Teachings

Art Happens, Share it Here

Poetry Space Spring 2021 (Part 1)

We’re delighted to present the first Poetry Space of the Spring. Please enjoy, and, as always, feel free to send us your new work! The Spaces Between I love the spaces between things The sky between branches, The still between breaths, The quiet between sleep and wake, The crowded wine bar of thoughts Emptying to leave a wide open mind. These moments are tiny. Hidden. Be still and wait. Just wait For in the space lies calm and peace. continue

More:Art Happens, Share it Here

Website Development by Blue Mandala using Wordpress MU.
All content and source Copyright © 1994-2022. Shambhala International (Vajradhatu), Shambhala, Shambhala Meditation Center, Shambhala Training, Shambhala Center and Way of Shambhala are registered service marks of Shambhala USA
Privacy Policy
Translate »